Tag Archives: salsa

Summer is almost here!

26 May

I can almost feel it. We’ve had quite a few warm sunny days and LOTS of spring rainy days, but I think summer is just around the corner.

Most of my vegetable garden is planted, although the wild turkeys that visit my yard every day have decided this year that my garden is nice place to stop for a snack! About a week ago I went out to check on it and they had walked all over in my raised beds and rooted through the dirt, kicking a lot of it out of the wood frame. I don’t know if they’re eating the seeds I planted or looking for worms, but what a mess. Unfortunately, most of the seeds had been in the ground for only a week, so they hadn’t sprouted yet and I can’t tell if seeds are missing or if they will still be coming up. I’m going to have to wait a little while and then try to determine what’s left. I’m sure I will be replanting many things.

I did notice the lettuce was sprouting, which is a good thing because I have recently turned into the salad queen! For some reason, I’m finding it necessary to have a salad every day. I guess that’s a good thing! I can’t wait for all the delicious fresh veggies coming soon. (See below for my latest salad addiction.)

Because I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few things I’ve enjoyed recently.

On Mother’s Day, we all went to my in-laws for dinner. She, of course, made a wonderful dinner, but — the dessert was insanely simple and insanely satisfying. These were called Berry Dessert Nachos. I don’t have the recipe (which came from a diabetic cookbook of hers), but basically you build nachos out of dessert items. For the base, she took whole wheat flour tortillas and brushed them with melted butter. They were sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until they became crispy chips. Those went into the bottom of the bowl. On top of that were all kinds of fresh berries — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. This was all topped with a sort of sweet sour cream mixture. I’m not sure what was in it, but I think a scoop of vanilla yogurt or vegan ice cream would be just right. And then — just to blow your mind! — she sprinkled on toasted almonds and shaved a bar of dark chocolate over that. Absolutely delicious and not at all bad for you.

One of the people I most refer to for what I should be eating is cookbook author Mark Bittman. I borrowed his latest book from the library — “The Food Matters Cookbook.” (If you haven’t read his book, “Food Matters,” definitely put it on your to-read-soon list!) Last week, I made one of his new recipes, Skillet Tamales. It’s a casserole with all the flavors of tamales. The finished dish was really good and the whole family enjoyed it. I had a little trouble mixing up his corn bread topping, even though I followed the recipe exactly. In the end, it came out okay and I will probably make this again, but I need to work on the topping a little. Anyway, check out this picture of total yumminess. I topped mine with guacamole. Jason and the kids garnished theirs with shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Do you ever make something to eat and then you sort of become obsessed with it? Like, you eat it for days and days and days and you keep making it all the time until you get burned out? Um…I do this pretty often. For a long time, my favorite homemade lunch was a whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus and then piled up with any kind of salad ingredients I had. I’d roll it into a wrap and enjoy. I still have those once in a while, but I went for months eating that almost every day! Well, my latest lunch addiction is Taco Salad. I made this up off the top of my head one day and now I eat it pretty often — sometimes with the vegan “chicken” and sometimes with black beans. Sometimes with guacamole and most times without. It’s so satisfying! Plus, it makes a huge plateful and is only about 300 calories.

makes 1 serving

1 vegan “chicken” breast, thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons salsa, divided
2 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa (addictive!!!)
1 corn tortilla, baked until crispy

Spray a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray and add the oil. Over medium heat, saute the “chicken” pieces until lightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon of salsa and stir to coat all pieces. Sprinkle with ground cumin, if desired.

Spread out the lettuce on a large plate. Drizzle with lime juice and toss to coat the lettuce. Layer on the corn kernels, grape tomatoes, green onions, and Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa. Top with the “chicken” and the remaining salsa. Crumble the corn tortilla over all and enjoy!


Tasty enchiladas…and a week of simple cooking.

24 Jan

It’s Monday again. Blah. It’s 10 degrees out. Blah. I’m so sick of this weather, I just want to stay inside and read by the fire with a cup of hot tea all day.
Every day.

This is the kind of week that calls for warm, home-cooked comfort foods. We topped off this past weekend with vegan enchiladas garnished with lettuce, onions and salsa for dinner last night. They were warm and gooey and the spiciness seemed to heat me from the inside out! I served them with Spanish rice (recipe on March 15 blog post) and fresh pineapple and grapes. Jason and the kids topped theirs with sour cream. I topped mine with guacamole (recipe on March 4 blog post). I assembled the enchiladas in the morning and placed the pan in the fridge so all I had to do at dinnertime was pop them in the oven to bake. I usually make my own enchilada sauce and taco seasoning, but for super speedy cooking, canned enchilada sauce and a packet of low-sodium taco seasoning will work just fine (look for one without MSG).

The recipe makes enough filling to stuff about 14 corn tortillas. My 9×13 baking dish only holds 10 enchiladas, which is just the right amount for my family, so I usually put the rest of the filling in the refrigerator to be re-heated one evening for a tasty dip for tortilla chips. Feel free to make as many enchiladas as you can with the filling. You should have enough sauce. Simply adjust the amount of cheese as needed.

Also, these can be very easily converted for your cheese or meat eating family members. You can substitute regular cheese for the vegan cheese and you can substitute ethically-raised boneless, skinless chicken breast for the Gardein “chicken” patties.

Vegan Enchiladas
makes 10-14 enchiladas

2 Gardein “chicken” patties (non-breaded) or 4 oz vegan “chicken” strips
1 small onion, diced
1/2 of a green pepper, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers
1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning
2 cans enchilada sauce
10 to 14 corn tortillas (6″ size)
1 cup shredded vegan cheese (or more to taste)

Coat a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Dice the “chicken” into tiny pieces and saute in skillet until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Re-coat the skillet with cooking spray and saute onions and green peppers until softened. (Add 1 tablespoon water if pan is too dry.) Stir in black beans, diced tomatoes with juice, and the reserved “chicken” pieces. Sprinkle taco seasoning on top and stir until well blended. Cook 5 minutes or so, until hot and bubbly. Turn off heat.

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in the bottom and spread to cover completely.

Warm the corn tortillas between damp paper towels in the microwave (about 1 minute if stacked 5 tall). You want them soft and pliable so they don’t crack when you roll them. Pour remainder of enchilada sauce into a round, flat-bottomed bowl that is slightly larger than the corn tortillas. Lay a tortilla in the sauce and turn over to cover completely with sauce. Drain off excess and lay it in the baking dish. Spread 1/3 cup filling down the center, sprinkle with cheese and roll up. Slide it to one side of the pan, seam side down. Continue with remaining tortillas and filling, tucking them side by side in the pan. Pour remaining sauce over the top. (See picture below.)

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly. Serve with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, guacamole, etc. Enjoy!

Note: You can make these in advance. Assemble all of them in the pan, cover with foil, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature while oven preheats. Then bake until sauce is bubbly and they are heated through (may take slightly longer if they are still cold inside.)

Enchiladas ready for the oven.

The Rest of the Week:
It’s a busy week for Jason (he has meetings at the union hall on Monday & Tuesday nights and we have Cub Scouts on Thursday night), so this week’s dinners are quick, easy ones.

Here’s the menu:
Monday – Vegan Cheesy Broccoli Soup (October 21 blog post) with tossed salad and crackers
Tuesday – Grilled cheese sandwiches, oven fries and peas
Wednesday – Gyros and a new chickpea salad recipe I’ve been wanting to try (I’ll blog about it later if it’s a keeper)
Thursday – Vegan Mac & Cheese (April 7 blog post), sauteed mixed vegetables and applesauce
Friday – takeout pizza (kids’ request)

Nothing spectacular; just meals that come together quickly. All of them are kid pleasers, though, which makes my life easier!

Happy Father’s Day!

20 Jun

I love camping. I think we've been going camping my entire life. Growing up, my sister and I looked forward to our family camping trips more than just about anything. We camped throughout most of Michigan, from the Irish Hills to Sleeping Bear Dunes to Copper Harbor to the shores of all of the Great Lakes, and many other beautiful places this country has to offer. Now that I have kids of my own, I'm so glad to be camping with them, and thrilled that most of these trips include my mom and dad. 

Day 4 of our Pokagon camping trip was another great day. Lots of hiking, biking and a toasty afternoon at the beach (or, should I say smokin' hot afternoon at the beach?!) But, the kids had a blast searching for interesting shells and rocks and splashing in the cool water.

This night was our Mexican Fiesta. It's one of our favorite camping meals because we have a huge buffet filled with all kinds of things to put on a tortilla. We started off with a tasty Creamy Salsa Dip with homemade tortilla chips for an appetizer. This recipe has been in our family for probably twenty years, but I hadn't made it for a long time. It uses mayo and cream cheese, but I chose to veganize it and it ended up tasting just as good as, if not better than, the original. (recipe and photo at end of post)
The guys then grilled steak and shrimp, and my mom and I grilled sliced onions and peppers, for fajitas. For toppings, I made fresh guacamole and we had black beans, lettuce from my garden, chopped tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, black olives and probably a few other things I'm forgetting right now. 
After dinner, we celebrated both my dad's birthday and Father's Day with him. He opened presents after my dessert of carrot cake cupcakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World). Delish.
Our midnight snack – Chicken Bacon Poppers – continued the theme of our Mexican Fiesta. My mom introduced us to these tasty campfire treats last summer. You season strips of chicken breast with cumin, garlic powder and chili powder. Then stuff them into fresh jalapenos that have been cut in half and seeded. Wrap a strip of bacon around the whole thing and secure with a toothpick. Grill them over the campfire until the chicken is done and the bacon is crispy, then serve with a dipping sauce of sour cream, lime juice, cumin, salt and garlic. I didn't eat any this trip since I'm no longer eating meat, but trust me — they are fantastic. I did attempt to make a vegan version using Trader Joe's vegan chicken strips that I had left from earlier in the week, but they didn't really work out. I'm going to have to experiment with them a little more to see if I can make a meat-free version without sacrificing flavor.
Although I don't get to see my dad today, I'm so glad we got to celebrate Father's Day with both of his kids and all of his grandkids together at the campground. I love you, Dad! Happy Father's Day!
Here's the recipe and picture of the Creamy Salsa Dip:
makes about 2 cups
1 8-ounce package Tofutti vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup Vegenaise
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained
1 cup chopped, seeded fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced green onions
salt substitute
Combine cream cheese, Vegenaise, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add black olives and green chilies and pulse until just blended. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in tomatoes and green onions. Season with salt, if necessary. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight and enjoy!

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A new twist on tacos!

19 Apr

We had a busy week last week with my mom in town. Plus, Madison performed in 6 shows of Rapunzel, which basically consumed Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Still, I managed to walk all but one day and eat just the way I need to for my blood pressure, thanks to some advance planning. Planning your dinners for the week on Sunday night and shopping on Monday makes the whole process of cooking dinner less stressful and that's important for controlling blood pressure!

When my mom came up from North Carolina last week, she brought a big envelope of vegan and vegetarian recipes that she had torn out of various magazines for me. Tonight I decided to try one from Eating Well magazine. We love Mexican food, so this one intrigued me — Bean and Butternut Tacos. Sounds like an odd combination, doesn't it? Well, all five of us agreed I should definitely make them again. They were tasty!
I made some small changes to the recipe: 
I used a few good dashes of chili powder instead of the small dried red chiles in the recipe.
I used pinto beans and black beans instead of just pinto beans. 
I used store-bought fresh salsa instead of making the green salsa in the recipe.
Also, the recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of shredded cabbage for 8 tacos. That's 1 tablespoon per taco — definitely not enough! I combined about a cup of shredded cabbage with a cup of shredded lettuce, two chopped green onions, and the cilantro (in the recipe) and everyone had about 1/4 cup of this on each taco. Jason and the kids ate theirs with the feta cheese, per the recipe. I just left it off of mine. (Someday, I'll be brave enough to try making the tofu version of feta cheese!)
Here's the link to the original recipe: 
It's not your typical taco, but it's a wonderful change of pace. Serve it with a side of sweet corn and fresh strawberries for a simple dinner.
For dessert, we had this delicious vegan ice cream from Trader Joe's. It is to die for!

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4 Mar

Yesterday, my friend told me he’s worried that my vegan diet is not providing me with enough protein. I appreciate his concern, but he shares the same belief as most Americans — that you must eat meat to get enough protein. Why do we believe that? Because that’s what we’ve been told our whole lives — television commercials, pediatricians, in every grade of school, magazine ads and family members. Yes, meat is a complete protein and an excellent source of it. But, it’s not the only source and it’s not always the healthiest choice.

Most Americans eat way more protein than they need. Some estimates say almost double! The average adult woman needs about 45 grams a day. The average adult male needs about 55 grams a day. (Protein needs vary based on your physical activity; i.e., a weightlifter will require more protein).*

So let’s say Mr. Average’s normal day looks like this:
Breakfast: 2 eggs (12g) + 1 slice whole wheat toast (2g) + 1 cup milk (8g) = 22 grams
Lunch: turkey (5g) + 1 slice cheese (7g) on 2 slices whole wheat bread (4g) = 16 grams
Snack: bag of peanut M&M’s = 5 grams
Dinner: cheeseburger (17g) + baked potato (7g) + side salad (2g) = 26 grams

For a grand total of 69 grams of protein! And that doesn’t even include butter, salad dressing, any sides he had with lunch, and other beverages.

Now look at Mr. Vegan’s normal day:
Breakfast: A bowl of oatmeal (6g) with 1 oz almonds (6g) = 12 grams
Lunch: PB&J on whole wheat bread (16g) + 1 cup soy yogurt (5g) = 21 grams
Snack: 1/4 cup hummus + a whole wheat pita = 8 grams
Dinner: 1 cup of spaghetti (6g) + 1/2 cup lima beans (5g) + 1 slice whole wheat bread (2g) = 13 grams

Total? 54 grams of protein — without eating anything “weird” like tofu. Again, it doesn’t include beverages. So it really is easy to get your daily protein needs with a vegan diet.

Now, on to a yummy recipe. I was in the mood for guacamole today. I love it and it’s really easy to make. Plus, avocados are really good for you. Not only are they high in dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin C and copper, they are a good source of potassium — a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Usually, I chop onions and fresh tomatoes for my guacamole, but I was in a hurry to eat it. So, here’s a really quick recipe for guacamole. Served with homemade baked corn tortillas, it’s fabulous.

makes about 1 cup

2 ripe avocados
1 tablespoon salsa (I like the fresh kinds by Garden Fresh Gourmet)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of garlic powder
dash of chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cut avocados in half and remove pit. Scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork. Scrape into your bowl. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to your liking and enjoy!

*I’m not a doctor or dietician — this info is readily available on the internet.