Category Archives: winter

Crock-Pot Vegan Chicken & Mushroom Casserole

(This is a crock pot recipe, but it only cooks for 1 – 1  1/2 hours & is best if you can occasionally give it a stir.  It can even be started the night before and assembled before cooking. Start cooking this 1  1/2 hours before serving time.)

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Fall calls for the start of comfort foods. I can’t get enough thick soups and casseroles this time of year! I remember loving my mom’s chicken noodle casserole when I was a kid. Though this is not based on her actual recipe, it is kind of like my veganized version from my childhood memory. I have been trying more crock pot recipes out lately & intend to try more, especially the long-cooking ones… It’s amazing to come home from work and smell dinner cooking. Its like having your very own private chef! This would be an easy dish to take to a fall pot luck!

I was so pleased that my 3 & 5-year old kids liked this. In fact, I didn’t tell my daughter she was eating seitan (she thought it was “tofu chicken”, which she loves) until she was into her second serving and asking for more of the “tofu”. She was even giving me seriously exaggerated “MMM”‘s! every time she had a piece (she was loving it so much she was rolling her eyes with every bite!).  When I told her she was eating seitan -& loving it – her eyes practically popped out of her head! LOL… We have had numerous failed attempts at finding ways to get the kids to eat seitan, it’s just not one of their favorites. SO, I was stoked it was a hit! Hurray for another delicious & healthy recipe that they enjoy! 🙂  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did! This could easily be baked in the oven in a casserole dish though I until I try it myself, I cannot vouch for oven temp/cooking times as of yet.

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Vegan Chicken & Mushroom Casserole B.B.C (Before Bread Crumbs)

Crock-Pot Vegan Chicken & Mushroom Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz sliced mushrooms ( I used 2 cans, which rang in at about 8 oz)
  • 1 Tbsp vegan chicken-flavored bouillon (I used one square of Edward & Sons Not-Chicken Bouillon Cubes by dissolving it in a bit of the milk, heated)
  • 4 cups plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/2 -2 cups seitan, plain or chicken-flavored, torn or chopped into small cubes. Use store-bought or homemade seitan. (I actually used plain seitan and it was great… One box was about 1.5 cups &I had about a 1/2 cup already in my fridge that I threw in to use it up.)
  • 8 oz dried pasta shells of choice (whole wheat or regular – I used some penne noodles but most anything would work.)
  • 3/4 cup peas (opt. – I just love peas, so I added some in there!)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme dried
  • salt and pepper to taste (the veg bouillon cube is so high in sodium I didn’t add any additional salt)
  • 2 Tbsp flour, if needed to thicken
  • Bread crumbs or topping of choice (think panko, crushed Ritz, crushed potato chips, French fried onions…)
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A few of my ingredients.. though you could also use fresh mushrooms and peas if you choose.

1) To make the cashew cream sauce, blend in a food processor until smooth & creamy:

  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

2) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent, about 3-5 min. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms reduce in size and are tender, 5-10 min. (If you use canned mushrooms, just cook 5-10 min as well to blend flavors.)

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At this point you can refrigerate both the sauce and the veggies, separately, until the next day if you are preparing this ahead.

3) Oil the crock of your slow cooker and combine the sautéed veggies, cashew cream sauce, disintegrated bouillon cube, milk, seitan, pasta, thyme & pepper in the slow cooker. Mix thoroughly and cook on high for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the pasta is al dente. Give it a good stir about every 20 minutes or so.

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Ready to seal her up for an hour and a half to cook and thicken up!

4) If the pasta is ready but the sauce isn’t thick enough, stir in the flour. This should help thicken it up. (Note: I added in the flour to find that after I had taken the lid off the crock pot, it thickened up more on its own very quickly!) If desired, add your topping before serving. Devour!!

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D’oh! I forgot my bread crumbs!!! (I did add some a moment later once I was eating and realized they had been forgotten!! I put a little fresh basil on mine.)

This was truly delicious & easy. Will make again for sure. Id love to try baking it in the oven sometime with some French Fried Onions on top.  Let me know if you try that! And as always, suggestions and comments are appreciated!

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African Sweet Potato Soup

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Mmmm… I really love soup, especially when its cold outside! This is the first time I made this African Sweet Potato Soup with Peanut Butter, Black Eyed Peas and Beans and it turned out so delicious! This soup is also gluten free, and makes a great hearty bowl if you are having company.  This could easily be a New Years dish since it contains black eyed peas… Perhaps next time I make this, I may try adding in some greens!

(I slightly altered the recipe below from the original one here @ the gluten-free goddess. The original recipe also includes jalapeno and cilantro. The jalapeno I decided to leave out because my kids don’t usually care for spicy foods, and the cilantro I left out because I didn’t have any! I also used a white onion instead of a red one. What can I say?…. It still tasted absolutely great!)

I was pleased that my kids tried and (more or less) liked this soup.  My son scooped his bowl clean… I think he could sense that it contained peanut butter (hahaha) which is one of his favorite foods! My daughter wasn’t as big of a fan, but she did finish her bowl for me.  I am a sucker for peanuty soups… especially ones like this. It makes about 4 adult servings. We served ours with a side of coconut jasmine rice, which the kids always love! It would also be great with some cornbread. The peanut butter can be substituted for almond butter or sunflower seed butter if you have allergies.

African Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red or green Thai Kitchen curry paste – hot or mild, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 14-0z can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14-oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups broth
  • 1/2 cup 100% natural peanut butter + 1/2 cup hot water (to equal 1 cup) I recommend using chunky peanut butter to give it a little  extra texture and crunch in the soup.
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red hot pepper flakes
  • Juice from 1 big lime
  • 2-3 tsp brown sugar (or agave nectar), to taste
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1) Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the curry paste and cinnamon; stir for a minute to mix the pol with spice. Add the onion, garlic, sweet potato, yellow pepper. Stir and cook the veggies for 5-7 minutes, until softened.

2) Add the black-eyed peas, white and black beans, broth, melted peanut butter, red pepper flakes and cilantro.

3) Bring the soup to a high simmer, cover, and lower the heat. Keep the soup on simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 25-30 minutes.

4) Stir in the lime juice and sweetener. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro, if you please!

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This delicious soup is packed with flavor AND protein!

P.S. This soup could easily make a ‘Dinner and a Movie’ night with Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’.  That was kinda my original plan. My kids love hearing about different places in the world (in this case, Africa) and how different people live  and how our lifestyles are alike or different.  It makes for a great educational conversation!  However, somehow on this night we got sidetracked &  we never got around to putting in the movie!

Fezzik’s (Get Well) Seitan Stew with Dumplings (aka Thieves Forest Stew)

Check out our favorite ‘Dinner and a Movie’ night ever! If you haven’t seen Rob Reiner’s movie ‘The Princess Bride’ (based on the book by William Goldman) you are seriously missing out!!  The movie came out in 1987 and it still remains one of my favorite movies in the world! It is also one of the most quoted movies ever!

Click HERE to read all about this inconceivably awesome movie and meal!

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KISS YOU?.. AS YOU WISH!!

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies… & Chewbacca too.

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So this is Christmas… and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun…

I really can’t believe another year has come and gone.  Every year, each of us have personal resolutions, goals to achieve, things we want to cross off our to-do lists or our bucket lists… but what have we really achieved as a whole? Are we kinder people? Are we living the lives we were meant to?  Are we believing in and helping each other? These are among the questions I am personally asking myself on the eve of a new year. I don’t mean to give myself a hard time, but I can’t help but feel there is always more that can be done.  There is always more a heart can grow (remember that the Grinch’s heart grew 2 sizes just in one day alone!), more a soul can aspire to, and there is always more help that can be given!

I hope to do more volunteering and things to benefit others this year. I really respect my mom for doing Habitat for Humanity every Saturday. I can tell how very fulfilling it is to her. She just returned from a trip to Haiti where she helped build several houses. (I’m so proud of you, mama!)

One of my goals this year will be to blog more often, since I believe that eating vegan & sharing these recipes is definitely as step towards living a kinder life in general. I also want to play more music (namely the ukulele, guitar and the piano) and letting my emotions out through art.  I used to achieve those two goals rather easily before I had children, but now, my kids take up a lot of my free time. (Even though “more sleep” should be on my list for the upcoming year, I may end achieving more of my resolutions by going to bed later & getting up earlier! I have been meaning to see more sunrises…) What are some of your dreams for the next year?

Anyway, enough jibber jabber. I think I know what you are really here for… (oh- one more thing- sorry about the annoying blue-highlighted drop down ads. They are NOT there by my choice!)

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No kid can turn down a Wookie-cookie!!  Just try!!

“Traditional” Gingerbread Cookies

These “traditional” gingerbread cookies are easy and yummy. And since they contain molasses, they are high in iron – which makes them the perfect cookie for little vegans! I put “traditional” in quotations because I’m not sure how “traditional” Chewbacca gingerbread cookies are! This is our first time making them, but they will surely be a X-mas tradition in our house from now on! (We got Star Wars cookie cutters & pancake molds from Williams-Sonoma as an early Christmas gift.) This dough cuts best when cold, so roll it out in sections and keep the rest refrigerated until your ready to use it!

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup soy milk
  • 2  1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • for icing: 1 cup powdered sugar + 2 tsp soy milk

1) In a large bowl, stir together the oil, sugars, molasses and soy milk.

2) Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and mix until well combined.

3) Collect the dough into a ball, or 2-3 flattened discs, and wrap in parchment or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

4) Preheat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough. Make it thin for crispy cookies or make it thicker for chewier softer cookies.

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Here are our Chewbacca cookies, before baking.

5) Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 9 minutes (for soft and chewy) to 12 minutes (for thin & crispy).  Transfer to wire rack and cool. Ice the cookies when cooled.

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To make icing: mix the powdered sugar and soy milk in a plastic baggie by massaging it around until it is thick like toothpaste consistency. Then cut off a tiny tip of one of the corners and ice those cookies! Then sit them aside until they the icing hardens.

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There is (what I’m sure is) another great gingerbread cookie recipe here. Also, these sugar cookies are easy and great for any occasion. We will be making them in a day or two. I am also hoping to get around to making some of these cookie jars & these coffee fudge brownie jars as gifts! Mmmmm!!

With all the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and things to do, it’s easy to forget that Christmas is the season of giving… so be sure to spread love, kindness, & peace on earth everywhere you go. Make it your mission to remind others who may have forgotten… It IS a wonderful life!!

Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins

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I don’t know if it’s the cold weather, Christmas or WHAT that makes me start to crave peppermint.  Peppermint tea, candy canes, mint chocolate chip ice cream, mint chocolate cookies… and in the olden days, Girl Scouts Thin Mints (which sadly are NOT vegan). You know, people think you have to give up SO much to be a vegan… Well, I have given this a lot of thought and I don’t think that is true at all. Sure, I did have to give up some things.. but then again, no, I didn’t…  What I actually gave up was convenience. If I want a thin mint now, I have to work for it by baking my own. But to me, that is the best part about being vegan (besides making the planet a cleaner and kinder place) – being in the kitchen more, eating better ( & usually healthier) homemade food, sharing time making something with my family.  There are so many memories that can be created in the kitchen. It’s one of my favorite places to spend time with my kids, whether they are coloring at the table or trying to help me mix & bake. There’s something magical about creating food, no matter what it may be. Putting ingredients in a bowl and watching it change and turn into something else… it IS magic!

Which brings me back to these awesome muffins.  They are kind of like magic too – just a taste of one makes me smile! I love chocolate… I love mint… I love muffins – and these muffins bring all my favorite things together! (Now only if I could add some coffee in there!) Note: These are NOT cupcakes. They are without a doubt muffins, but they are the sweetest most chocolatey delicious muffins. Perhaps they should be called… dessert muffins?

Sometimes I need to remind myself why I started this blog. I love sharing all kinds of recipes, but sometimes I forget that not everybody has arrowroot flour, flaxseeds and nutritional yeast in their kitchens (though I highly recommend stocking your cabinet)! But seriously… the most important reason I’m doing this blog is to show others that PRACTICALLY ANYTHING CAN BE MADE VEGAN.  (It’s actually pretty easy to find vegan versions of those special treats, like vegan Twinkies or “Fauxstess” Cupcakes!) My goal is to find a good middle ground – where the food is on the healthy side but is also allowing the “everyman” (aka non-vegans) to be able to cook my recipes without too much fuss.  So, I hope I’m more or less achieving my goal and that you are enjoying the recipes you find here!

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Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins

FYI – the crushed candy cane topping is going to melt onto the muffin tops, which leaves a nice crunchy minty delicious muffin top! I suppose if you left it really chunky it may leave some pretty red/white spots as well. I like to dust the tops of mine with powdered sugar for a snowy effect!  Oh – and if you want these extra chocolatey, I recommend using chocolate soy or almond milk!!

You will need:

  • 1  3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 12/ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp Ener-G-Egg Replacer* + 4 Tbsp water (the equivalent to 2 eggs)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (opt)
  • 1 crushed candy cane for sprinkling on top
  • powdered sugar for dusting on top

(*Ener-G-Egg Replacer can be found in most supermarkets! It is in a yellow box, usually in the “healthy” section. This stuff is great for replacing eggs in baking.)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

1) Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the “egg” vigorously.  Add the oil and milk and mint extract.  Whisk well. Add the liquids to the dry, stirring just enough to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.

3) Spoon into the muffin pans, filling them 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with crushed candy cane. Bake 15-17 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean.

4) Let sit for 5 minutes then remove to cool on a wire rack.

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Getting ready to bake… the candy cane will melt and make a nice sweet crunchy top!

Variation: If you want a chocolate muffin without the mint, simply leave out the mint extract. (Use chocolate milk for extra chocolatey-richness.) Add to the dry mixture 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp cloves. Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts if desired! I made them this way first and they were great!

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Here is a close up where you can see some bigger pieces of candy cane bits that made it through the baking process, giving it some pretty red specks!

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Mmm! Yummy candy cane bits!

Getting ready for the Big Thanksgiving Feast!

Somehow, Thanksgiving has snuck up on me this year!! I’m sorry I haven’t shared more recipes with you, but I did provide some links below to some of the things I will be making and more!

We are having a family feast for 21 this year on Thanksgiving day at my mom’s, so I decided to pitch in and bring a few things to help out! Plus, since many others at the feast are not vegan, it’s fun to bring a few dishes to show everyone that vegan cooking is incredibly delicious! It just so happens I have a  3-pot crock-pot cooker, so I chose dishes that would work with that. Another great thing about using a crock pot is that I won’t need to use the busy oven at my mom’s for reheating anything – I can easily heat things up just by plugging it in and stirring every now and then! You can’t beat that!

So, here’s what I’m bringing to share…

  • 1) my vegan pumpkin pie
  • 2) vegan macaroni and cheese (my moms mac-n-cheese recipe, veganized)
  • 3) maple pecan sweet potatoes (from the cookbook ‘Vegan Holiday Kitchen’ by Nava Atlas)
  • 4) and something I like to call “Green beans a’la Terry” (a recipe from my friend and old co-worker, Terry, who works at the Grit, my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Athens, GA)

Sorry – I haven’t put any of those recipes listed above on my blog (except for the pumpkin pie)! But don’t sweat it – there are TONS of recipes online that have been making me drool! Here are some recipes that I thought looked awesome from some other sites that I wanted to share!

  • The Post Punk Kitchen has an awesome looking maple pecan pie I am planning on making if I can squeeze it in… and there are many more holiday dishes to peruse here! Check out the Thanksgiving page.
  • Mmmm. We just made these scalloped potatoes tonight. We made them (minus the fennel) and they were spectacular! Definitely making these again!

  • The Gluten-free Goddess always has an amazing list of holiday friendly foods. Check out her list vegan and vegetarian foods here!
  • And don’t forget about Vegan Dad. He makes some amazing food! I have a “must-try” list accumulated from his blog site!
  • Another good site to explore is Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Life website. Full of good recipes and other veggie news!

If you are new to my blog, you may have missed some previous veggie side dishes that are great for the holidays, such as my lemon maple sweet potatoes, cauliflower mashed potatoes , butternut squash soup, green bean casserole, maple roasted parsnips, agave glazed carrots,… and these pot roast veggies cook up beautifully and easily with a tofu-turkey roast.

You definitely don’t need a turkey to have a delicious holiday meal, but if you need or crave that “meaty” centerpiece, I recommend the Tofurkey roast (available at most supermarkets) or a Field Roast.  Or you can make your own homemade tofu roast (which is a bit more complicated but worth the effort). The Post Punk Kitchen makes a yummy looking seitan roast on their Thanksgiving page (see link above). Regardless of what foods you choose to make, remember the purpose of the holiday is to relax and enjoy the company of those around you!

Vegan White Sausage Gravy & Biscuits

When the weather starts to get chilly, there is nothing like a big bowl of biscuits & gravy to warm you up from the inside out. I wish I could bring this to everyone affected by the early winter weather storms we’ve had this year. Hopefully you don’t think biscuits and gravy are just a “southern thing”… If you’ve never had a good meal of biscuits & gravy, you are missing out on one of the best comfort foods out there!

This is a meal packed with protein that both kids and adults can enjoy. It makes a great breakfast, lunch or dinner when served over these vegan buttermilk biscuits.

Vegan Sausage White Gravy (“Scarborough Fair style”)

(‘Scarborough Fair style’ contains parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme)

  • 1 tube Lightlife GimmeLean Soysage
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil (to saute soysage and onion)
  • 2 Tbsp soy margarine (like Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 large yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 cups soymilk, plus up to another cup (to thin gravy as it thickens)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp each parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

1) Brown the soysage in a big skillet over medium-high heat with a little olive oil by chopping it into bits with your spatula while it cooks. Once it is chopped into bits and browned,  move it into a separate bowl and set aside.

2) In the same skillet, saute the chopped onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Then add the soysage back in there with the onion and mix them together.

3) Add in the flour and soy margarine to the skillet, mixing well until everything is mixed together thoroughly. Turn heat down to medium.

4) Add in 3 cups of soymilk and stir. Add the herbs & spices. Continue cooking and stirring while it thickens, adding in the last cup of soymilk bit by bit as necessary, until desired thickness is achieved (though once the gravy is pretty hot and getting thick, turn down the heat down to simmer/warm).  Serve over top of these buttermilk biscuits.

Mmmmm…. gravy!

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away! I know most of us are looking forward to making (or eating!) our Thanksgiving day meals. Perhaps you are making your tried and true recipes, or perhaps you are looking to try something new… either way, I hope we all remember that the point of this upcoming holiday is to bring us all together, to overlook faults & shortcomings and to simply enjoy each others company as we share time on this precious earth together. 🙂

In my opinion, a really good Thanksgiving meal is about enjoying a collection of many different dishes… maybe the turkey is a big part of that to you, but in my family, we celebrate our gratitude by acknowledging that for us, a sacrifice is not a necessary component  on the table. The way I see it, there are enough sacrifices that each of make in our daily lives… this is one day we shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything! It is a day to enjoy, appreciate and be grateful for all that is in existence… every plant, every animal… and every person! That being said, Thanksgiving recipes will be forthcoming!