Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asian Style Veggie Skewers with Thai Almond Dipping Sauce & Red Coconut Curry Sauce....

Last Thursday I invited two of my good friends J & L over for dinner. Normally when I throw together these little dinners I have some idea of what to make, but for one reason or another last week I was at a complete loss as to what to make. I wanted something simple, yet elegant, but it had to be light. The weather outside was good, and I didn’t want to stand around a hot stove, and then eat a heavy meal that would just sit in the pit of my stomach all night. I’d been thinking of grilling, and I’d been craving sweet potatoes, pineapple, Pad Thai, and curry, all very strange things to crave at once I’ll admit, and with all those things in mind I came up with this. Considering I did it all on the fly without anything except my own imagination I was pretty impressed with myself, and my guests left happily sated. Along side the veggie skewers I served a Black Radish and Pea Tendril Salad with Asian Pears, and Red Bhutanese Fried Rice, both recipes will be coming soon. Trust me when I say this is a really great meal to throw together quickly on a summer evening.

Asian Style Veggie Skewers - Makes about 16 skewers depending of course on how full you pack them.


2 medium sized sweet potatoes diced
4 medium sized carrots chopped into roughly inch and a half length pieces
1 medium or large yellow onion quartered layers separated
1 zucchini cut into medium thickness rounds or half moons
1 yellow crookneck squash cut into medium thickness rounds or half moons
1-2 cups pineapple cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper cut into chunks
1-2 Broccoli crown cut into medium-large sized florets
14 baby bella mushrooms


1/8 cup vegetable broth
4 tbsp organic peanut oil
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp agave nectar
dash of black pepper, ground ginger, and garlic powder

- Steam sweet potatoes and carrots in steamer basket until able to pierce easily with fork, but not mushy or too soft. 10-12 minutes.

- Place all vegetables in large sealable container. Or zip-lock bag (I used a snap-lock container) pour marinated over vegetables, lock container and shake till well mixed. Place in refrigerators and let sit 2-4 hours. Turning over once every 30 minutes to evenly distribute marinade.

- When finished marinating slide vegetables onto wooden skewers in alternating patterns.

- Turn grill to medium heat, and grill vegetable skewers for roughly 3-4 minutes a side. Remove from heat to a plate and serve with Red Coconut Curry dipping sauce, and Thai Almond Sauce.

- Note: If a few veggies get a bit crisp or blacken don’t fret, it adds a really nice smoky grill flavor to the vegetables.

Thai Almond Sauce

1/3 heaping cup Almond butter(or to taste)
1/3 cup lime juice (or to taste)
1/4 cup soy sauce (or to taste)
2 tbsp agave nectar (or to taste)
A few cracks of a black pepper mill
dash of ground ginger, and garlic powder
Cayenne pepper to taste

- Whisk everything together until smooth, then place in bowl and serve right away. You can also make this sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge until ready to serve

Red Coconut Curry Sauce

1/4 cup coconut milk (full fat) (or slightly more to thin)
4 dates pitted
1 tbsp lime juice (or to taste)
1-1/2 tsp Red Curry Paste (or more to taste)
dash of black pepper, ground ginger and garlic powder

- Blend everything in a high speed blender for roughly 1 minute or until everything is smooth and creamy. Serve right away, or it can be placed in fridge until ready to serve.

Honestly these vegetables skewers are so flavorful on their own that the dipping sauces aren’t really necessary, but the sauces do make great companions, and if you have the time plus the ingredients I highly recommend making them. You and your guests will not be sorry. I promise.

*** P.S.: I’m sorry there are no pictures of the sauces, it had kind of slipped my mind and by the time I remembered to grab my camera there wasn’t mush sauce left to photograph. ***

*** Note - Gluten-Free if using Wheat-Free Tamari Soy Sauce ***

Monday, May 30, 2011

Raw Chocolate Chia Pudding Tarts With Fresh Fruit...

As promised it is Monday, and I have returned. I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend.

Now, one thing that’ll become very obvious about me the more you read my blog is that I Love to bake, and I Love deserts. I usually make two deserts a week, or I at least bake cookies or muffins or what not. I get a lot of pleasure out of any kind of cooking, but particularly out of making deserts. There’s just something about measuring and mixing that I just find so de-stressing. I love how a house smells when there’s fresh baking in the oven, or on the wire cooling rack. I used to love waking up to the scent of my mother’s whole grain breads baking, filling not only the kitchen but the whole house with their earthy goodness. My mother is an excellent cook, but she’s always in my opinion been a master baker. Growing up our house was always full of fresh home made cookies, cakes, brownies, bars, pies, and breads. You name it and she would bake it, and I can’t recall ever not liking something she’d baked. She always starts her baking in the morning, six or seven am, and when I lived at home I would always wake up to those sweet, heavenly scents. Maybe that’s why I love to make deserts more then anything else, and maybe that’s why I without a doubt prefer to always do my baking at the start of my day rather then in the middle or the end. Baking in the morning, no matter where I am always reminds me of home.

Now despite my long standing love affair with baking it might astonish you to learn that I’ve never actually made a tart before. Before a week ago I wouldn’t have been able to make a tart to save my life, vegan, non-vegan, raw or baked, never had I embarked on such an endeavor. Yet somehow several weeks ago I suddenly got it in mind to do just that. Make tarts. Where this idea came from I have no idea. Maybe because Spring has finally come to the Mid-West, maybe because fresh fruit, particularly fresh berries are available in such abundance, maybe I was just craving chocolate. Regardless of the reason it’s a good thing to remember that once an idea firmly grabs hold of me I’m stuck with it until I carry it out. So three weeks ago or so when I was in Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a cake pan, I picked up a six pack of tart pans too, without a recipe or a clue, I stuffed them into my basket and went about my day.

Spring forward to last Wednesday when the desire to make tarts really over took me. By now I had read many tart recipes in preparation for my sudden onset of tart lust. I had flipped through every cook book I own, I pillaged my local library, and surfed the net for every kind of tart recipe imaginable and yet I could not find a single one that appealed to me. What then may I ask is a tart loving girl to do? The simple answer? Throw caution to the wind, and just ‘go with it’ by which I mean throw some stuff together and hope it works out alright. Personally I think this recipe worked out better then alright, way better. Both my husband M and I were wildly amazed by how creamy, rich and down-right delicious these tarts were. Not a one survived, always a good sign in my house.

Now, before you even get finished reading this recipe I know it looks like a lot of work, but it’s not, not really. Yes it is a lot of steps, but the actual labor is pretty minimal. I think it’s just a matter of being prepared, and though there are many steps that must be followed they are all super easy, I promise!

Raw Chocolate Chia Pudding Tarts With Fresh Fruit...

Start by making the crust....

Almond Cashew Crust - Yields enough for roughly 4 4x1 inch tart pans.

1C Cashews
3/4C Almonds (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes)
2 Medjool Dates (pitted and soaked in warm water for 10 minutes)
Roughly ½-3/4 of a medium sized banana.
½-1 tsp Vanilla extract
dash sea salt and cinnamon
1/4 cup water as needed

Now if you are like me and only own the tiniest, lamest food processor the world has to offer you’ll have to make this crust in stages. However if you’re fortunate enough to have one of those large fancy food processors I don’t see why you couldn’t just grind all the nuts together, and then add everything else into the processor once the nuts have formed a meal.

- Pulse Cashews until they from a meal. Then remove Cashews to mixing bowl.

- Pulse Almonds until they form a meal. Then remove to the same mixing bowl as cashews.

- Add a dash of sea salt, and a hefty dash of cinnamon to the nut meal combination then stir to combine.

- Using a half cup measure fill your food processor with the nut meal until roughly half full, add in ½ tsp vanilla extract, 1 date, and 1/4 of your banana. Pulse until well combined. If mixture is to dry and not pulsing gently pour in 1/4 cup of water until the blades begin moving. (Don’t worry if it becomes to pasty as it’ll dry out a bit more with the addition of the rest of the nut meal.) At this point, if your food processor is as lame as mine you still may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get things moving again.

- Once everything is combined and running smoothly, add another cup of the nut meal and process. If mixture isn’t moving, add in another ½ tsp vanilla extract, 1 date, and another 1/4 of banana. Continue to process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, and gradually adding in the remaining nut meal. (You can add another 1/4 of banana if necessary, if mixture is too dry and crumbly)

- By now you should have a somewhat sticky, paste like mixture. Using a regular spoon scoop out 2 spoonfuls worth of batter and place into a plastic wrap lined tart pan. This part can be a bit tricky as the mixture can be quite sticky. What I found very helpful is folding the excess plastic wrap under the tart pan, which held the plastic in place better and made spreading the batter easier. You can use the back of the spoon to spread the batter as evenly as possible around the pan, then use your fingers to gently press the batter up the sides of the pan. Once batter has been evenly shaped into the pan cover with another piece of plastic wrap, then place in the freezer for 2-3 hours to firm up.

- Repeat with all four pans, or until no batter remains.

Chocolate Chia Pudding - Yields enough for about 5 or 6 tarts.

1-2 C Fresh Coconut Meat from 1-2 Thai Coconuts
3/4 C (Or more if desired) Coconut water from 1 Thai Coconut
½ C (or less) pure Maple Syrup
1/3 C (or less) Agave Nectar
½ C (or to taste) Cacao Powder
2 Tbsp (or to taste) Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/4-1/2 C Chia Seeds

- A couple of notes about this recipe, It’s one I originally got from Sarma Melngailis’s cookbook Raw Food Real World, and have altered a bit to suit my own taste preferences. I’ve made the recipe both with one cup of coconut meat and with 2 cups of coconut meat, and honestly I think I prefer the 1 cup of coconut meat variation. If you use less coconut meat you’ll want to use more chia seeds, if you use more coconut meat you’ll want to use less chia seeds. I don’t particularly like all the excess sweetener in this recipe, so I cut back on it, though I don’t really measure it. Generally speaking for the Agave I fill my third cup up about half or a little over half full, and sometimes I cut down a bit on the maple syrup as well, but that’s just me, I also like to add additional cocoa powder, as much as 3/4 cups, or as little as just an extra tbsp or two. Depending on how chocolatey I want it. Also if you’re not on a strict raw diet, by all means use regular dark coco powder, it works out just fine as well. Lastly, you really do need a high-speed blender for this one, I’m sorry, but otherwise it just won’t blend the coconut or the chia seeds properly. I tried to make this once last year with just my regular blender and it turned out simply awful! Also you do need Thai coconuts, those are the tan square ones with the triangular tip. Not the round brown hairy ones, those are mature coconuts and their flesh is very firm and not good for this kind of recipe. I made that mistake last year too.

Step 1 - Extracting the water and the flesh from a coconut.

- The easiest way to do this is to chop off the triangular tip of the coconut with a cleaver, and then quickly scoop the coconut up so that as little water spills out as possible. Then you can easily scrape out the flesh with a spoon.

- Now if you’re like me, you might not own a cleaver. That’s not a problem, but opening a coconut without a clever is going to take a little elbow grease. Generally what I do is take a (clean) screw driver and mallet and hammer the screw driver into the coconut. Make two or three puncture marks in the side then tip it upside down over a large measuring cup, and let the water leak out. However depending on the size of your punctures this might take some time. I’m usually to impatient to wait very long and so I begin shaking the coconut vigorously to get all the water out. Once all or most of the water is out you can use the point of a chef knife (I recommend a cheap one, don’t use a good expensive chef knife for this in case it gets ruined) To dig into the puncture that you’ve made, then you can start sawing off the top of the coconut. This is where the elbow grease is going to come in. Depending on how firm the coconut is it might take a bit of work, though ideally it should be less then 10-15 minutes. Once I get a good crack into it, I generally cover the sharp end of the knife with a towel then press down on both the covered sharp end and the handle with each hand, and use the force of all my weight to slice through the coconut shell. Of course, if you have a partner who’s a bit stronger then you, you could always bribe him or her to do it for you. I have resorted to this in the past when I found my ‘elbow grease’ to be a bit lacking in the face of one very, strong and determined Thai coconut. Once the coconut is opened scrape out the flesh with a spoon and Ta-Da! Finished.

Step 2 - Blending your pudding

- Once you have your coconut flesh, measure out all of your ingredients into your high speed blender and then blend on high for 1-2 minutes until everything is smooth. As stated above you might want to go a bit conservative on some of the ingredients and then taste for sweetness and flavor and then adjust according to your personal preferences. This is what I tend to do most of the time. If you find you need to re-adjust just blend for another 30 seconds to 1 minute until everything is well combined. If you find your pudding is too thin then add more chia seeds, if you find that it’s too thick for your liking then add a bit more coconut water or liquid sweetener.

Step 3 - Constructing Your Tart

- Once you have your pudding at your desired consistency and taste, remove your tart pans from the freezer.

- Grab a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and evenly distribute the pudding between your tart pans. I found that after adjusting the pudding ingredients that I had more pudding then tart shells. You could either make enough extra crust for two more shells or do what I did and scoop the excess pudding into a air tight container and place it in the fridge to eat by itself some other time.

- After you’ve filled your tart pans with your pudding place them into the fridge to cool and firm up a bit more. About 1-2 hours.

Step 4 - Decorating Your Tart

You can use any berries or any fruit really that you want to decorate your tarts, but I chose to decorate mine with fresh blueberries and raspberries, because that’s what I was in the mood for. You can also decorate your tart with any pattern or design you want, but I chose to do something simple.

I used about 16oz of blueberries to place a ring of berries around each of the four tart pans. I used about 15 raspberries to decorate the middle of each tart.

Once you decorate your tart you can serve them right away, or place them back in the fridge for later. They should keep a couple of days in the fridge. Though they’re so good you’ll probably devour them in one sitting!

I know it must seem like a lot of trouble to go to for some tarts, but I assure you it was worth every minute and really the steps look a lot more complicated then they actually are. The toughest part is cracking open the coconuts, everything else is gravy. Of course as I mentioned before if you’re not on a raw diet, you can really use any pudding recipe you like, that’s what I love about this recipe, it’s so flexible. You could essentially use any nuts for the crust, any pudding as a filling and any berries for a topping, though I sincerely recommend you make it my way at least once, before you decide to play around with it. If you make it I hope you enjoy it, and stay tuned, as tomorrow will being even more goodies!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Have a Wonderful Weekend & The Good Karma Kitchen will Return on Monday...

Unfortunately like most Americans I find I’m going to be rather busy over this long weekend, meaning I won’t be posting over the next couple of days. However I did want to say that I have a lot of good stuff planned. I’ve got some great articles in the works, one focusing on Dairy, and the practices of the Dairy Industry, and one focusing on GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) In addition to that my next Spotlight Food is going to be Bell Peppers, and I’ve got several delicious recipes I can’t wait to share with you! Recipes spanning everything from Breakfast to Desert. Asian style grilled veggie skewers, Bhutanese fried rice, salad dressing and dipping sauce recipes, more breakfast smoothie concoctions, and Sushi! Yet despite all that deliciousness I think I’m probably most proud of my Chocolate Chia Pudding Tart with Fresh Fruit recipe. It’s rich, creamy, chocolaty and amazing. Here’s a little look-see to keep you salivating till Monday.

Hope you all have a wonderful warm weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pink Raspberry Passion Smoothie...

Monday was a wonderful day, beautiful, sunny and warm with a nice breeze. Exactly the kind of spring day where you feel the overwhelming desire to kick back with a good book and a delicious fruit smoothie after an afternoon of running around. So that’s exactly what I did. I wanted something sweet, and delicious with berries being the focal point, and so I came up with this super simple smoothie that totally satisfies the tastebuds. Enjoy it garnished with fresh raspberries, near an open window where you can hear the sounds of birds singing, and smell that fresh sweet spring air - or better yet enjoy it lounging outside on the grass, with a book in one hand, and your drink in the other.

Pink Raspberry Passion Smoothie

½ C Raspberries (roughly 23-25)
1 ½ C chopped fresh Pineapple
3/4 C water (or enough to cover blades of a Vitamix)
1 packet Stevia (optional)

- Place everything except Stevia in a high speed blender and process for 30 seconds to 1 minute until everything is smooth. Taste for sweetness and add Stevia if desired.

- Serve in a fancy chilled glass, and garnish with 4-5 raspberries, of if you’re feeling especially creative garnish with raspberries and a thin slice of pineapple.

You won’t be sorry you did, I promise!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pea Tendril and Daikon Noodle Salad...

When I first bought the book Vegan YumYum by Lauren Ulm at the insistence of my good friend J, one of the first recipes to jump out at me was the Pea Tendril and Daikon Noodle Salad, the picture alone had me salivating. Yet, I hadn’t any idea what the hell pea tendrils were let alone where to get a bunch. Never in my life - either here or back in Vancouver - had I seen such a thing for sale, so I was at a complete loss as to where to look for them. Certain that my local groceries wouldn’t have them - yet checking every time anyway to no avail - I finally after about a week gave up my dreams of Pea Tendril and Daikon.

Then the Sunday before last I was doing my grocery shopping, as I do every Sunday night. I was searching high and low for a head of romaine lettuce to use to make a Caesar Salad the next day, but they appeared to be out. All that was left was iceberg and red leaf, neither of which would do at all. Then just as I was turning away in defeat, something seemed to jump up into my peripheral vision. Something small and green, that I didn’t immediately recognize. Almost hidden between large overflowing bunches of cilantro, and large clumps of watercress. I walked over to the far right corner of the produce section and looked down at a bunch of delicate tender leaves, oval shaped with dainty points at their ends. I picked up a bunch, examined it, and still unable to discern it’s species I flipped up the tag and read those sweet lovely words ‘Living Pea Tendrils’ Amazed and giddy I stuffed the bunch gently into a bag tied it up and grabbed myself a daikon radish as I left the produce section.

Now for the salad itself. It’s very simple, but delicious! I truly can’t believe I’d never eaten pea tendrils before. To me they tasted like something of a cross between peas, spinach and alfalfa sprouts. All things I love. I thought that so much radish might give the salad a bitter, or spicy twinge but it didn’t, and combined with the mellow Asian inspired dressing the meal was so incredible I nearly rushed back to the store and filled a whole cart with pea tendrils and daikon radish! Instead though I piled my plate high, polished the whole thing off, and felt immensely satisfied for the remainder of the day.

This is definitely a seasonal salad though. Pea tendrils if they appear in stores at all do so only during mid May- to mid-June. So next time you’re picking up your groceries, if you see them, don’t even hesitate to pick them up and give this magnificent salad a try.

*** Note: Gluten-Free only if using Wheat-Free Tamari Soy Suace ***

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spotlight Food - Onions

This is the first post in a series I’ve been planning, where I’ll pick one food a week to spotlight. Providing you with information detailing that foods history, cultivation, any myths, and it’s healthful benefits along with some of the best ways of preparing said food. I hope you these posts as interesting and beneficial as I do.

Onions - I can’t say definitively that they’re my favorite food, because I’m the type of person who’s favorite food is food, if you know what I mean? I can say however that I absolutely love them, and eat them in some form at least once a day. They are probably the most frequently used food in my kitchen. I buy yellow onions in 10 pounds bags, green onions about 2-3 bunches per week, and 2-4 red onions a week depending on what meals I’ve got planned. White onions, Shallots, Vidalia, and Walla Walla I love also but use less frequently.


Onions (Allium cepa) belong to the Lilly family, as do garlic, and leeks. More then 600 species of Allium have been found distributed across the world, and over 120 different uses of the Alliums have been documented.

The onion has an interesting but somewhat mysterious. Botanists, archeologists, and food historians can’t quite agree on when exactly or where the onion first originated. Various cultures have been eating onions for thousands of years, and because onions grow wild in so many different regions of the world it’s suspected that they were consumed long before farming was invented, and that cultivation took place more or less simultaneously around the world. Most researchers agree however that the onion has been cultivated for roughly 5000 years.

While researchers may argue over whether or not onions first originated in China, India, Iran, Pakistan, or Egypt, the onion can be traced back to many cultures through ancient texts. There are mentions of onions being cultivated in China 5000 years ago, they can be traced to Egypt as far back as the year 3500 B.C. and they’re even mentioned in The Bible, in Numbers 11:5. The onion is also referenced as being used medicinally in India in the sixth century B.C.

The Onion has been held as a symbol, a source of power, and a source of healing by many cultures. The Ancient Egyptians considered it an object of worship believing that it’s round shape and concentrated ring system symbolized eternal life. They painted images of onions in their temples, gave them as funeral offerings, placed them upon the alters of their Gods as offerings, and even buried their Pharaohs with them. Ramses IV, who died in the year 1160 BC was entombed with slices of onions in his eye sockets.

In Ancient Greece, before competitions athletes would eat large quantities of onions, and drink onion juice because they believed it would bring balance and lightness to their blood as well as enhance their physical strength and stamina. Roman gladiators also held the belief that rubbing down their bodies with onion would strengthen their muscles.

During the Middle Ages doctors were known to prescribe onions to facilitate bowl movements and erections, as well as to relieve headaches and cough. In this time period onions were also often used as currency.

Christopher Columbus introduced the cultivated onion to North America in 1492, however upon arrival it was discovered that a species of wild onions already grew across North America, and were used frequently in a variety of ways by the Native Americans.

Today Onions are no less important. They remain a staple food of many cultures, particularly in South America, India, Asia, The Mediterranean, The Middle East and Northern Africa, and have become the second most important horticultural crop after the tomato.

Health Benefits

Now despite some of the more outrageous medicinal claims and magical beliefs propagated by our ancient ancestors onions do have some very real health benefits. Said to be able to cure everything from the common cold to cancer the unique properties of the onion have been shown to be beneficial in preventing or alleviating the symptoms of many diseases that we face today.

Onions are full of anti-oxidants, as well as high in flavonoids which are extremely helpful in combating free-radicals which cause the cell damage that can stimulate cancer growth. Yellow onions have been tested and found to have the highest number of flavonoids. Their number being 11 times higher then the variety of onion with the lowest tested flavonoid count. It’s because of this that onions have been reported to have such a positive effect on fighting a variety of ailments from the common cold, cardiovascular health, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.

Animal based studies have also shown some evidence that onion’s sulfur compounds may work in an anti-clogging capacity that helps prevent the clumping together of blood platelet cells. The research also suggests that sulfur levels in onions can lower blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides as well as improve cell membrane function in red blood cells.

Research focusing on support for bone and connective tissue health have shown in human studies that onions can help increase bone density and may be especially beneficial for menopausal woman. However to be of use in this are onions must be consumed on a daily basis as research has shown that sporadic consumption of onions does not provide much if any benefit. Also research has suggested that because our connective tissues require sulfur for their formation, onions high sulfur content provides a direct benefit.

Anti-inflammatory research has shown that onions provide important benefits. Onions antioxidants, particularly Quercetin, help prevent the oxidation of fatty acids in our bodies. With lower levels of oxidized fatty acid our bodies will produce fewer inflammatory molecules and our level of inflamation will be kept in check. Onions are also shown to provide benefits as an anti-bacterial.

Then of course there’s the Big C, Cancer. Onions have repeatedly been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, even when eaten only in moderation. (Moderation being anywhere from 1-5 times per week) Colorectal, Laryngeal, and Ovarian cancers are the three types were risk is reduced by moderate onion consumption. However for esophageal Cancer, and Cancers of the mouth research indicates that daily consumption of onions is required before any significant risk reduction results.

In summation onions appear not only to be a delicious food, but a highly beneficial one as well. However to get the most out of your onion consumption it’s recommended that you eat ½ an onion per day. Less apparently isn’t more when talking about onions, and the more pungent the onion the better it is for you. As onions with a bolder, stronger flavor have more antioxidants and flavonoids then milder onions.

Having said all of that, please keep in mind that wen it comes to preventing disease through food there is no hard and fast rule. There is no absolute, no guarantee. Even if you eat one entire onion per day for the rest of your life, there is no 100% guarantee that you won’t develop say stomach cancer, even though the research shows that those populations consuming the most onions daily have a 40% less risk then populations consuming little to no onion. The problem with a disease like cancer is that it can be greatly agitated by a variety of factors. Our personal choices (food etc..) Environmental factors that are out of our control (Such as pollution) Chemical exposure (From commercial cleaning products) and just pure bad luck in the genetic gene pool. Yet I do believe that we have the ability to heal our bodies through a healthful diet and lifestyle, and even though there isn’t a 100% guarantee my attitude has always been "Just because it’s not 100% fool-proof doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it" I err on the side of common sense here. We know plant foods are the healthiest for our bodies, research indicates that they can be beneficial in disease prevention, and I am the type of person that would rather try something and find out later it had no effect, then be the sort of person who refuses to try something only to find out later it was the thing that could have saved me.
Besides when it comes to onions, eating more of them is hardly an imposition, and upping my intake certainly isn’t going to hurt me. So why not?


Onions can be eaten raw, or cooked. They can be used in anything from dips, sauces, dressings, curries, soups, stir-fries, casseroles, pasta dishes, salads, chilies - you name it and you can basically throw an onion into it. That’s part of why I love them so much, their versatility is endless. Except for desert, perhaps they shouldn’t be tossed into that but virtually everything else. I throw onions into all of the above dishes. I dice yellow onions and eat them raw on tacos, saute them with peppers and eat them on fajitas. Saute them and serve them with dark leafy greens. Green onions go into almost everything I make regardless of wether or not a recipe calls for it. Red onions are great diced and tossed raw into middle eastern style or Mediterranean salads. Don’t be afraid to get creative! However I recommend that if you’re eating onions raw to go a bit easy on them as the flavor can be very bold, and it might be too much for you. Experiment, add a bit, then more to taste, and as always enjoy!

So Happy and Healthy Eating to you! And don’t forget to load up on those onions! Just make sure you brush your teeth after dinner.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Morning Apple Blaster Smoothie...

Not being much of a breakfast person smoothies have always been my go-to morning meal. In the past they’ve usually consisted of fruit, and soy milk, but over the past few months I’ve been leaning more and more towards the ‘Green Smoothies’ they’re delicious, and loaded with healthful nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For a while there I was making ‘kitchen sink’ smoothies, meaning they usually consisted of at least a little of every kind of fruit and vegetable I had in the house. Lately however I’ve been favoring a more simple approach. I made this one the other morning and loved the result!

Morning Apple Blaster Smoothie

1 Organic Granny Smith Apple (if not organic remove peel)
1 Organic D’Anjou Pear (if not organic remove peel)
2-3 Small Leaves Kale
1/4 cup water Or Apple Juice (or enough to cover the blades of a vitamix, or more to thin if desired)
1 Packet Stevia (Optional)

- Blend fruit, kale, and water on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute until everything is smooth. Taste for sweetness and if it’s not sweet enough for your taste add Stevia.

Not at all a bad way to start your day. Especially one of those lovely warm summer mornings when you have some liesure time to just sit by the window and watch the world outside. Listen to some good music, read a good book... those are my favorite kind of mornings. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grilled Pear, Walnut, and Cabbage Salad

Grilled Pears are a revelation! I honestly can’t believe I’ve never had them before; but perhaps I should back track. Last week the weather was hot, sunny and beautiful. It was mid afternoon, I’d just come home from a swim and I was jonesing for a salad. Not just any salad mind you, I wasn’t interested in simply tossing some lettuce and sliced veggies into a bowl with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. I wasn’t a decadent salad, a scrumptious salad, a salad that begged to be ‘presented’ a salad that would have me gleefully sated all the rest of the day, and most importantly a salad that would impress my husband.

I pulled out the latest addition to my cookbook collection, Vegan Yum Yum, by Lauren Ulm, and gave it a quick flip through. Generally when I get a new cookbook I like to cook exclusively from it for a week or two to get a feel for it, and so far I’d only cooked one thing out of it. Her salad section isn’t very large, but what really jumped out at me that day was the Grilled Pear, Walnut, and Cabbage Salad. I did a quick check of the ingredients. Cabbage I had because I’d purchased a head on a whim a few days before. Walnuts I had in the pantry of course, and I had two pears left that I’d picked up the week before and needed to use quickly before they went off. Happily I set to work.

The salad itself isn’t complicated, it’s just that there are quite a few steps and it takes a good 30 minutes at least to complete them all. From whisking together the dressing, to preparing and grilling the pears, to sauteeing the walnuts. Once the whole thing comes together however it’s like flavor exploded in your mouth. My very first though was "How had I never eaten grilled pears before?" they’re so simple, yet delicious, and who would have thought they’d be great paired with simple green cabbage and walnuts? Really aside from poppy seeds and the dressing there wasn’t much to it, but man was it good. I ate two large bowls full, and it left me feeling exactly as I’d hoped it would. Delectably stuffed!

I highly recommend giving grilled pairs a try. It’s simple. You can marinate them if you want in a sweet salty sauce of your choosing. A few minutes should do, then grill them for about 2 minutes a side on medium heat just until they’re a bit golden and have grill marks across their flesh. Do it and I assure you, you will not be sorry!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Super Multi-Purpose Cereal Bar....

Rice Krispies Squares - or Rice Krispies Treats as they are commonly referred to in America - are a universally loved junky snack food of children, and is it really any surprise considering children are exactly who they were invented for? A little interesting history here that you may not be privy to is that Rice Krispies Squares were invented by the Home Economics Department of the Kellogg Company as a fund-raising idea for the Youth centered group Camp Fire Girls sometime in the 1920's. The treats originally consisted of Rice Krispies Cereal, melted butter, and melted marshmallows, and their sweet, sticky, yet crunchy texture was apparently an instant winner. Now I don’t know about you, but marshmallow’s to me have always tasted a bit like chalk. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate Rice Krispies Squares as a kid, they just weren’t my favorite, and since becoming an adult I can’t recall the last time I actually ate a ‘traditional’ Rice Krispies Square.

Since the 1920's many variations on this quick and simple recipe have surfaced, and now I throw my hat into the ring with my slightly healthier, much tastier, protein packed, yet still a bit junky concoction.

Super Cereal Bar

Dry Ingredients

2C Puffed Brown Rice Cereal (I used Nature’s Path, but you can use anything, even actual rice krispies although read the ingredients list because in some countries rice krispies are vegan and in some countries they are not)
1 1/4C Rolled Oats
1/3C Ground Flaxseed
1/4C Sesame Seeds
1/4C Hemp Seeds
1/2C Dried Cherries
1/4C Sweet Cacao Nibs (Optional)
Dash Cinnamon
Smaller Dash Nutmeg

Wet Ingredients

3/4C Organic Peanut Butter
1/3C Brown Rice Syrup
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Almond Extract
1-2tsp lemon juice
1Tbsp Maple Syrup

- Toss all dry ingredients into mixing bowl and stir to combine.

- Heat a small pot over medium low heat, then add wet ingredients, stir constantly until mixture becomes smooth and warm.

- Pour wet mix into dry mix, fold in and stir until everything is combined and sticking together. ***Note you may need more wet ingredients at this point. You don’t want the mix to be wet and gooey but you do want it sticking. If it’s still dry and crumbly and there’s still a lot of loose ingredients in the bottom of the bowl add another quarter to half cup of peanut butter, and another quarter brown rice syrup to the pot with a dash of extract and lemon juice, stir till smooth and then add once more to the dry ingredients. ***

- When everything is sticking together nicely grease a square or rectangular pan, then press mixture evenly into it. Once mixture has been evenly pressed into pan, cover with parchment paper and refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cut into squares, or desired shapes and enjoy. Will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

These things are seriously good! I’m telling you, and the greatest thing about them is you can really play around with the ingredients. You could add any kind of seeds you want, you can add any dried fruit that you want, and you don’t have to use peanut butter. You could use almond, or cashew or any nut butter really.
Though I do recommend trying it my way once, as they are very, very tasty!

The other thing I love about these bars is that they can be eaten as a breakfast, a snack, or a desert. They’re perfect for if you need to bring food on a long drive, perfect to bring camping or hiking, and they’re a great ‘on the go’ food. You gotta love a treat that’s multi-purpose right?


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Clean Fifteen - An Answer To ‘The Dirty Dozen’...

So, I suppose now that I’ve thoroughly scared you (In a previous post) with the Environmental Working Group’s "Dirty Dozen" list, it’s probably a good time to tell you that it isn’t all doom and gloom, and the apocalypse. The EWG also has a list called The Clean Fifteen. Think of it as The Dirty Dozen’s less scary and less intimidating sister. As the name implies it’s a list of foods that are considered safer to purchase conventionally. Now keep in mind that when we’re talking about non-organic foods there’s no such thing as a zero percent risk, but because many of these foods aren’t naturally very appealing to pests less pesticides - if any - are used. In other cases the fruit or vegetable in question may have a thick of fibrous shell or skin that keeps pest interaction to a minimum and harmful chemicals at bay, leaving the edible flesh inside relatively unharmed. These fruits and vegetables are as follows...

The Clean Fifteen

1) Onions
2) Avocado
3) Sweet Corn*4) Pineapple
5) Mango
6) Sweet Peas
7) Asparagus
8) Kiwi Fruit
9) Cabbage
10) Eggplant
11) Cantaloupe
12) Watermelon
13) Grapefruit
14) Sweet Potatoes
15) Sweet Onions

Hopefully with this list in hand you will feel a little less overwhelmed at the register, as your cashier dutifully scans your items. As I said, I entirely understand the impracticality of everyone buying everything organic 100% of the time, what with the economy the way it is. Which is why the Dirty Dozen list is the best place to start, and this list I think is a great reassurance. This list gives us the power to feel relatively good and safe about those non-organic purchases we make. We can feel confident that we’re cutting down our day to day contact with pesticides, and reducing our bodies pesticide contamination by shopping organic for the dirty and conventional for the clean. We don’t have to burst into tears because we can’t afford the $3.99 Organic Pineapple, but only the $1.99 conventional one. Yet we can trust that it’s okay, because the pineapple has a thick spiky skin that even the most determined of pests most likely don’t want to tangle with. Think about it, you don’t even want to cut into that pineapple with a knife, it’s big, bulky and intimidating even to a human so how is an insect going to whittle it’s way through that bristling outer layer?

Keeping both these lists in mind also gives one a good rule of thumb to shop by. Examine what fruits and vegetables pop up on each list, and next time you’re doing your shopping use that to determine whether or not you should buy items that aren’t on either list in their organic or conventional variations. For example if it’s a sweet thin skinned fruit or vegetable you might want to buy it organic. If it’s a slightly bitter, spicy, potent or thick skinned fruit or vegetable you might be safe to go with the conventional. Although it’s my strong opinion that if you’re buying fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, or limes with the intention of using their zest in recipes, always, always buy organic. As it’s those thick skins will likely contain a concentrated amount of pesticide, even if the fruit inside is relatively clean.

Now as stated before not even the clean list is 100% clean. Unless you’re buying 100% organic there is no such thing as a 0% risk of pesticide contamination, but when tested the fruits and vegetables that appear on this list tested either low, or with a negligible amount or residue. For me, for now - as I assume for many of you - this is good enough to let me sleep soundly at night, knowing I’m doing the best I can in a complicated and imperfect world.

So as always, shop smart, eat responsibly and if you’re interested in more information please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website - http://www.ewg.org/ - for topics not only concerning the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, but a wide variety of articles concerning many environmental issues.

(P.S. Keep in mind that just last year Broccoli, Papaya*, and Tomatoes were listed on the Clean Fifteen List, and as they don’t currently appear on the dirty dozen list, these too may be relatively safe to consume conventionally.)

* The * marked items may be relatively clean of chemical pesticides, but they’re still rather nefarious in my opinion for reasons that will be explained in full in an upcoming post. So be on the lookout*

Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake...

I am a coconut loving fiend! I know coconut is one of those foods that people often have rather strong feelings about - whether for or against, generally everyone has an opinion. My opinion is that coconuts are amazing, and I will consume virtually anything that even hints of coconut. Where this love of coconut comes from I have no idea, but I assure you I most definitely wasn’t born with it. I didn’t start to go coconut crazy until a few years ago, and honestly I can’t think of more than a handful of people I know who actually like this tropical sensation. Me though - man - coconut water, coconut milk, coconut pudding, non-dairy coconut ice cream, coconut curry, coconut soup, coconut sauce, coconut... well you get the picture, coconut anything and I’ll eat it. Coconut water I find particularly refreshing, and usually drink a few bottles a week. If I could drink vats of coconut milk without gaining 800 pounds I’d do it in a heart beat. I even enjoy cracking open baby Thai coconuts scooping out their delicate white flesh and eating it right off the spoon.

So is it any surprise that a recipe for coconut lemon bundt cake has been taunting me all weekend? I think not. I mean how can you really go wrong there? if the coconut itself isn’t enough to convince you, there’s the lemon to finish the job! So Monday afternoon I set to work, pulling all my ingredients from their various locations in the kitchen, measuring, pouring, whisking, and mixing. I grabbed the old bundt pan that never seems to want to cooperate with me - always sticking like glue to my finished product and refusing to let go until I jiggle and shake so hard that I end up with more of a steaming mess then a cake - and thoroughly greased it. Maybe excessive is a better word, the pan was excessively greased, but hey as long as it didn’t grab hold of the cake and hang on for dear life, am I right? What’s a little extra oil? I set it in a 350 oven and after 45 minutes pulled it out and pierced it with a green plastic chopstick - because I have no toothpicks - the cake was suppose to bake an hour, but after 45 minutes I felt it was sufficiently done. So I took it out and left it to cool for thirty minutes before very cautiously, and very nervously placing a plate over top of the pan and gently flipping it over. Slowly I raised the pan, and much to my surprise - Voila! My very first ever perfect bundt cake! I breathed a sigh of relief and left it to cool uncovered for a while longer.

Now I wish I could take credit for this magnificent creation, but I simply can’t. The credit belongs to Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero in who’s book "Veganomicon" I found the recipe. (Great book by the way I highly recommend it) I can however take credit for a nice decorating job. Just a well placed sprinkling of powdered sugar, and some julienne lemon zest curls. I can also take credit for enjoying two large slices of this incredible desert promptly upon finishing my dinner, and no I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it either. The cake was so moist and scrumptious! Whoever claims vegan deserts don’t taste like the most heavenly thing on earth hasn’t been to my house recently, or ever in their life picked up a vegan baking book and given it a try. You get all the flavor with a hell of a lot less fat! I fail to see the downside of that.

My only suggestions here are to check the cake after 45 minutes as I did, and make the cake the recipe way first, then upon your second attempt remove the lemon and sub it with lime. Coconut and Lime work magic together and I can already taste how great they would pair in this cake.

*Bon Appetite Mes Amis!*

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Dirty Dozen - How To Best Avoid Harmful Toxins In Your Produce....

When I say the words The Dirty Dozen, what’s the first thing to pop into your mind? If you’re like most people you just thought of the 1967 film staring Lee Marvin, and Ernest Borgnine. This however is not The Dirty Dozen I’m talking about.

Organic. It’s a word that’s been getting thrown around a lot in the past few years, as people all across the nation and the world are slowly becoming aware of where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and how those practices effect not only our own health but our environment as well. The Organic food market is currently the fastest growing market in the food industry, and grocers that want to remain afloat in today’s brutal economy are slowly but surely - and wisely - expanding their Organic lines for consumers. Yet there’s still a lot of confusion about what organic really means, and quite a bit of skepticism as to whether or not it’s truly better. (Topics better discussed another time, and both in their own individual post) However the biggest complain I hear on a day to day basis is entirely price related.

"But, Organic costs too much." Is what I always hear, and while it’s true that organic food appears to cost more then conventionally grown food the reality is in fact quite different. The average consumer has not been paying the true cost of food for quite some time. As various industries - Such as the Meat, and Dairy Industries - enjoy the benefit of multiple government subsidies which keep the cost of these products artificially low. Except it’s not just the meat, and dairy producers that benefit. The government also highly subsidizes the growing of Corn, Wheat, and Soy, and the same is now going for conventionally grown produce which is laden with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Many of which are toxic, pollutants, and known disease promoting agents.

Because organic farms doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and because organic farms don’t operate on such a massive industrialized scale, Organic farmer’s yields are not as large. Organic farms also employ more manual labor - which requires payment, which drives up cost - and another important thing to take into consideration is the cost in dollars as well as the cost in time that it takes to switch a non-organic farm to an organic one. The certification process isn’t cheap, and it isn’t quick either. All these things contribute to the grocery store price of organic goods. However if conventional farms weren’t subsidized by the government a conventional tomato would cost the same as an organic one. When you buy organic products you’re not only doing something good for yourself - by not ingesting harmful toxins - but you’re also doing good for our planet, Organic farming is sustainable, it enriches our soil rather then depletes it by filling it with chemicals, you’re working with the earth instead of against it, like nature intended, and you’re expressing compassion in the process. Compassion for yourself, as well as compassion for the earth we inhabit and all the creatures that share it with us.

Now I understand that for a lot of people it simply isn’t feasible to buy everything organic all of the time. I know this, because I myself am in that boat. I’m a lower-middle-class girl after all; but I know that buying organic is important, and so I do it whenever and wherever I can. I do it with the health of my husband and I as my first thought, and the planet as my second. I don’t want to eat harmful cancer causing toxins, I want to eat clean food that will nourish my body rather then destroy it, but to fit organics into the budget you have to shop smart, and so here is The Dirty Dozen list. It’s the Environmental Working Groups list of Fruits and Vegetables that are most toxic when grown conventionally. If you can’t yet afford to buy everything organic, then this list at least is a great place to start. The items found on this list are so heavily sprayed that USDA testing found that they could contain anywhere between 47-67 toxic pesticides, and that was AFTER being washed with a USDA high-powered pressure water system. Now I know there is no way the water pressure of your household sink is going to top that, so next time you’re in the store please give some thought to buying these foods organic counterparts.

The Dirty Dozen

1) Celery
2) Peaches
3) Strawberries
4) Apples
5) Blueberries (Domestic)
6) Nectarines
7) Bell Peppers
8) Spinach, Kale, and Collard Greens
9) Cherries
10) Potatoes
11) Grapes (imported)
12) Lettice

These foods are believed to be the most susceptible because of their soft, sometimes porous skin which allows the fruit and vegetables to easily absorb more pesticides. Vegetables like celery can also absorb pesticides from the soil and groundwater as they grow, making washing or peeling pesticides away virtually impossible.

Amy Rosenthal of the Environmental Working Group - which is a non-profit organization dedicated to public health - says "You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by up to 80 percent by buying the organic versions of the Dirty Dozen" 80 percent! It really is something to consider when new studies are coming out all the time showing a correlation between pesticide ingestion and health problems such as cancer, ADHD, nervous system disorders, and brain developmental disorders in growing children. With such chemical compounds such as DDT and Methyl Bromide being used is it any wonder?

Changing anything in one’s life is difficult, we get used to a certain way of things and it can often be difficult if not down right impossible to snap ourselves out if it, but I strongly and sincerely urge you to give this some consideration. Especially if you have children. I think we can all agree that we want our children to grow up strong, healthy and with the best possible chances for living a long, happy, and healthy life. I think we can all agree that we’d like to leave this planet a better place than we found it, and that we’d like to leave a world for our grandchildren that’s still inhabitable. This is a small but crucial step towards that goal, and remember the more we choose to buy organic, the more our demand is recognized by ‘Big Food’ and the more that demand begs to be met. Also I don’t want to label the entire Food Industry as some dark bogeyman in the corner laughing down at the destruction they’re causing. Think of them more as a corporation, with their sole concern being profit, by continuing to buy their products we’re giving them the false idea that we support their destructive agricultural practices and therefor they continue to engage in them. Our pennies speak louder then our words, and so the more organic we buy, the sooner they’re going to realize that they won’t loose money by switching over, and of course with more and more of us choosing organic everyday, the lower the cost of organic goods will eventually go. It’s common sense - and a little bit of math.

So please, act and eat responsibly, and if you’re interested in learning more please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website ( http://www.ewg.org/  ) for the latest updates and information on everything from pesticides in food, to harmful compounds in cosmetics and cleaning products.

*** P.S. Just last year Pears and Carrots were on the Dirty Dozen list, and in 2008 Tomatoes were on the list as well. Though these items appear to now be in the clear, it might still be a good idea to consider buying their organic varieties.***

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Edamame Sushi Roll Salad with Green Onion Miso Vinaigrette...

About a week or so ago I was craving sushi bad. Unfortunately there are not very many sushi places around here that are A) Good, and B) Have a wide assortment of vegetable sushi. Due to such limited options I’m often forced to roll my own, but as anyone who’s ever tried to roll their own knows, it can be a major time consuming pain in the ass. It’s always worth it in the end mind you, but that particular day I just wasn’t in the mood for such frustrating foolery.

That’s where the Edamame Sushi Roll Salad comes in, now I wish I could take credit for this magnificent artistic meal, but I can’t. All I can do is lavish it with my praise. The flavors truly tantalize the tastebuds, and the bowl not only contains a complete meal but all of your favorite sushi ingredient without all of the trouble. It’s wonderful, mouth-watering and smothered in a Green Onion Miso Vinaigrette Dressing that really helps to embolden the flavors. So without further adieu...

I really can’t say enough good things about this salad - and don’t let the word salad fool you either. I often think people hear the word salad and think "I’ll be hungry five minutes after eating" not with this salad. Pile it high, eat the whole bowl and you’ll be happily sated all evening - so I highly, highly recommend you purchase a copy of "Appetite for Reduction" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, then make this salad, and all the other recipes in the book!

A few tips to consider though. She says to start with 1 cup of green onions for the dressing and go from there because strength of the onions can vary. I did this, but even still my onions were particularly potent and so I would recommend starting with a half cup and gradually increasing, particularly if you don’t want the onions to mask everything else. She also lists the avocado as being optional, but in my book avocado should never be optional and I really don’t think the salad would be the same without it. Lastly, because I’m never quite capable of fallowing a recipe as is, I ended up also adding in black sesame seeds with the tan ones, and sliced shiitake mushrooms. I think both were very tasty, and - I’d even go as far as to say - necessary additions! Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spaghetti with Marvelous Mushroom Marinara.

They say there are no seasons in the Mid West and while that often appears to be true I think a more accurate description of a Mid Western Climate would be to say that they have two very long and extreme seasons, and two very short and mild one. They say there is no Spring here, but there is, it’s generally squeezed in between the end of April and Early Mid May. It’s a glorious two to three week period of overcast skies, occasional sun, mild temperatures and periodic rain. Judging from the intense heat and blaring sun of the past two days however I’d say our Mid Western Spring is once again over. Unfortunately my internal clock hasn’t quite caught up to this rapid-fire seasonal shift because I’m still craving end of winter early spring foods. Of course nobody wants to stir pots of soup, or eat roast anything when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Still, I would like to share an awesome, and very simple spaghetti with Marinara recipe. For those of you who may be living in a more mild climate where summer hasn’t yet caught up to you, perhaps you can still enjoy it without sweating at your stove. For those of you stuck in a seasonal wasteland like me, maybe a nice cool day will swing by your way, or maybe you’ll just want spaghetti so bad you won’t give a damn about the heat. Either way Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Marvelous Mushroom Marinara.


1 lb Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Spaghetti.
2 tsp Olive oil
8 garlic cloves
1-2 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp dried oregeno (or more to taste)
2 tbsp dried parsley (or more to taste)
2 tbsp dried basil (or more to taste)
1 yellow Onion
2 24oz cans Crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
14 oz fresh baby bella mushrooms
1-2 tsp dried sage.
sea salt, garlic powder and black pepper to taste


- Fill a pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. When boiling, cook spaghetti according to package directions.

- place another pot on the stove, turn to medium heat and pour in 1 tsp of olive oil. Dice onion, and add it to the pot. Saute on medium for 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent. Crush garlic cloves and add to the pot while onions saute. Then add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and spices. Taste for garlic and if not garlicky enough for your taste buds sprinkle in a bit of garlic powder. Bring sauce to boil then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer.

- place one tsp olive oil in a pan and heat. Slice mushrooms thinly, then place in the pan and sprinkle with a bit of black pepper and sage. Saute lightly on medium heat for 5-10 minutes. (Until browned)

- Once browned add mushrooms to the sauce pot. You can add a bit more sage in at this point if you like or leave it as is. Continue to let sauce simmer about 30-45 minutes total, and taste again for seasonings.

- If your spaghetti is done before your sauce, drain it and return it ot the warm pot, off the heat, it’ll be okay sitting there until sauce is done.

- When everything is done divide spaghetti amongst plates and top with the sauce, and enjoy.
I was very pleased with this sauce, and I’ll tell you I am no fan of the mushroom. Lately however I’ve been venturing out into the wild world of the fungi. What’s great about this sauce is that it provides a similar texture as a meat sauce, and it doesn’t taste overly of mushrooms. So even mushroom haters like myself can enjoy it.

Now I do have to apologize because I am not the most exact cook. I never have been, even when I’m suppose to be fallowing a recipe. So my measurements aren’t always exact, but I tried to do my best here (that’s why you see so many ‘to taste’s’) What I’m even worse at however is watching the clock when I cook. I never pay attention, again even when fallowing a recipe. My husband makes endless fun of me for this, whenever he asks when something will be ready my answer is almost always some variation of "Well, not too long, like 5 or 10 minutes maybe" again I tried to be as accurate as possible here, but really you’ll do fine. Spaghetti isn’t rocket science, neither is marinara, just use your own discretion.

*** Note: This recipe is Gluten-Free if using Gluten-Free Pasta***

In The Beginning...

So, after some careful contemplation spanning the past week, I have come to the exasperating conclusion that beginnings are hard. When thinking about the beginning of anything I can’t help but think back to David Copperfield; however, I feel the "I was born..." route comes off as a bit self-indulgent and narcissistic. Why, after all, should it make any difference to you when I was born? Where I was born and to whom? Presumably, you have your own life of intricate details that concern you on a minute to minute basis, and uncovering all the details of mine is not what drew you here in the first place.

So where to begin? Perhaps with some relevant history? Food history to be exact. Well let’s see, this is not my first foray into the world of vegetarianism, though it is my most serious and I’m hoping that it’ll be my last. I don’t recall the first time I heard the word vegetarian, it seems to me to just be one of those words that enters into one’s vernacular without much pomp or circumstance. It’s just a word that crops up one day and you never feel the need to question it, usually accompanied by the completely stereotyped images of long-haired, unwashed hippies, young girls, and the socially-aware-yuppy-hipster crowd. It’s a word that can instill anything from awe, envy, pride, fear, disgust, and outrage. Of course, the first time I went vegetarian I was hopelessly uninformed, and didn’t actually know anything about it other than the fact that I wasn’t suppose to eat meat.

My first tango with a vegetarian lifestyle was when I was between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. It was the late 90's and I was in middle school; the Euro had just been established; Nunavut had become a territory; Our Lady Peace and The Smashing Pumpkins were all over the radio. Jean Chrétien was still Prime Minister; Bill Clinton was still in the White House; a war had erupted in Kosovo; and the Chinese government had just announced their new internet restrictions. Tragedy struck at Columbine; Jack Kavorkian was found guilty; Bill Maher was still hosting Politically Incorrect; The Sopranos and Queer as Folk had just begun; and NewsRadio had totally bombed out but The Simpsons was still cool. Both The Matrix and The Phantom Menace had nerds everywhere fully erect while American Beauty had captivated the hearts and minds of millions and somehow, someway, despite never - to my knowledge - having met a vegetarian let alone a vegan, I decided to take the plunge.

I’d love to say I did it for political reasons. That my ethics simply wouldn’t allow me to continue to consume the flesh of sentient beings. I’d love to say it was environmental, that at fourteen I was intelligent enough to understand that my choices had a direct impact on the planet. I wish I could say it was my attempt to get healthy but none of this would be the truth. The honest truth is I went vegetarian simply because I was tired of eating meat. Tired of it, sick of it, couldn’t stand it anymore. I’d always been a picky eater, particularly when it came to meat, and continuing to eat chicken breast or ground beef every single night had me feeling a little... I guess, uninspired. So I gave it up, without much thought, without any understanding and with no support. I say no support, but I don’t mean to imply that anyone actively tried to discourage me, or dissuade me from my chosen path. I simply mean that those around me, like myself - like all unquestioning omnivores, I assume - were virtually clueless as to what that meant. Yes, we all understand that a vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, but beyond that, most of us, particularly those who’ve eaten the Standard American diet (S.A.D.) their entire lives are bafflingly unaware.

When you grow up as an omnivore you learn, whether intentionally or inadvertently that meat is the center of every meal. No matter what else you do to dress it up, or present it, no matter what you serve it with, everything else is filler. The meat is the purpose, it’s why you’re there, it’s why you’re eating. We’re taught that mashed potatoes are nothing if not served next to a roast. French fries are nothing if not served alongside a burger. Steamed broccoli and rice are nothing if not served with grilled chicken or fish. So when you tell a hard-wired, life-long meat eater that you’re a vegetarian they instinctively imagine a plate of lonely mashed potatoes drowning in a sea of melted butter, or a bowl of plain rice, and think what a very sad life you must lead. Or worse, the more adventurous minds might imagine a pale quivering block of slippery tofu next to that bowl of rice and shudder in disgust. When you take the meat away from omnivores all they see is side dishes. I know because I thought that way once myself.

And that, I’m assuming, is exactly what my family and friends thought as well, when my fourteen year old self made my announcement. It’s hard to blame them, especially when I didn’t know enough myself to combat the stereotypes, or deconstruct the many ridiculous ‘vegetarian myths’, so for one entire year I lived entirely on side dishes and junky snack foods. It was an unfortunate experience. At fourteen I didn’t know shit about cooking, and while my mother is an excellent cook she just didn’t have the time - nor the patience, I suspect - to cook two separate meals every single night. So she would make the meals she was accustomed to, and I would work around it by ignoring the meat. A lot of times I was left feeling hungry or unsatisfied after eating, but I can’t say I ever found this particularly upsetting. Maybe I chalked it up to being ‘just one of those things’ that I’d have to learn to live with. Who knows.

Suffice to say one can’t sustain oneself on such a meager and nutritionally lacking diet for long. By the end of that first year I had become quite lethargic, and was sleeping all of the time. I had no energy, was even paler than normal and never felt quite well. I was told I was anemic, and so a few days after my first year of vegetarianism I went back, somewhat begrudgingly, to eating meat.

In the years that followed I reverted entirely to my pre-vegetarian ways and was happy. Yet somehow the idea of vegetarianism always stuck with me, even though my year long trial wasn’t as ideal as I would have liked. When I thought of it at all, I thought of it fondly. Whenever vegetarianism was mentioned in conversations I would always proudly proclaim that I had been vegetarian for a year. I would wear that year as a badge of honor, but despite this it never occurred to me to return to vegetarianism until I reached my early twenties.

My second dance was much shorter lived, maybe lasting a month or so, at best. Though I was older, and I thought wiser, I was still no closer to understanding vegetarianism in full. Yes, I could cook now, and good, too. I was making my own meals each and every night, but I was still an omnivore, raised by omnivores, who were in turn raised by more omnivores. As stated above when you take the meat off an omnivores plate all they see is sides, and so my second bout of vegetarianism went the way of the first, with me eating big boring plates of plain rice and canned beans for dinner, or salads comprised of diced tomato, and iceberg lettuce drowning in ranch dressing.

What had inspired this second go round you ask? Honestly, the period was so short lived I can’t recall. However, I have a feeling it might have been a bad and misguided attempt at a ‘get skinny quick’ scheme. So that was that, I once again reverted happily to my old carnivorous ways without much thought, and yet somehow that vegetarian ideal had rooted itself deep inside my brain, and would from time to time rear its head to remind me of its omnipotent presence.

Which I think pretty much brings us up to date. I’m nearly a year into my third dance, and I’m feeling great, without even the slightest inkling or desire to take a step back. But what brought me here again you might ask? And this time my reasons are a little harder to pinpoint. You see, this time it wasn’t just one thing; it wasn’t just one idea that helped to open my eyes; it was everything around me. That seed that planted itself in my brain in my early twenties, grew and flourished without my even knowing it. Its roots spread out and entwined themselves. A bud emerged, and began to flourish. Leaves and stalks and flowers began to grow until one day there was a garden of information and ideas waiting at my fingertips and my eyes were finally open to them.

In early 2009 I had a bit of a health scare, nothing serious it turned out, but the experience was enough for me to wake up and realize that just because I was young didn’t mean I was impervious to pain and suffering, illness and death. That realization really got my attention and for the first time in my life I made a conscious decision to do everything I could for my body to ensure that I lived out my full natural life with as little pain and illness as possible. That’s when I began cutting out refined flours, sugars, pastas and grains. That’s when I started cutting back on red meat and pork. That’s when I became more aware of the chemicals that go into our food, and of organic and natural alternatives. I started taking vitamins, and I began incorporating more vegetables into my husband’s and my meals. I may even at that point have begun cooking the occasional vegetarian dish. The other dramatic change I made was to increase my exercise. I quickly began feeling good again, and by the end of 2009, one week before Christmas I believe it was, I stopped eating red meat and pork cold turkey. That was it, I was done.

This decision made me feel great. Not only because I knew it was the right thing to do, and because it was the healthiest thing for my body, but because it made me feel good physically! I wasn’t as lethargic after meals, my stomach didn’t get as violently upset. (I’d always been plagued by a viciously unhappy stomach, and as a child had been tested for every stomach and intestinal disease to no avail) My skin was looking better, my hair was more alive, and I’d even lost a little unwanted weight.

Then, a couple of months into 2010, another little health crisis rocked my world. This one was a little scarier, but in the end it turned out to be nothing serious, and in fact I think a lot of it was amplified by stress and constant worry. It was this experience that truly got me on the fast track to health. This is when I really started raping the cooking section of my local library. Checking out 20 books at a time: health books, nutrition books, heart healthy cookbooks, cancer survivor cookbooks, cooking for diabetics, no salt, no sugar, gluten free, and, of course, vegetarian. Once I started checking out vegetarian cookbooks I discovered two entirely unknown - to me - worlds connected to vegetarianism: veganism and raw food.

As the months went on I begun incorporating more vegetarian - and subsequently vegan - meals into my weekly repertoire and found that I was enjoying it. Not only because I was finally, after years of cooking, just beginning to get creative in the kitchen but because the food was so damn good, and it made me feel great too. All the positive changes I’d felt in my mood and body after giving up red meat and pork gained strength as I slowly cut back on chicken and fish. I started joining vegetarian, vegan, and raw food groups online, started reading more articles about the lifestyle, and eventually through one of these online communities I was introduced to the mind-blowing world of Vegan Podcasts. There are many good vegan podcasts out there, but the one shining beacon that drew me in like a moth to the flame was the Vegetarian Food for Thought Podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It was listening to her soothing, non-judgmental voice as she spoke with genuine unbridled compassion for all sentient-beings that finally got me thinking seriously about vegetarianism again. During this time I was reading a lot of Buddhist literature, particularly works by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, who also advocate a vegetarian lifestyle. Subsequently around this time I got a new job, that not only increased the size of my wallet, but made vegan products easily accessible to me.

It seemed to me that the universe was trying to tell me something. Everything in my life was coming neatly together and pointing in one direction, but it was a path I’d been down before. Twice and failed at. Not only that but I had a husband now, a husband I cooked for on a daily basis, and though he was not a mad, frenzied carnivore, he certainly liked his meat. There was a lot to consider. For the first time in my life I knew there was a network of vegetarians and vegans out there who I could go to for support. I knew that I could get enough nutrition as a vegetarian or vegan easily, I had access to the goods I needed, and the money to buy them, and I had a wealth of other resources available to me, but still I hesitated. There was, after all, a lot to consider and what exactly would my husband think? But by the time I’d considered it, I realized I’d already subconsciously cut back our meat eating to once or twice a week. Once I realized that we were already eating vegetarian almost every night, it clicked. The meat on my plate went from making an appearance once or twice a week, to once every two weeks, and then once every three weeks, and then once a month, and by the time I got to that point I thought, "Why bother continuing at all?" And that was it. On August 1st of 2010 I very unceremoniously became a vegetarian for the third time in my life, and the transition I can say was rather smooth. Not a bump-free ride, mind you, but in comparison to my earlier attempts it was very smooth, indeed. And you know, I don’t even remember what my last meat-based meal was - it meant so little to me. It wasn’t until several months later however, on American Thanksgiving of all days, that I decided to go vegan, this too wasn’t as hard as I would have imagined, and that more or less brings us up to speed.