Monthly Archives: June 2012

I had a lot of extra blackberries leftover from the PPK facebook challenge, and I haven’t been eating enough salad this week… so here’s my answer to both of those!

Blackberry Walnut Dressing

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1/2 cup apple juice (you could probably use apple slices too since this will be going through a sieve)
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon (more if you want a more acidic dressing, I also suggest adding a vinegar if you want this to be more of a vinaigrette)
  • 1 Tbsp packed mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

First, blend together blackberries, apple juice, lemon juice, and enough water to almost cover blackberries (leave about and inch or two of blackberries above the water).

Now pour the blended mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl.

Whisk/quickly scrape the bottom of the sieve with a spoon until most of the liquid is in the bowl and you are left with only thick pulp and seeds in the sieve.

Return mixture to blender and add mint and walnuts. Blend till smooth. At this point you can add more lemon or vinegar for more acidity, more apple juice for more sweetness, or more walnuts for a creamier dressing.

Now pour into a storage container of some kind. I really like these little dressing bottles from Fry’s grocery store.

I served on a bed of romaine, spinach, mixed baby greens, and moringa leaves (sometimes the farmer’s market has the randomest stuff!) and topped with dressing and cranberries.

I made this delicious chili a few days ago and man does it go far!  This quinoa cornbread goes amazing with it… it’s moist, savory, and and the quinoa gives it a bit of a nutty flavor that’s really nice.  Both recipes are from Cathy Fisher at

Both of these recipes are gluten-, oil-, sugar-, and salt-FREE!

A couple modifications and tips:

For the cornbread (click here for recipe)

  • Don’t use the banana unless you want to taste it in your bread.  I subbed out 1/2 cup applesauce (one of those little containers) for the banana and it worked perfectly.
  • I also left out the cinnamon, because I thought that was weird for cornbread.
  • If you want a sweeter cornbread, you are either going to have to add a few more dates to your soaking liquid (discard any additional liquid you use to soak) or use sugar.
  • Use a coffee grinder to grind your whole flaxseeds, oats, and cornmeal.  I just bought this one recently, and I LOVE it!  I put it next to my 13-inch macbook so you could see how compact it is.  Click the photo for an amazon link to purchase it. 

For the chili (click here for the recipe):

  • Use Pomì Tomatoes (pictured above and can be purchased here in bulk on amazon, or in Arizona at Sprouts or Whole Foods).  Then you don’t have to worry about what’s leeching from the cans.
  • Don’t leave out the celery.  In her cooking demonstration at True North, Cathy said that celery gives the impression of saltiness… and it really does work in this chili.  I ALWAYS miss salt when they are left out of soups and stews, but I don’t miss it here.
  • If you like your chili spicy, then add come chipotle chili powder and some cayenne.  I also doubled all the spices she listed.
  • I heard this great tip about beans that I haven’t tried yet… If you want to avoid canned beans, but don’t want to be soaking and cooking dried beans every week, cook them in larger batches, then store in plastic sandwich bags or small jars in 1 1/2 cup portions in the freezer.  Most canned beans equal about 1 1/2 cups, so if a recipe calls for canned beans, you just pull out a bag or jar from the freezer!  I’m so doing this.

This grilled cheese recipe comes from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak (click here for the recipe).  I thought this had a better texture than the Happy Herbivore grilled cheese, but it really tasted more like a roasted red pepper spread than anything else (it could be that I roasted my own peppers instead of buying the jarred kind).  It was tasty, a nice tangy flavor, but not my first choice for grilled cheese.

The bread: Ezekiel 4:9 Low Sodium.  I realized my favorite whole wheat tuscan pane from Trader Joe’s had way too much sodium, so this ezekiel bread is my new “go to”… can be purchased at Sprouts for $4.99.  It’s pretty good… I thought it would be too dense, but it’s just right, makes great toast!

This nacho cheese was wonderful.  Great consistency and flavor.  Just right.

The recipe is from Happy Herbivore (click here for the recipe).  After making the sauce, I added two tomatoes (diced) and half a mini can of diced green chiles.  Both of these veggies added a little extra liquid, so I had to stir for a few minutes more to re-thicken up the sauce.  The chips are La Reina baked no-salt tortilla chips (from Whole Foods, only $2.19 a bag, only ingredients are corn and lime!).

I think next time I will ALSO add:

edit 7/7/12: I made this again, but omitted the cayenne and added 1/2 a chipotle in adobo sauce (click here to see on amazon) with about 1/4 tsp of the sauce added too.  This added a nice smoky, but mild kick.  If you are a spice lover, I say go for a whole chipotle and a bit of the adobo sauce.  

Sometimes things don’t turn out as you expect them to… You make some delicious BBQ tempeh, and decide to add some extra tempeh, a bunch of veggie broth, an onion, and some jalapeños to stew in the crock pot overnight thinking “this will kick it up a whole ‘nother level!” … and it just doesn’t work. You even take some pics as the natural light is still shining through the window, still thinking it will be delicious…

But it isn’t.

So round two.  Grilled Cheese.  I’ve been vegan for four years and this is my first attempt.  I suppose it’s taken me this long to actually like the taste of nutritional yeast!  It really is growing on me.  The recipe is from the Happy Herbivore cookbook, so you will have to check it out if you want to try it yourself. 🙂  It’s full of simple/delicious/quick recipes that are vegan and low in fat.

I don’t know if it looks delicious, but trust me it is.  It’s almost like a cheesy, light peanut butter, as it sticks to your mouth a little.  And it was wonderfully hearty with this whole wheat tuscan pane from Trader Joe’s.  I don’t buy bread very often, but when I do, this is what I get.  Only four ingredients, and one of them is water!  I will say, the only thing that stinks about this bread is that it doesn’t fit in a toaster.  These mini grilled cheeses (above) are made from the ends that didn’t fit!

I admit it.  I love nachos and cheese.

I read about these chips from the healthy vegans in LA, so I was surprised to see them here in Arizona! The lightly salted version does contain oil, but somehow the calories from fat are the same as the unsalted ones that do not contain oil???

I suppose your best bet would be to get a little water spritzer, lay out the unsalted chips, spritz them with a little water, then a little salt.

Also, the vegan queso is a little pricey for my budget, so I think I will need to experiment with some recipes. I do like Isa’s Cashew Queso, but I would also like a simpler nutritional yeast-based alternative that is quicker and lighter.

La Reina Tortilla Chips: at Whole Foods in AZ, $2.19 each, nutrition: 9% calories from fat, sodium to calories ratio is less than 1 in the lightly salted version. But I still recommend the non-salted b/c the salt is not evenly distributed in the salty kind.

Food for Lovers Vegan Queso: at Whole Foods in AZ for $4.99, nutrition: fat free, does contain white flour, but the whole jar is only 240 calories.

If you’re not into microwaves, sometimes I use this 5/8 quart non-stick butter warmer as a double boiler. Super easy clean-up.

yummmm… good and spicy.

“Constructed Shawarma”: Chocolate Blackberry BBQ Tempeh, Black-eyed Pea Hummus, with a Minty Slaw and Whole Wheat Lavosh

Chocolate Blackberry BBQ Sauce

3/4 cup blackberries, blended in half the amount of water and strained through mesh/fine colander

1 cup apple juice

6 oz tomato paste

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp shallots, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 clove garlic

3-4 mint leaves

2 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 71% cacao), chopped

1 Tbsp dry mustard

2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp clove

1/4 tsp coriander

Method: In a large frying pan on high heat, combine and whisk all ingredients.  Add 4 oz tempeh strips (cut like you would for tempeh bacon).  Bring to a boil and turn to low, stirring (gently) occasionally while prepping other ingredients.

 Black-eyed pea Hummus

1 can of black-eyed peas, rinsed/drained

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp tahini

2 Tbsp vegetable broth

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp salt

4 mint leaves chopped

Method: Blend all ingredients in a food processor till smooth, scraping down sides if necessary and adding more veggie broth if needed for smoothness


3 Tbsp chopped green cabbage

2 Tbsp finely diced cucumber

1 Tbsp finely diced red onion

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 mint leaves

pinch of salt

Method: Mix all ingredients till combined

PLATING: Place 3-4 strips of tempeh flat on the plate. Top with 3-4 more strips so they are perpendicular to the first level.  Continue until you have 5-6 layers of tempeh.  Poke with a few toothpicks and cut with a ring mold.  Remove toothpicks, and fill ring mold with hummus and then slaw.  Remove ring mold and top with a folded triangle of whole wheat lavosh (trader joe’s).

(to view the rules of this PPK challenge click here)

While I’ve been on my retreat, I’ve been staying at the True North Health Center.  It’s a pretty unique place… they do water-only fasts (I’ve met people who are doing 30 and 40 day fasts!) and they also have people come just to eat healthier.  The food they serve is oil/salt/sugar/gluten free (and vegan!)… so pretty much a lot of salad, soup, whole grains, and steamed veggies.  Very clean.

I just had my exit interview with Dr. Klaper, and thought I’d share his nutritional recommendations:

BREAKFAST: Fruit, with or without oatmeal (“real” oatmeal, not instant)

  •  I really like doing smoothies when I’m eating healthy, but he recommended against that.  He said it’s an unnatural dose of food that you wouldn’t eat if it were in it’s whole form, it spikes your blood sugar, and just isn’t ideal.  So I’m going to only have them occasionally.


  • FORMULA FOR EACH MEAL:  Salad + Soup + Steamed Greens
  • salad… as large as you like, with vegan, oil-free dressing, flavored vinegars, or lemon juice.
  • soup… he was very specific here:  on Saturday morning, buy and chop your favorite vegetables from the market.  Later that night, fill a crockpot half full of water.  Add half the veggies and your favorite spices, putting remaining veggies in the fridge.  Add 1/2 cup (soaked and rinsed) lentils, beans, quinoa, rice, etc.  Fill to near top with water, place lid on, push button, go to bed.  Keep crockpot on low for 2-4 days, (use a wide mouth thermos to bring soup to work) and then on Tues. night, freeze the rest in containers for “instant meals.” Repeat the process with remaining veggies on Tuesday night.
  • steamed greens… kale, chard, broccoli, collards, spinach, asparagus, etc. Rinse and tear pieces and place into a steamer basket. Steam over hot water for 3-6 minutes. Serve with squeezed lemon juice, no-fat salad dressing, etc.

extra protein: legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc.), walnuts (omega 3’s), pumpkin seeds (zinc), etc.

extra calories: grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet), potatoes (“new” potatoes are best), yams (or other “yellow” vegetables like carrots or squash)

dessert: apple slices, strawberries, 1/2 banana, cherries, a few grapes

Then, go for a walk! Get your legs moving every day… he recommended a recumbent bike if you watch a lot of TV.

supplements: Also, if you’re vegan, he recommends you take vitamins B12 and D.  My vitamin D was a little low (even though I live in Phoenix!) but he suggested I go on morning walks this summer and have my levels checked again in September to see if that fixes it (without supplementing).  He said if it’s over 30 mg/dL, I should be good for the winter.

what NOT to eat: oils of any kind, dairy, processed carbohydrate (pastas, breads…occasionally is fine), meat (he said if you have to have meat, he recommends people eat no more than 3 oz of grain fed beef or wild-caught salmon 2-3x per week).

The past year has been rough on me.

I can’t point to any traumatic events, but sometimes it’s the smaller ones you’ve got to watch out for. They slowly build up and leave you feeling… sad.

So this summer, I gave myself a pretty generous, long-overdue vacation… three weeks! I needed time to rest, time to think about my next steps, and time to pray.

In a few days, the vacation will be over and I’ll be back to the scheduled life. Since I believe food is a big part of my emotional and spiritual health, I’ve created this blog to help me track that journey. I’ve also created a few challenges for myself, a sort of cooking bucket-list that you can view here.