Tag Archives: mushrooms

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011


Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.

28 Apr

I am just back from a long Easter weekend in North Carolina. We stayed with my parents for 5 days and had a wonderful time. The warm weather and sunshine were such a welcome change from the cold, rainy days we’ve been dealing with here in Michigan.

I came home refreshed…and inspired.

While in North Carolina, I saw a poster in a store window that said “Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.” I thought it was so perfect. I know it refers to everything consumers spend their money on — not just food. But, of all the things I’ve learned over the last 16 months or so since I started this journey, trying to buy locally-made or locally-grown products as often as possible is the one that’s the easiest for me to incorporate into my daily life. I know it’s not always feasible to buy local goods…hey, I’m on a budget! But when it comes to food, I can’t stress enough how smart it is to really know where your food comes from, know your farmer personally, grow your own vegetables or support your local farmer’s market, and shop at smaller family stores instead of the big box stores whenever you can. Not only does this almost guarantee your food is safer, tastier and healthier, it also provides financial support to your own neighborhood. Now that’s inspiring.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my mom is a fantastic chef. I always enjoy her cooking and our discussions about food, cooking and health. My Easter dinner was SO good. While the omnivores in my family dined on grilled pork, I devoured marinated and grilled portobello mushrooms. The side dishes were all vegan –- oven-roasted vegetables, grilled asparagus and a wonderful chopped salad with toasted almonds and chai vinaigrette.

While in Asheville on Monday, we had a fabulous lunch at Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant. (I should have taken a picture!) We started with an appetizer of polenta fries with their housemade tomato jam (a sort of chunky sweet catsup). Honestly, I could think of a hundred things to slather that tomato jam onto! It was that good. My meal was a fat little potato cake topped with a green olive tapenade. On one side of this was a fresh arugula salad. On the other side were four thin slices of grilled ahi tuna. Then the whole plate was lightly drizzled with an orange vinaigrette. After lunch, we shopped some more and came home with 3-4 new cookbooks each. That gets me inspired!

Speaking of inspiring…I consider my dad the king of all things house-related. He’s a builder, woodworker, tile layer, painter, wallpaper hanger, upholsterer, deck designer, plumber, and master of just about everything under the sun. Honestly, my dad can do anything! His latest project is a restaurant in downtown Waynesville, NC, where they live. The owner/executive chef bought an existing restaurant building but is basically gutting the whole place and starting fresh — using local products such as reclaimed barn siding, tin panels and other materials. My dad has been working on this project for months. We got to tour the construction site while there and meet the owner/executive chef. His name is Kaighn Raymond and he, too, is an inspiration.

The name of his restaurant is Frogs Leap Public House. It will be a farm-to-table restaurant meaning they will focus on locally-grown, sustainably-farmed organic foods, which will then be transformed into amazing regional dishes. He’s planning to have a seasonal menu that will feature the freshest produce from local farmer’s markets and farms. I got to talk with him as we toured the place and I absolutely cannot wait to eat there! It looks like the grand opening will be in June, but I’m not sure we’ll get back down there before fall.

If you want to know more about Frogs Leap Public House, check out their website at http://frogsleappublichouse.org or “Like” their Facebook page. I left the restaurant…inspired.

So inspired, in fact, that I already have several new recipes on the menu for next week. Recipes and photos to follow, so stay tuned!

Oh, and put your money where your heart is!

Can you be vegan-ish?

5 Apr

I think that’s what I have to start referring to myself as. Vegan-ish. Not 100%, but mostly vegan.

I’m still making the majority of my meals vegan. But I do eat eggs a couple of times a week (fresh from happy chickens at a home in my neighborhood). I have, on occasion, enjoyed a small piece of humanely and sustainably-raised chicken or beef, purchased locally. Not too often, but once in a while. I’ve also been actively searching out sustainable seafood. I downloaded the National Sustainable Seafood Guide (here), which helps me choose seafood that is not overfished, is environmentally-friendly and supports healthy oceans. I’ve always enjoyed seafood and I’m glad it’s back in my diet.

I feel good about my food choices. I’m still eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. And I’m not supporting industrial animal farming in any way except dairy. Though we’ve cut way back on the milk consumption in our house, I still haven’t found a local source for it, so I’m stuck with the grocery store variety for Jason and the kids. Luckily, they like almond milk, so I keep buying it even though it’s more expensive than regular milk. I think that will be one of my goals this summer — locally made cheese and other dairy products.

But let’s get back to the vegetables. I think spring might actually arrive here in southeast Michigan sometime soon! Goodness, this weather is making us all crazy. We are 10 degrees or more below normal just about every day. I’m dying to get out into the garden and get my veggies planted! In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Some vegan, some gluten free and some vegan and gluten free. Check back often, because I’ll be posting them!

Here are a couple of recent ones that don’t require an actual recipe.

Sesame Green & Yellow Beans
Rather than the standard old steamed green beans with butter, try these for a quick side dish. Place cleaned beans in a deep saute pan with a little water. Bring to boil, cover and steam them until just barely tender-crisp. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. In the same saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat. Toss the beans back in and give them a quick saute. Remove to a serving dish and toss with salt, pepper and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Polenta Pizzas
The kids wanted to do make-your-own pizzas Saturday night for dinner. They made theirs on regular pizza crusts, but I wanted something gluten free and vegan. I have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Dough mix, but just didn’t feel like messing with it. So I stared into my pantry hoping something would jump out at me. And it did! I pulled out a container of instant polenta. I cooked it per the package instructions (which takes all of 5 minutes) and poured it into a foil-lined baking dish. I spread it out evenly and placed it in the fridge to chill while I got all the pizza toppings ready to go. Once cold, I lifted the foil and polenta out of the pan and put it on a cutting board. Using a biscuit cutter, I cut it into 4″ circles and sauteed them in a little olive oil, turning once, so they were crispy on both sides. Then I used these to build my pizzas on. Though they don’t have the texture of pizza dough, they were really tasty and still had all my favorite pizza toppings. I just popped them into the oven with the kids’ pizzas so the vegan cheese got melty. Cut slightly smaller, these would be fun appetizers! Here are my combinations:

BBQ Chicken Pizza (top)
BBQ sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + red onions + sauteed vegan chicken slices + minced cilantro

Mediterranean Pizza (bottom right)
Vegan pesto mayo + Daiya vegan cheese + grilled red peppers + kalamata olives + red onion + dash of dried oregano

Sausage Pizza
(bottom left)
Pizza sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + crumbled vegan Italian sausage

Good food and fun exercise… I’m making progress!

17 Jan

It’s been a whirlwind start to 2011 already. Not only have I been busy designing for clients, I’ve really gotten focused on exercise. I’m exercising for 30 minutes, 5-6 days a week and feeling really good!

I guess the big thing these days is to switch up your exercise routine often so your body doesn’t get “comfortable” with it. It’s called muscle confusion. So that’s what I’ve been doing. On our cable programming, under videos on demand, we have a section full of free exercise programs that you can watch whenever you want. So each day, I choose one and go with it — Jillian Michaels’ abs, Leslie Sansone’s 2 mile walk, Disco Abs with Cheryl Burke, Billy Blanks’ Cardioke, and more. They run about 30 minutes. Some days, I put on the kids’ Wii Dance Party and do a half hour of dances. I’m having a blast while working up a big sweat!

I’ve also been eating as clean and whole as possible — lots of veggies, fruit, nuts, and grains like quinoa and brown rice, and the occasional bit of fish or shrimp. For now, I’ve completely ditched the gluten, just to see what that does for me.

Apparently, something’s working. Since January 2, I’ve lost 7 pounds. Woo hoo! I also FINALLY have some energy! And on Friday when I was at Kroger, I checked my blood pressure on the machine in the pharmacy (I check it there every time I’m in the store). BP was 140/90! I’m hoping that wasn’t a lucky low reading; that maybe it’s coming down because of the exercise. Hoping.

Anyway, I don’t have any new recipes to share yet because I’ve been making easy, simple whole foods. I did make the Cauliflower Pesto Soup from Isa’s new book, Appetite for Reduction. Delish! Even the kids went back for seconds. I’ll be making that one a lot. It’s full of flavor despite having only about 4 or 5 ingredients. Plus, it’s quick and easy. I made it a little thicker than her recipe. Yummm…

Other than that, I’ve been making simple stir-fries, steamed veggies, big salads and stuff like that.

Here’s what this week’s dinner menu looks like:
Monday – shrimp & veggie kabobs on the grill + baked sweet potatoes
Tuesday – Popeye Spinach soup + cheesy quesadillas (for Jason & the kids)
Wednesday – GF penne pasta with sauteed mushrooms and onions + a big salad
Thursday – fajitas in corn tortillas (veg for me, locally-raised beef for the fam)
Friday – not sure yet – omelets? leftovers?

This past weekend, we spent a ton of time with our good friends, Kevin and Lisa. It was so much fun! We absolutely adore them — and we laugh a lot when we’re together, which is good for the blood pressure! Lisa is trying to eliminate gluten from her diet, too. She said she feels better when she doesn’t eat it, but it’s a hard diet. I told her I would make her some GF goodies. She asked for doughnuts! You know me…always up for a challenge! They’re on the top of my baking list as soon as I get my new oven (which will, hopefully, be at the end of the month).

Hope everyone’s New Year started out as good as mine. Are you still working on your resolutions?

A Spot of Tea…and a Green Bean Casserole

13 Nov

The other day, I had the joy of spending an afternoon with my Aunt Sue. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the weather was just gorgeous. We took a drive through the Irish Hills in Michigan, stopping to see the cottage where she spent her childhood summers, then headed in the direction of home, landing at this cute little place called The British Pantry & Tea Garden Cafe for lunch. It sits right on the main street through an historic downtown, in a long row of other local shops and businesses.

We wandered the small pantry and gift area while waiting for a table. The pantry area is filled with foods imported from Great Britain including things like steel cut oats, crackers, shortbread cookies, teas, and some strange tin called Gravy Granules. Interesting stuff. The other part of the storefront has gift items such as books, kitchen goodies, Christmas decorations and ornaments, and a wall of jars filled with loose leaf teas.

Once seated in the small cafe, we each ordered a pot of tea — Aunt Sue’s was Sweet Sin and mine was Chocolate Orange. Delicious! The menu included a variety of British items such as Cottage Pie, Ploughman’s Lunch, English Pork Pie, and Pasties stuffed with chicken or beef. They had several vegetarian options, too — Spinach Quiche, Maiden’s Lunch (wedge of Brie with fresh fruit and crackers), Tea Sandwiches, and all kinds of salads. There were no truly vegan items but I was able to order a veggie wrap without the cheese and a small side salad of mixed greens, dried cranberries, toasted almonds and raspberry vinaigrette. It was perfect. We ended our meal with more tea and a couple of scones. I know they contained butter and weren’t vegan, but I can’t resist a scone, so I had a Cranberry Orange one. Fantastic!

Thank you, Aunt Sue, for a wonderfully relaxing afternoon escape that I so desperately needed!

After my afternoon away from home, dinner needed to be something not too time consuming. Luckily, I had my weekly menu already planned and was able to pull it together quickly. Our side dish for the night was veganized green bean casserole. Yes, I’m talking about that green bean casserole. The one typically made with canned green beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and French’s French Fried Onions served at many Thanksgiving dinners.

Except mine didn’t contain any of those ingredients. Mine was fresh, healthy and vegan! Better yet, it passed the hubby/kids inspection. I used this Vegan Green Bean Casserole recipe from the FatFree Vegan blog. The flavor was fantastic and I couldn’t stop eating it! I actually found all-natural French fried onions at the Dollar Tree, if you can believe it. The brand name is Golden Farms and the only ingredients are onions, vegetable oil, wheat flour, soy flour and salt. No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. As for the recipe itself, there are only a few small changes I would make the next time around.

1. Cleaning the fresh green beans was the most time-consuming part of the whole process. I would consider using two 12-ounce packages of frozen green beans that are already cut into bite-size pieces. I know the flavor will be just as good, and it will save time on a day when cooking is an all-day event.

2. I chopped the mushrooms really small because I thought that would best resemble the Campbell’s soup version. Next time, I will dice them bigger. I want to actually have bites with chunks of mushrooms in them.

3. The mushroom sauce was a little thin. The recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of flour and you whisk it into the broth before adding it to the sauteed mushrooms. It came out pretty soupy and I’d prefer the mushroom sauce actually cling to the green beans. Next time, I’ll use 1/4 cup flour and stir it into the sauteed mushrooms before whisking in the broth. This should thicken it better.

All-in-all a great recipe. It’s quite low in fat and the taste is absolutely addictive. I will probably make this to take to Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws.

A Fun Day Today

29 Oct

But, a busy one. I spent my morning trying to catch up on work because I will spend my afternoon at my kids’ school for their Halloween parties. I’m so looking forward to the weekend so I can get all the things done that fell by the wayside during this week of craziness.

Despite a jam-packed day, I did take the time to make myself a nice lunch. I opened the fridge in hopes of finding some leftovers I could just warm up. No luck. The only leftover in there was cooked spaghetti squash, which I already had yesterday and the day before with my mom’s homemade marinara sauce. I dug around the fridge a little more to see if I could come up with something to do with the spaghetti squash. Hmm…baby portobellos, already sliced. Looks like my answer.

I started with a little olive oil, diced an onion and some garlic, and started sauteeing them with the mushrooms. A little of this and a little of that from the spice rack and pantry, and I came up with a really tasty mushroom mixture to top the reheated squash with. The mushrooms made it meaty, and the rosemary and garlic gave it a very gourmet flavor. Delicious and done in about 15 minutes.

Honestly, I will make this again and again. It was perfect on top of the spaghetti squash, but it’s also a great way to dress up penne pasta, creamy polenta or a big baked potato.

Sauteed Mushrooms with Rosemary and Garlic
serves 4 if used as main dish

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
16 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
salt and pepper
1 cup Marsala (cooking wine)
2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute 5 minutes. Add rosemary and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until mushrooms are tender and golden brown. Stir in Marsala wine. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the butter until it melts. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir until well blended. Cover and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes so sauce thickens slightly. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed. Remove from heat and stir in chopped Italian parsley. Serve over cooked spaghetti squash, pasta, polenta or baked potatoes. If you aren’t vegan, try sprinkling on some grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Happy World Vegetarian Day!

1 Oct

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” — Albert Einstein

Today is World Vegetarian Day.

World Vegetarian Day is the annual kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends with World Vegan Day on November 1. In 1977, October 1 was established as a day of celebration “to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.” It’s meant to bring awareness to the environmental, ethical, health and humanitarian benefits of living a vegetarian lifestyle.

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” – Abraham Lincoln

A meat-free diet protects the lives of animals as well as our planet’s resources. And, extensive research confirms that a vegetarian diet leads to a longer and healthier life. For me, eating is a whole lot more enjoyable knowing that no animals suffered along the way and that my choices are improving my health.

About one million people become vegetarians every year in the U.S. alone.

World Vegetarian Day invites all non-vegetarians to give meatless eating a try, even if it’s just for one day. I’m hoping you’ll give it a try. To help you out, I’m going to post a vegetarian recipe every day for the month of October. No kidding! Some of them will be vegan (no dairy or eggs) and some will be vegetarian (may contain eggs).

First up is a fabulous soup recipe. It’s a “veganized” version of the wonderful Chicken Pasta Soup at J. Alexander’s restaurant. This is one of my all-time favorite soups. I used to make it all the time until I went vegan. The restaurant’s version has chunks of chicken, penne pasta, carrots, mushrooms and sugar snap peas in a creamy broth with a hint of lemon. My mouth is watering just writing that! My version uses all those wonderful vegetables plus meatless “chicken” slices. If you’re not a fan of “fake chicken,” you can leave it out and just bump up the amount of pasta and veggies to make up for it. As for the broth, I haven’t found a canned or boxed vegetable broth yet that I like. When I was at Whole Foods last month, I bought a powdered vegetable broth in the bulk foods area. You just mix it with water. It didn’t have any “scary” ingredients, the sodium was fairly comparable to the boxed ones, and the flavor was fantastic. Very chicken-y.

I don’t want to pat my own back or anything…but…this soup ROCKS!

Creamy “Chicken” Pasta Soup
makes about 10 cups

6 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 cup sliced meat-free “chicken”
1-1/3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
1 tablespoon vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 cup sliced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, halved diagonally
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a medium stockpot, place 4 cups of broth and the “chicken” pieces. Bring to a boil. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the “chicken” and set aside. To the boiling broth, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, spray a large stockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Add the butter and allow to melt. Stir in celery, carrots and onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in flour and allow to cook for 3 minutes while stirring. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and the “chicken” and simmer for about 5 minutes. When the pasta is done, pour it and the cooking broth into the soup. Stir in the frozen peas. Add the sugar snap peas and simmer until they are tender-crisp. Mix in lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Note: If you have leftovers, be aware that the pasta will absorb some of the broth and you will end up with fatter pasta and a thicker soup.