minestrone soup with sesame parmesan (vegan, dairy free, soy free)

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With fall officially peeking around the corner and an early chill in the air – at least around here – I’m starting to crave  warm, comforting foods. Especially big pots of them for plenty of leftovers which matches with our busier back-to-school schedule. Like this minestrone soup.

I first came across this minestrone soup recipe in this cook book while I was trying to find more veggie-based recipes but before I went all in with a plant-based diet. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since.

One of the things I love about it is the subtle addition of zucchini. This is key when your garden produces monster-sized ones because you forgot to pick it (ahem). And when you are more of a zucchini liker than zucchini lovers. And in case you didn’t catch it, here’s a zucchini recipe I shared last week. The other thing I love is the use of rosemary – an herb I thought was a strange addition at first, but it definitely makes this soup sing.

 

I’ll warn you that although this minestrone soup is more labor intensive than many of my other soup recipes (like this one and this one), it’s completely worth it because of the quantity it makes and how well it freezes. If you have children who are able to handle a knife, have them help you with the chopping. Even a young child could help break the frozen green beans or help with the lettuce spinner for the spinach.

The original recipe called for using parmesan cheese. Since this wouldn’t fly for a vegan recipe, I whipped up some sesame seed parmesan which can be sprinkled on or stirred in (which also happens to boost the calcium and protein as well!). For those of you watching your fat intake (especially due to heart disease), you’ll be happy to know the soup is made without any oil and you can skip adding the parmesan altogether.

 

 

 

This soup tastes even better the second day because the flavors are able to develop. If it works, plan ahead and make it the day before you actually plan to eat it!

 

Print
Minestrone Soup with Sesame Seed Parmesan
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
1 hrs 30 mins
 

This soup is chock full of vegetables and herbs and tastes even better the second day after it's been made. The sesame seed parm is a nod to the traditional recipe and boosts the calcium and plant-protein and is just plain fun to sprinkle on.

Course: Main Course, Soup
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the soup
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
  • 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups finely diced tomatoes (or 1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4.5 cups water
  • 2 small zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup green beans in 1" lengths
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped spinach
  • 2 cups beans (white or kidney)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp crumbled rosemary
  • freshly ground pepper
For the sesame parm
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 4 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
Instructions
For the soup:
  1. Add the onion and garlic along with 1" water to a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the onion is translucent, then add in the carrots, celery and tomatoes. Cook another 1-2 minutes. Add all remaining soup ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45-minutes to 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender. Adjust seasonings as needed.

For the sesame parm:
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender and mix until thoroughly combined and the sesame seeds are crumbly and look like parmesan cheese. Can be stored in an air-tight jar in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Recipe Notes

Recipe Notes:

I prefer this soup with the vegetables (especially the tomatoes and zucchini) finely chopped - or in the case of the zucchini, shredded. This especially helps when serving it to children who tend to be suspicious of large chunks of vegetables - or adults who feel the same way. 😉

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  •  Click here for my favorite mini food processor
  • I get both my nutritional yeast and sesame seeds in bulk at Whole Foods, but you also can find them here and here.

 

 

chocolate zucchini muffins (vegan, no added sugar, dairy free, soy free)

 

I know I’ve hit on a real winner of a recipe when my husband asks for me to make it again. He’s my gold standard. Not that my other recipes aren’t equally tasty, but rather, they might not be equally tasty to people who still love to eat meat, dairy and sugar. Like my husband.

So I’m going to guess that these chocolate zucchini muffins will be safe to label as crowd-pleasers …for vegans and non-vegans, sugar addicts and sugar abstainers alike.

I honestly wasn’t sure how these would turn out and it’s been awhile since I’ve attempted baked goods because most of my past efforts weren’t good enough to try baking again. You see, when you remove the dairy and the eggs and the added sugar, the science of baking a simple muffin suddenly becomes more complicated.

That challenge makes this victory all the no-added-sugar sweeter. If you’re curious why I work to eliminate added sugar in my diet and what the heck do I mean by added sugar anyway, click here to receive a free video which explains all that.

I love these chocolate zucchini muffins because…

  • they are chocolate (hello!)
  • are sweetened only with fruit
  • contain a ‘veggie which my children normally don’t like
  • have an added plant-protein boost from the almond butter and ground flax seed
  • and just look at these delightful air bubbles when you split them open (which reminds me of the Aero bars I used to eat as a child – it’s a Canadian thing)

 

When I’ve made these, I used fresh shredded zucchini. If you’re using frozen, make sure you stir it in while it’s still frozen and get them into the oven ASAP. That way, the water naturally occurring in the zucchini won’t create a soggy mess for you.

Confession: I did add a few dairy-free chocolate chips to some of the batter which helps “bridge the gap” between traditional added sugar muffins and fruit-sweetened ones. However, I don’t think my family was any wiser when they ate the chip-free muffins, so I might leave them out altogether next time.

 

Print
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

These chocolate zucchini muffins are sweetened entirely with fruit which makes them perfect for breakfast, but they are sweet enough for snacking or as a dessert too!

Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Servings: 12
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia*
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 small ripe/slightly underripe banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond coconut milk
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax seed + 3 T water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup date paste*
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease your muffin tin well (coconut oil is recommended). Mix up your flax egg and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine.

  3. In a food processor or high speed blender, add all wet ingredients EXCEPT the zucchini and apple cider vinegar. Blend until well-combined and very smooth then add to the dry ingredients. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.

  4. Gently stir in the zucchini and then add the apple cider vinegar and gently mix again. Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 27-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


  5. When finished baking, leave in the muffin tins for 10-15 minutes and then loosen with a knife and remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. Store muffins in a covered container for 1-2 days refrigerated or 3-4 days refrigerated.

Recipe Notes

*Recipe Notes

  • Be sure to use 100% pure stevia
  • If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.
  • I recommend using spelt flour and unsweetened almond coconut milk as it's why I used and results may vary with other flours or dairy-free milks although feel free to experiment
  • Unless you don't mind a slight banana flavor to these muffins, I recommend using a small perfectly ripe or just under-ripe banana.

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  •  Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I got my organic spelt flour (GMO free!) from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or you can find it here.
  • Target and many other grocery stores carry the unsweetened almond coconut milk, but you also can get it here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping
  • I usually buy my almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but click here for another option.
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • I get my chocolate chips at Trader Joe’s, but here is another kind of dairy-free chocolate chip if you aren’t near a Trader Joe’s

 

weeknight tacos with tres taco “meat” (vegan, soy free, gluten free, no added sugar)

Sure it’s not Tuesday, but tacos are too good to have only one day a week dedicated to them, right?! Last week, I was pretty excited about having them for lunch leftovers two days in a row and love this new tres taco meat I whipped up featuring walnuts, chickpeas and lentils. It’s a tres-fecta of plant-based protein.

In keeping with weeknights, which typically are busy for many of us, this recipe is simple and requires quick heating or none at all in case you prepare the ingredients ahead of time.

Let me walk you through this recipe with that busy schedule in mind…

  • The night before, put the walnuts and water in a bowl, cover and place in the fridge.
  • Also, go ahead and cook those lentils (and while they’re cooking, you can tidy up from dinner, put away some laundry, help your kids with homework, read to them or just put up your feet for a well-deserved rest)
  • If you plan on serving guacamole, you’ll want to mix up it up just before you serve it.
  • The morning of…chop up some lettuce, tomatoes and any other fresh topping that won’t spoil and store in separate airtight bags or containers. Have your salsa chilling in the fridge too and set out your spices for the tres taco “meat.”
  • Dinnertime prep…prepare the tres taco meat according to the directions. If you want the taco meat warmed, add it to a saucepan with a some salsa and gently warm it over medium-high heat which takes less than 5 minutes. If your children are old enough, they can help set out the toppings while you do this!
  • If you’re making the guac…pull out the bowl with some the prepared ingredients, add the lime juice and then the avocado and mash away.

There you go. Dinner reading in one, two, tres!

 

Before we get to the recipe, I have a little something extra for you… 

How would you like my favorite go-to guacamole recipe, and top three guac-tips which include cutting the fat but not the flavor, how to make it easier to prep on busy weeknights PLUS the secret ingredient I like to pair it with delivered right to your inbox? You would! Super! Just click this link to receive your FREE printable guacamole recipe + tip sheet.

 

 

 

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weeknight tacos with tres taco "meat"
Prep Time
6 hr
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
7 hr
 

This plant-protein packed taco "meat." featuring lentils, chickpeas and walnuts is simple to prepare and even with a little extra prep step. The lentils and chickpeas also keep it budget friendly. When combined with crisp organic taco shells and a few simple topping, weeknight dinners come together in one, two, tres!

Course: Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8 tacos
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the Tres Taco Meat
  • 3/4 cups walnuts, soaked 6 hours or overnight
  • 1/3 cup uncooked lentils
  • 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp chiii powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup salsa or 1 medium tomato
For the toppings (suggested ingredients)
  • lettuce, chopped fine
  • tomatoes, diced fine
  • sugar free salsa*
  • jalapeno peppers
  • guacamole
Instructions
  1. Put the walnuts in a bowl with enough water to cover them completely and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours to overnight.

  2. Either the night before or at least 1 one before you want to make your taco meat, cook the lentils according to package directions.

  3. In the meantime, prepare the other taco toppings. I recommend making the guacamole just before you're ready to eat it to minimize the oxidation.

  4. When you're ready to make the taco meat, drain the walnuts and rinse, then add to a food processor along with the remaining taco meat ingredients. If you want to warm the taco meat, add to a medium saucepan along with some salsa and heat over medium-high for about 5 minutes.

  5. Assemble and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

*I usually buy Tostitos or Old El Paso salsa, but you can buy any kind that is free of sugar (read the ingredients to be sure!)

*I love Jeff's Natural's jalapeno peppers because they're free of some of the additives and dyes typically found in most prepared jalapeno pepper brands.

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  •  Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I usually buy my taco shells at Trader Joe’s because they are organic which you can get online here!
  • I love Jeff’s Natural’s jalepeno peppers which are free from the usual additives and dyes found on store shelves. I find mine at Whole Foods Market, but you also can get them here.

 

Leng’s salad (vegan, gluten-free, peanut free option)

100_9267

As promised, here’s the post I promised which features one of my favorite sauces that pairs well with many dishes. Although the National Day of Peanut Butter may have passed, peanut butter lovers know that any day is a good day to enjoy this nutty legume. (For those with allergies and non-peanut butter lovers, you can sub in almond butter).

I call this recipe Leng’s Salad in honor of a woman our family got to know a couple of years ago. She and her family were refugees we had the privilege mentoring for a short time. While they’ve since moved away, every time I make this salad, I think of how much they enjoyed it at our home. Given that they’re Asian and this is an Asian inspired recipe, I wasn’t sure if it would fly or flop. But it was a hit. 🙂

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As with most salads, this is a mix-and-match, add-what-you-like-best free for all. When I want a super quick version, I’m even content with two of these ingredients – usually kale and cabbage. This usually is a crowd pleaser (unless you have a picky crowd or your “crowd” includes humans under the age of “skeptical about most vegetables), so be brave and try it out at your next potluck.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the Leng’s Salad recipe

Leng’s Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

 

Ingredients

    For the Salad

    • kale, destemmed, roughly chopped
    • red or green cabbage, roughly sliced or shredded
    • carrots,peeled into strips or shredded*
    • green onions, finely sliced
    • sunflower seeds

    Additional mix-in/combination options:

    • cauliflower, roughly chopped
    • sweet potato fries, diced*
    • rutabaga, diced
    • raw brussel sprouts, finely sliced or shredded
    • brown rice pasta*
    • red pepper, finely sliced

    621 Thai Dressing (makes 5-6 servings)

    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
    • 1 teaspoon red curry paste
    • 6 tablespoon coconut aminos
    • 5-8 tablespoon almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
    • 6 tablespoons peanut or almond butter

    Instructions

    For the Salad

    Chop all ingredients into bite-sized pieces. If using cabbage, slice thinly. Mix well.

    For the Dressing

    Add all ingredients to a jar and stir or shake until thoroughly mixed. Add more almond milk if needed or for desired consistency.

    Recipe Notes

    I didn’t list quantities with the salad ingredients because salads are so flexible. Just adjust your portions as needed. Generally, one full handful of combined ingredients = 1 side salad portion and two-three handfuls work for a main course salad portion.

    *Omit these options and sub in almond butter in the dressing for the strict portion of the candida diet and/or for a paleo-friendly salad

    I opted to create this dressing recipe using garlic and ginger powered because it’s quick and easy. Most days I would not have the patience to mince the garlic or ginger for the dressing. I recommend using organic powdered ginger or a brand that does not add sulfur.

    You might want to start with adding 5 T of your non-dairy milk to start and then add more until you get the desired pouring consistency. This dressing will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add a little more milk the next day. I’m not sure how another type of non-dairy milk will affect the taste or consistency.

    When I sub in almond butter, I usually use roasted almond butter, either chunky or smooth. Raw almond butter would work too, but it might affect the taste/consistency.

    The dressing keeps well for several days in the fridge. I often will make up a jar and then pour it over my salads all week.

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    field of greens salad with stadium mustard dressing & crackerjack peanuts

    field of greens saladEight years in and we finally signed our middle son up for baseball this year. It was something I’d meant to do several years ago, but somehow it’s hard to think baseball when registration is required in the throes of winter.

    An avid sports fan, my husband has been looking forward to this from the birth of our first child. And he’s been teaching our boys especially how to root-root-root for the home team even when they often “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” (It’s been decades since they won a World Series.)teamI have my own fond baseball memories…the Toronto Blue Jays winning the World Series two years in a row (though we’ve moved away, I’ll always quietly root for them too), my years as a pitcher on our high school slow pitch team, and neighborhood boys breaking out the bats and mitts as soon as the air breathed spring.

    100_2672So with baseball season in full swing, I thought it would be fun to create a salad inspired by “American’s pastime.”field of greens CollageCucumbers and marinated mushrooms (an homage to a ball and mitt) nestle on a field of kale and Brussel sprouts. “Crackerjack” peanuts are a nod to the classic stadium snack but are coated with dates to keep the sugar “outta there.” Topping it off is a bittersweet stadium mustard dressing.crackerjackpeanutsA note on the peanuts: If saving money is important to you, it’s cheaper to shell them yourself. Seeing as we had a 5 lb. bag hanging around the house, this is the route I’ve taken lately). However, if time is of the essence, go for the pre-shelled and roasted peanuts. If you splurge on Spanish-roasted peanuts (my favorite choice for this salad), be sure to gently rub them in a clean kitchen towel to remove the skins.

    CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the field of greens salad recipe

    field of greens salad

    Prep Time: 20-30 minutes

    Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

    Serves: 4-6 people

     

    Ingredients

      for the Salad

      • Brussel sprouts, finely chopped
      • Kale, destemmed and chopped
      • Cucumber, sliced

      for the Marinated Mushrooms

      • 4 large Portabella mushroom caps or 16 oz. baby bellas
      • 1/3-1/2 cup coconut aminos
      • oregano
      • garlic powder
      • freshly ground black pepper

      for the “Crackerjack” peanuts

      • ½ cup shelled peanuts or Spanish peanuts
      • 1 T date paste
      • 2-3 T water

      for the Stadium Mustard dressing

      • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
      • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
      • 2 T stadium mustard
      • 2 T tahini
      • 1.5-2 tsp. agave or coconut nectar
      • ½ tsp. regular mustard
      • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
      • few dashes turmeric for color (optional)

      Instructions

      Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

      Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium high heat, combine date paste and water, stirring to combine. Add peanuts and continue to stir over medium high heat until they begin to clump together and the date paste begins to dry out (about 5-7 minutes). You may need to reduce the heat near the end of the cooking time to prevent the date paste from burning.

      Transfer peanuts to a baking pan and place in oven for another 5 minutes. Remove and cool.

      In a frying pan, add ingredients for the Marinated Mushrooms, bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat and cook until most of the liquid has reduced. Cool.

      For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously to combine.

      Combine kale and Brussel sprouts, then arrange cucumber slices on top followed by the “Crackerjack” peanuts and marinated mushrooms, drizzle with dressing.*

      Recipe Notes

      I like Spanish peanuts best. If using, then gently rub in a clean kitchen towel to remove the skins. Add extra prep time if shelling your own peanuts.

      “Crackerjack” peanuts can be stored in an airtight jar for several days and are great for snacking. The date paste coating may soften a little, especially in humid conditions.

      The dressing stores well in the fridge for several days. I like adding the turmeric for eye-pleasing color. A few dashes goes a long way as the color intensifies slightly over time.

      My favorite way to serve salads is to prepare the base and set out toppings and dressing separately. That way, any leftovers will stay fresh.

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      lemon squares (vegan, low sugar, gluten free)

      lemon squaresI think one of the hardest things to do when you change the way you eat is to stop indulging in your memory of the foods you used to enjoy. It’s hard to convince the brain that the sugar/dairy/meat-laden dish once inhaled without second thought will now cause your body to launch a revolt.

      I have a few food memories that are hard to short circuit. One of them is of the lemon squares my husband whipped up one dreary afternoon – made with extra lemon juice. I almost swoon at the memory.

      100_1796Tempting as it is to consider making a conventional batch of lemon squares to satisfy my lemon cravings, the sugar content alone scratches it off the list. You can read a little about my decision to cut back on sugar here.

      Thankfully, the plant-based, low sugar lemon curd recipe I posted earlier this month is an excellent substitute for the traditional lemon square filling. It’s complemented by a gluten free, coconut crust, inspired by this recipe. And the icing sugar? It’s actually a dusting of coconut flour.

      lemon square collageWhat is your favorite lemon dish? What foods do you have a hard time resisting based on the memory alone?

      CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the lemon squares recipe

      lemon squares (vegan, low sugar, gluten free)

      Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

      Cook Time: 15-17 minutes

      Serves: 16 squares

      Ingredients

        for the Crust & Topping

        • 1 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut
        • 1 c. almond flour
        • ½ tsp. baking soda
        • 1 scoop 100% pure stevia
        • ¼ c. melted coconut oil
        • 1 tsp. coconut nectar or agave
        • ½ tsp. vanilla
        • Coconut flour (for dusting)

        for the Filling

        • ¾ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
        • Zest from one organic lemon (optional)
        • ½ c. white grape juice
        • 3 T coconut nectar or agave
        • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
        • 5 T organic cornstarch
        • ¼ tsp. salt
        • 1 T vegan butter
        • Cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk
        • Scant 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)

        Instructions

        Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

        Using your hands, mix all ingredients for the macaroon crust together in a bowl.

        Pour crust into a greased 8”x8” glass baking dish and press crust firmly to compact it together.

        Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool.

        While crust is baking, combine juices, zest if using, sweeteners, cornstarch and salt in a sauce pan. Whisk constantly over high heat until mixtures begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it takes on a lumpy texture, step 2 will smooth it out!

        Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter and coconut cream until smooth.

        Add turmeric for a brighter lemony color.

        Cool slightly, then pour over crust.

        Recipe Notes

        The more you press the crust, the better it will hold together after baking.

        Use a pizza cutter to give a nice clean cut to the squares.

        I love this recipe for the lemon curd because even if your mixture goes lumpy in step one, adding the coconut cream and butter and giving it a good hard whisk seems to correct it back to smooth and silky.

        *It’s best to use organic lemons if you want to add the zest because of the high pesticide content in the rind, however if you’re just using the juice and organic lemons are out of your budget, regular lemons will do.

        Make sure the stevia you use is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives including added sweeteners. I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own tiny scoop.

        Organic cornstarch, while on the pricey side is best because of GMOs in nonorganic corn.

        I use Thai Kitchen’s full fat coconut milk because the coconut cream is often already separated from the liquid. However, if the cream hasn’t consolidated on its own (you can tell by giving the can a gentle shake, refrigerate it overnight upside down.

        I found adding a little turmeric enhances the visual appeal of the curd since the white grape juice and coconut nectar or agave produce a beige-colored curd.

        Refrigerate to set, then use a sieve to dust with coconut flour.

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        jolly good potato & leek soup (vegan, oil free)

        100_2326With a new baby welcomed into the monarchy and surprising election results, the Brits have been in the headlines of late. So it seems rather timely to post a recipe that I often associate with England.

        I have a soft spot for the UK since we were blessed to live there for a few years when I was growing up, coupled with the fact that one of my grandmother’s haled from England, a war bride of the 1940’s.

        grandpa nan
        my grandpa & nan on their honeymoon in England

        The first month we lived there, we had tea and cookies every night.

        Back in March, I shared this recipe for vegan cabbage rolls, a nod to the Polish side of my heritage. As much as I’d like to veganize one of the more traditional British meals which my “Nan” often made – roast beef and Yorkshire puddings – it just wouldn’t be the same. Instead, I’ll turn to another recipe traditional to the British Isles…potato and leek soup.

        This is a recipe handed down to me from my mom and is super simple to make. As with many soups, it tastes better the second day, so consider making it ahead of time to let the flavors fully develop.potato leek soupCLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the potato & leek soup recipe

        jolly good potato & leek soup

        Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

        Cook Time: 30-40 minutes

        Serves: 10-12

        Ingredients

        • 2 medium leeks, sliced
        • 1 medium onion, diced
        • 7 medium organic russet potatoes, peeled & diced
        • ¾ tsp. salt
        • Dashes freshly ground pepper
        • water

        Instructions

        Sauté leeks and onions in a large stock pot in a little water until tender, about 5 minutes.

        Add potatoes and add water until potatoes are loosely floating.

        Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add seasonings and simmer until potatoes can be mashed until smooth.

        Add more water if necessary to achieve desired consistency

        Recipe Notes

        Organic potatoes are best to use since potatoes have a high pesticide content.

        The soup tends to thicken as it sits, so you may need to add more water upon reheating.

        The consistency for this soup that I like best is one that is easily pourable without being too watery.

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        calico brownies (gluten free, low sugar, vegan) + fair trade

        100_2143Disclaimer: This is a post that starts out seriously but ends in chocolate.

        My husband and I are reading the book, “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.” It’s written by an American journalist living in Haiti when the earthquake struck five years ago. However, it’s also a book which details Haiti’s volatile history, sometimes of their own making, but also from in the influence of foreign powers rocking their boat. With the earthquake that just happened in Nepal and more natural disasters of increasing intensity on their way, it’s a timely book to be reading.

        But what does Haiti have to do with brownies?

        calicobrowniesNot much. At least in the sense that Haiti isn’t a large producer of the world’s chocolate  or coconut oil (it does export some). However, many of the trade practices which adversely affect Haiti on other fronts (which Katz relates in the book), also are in place with countries that do produce the most of the chocolate and coconut oil we consume.

        For those of us living in affluent nations, the sad truth is that certain imported foods we enjoy at low cost to us comes at a high cost to others. (If you are interested in learning more about the importance of fair trade, I’ve included some links at the end of this post following the recipe.)

        But I believe this can change because every time I make a purchase decision, I am casting my vote not only for the product but also for the business practice that brought it to the shelf.

        So when a recipe calls for an ingredient that largely is produced and exported from a developing nation, I cast my vote in favor of fair trade as much as possible.

        (Here’s where the brownies come in!)

        Unlike most brownies which carry a high sugar content, these Calico Brownies, which are adapted from the “Peanut Butter Brownie” recipe found in “Vegan Planet”* on page 508, derive most of their sweetness from dates. They also feature fair trade cocoa power and fair trade coconut oil…which I think makes them taste all the sweeter.

        CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the calico brownies recipe

         calico brownies

        Prep Time: 10 minutes

        Cook Time: 25 minutes

         Serves: 16 brownies

        Ingredients

        • 2 flax eggs (2 T ground flax + 6 T water)
        • ½ cup fair trade coconut oil
        • 1 tsp. vanilla
        • 1/8 cup agave or other liquid sweetener
        • 1 cup date paste
        • 1 cup brown rice flour
        • ¾ cup fair trade unsweetened baking cocoa
        • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia
        • 1 tsp. baking powder
        • ¼-1/3 c. no sugar natural peanut butter

        Instructions

        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

        In small bowl, combine the flax seed and water to make the flax eggs. Set aside.

        In a large saucepan, melt oil, add in vanilla and agave, then turn off heat.

        Break date paste into smaller pieces and stir into liquid mixture – using a potato masher works well to further break up the date paste.

        Add in flax eggs and stir.

        Add in dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine (the mixture will appear dense and crumble in large pieces.

        Pour mixture into greased 8×8 glass baking dish and press down firmly with hands.

        Pour peanut butter over batter and use a knife to work it in, then press down batter again (keeping your hands moistened with water helps prevent the batter from sticking to them.

        Bake 20 minutes.

        Let it cool completely before cutting.

        Recipe Notes

        Typically, I’ve purchased Equal Exchange’s Unsweetened Baking Cocoa at my local health food store, but recently found Frontier’s Unsweetened Baking Cocoa for less at Abe’s Market. (you can get free shipping on orders over $49.) I usually buy Br. Bronner’s brand of fair trade coconut oil.

        Make sure the stevia you use is 100%, otherwise results will vary. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own scoop.

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         *I am an Amazon associate. If you purchase the cookbook through this link, it will provide a small credit to my account.

         

        sweet potato & lentil soup (vegan, oil-free)

        2009-01-19 17.49.37The first vegan cookbook I ever purchased was Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson*. It was during the season in my life that my oldest son likes to refer to as “the time when we weren’t eating healthy.” I refer to it as the time when I didn’t realize the benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

        But the Lord knew He would bring me to this place, so He gradually encouraged me to go meat-free on more than just Monday. I started by exploring vegan and vegetarian cookbooks in our local library until I stumbled upon Vegan Planet*.

        One of my favorite recipes from the book is Robin’s “Indian-spiced Lentil Soup” on page 78.

        Although soups are most often thought of in the fall and winter, I make them year round. Especially when spring shows its chillier side.
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        100_1757And I think this soup is especially spring-like with the bright addition of cilantro, an herb that flourishes in cooler temperatures.

        2009-01-19 17.12.30Spring, summer, fall, winter, here is my version of this sweet potato lentil soup.

        swplentilsoup CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the sweet potato lentil soup recipe

        sweet potato lentil soup

        Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

        Cook Time: 60-70 minutes

        Ingredients (6-8)

        • 1 small onion, diced
        • 1 celery rib, chopped
        • 2 garlic cloves, minced
        • 1 small sweet potato, peeled & diced
        • 1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
        • 1 tsp. ground ginger
        • 1 tsp. ground cumin
        • 1 tsp ground coriander
        • 1 ½ cups dried brown lentils
        • 6 cups water
        • ½ cup cilantro leaves, minced
        • ½-3/4 tsp. salt
        • Dashes of pepper

        Instructions

        In a stock pot, sauté onions, celery and garlic in a little water until onion is translucent (about 5 minutes)

        Add sweet potatoes and sauté 5 minutes more.

        Add water, tomatoes and seasonings except the cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 50 to 55 minutes until the lentils and sweet potato are cooked through.

        Add cilantro and cook 10 minutes more.

        Recipe Notes

        As with most soups, this one tastes even better the second day when the flavors have fully developed.

        This soup freezes well, so make some extra and keep on hand when you need a meal in a pinch.

         *I am an Amazon associate. If you purchase the cookbook through this link, it will provide a small credit to my account.

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        naturally salty sweet peanut butter banana jumblelaya (vegan, nut-free/raw option)

        100_1879Sometimes, I think the best recipes are those that are cobbled together…a little of this, a little of that, nothing measured. Just a few favorite ingredients in a bowl, in a cup, on a plate. Snacking especially lends itself to improv eating.

        Although my go to snack often is enough to satisfy, sometimes, I’m looking for something a little bit more…

        100_1883This snack is by no means intended to approximate the traditional Cajun jambalaya in the rice-veggies-meat sense, but it does mimic the dish’s mish mash approach to pulling ingredients together.

        Peanut butter + banana have long been a favorite of mine. (In my white-bread eating days, it was especially satisfying eat the pb+b on a toasted plain bagel.)

        Add in naturally sweet dried coconut and raisins and the hint of cinnamon and you have an unconventional, yet satisfying snack. I usually toss all these ingredients in a bowl, but for the pictures, I used a small canning jar, because it just looks prettier.

        If you have a nut allergy, substitute in sunflower seed butter. And if you prefer eating raw, use a raw nut butter. I recommend using a salted nut/seed butter as it complements the delicate sweetness of the fruit.

        CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the salty sweet peanut butter banana jumblelaya

         Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Banana Jumblelaya

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        1 banana per person
        Raisins
        Unsweetened, shredded dried coconut
        Cinnamon
        Salted peanut butter or nut or seed butter of choice

        1. Slice bananas into a bowl, jar or mug
        2. Sprinkle on cinnamon
        3. Add remaining ingredients in desired quantity
        4. Enjoy!