Monthly Archives: September 2011

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Normally my kids don’t like regular mashed potatoes (and when I say “regular mashed potatoes”, I’m talkin’ about some yummy, buttery, southern-style, well-seasoned mashed potatoes!). I have tried and tried but it always remains on their dinner plates. I can finally say I no longer have to wonder if it was flavor or texture they disliked about regular mashed potatoes because they absolutely adore CAULIFLOWER-mashed-potatoes!

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried cauliflower mashed potatoes or not, but if you havent… I am SO sorry!! Personally, they have forever changed my view of what we all know & love and call mashed potatoes.  In fact, I will go as far as to say cauliflower mashed potatoes kick regular mashed potatoes BUTT!  Not only are they way better for you than traditional mashed potatoes, but they taste good naturally! The creamy cauliflower helps to achieve the fluffy consistency we all love! (I think I added only 2 Tbsp butter, a splash of soymilk & some salt & pepper to the entire pot!) You wont believe how simple they are!

~Creamy Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes~

Cut half of a large head of cauliflower into florets and steam about 8 minutes or until soft.  Puree in food processor (it should come out to roughly 1 cup).  You can also add  1-2 cloves of minced garlic to the cauliflower before you puree, if desired.

cauliflower florets about to be steamed & pureed

I use about 5 large potatoes to one half-head of cauliflower.  Peel & cut potatoes into 1″ chunks and boil until soft (12-15 min). Strain the potatoes & then put them back into the pot and mash them right up.  Mix in the cauliflower puree, and season with soy butter, salt & pepper!  That’s all there is to it!

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Best Banana Bread

I dont know about your kids, but my kids LOVE banana bread!  This is THE perfect way to use those bananas that are turning brown! The riper the bananas the sweeter the bread! If you are looking for a quick healthy take along snack, this bread is the one! If you are looking for something to bring to a get together, this bread is sure to please both kids and adults! (Want another reason to love it? It freezes well!)

This recipe took shape as I was looking for a way to make a really nice moist bread… I decided to try using silken tofu, which gave it the nice fluffy moist texture I was going for and also some protein! 🙂 And by adding a handful (or more) of chopped walnuts, you also get some of your omega-3’s for the day! Mmmmm! Can I please have some more?!

Banana Bread (makes one regular sized loaf)

Mix in a bowl:

  • 1 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (set aside to fold in last)

Blend in food processor:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 5 Tbsp soymilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 block firm or xtra firm silken tofu (*see note about silken tofu) … I usually use slightly more than 1/2 the block
  • 2/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour wet ingredients into center of dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. You dont want to overmix nor do you want a pocket of flour hiding in there, so mix it until you feel good about it. (No whisking allowed!) Fold in the walnuts and pour the batter into a lightly oiled (or sprayed with non-stick spray) 9″ loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then place on wire rack to cool some more.

*I like to use the Mori-Nu Silken tofu. It is in a vacumm sealed box that can be kept at room temperature so it wont be found with the refrigerated tofu. They store it in the aisle with the asian foods at my local health food store. There are different kinds (soft, firm, extra firm) and for this bread I like either firm or xtra firm. In your average grocery store it will most likely be found in the “health” section.

I have never tried this recipe with all purpose flour, so give it a shot if you dare, though I strongly recommend following my recipe for the best results. I really like the texture and nutritional content of the bread flour (the kind I get is in bulk and is labeled “unbleached bread flour” and has a slightly brown speckled coloring to it). This is not pure whole wheat bread flour, which is much heavier & grainier. Regular bread flour should be available at all grocery stores.

Roasted Vegetable Stew

Cooler weather is fast approaching and so begins the start of the season’s wonderfully delicious fall harvest!  There is nothing more inviting than walking into your home on a chilly day and smelling an amazing soup simmering on your stove top!  Roasting vegetables is a great way to enjoy fresh seasonal produce in an easy way and at the same time make your house smell AMAZING!

This simple stew brings the flavors of sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, and eggplant together into one giant bowl of nutritious delicious LOVE! Even though this recipe contains neither meat or potatoes, I decided it was more of a stew than a soup because it is thick, hearty & filling!  I personally think it pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese sandwich! Mmmm!

Note: I realized after making this soup that I forgot to add the garlic!  Ideally, I would have like to have added 2-3 cloves in with the roasted vegetables, so I included that in the recipe below. This only took me an hour and 20 minutes from start to finish (including baking time)! I also used 4 japanese eggplants instead of 1 big eggplant – either works beautifully! (Japanese eggplants are long and skinny as opposed to the pear-shaped traditional eggplant.)

~ Roasted Vegetable Stew ~

  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled
  • 5-6 good-sized carrots, peeled (about 1 lb)
  • 1 butternut squash, halved and de-seeded
  • 1 eggplant, peeled
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp dry parsley (opt)
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil for roasting
  • fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish (opt)

Here are the veggies getting ready to be roasted!

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Cube all the vegetables (except the butternut squash) to roughly 1″ chunks. Put them all on a large baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil, & a little salt and pepper & mix around.  Place the butternut squash (flat sides down) on a separate oiled baking sheet (I like to put mine on a sheet of oiled tin foil).  Cook vegetables until soft, about 30-35 minutes but leave the butternut squash in the oven an extra 15 minutes.   (I put the veggies on the top rack and the squash on the bottom rack of the oven.) .  Once the butternut squash is done, set it aside to let it cool slightly.

After roasting... don't sneak too many bites! You'll need them for the stew!

Once the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, scrape it out of the shell and puree.  Pulse/puree the roasted vegetables with the broth in batches in your food processor.  Combine it all together in a large stock pot and add parsley, salt & pepper to taste. Continue to simmer until ready to serve and garnish with fresh herbs if desired. Enjoy!

This stew is great with bread... and it's even better with a grilled cheese on the side for dipping!

Heavenly French Toast Sticks

You know those days when you don’t care so much about eating healthy?!  Well… save this recipe for one of those mornings!

I concocted this recipe up one day when I was missing those fast-food french toast sticks I ate when I was a kid.  They are soooo yummy and sweet – they are too good to be true!  It’s also a wonderful way to eat some of that older bread you have sitting around!  I don’t think it’s necessary to say it, but my kids absolutely love these!  I served these today with some mock sausage (GimmeLean) to make our breakfast a little bit healthier!

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Heavenly French Toast Sticks

Whisk ingredients.  Cut 4 pieces of bread into 4 sticks each (or 3 if you like fatty sticks).  Give each stick a good soaking in the dip & pan fry on med-high heat on a non-stick skillet until browned.  Flip and cook the other side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (if you dare) & serve with maple syrup as dipping sauce. Relax & enjoy your trip down sugar lane – oops!- i mean memory lane!

  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Thai Carrot Soup

Ahhh… I love Fall… and my family loves this amazing soup! This is one of my favorite recipes.  It is wonderful as a starter or as a meal on its own.  It is perfect for this time of year because its healthy ingredients (esp. the fresh ginger & garlic) help prepare our bodies for colder temperatures and flu season.

Another wonderful thing about this soup is that it freezes well – my husband always teases me about my obsession of freezing things, but I’m sure many of you other moms know how nice it is when you can defrost something easily that was originally homemade!

While preparing this soup today, my daughter saw the fresh ginger on the counter & said, "What IS that?! It's got FINGERS on it!"

~ Thai Carrot Soup ~

(Since these ingredients will get pulsed in the food processor, you can leave the ingredients chopped kinda chunky, though I would mince up the ginger & garlic to avoid a large chunk in your soup… Also, since it will be blended up, it isn’t necessary to peel the carrots unless you really want to!)

Bring to a boil & simmer until carrots are tender in a large pot (about 20 minutes):

  • 1 small-medium sized red onion, chopped
  • nice big handful of basil, chopped
  • nice big handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 8 chopped carrots (between 4  1/2 – 5 cups, sliced into 1/4″ rounds)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped/minced (I think the fastest way to peel fresh ginger is to scrape off the peel with a spoon)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh garlic, chopped/minced
  • 5 cups vegetable broth

Process/pulse in small batches in food processor until smooth (or as chunky) as you prefer! This part can get a little messy! Return to pot and add the remaining ingredients.

  • juice of 2 limes (you must use fresh limes – do not use lime juice in a jar!)
  • 1 can regular coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I usually use a low-sodium kind)
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar

Simmer on low-medium to let flavors blend together for several more minutes (don’t let it boil) until ready to serve!

(Though I always blend mine up, I’ve always wondered how this soup would be without doing that!  I think it would still be just as good! If you try it that way, let me know how it is!)

My 3 1/2 year old loves to eat this thai carrot soup!

THIS SOUP CONTAINS… (aka a little health lesson)

The health benefits of carrots include reduced cholesterol, prevention from heart attacks, warding off certain cancers, improving eyesight & more. Most of the benefits of carrots can be attributed to its beta carotene & fiber. It is also a good source of antioxidant agents as well. Carrots are rich in vitamins A, C, K & potassium!

Ginger does many amazing things for the body… It relieves morning & motion sickness, has anti inflammatory properties, is a natural painkiller, provides heartburn relief, helps upset stomachs and is a natural treatment for colds & flu.  It has also been found to help with menstrual cramps, migraines, allergies, coughs, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, toothaches & warts! Its newest findings show that it helps fight colon & ovarian cancer cells as well! I’d certainly call that a super-food!

After my 19 month old finished his, he tried to eat the rest of his sister’s bowl too!

Garlic is one of the most amazing things you can put in your body… It can be used to treat high cholesterol, parasites, respiratory problems, digestion & low energy… Studies suggest eating garlic regularly helps lower blood pressure, controls blood sugar, blood cholesterol & boosts the immune system.  It has also been found to reduce the risk of esophageal, stomach & colon cancer! WOW!

Rita’s Diner-Style Pancakes

I remember some of the first pancakes I ever made… they were either made from Bisquick or they were eggy non-uniform circles! I actually used to pretend I was a cook in a diner & I’d make a menu, asking my three sisters if they wanted to order anything… scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast… my diner was pretty simple! I probably wouldn’t have admitted it back then, but my pancakes probably weren’t worth the 50 cents I charged them (yes, I really did charge them!)! Luckily today I am a much better cook and Rita’s diner has come a long way! These pancakes are light, fluffy & delicious & you can whip them up in a jiffy!

Rita’s Diner Style Pancakes (makes 8-10  4″ pancakes)

  • 1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder (aluminum free – I use Rumford)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • dash cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp liquid sweetener (I like agave nectar or real maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix liquids separately and whisk well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquids in the center. Stir or whisk gently to get out the big clumps. Try not to over-mix or you will get tough pancakes. Batter will be a little lumpy but that’s okay! I like to cook these on a high temperature on the griddle. Spray griddle with non-stick spray and pour batter into roughtly 4″ circles.  When they start to get bubbly peek underneath and if they are turning golden, flip them and cook another 1-2 minutes! Top with whatever pleases your palate! Serve & ENJOY!

A Visit to Atlanta

What a day!  Today we visited the Atlanta Zoo & our favorite vegan friendly restaurant in downtown Atlanta, R.Thomas Deluxe Grill off Peachtree Street. Whenever we are in the city, we try to sneak in a visit to R. Thomas.  R Thomas is the ultimate eclectic diner.  They are open 24 hours.  They have a great selection for meat eaters AND vegans, which is hard to find!  They have smoothies, fresh juices, & lots of organic produce & wines. They also use wild caught fish & natural range meat, which (even though we don’t eat meat) is always a plus to support. (check them out @ www.rthomasdeluxegrill.com)

Today I ate the Lucky Green Tea (which is quinoa, veggies & tofu that have been simmered a green tea miso reduction).  My husband had the Southern Vegetarian (collard greens, millet corn casserole, smashed potatoes & shiitake mushroom gravy with dots of butternut squash). My kids ate the R’s Veggie Burger, which is delicious and exactly what kids always want!  We also had The Thai Express (quinoa with sautéed veggies & tempeh in a spicy peanut sauce).  As you can tell, we can’t ever quite decide on what to order!

To top it all off, there is always an incredible vegan dessert! (Tonight’s was a slice of hummingbird cake, which was incredible with hints of pineapple & coconut… Last time we were there we had a slice of raw apple pie that was FANTASTIC!) Oh yeah, they have some raw dishes too! I could go on and on… I seriously recommend checking them out!

We have been to the Atlanta Zoo a few times already this year.  I know there are many vegans that don’t believe in going to the zoo, since the animals are there locked inside without a choice.  I do see their point.  But I also grew up going to the zoo and I sincerely believe that it nurtured my love for animals.  Seeing these animals face to face definitely encouraged my curiosity and love for other living beings. Where else would a child see these amazing creatures, like an elephant, giraffe or gorilla… without going to another country or in a book?

I think seeing these animals and looking into their eyes, studying their movements, seeing how they are like us, or how they are different, is key to developing love and respect for animals.  In a way, the animals in a zoo are martyrs.  They very unfortunately give up their lives and personal freedom, but by doing so, they foster love for animals in children of all ages, even adults.

If these animals being captive can help us understand and learn to appreciate other animals in the wild, I believe it is worth it.  I will always feel sorry for them, yes, but what they are giving to the world is priceless.  For every child that falls in love with one animal they see at the zoo, a positive future for all animals in the wild rises.  Maybe they can even teach US how to live in peace and love each other a little bit more.