Dec 21, 2008

Tomato and Artichoke Pasta

There's no way you'd get someone in my family to eat any of the foods in this meal individually, but together they make a delicious homestyle food that's easy to throw together.

This recipe is enough to feed a small army, so scale it down if necessary.

2 (14 oz) cans rinsed and broken apart artichokes
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
3 (14 oz) cans Italian style stewed tomatoes
1/2 (4.25 oz) can (or as desired) diced olives
2 (16 oz) cans rinsed chickpeas
1.5 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1 lg onion)
6 small mushrooms, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb dry rotini or mezze penne pasta
Italian seasoning to taste
Black pepper to taste
Some oil for sautéing

1. Put one large pot of water on to boil. When it boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a skillet and add onions and garlic. Sauté on medium-high until onions are translucent.
3. Drain the water out of the pasta. Add the cooked pasta, artichokes, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, paste, sauce, onions, chickpeas, and spices to the pot. Simmer until heated through, about 8-10 minutes.

What We Do:
We use fire-roasted diced tomatoes and remove the stems from the artichokes and mushrooms, only using the tops.
This can be served cold for lunch the next day if desired.

Special Diet Considerations:
Buy wheat- or gluten-free pasta if necessary.
Use vegetable oil and not olive oil for strict fasting.

Dec 19, 2008

Deceptively Simple

I'm not a big fan of sneaking small amounts of healthy foods into otherwise not-so-healthy foods as a way to feel good about eating a brownie or a pancake. Maybe it is because I eat the healthy foods on their own enough to be able to enjoy a nice thick piece of tiramisu for what it is without too many feelings of guilt. (That kicks in about the time I'm contemplating if anyone will notice my shaving a small amount off the side of each of the remaining slices.)

However, there are some simple additions that can be made to foods to help them taste better and to bring more nutrition to your plate. If you are wondering if you're getting all the nutrition you need, try some of these ideas. Then enjoy that piece of dessert without wondering if someone snuck spinach into it.

If you're having cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles for breakfast, add fruit or nuts. Berries are particularly healthy, give you antioxidants (not just good for cleaning the laundry) and have some natural antibiotic benefits. Banana nut oatmeal or additional sliced almonds add a lot more than just taste.

Add peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic to your ommelette. You wouldn't believe all of the immune-boosting nutrition these tasty foods add. If you're like me and have a slight aversion to mushrooms, dice them finely with a food chopper and you'll probably find them to be quite good in the mix.

If you usually have toast, try adding a nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, etc) and some local honey. The honey will help with any seasonal allergies you have since it desensitizes your system to the local pollens while the nuts will add protein and other good stuff.

You can buy pre-packaged baby spinach just about anywhere. It tastes like salad greens and is great on sandwiches. If you insist on lettuce, get the protein-rich romaine or another dark, leafy green. The lighter colored head lettuce has practically no nutritive value.

Don't forget to add some cold fruits and veggies. They'll help fill you up and satisfy the desire to crunch.

If you make enough dinner the night before, you can be the envy of the office or neighborhood by having a delicious, nutritious hot meal for lunch every day.

Add in more side dishes. If you have a little of all of them, it will give you more of the nutrition and you'll be too full to load up on the fat- and calorie-dense main dish. Then you'll have enough for lunch the next day!

Don't be afraid to let the family snack while you are making dinner. Put a veggie tray out and offer it to anyone who is looking for food (including yourself). If they fill up on carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes and other good foods, it doesn't really matter that they eat a smaller portion of your cheese enchiladas, does it?


Add some frozen strawberries and pecans to the top of your small bowl of ice cream. Make fruit sorbets or smoothies.

Make fruit-based side dishes and instead of serving them with dinner, serve them as dessert. And don't underestimate the deliciousness of some fresh fruit next to some spiced freshly whipped cream (which you can make vegetarian or vegan).

Dec 18, 2008

Fruit Compote

This is a very fast, extremely easy, and in my opinion fabulously delicious recipe. It can go on or beside almost anything. I love the nutrition data on it, too.

A quarter of the recipe contains only 1g of fat with no trans or saturated fats, it has no cholesterol, no sodium, 3% of the day's protein, 17% of your fiber, 12% of Vitamin A and a good 4-5% of your Vitamins B6, E, and K, Niacin, Calcium, Magnesium, 7% of your Iron, 12% of your Potassium, and 18% of your Manganese. This stuff is great!


1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dried apricot halves, quartered
1/2 cup dried whole figs, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Simmer apple juice, brown sugar, water and lemon juice in a small pot, stirring occasionally until dissolved.
2. Add fruit and seasonings; simmer 5 more minutes or until fruits are plump and liquid is slightly thick. Serve hot or chilled.

What We Do:

Make double so there's enough for seconds!

Dec 17, 2008

Lentil Soup

Here's a soup that will warm you up on these winter evenings. Pictured here before food processing it, the soup is thick and hearty.

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
6 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon garam masala
1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in a little olive oil in a large pot for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the water, lentils, chick peas, white kidney beans, diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, garam masala, cardamom, cayenne pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil for a few minutes then simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours or longer, until the lentils are soft.
3. Puree half the soup in a food processor or blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot, stir and enjoy!

What We Do:
We put out all the ingredients and let the little one make this one. It is easy and delicious.

Dec 15, 2008

Jen Z's St. Nicholas Cookies & Royal Icing

We enjoyed Jennifer Z's delicious vanilla cookies with royal icing shaped in bishops' mitres on St. Nicholas Day along with candy canes to symbolize the bishop's staff. Thanks to her generosity, now you can enjoy them, too!

Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup safe margarine
1 cup sugar
2.5 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp oil, 1.5 Tbsp water, 1 tsp baking powder, mixed together
2.5 cups flour

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Beat margarine and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, salt, and oil/water/baking powder mixture. Stir in flour until well mixed.
2. Shape cookies into balls and drop onto cookie sheets. Flatten cookies with a glass dipped in sugar (wet glass the first time, then dip in sugar before each cookie). ...OR... Roll out about 1/4" thick and cut with a cookie cutter.
3. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Icing Ingredients:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons milk substitute or water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
assorted food coloring

1. In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth.
2. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
3. Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.

What Jen Does:

Jennifer uses rice milk in the icing. If I'm not mistaken, she uses Fleischmann's unsalted margerine.

The original recipe author adds, "I actually put the icing into zip baggies and cut a very small corner off and pipe the icing onto the cookies. They will dry over a period of several hours and you will be able to put them in bags without having the icing stick."

Special Diet Considerations:
Catherine notes that McCormick and many other brands of almond extract use oil of bitter almond, meaning it is extracted from fruit stones and is not actually from nuts. Therefore, I'm labeling this recipe as tree nut-free. I bet it would taste good with almond milk for those who can have it!

Tortilla Soup

1 (19 ounce) can green enchilada sauce
1.5 cups water
1 cube vegetarian vegetable bouillon
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can beans of your choice, drained and rinsed
1/2 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
4 (6 inch) corn tortillas, torn into strips
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a pot, mix the enchilada sauce and water.
2. Dissolve the bouillon cube in the liquid.
3. Add garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
5. Mix in the beans, tomatoes, and corn. Simmer until heated through.
6. Stir in cilantro and tortilla strips, and season with salt and pepper to serve.

What We Do:
We prefer medium heat green enchilada sauce. It gives it a nice warmth, but many children would find it too spicy.
We've used black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, and pinto beans for the second bean and all were good. We also tried Morning Star Farms' Chick'n Strips in it and thought it didn't add anything to the taste.
We've added celery when it will be cooking for a while and has time to soften up.

Special Diet Considerations:
Watch the packaged foods on this one as the bouillon and enchilada sauce in particular are likely to have hidden ingredients. I googled and found gluten-free bouillon and corn tortillas, so I'm tagging this as safe for celiacs.

Dec 13, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

This fast and simple casserole is easy to adjust for what you have on hand. If you're in a rush, instant potatoes will save you prep time.

5 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, sliced
1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unflavored milk or alternative
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 (19 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce or balsamic rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Cook potatoes, covered, in a small amount of boiling water until tender. Drain and mash.
3. While potatoes are cooking, steam or boil carrots and mixed vegetables until near tender. Drain and set aside.
4. In a small saucepan, cook garlic powder, basil and parsley in butter or margarine for about 20 seconds (or microwave for 10 seconds). Stir into mashed potatoes along with salt and pepper. Gradually beat in enough milk to make potatoes light and fluffy, add a little more milk if necessary. Set aside
5. In a medium saucepan, cook onion in oil until tender but not brown. Stir in kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, sugar and vegetable/carrot mixture. Heat through until bubbly.
6. Transfer vegetable mixture to a 8x8x2 inch baking dish. Drop mashed potatoes in mounds over the top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

What We Do:
Original Rice Dream rice milk (though I might try nut-based MimicCreme now that I have some)
Flavored canned tomatoes
Asparagus tips, corn, carrots, and peas
Extra beans
Fleischmann's unsalted margarine
Balsamic Rice Vinegar

About the Labels

About Me: Posts with explanations or lengthy commentary.

Dairy-Free: The recipe has no dairy products or is able to use dairy alternatives such as margarine or nut milks.

Egg-Free: The recipe does not call for eggs or is able to use egg-free alternatives.

Wheat-Free: The recipe does not call for wheat or is able to use wheat-free alternatives such as spelt flour.

Gluten-Free: The recipe's whole food ingredients are free of wheat, rye, barley, and oats and I believe the packaged foods are able to be obtained gluten-free. You'll have to check individual packages to see if they contain gluten or cross-contamination.

Peanut-Free: The recipe's whole food ingredients are free of peanuts or peanut by-products or are able to use peanut-free alternatives, such as vegetable oil. You'll have to check individual packages to see if they contain peanuts or cross-contamination.

Tree Nut-Free: The recipe's whole food ingredients are free of tree nuts or tree nut by-products including walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts/filberts, pistachios, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, Macadamia nuts, or chestnuts or are able to use a tree nut-free alternatives, such as soy milk. You'll have to check individual packages to see if they contain tree nuts or cross-contamination.

Soy-Free: The recipe does not call for foods with soy protein, but may have soy oil/soy lecithin or it is able to use a soy-free alternative such as rice milk.

Vegan: The recipe is free of all animal products and by-products including meat, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry, and honey or is able to use a vegan alternative such as agave syrup.

Vegetarian: The recipe is free of all animals including meat, fish, shellfish, and poultry. All recipes here are safe for ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Abstaining: Many religions, such as Catholicism, Buddhism, and Seventh-Day Adventism, incorporate fasting and abstention from food in their teachings. All recipes here are appropriate for those religions which abstain in whole or in part from animal products. They are tagged as vegetarian.

Moderate Fast: Some religions, such as Hinduism, incorporate fasting and abstention from meat, fish, poultry, milk or eggs. While some might allow shellfish, no recipes here contain them. Recipes appropriate for moderate fasting are tagged as vegan.

Strict Fast: Some religions, such as Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism, incorporate days of fasting and abstention from meat, fish, poultry, milk, or eggs as well as from alcohol and olive oil. Those recipes labeled as "Strict Fast" do not contain these ingredients.

About The Blog

Do you have a vegetarian dinner guest coming and no idea what to serve? Are you trying to eat a healthier diet and don't want to sacrifice on taste? Are you looking for fasting recipes other than bean burritos? Do you want to add more color or flavor to your plate, but don't know how? I'm happy to know that you're giving peas a chance!

All recipes here are free of meat, fish, shellfish, and poultry. Most are free of milk and soy (no marinated tofu here!), many are free of eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, and some are free of gluten, wheat, or other common dietary triggers.

I'm familiar with many special diets, but one of the many things in life I'm ignorant of is how to eat without sugar. About the only thing that will keep me from eating dessert first is a big serving of mashed potatoes and white gravy with a side of sweet tea. For diabetic-friendly food and other recipes to make your mouth water, I recommend the Fasting and Feasting blog of Father Moses.

Give Peas A Chance

I'm not a great cook. I wouldn't even consider myself a good cook. (I hear that most food critics aren't.) That's why I'm amazed at how much attention my food gets given that I don't consider it anything spectacular. Most vegetarians hear one statement when it is known that they don't eat meat: "What DO you eat?" Thankfully, people most often say that out of my earshot and I hear two other things. First is the sound of everyone sighing a collective breath of relief with the realization that no one's died from eating my vegetarian cooking and second is, "This is good!"

It seems that most omnivores aren't scared that it is my cooking that is going to kill them (which would seem to me the greater concern), but that eating a meal without meat will. So I've started this occasional blog to encourage omnivores to give peas a chance every once in a while, along with all the other delicious foods from the plant kingdom. Chances are, if it doesn't kill you, you'll find something good!