Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kid-approved Vegan Mac and Cheese

I've made a lot of non-dairy 'cheesy' dishes and while my husband and I usually enjoy them, this is the first time my kids have given a non-dairy cheese the thumbs up. Even better, this dish doesn't have any processed fake cheese in it. As long as you consider soy milk and whole wheat pasta whole foods (I do), then this is a whole foods meal.


2/3 cups raw cashews
2 cups unsweetened plain soy milk
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground coriander (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
4 roma tomatoes, sliced

Use a food processor to process the cashews into a paste. Add the soy milk and process until blended, set aside. In a large saucepan, sautee the onion in the olive oil until lightly browned. Add flour and coriander to pan and stir a few times with a whisk to combine, then add the cashew-soymilk mixture and bring to a near boil, whisking continually, until the mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. In a large oven-safe baking dish combine the milk mixture and the pasta, stir to combine, and top with a layer of the sliced tomatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to brown. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 345 calories; 9g fat; 1.5g saturated fat; 0g trans fat; 0g cholesterol; 3g dietary fiber; 12g protein; 10% vitamin A RDA; 14% vitamin C RDA; 18% iron RDA

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Triggering Events

A friend's recent brush with cancer reminded me of my own triggering event, the experience I can definitively point to and say 'that's where it all started'. About two years ago a woman came into the spa I was working at for a massage. She looked perfectly healthy. Late 30's, slim, attractive, nothing outwardly indicating the battle for her life she'd been waging. It wasn't until we got into the private room that she began to explain what was going on and why she had come in for a massage. She had recently discovered a small lump in her breast during a self-exam. She'd had regular mammograms that had always been clear, so didn't think it was serious but went to the doctor to be on the safe side. They discovered seven malignant tumors in her breasts. She had one breast completley removed and a lumpectomy in the other. She began to tell me about how she had changed her lifestyle in response to research she's been doing on health and cancer treatment and prevention. She said that more and more research was coming forward showing the link between animal protein and cancer, and that exercise was showing promise as not just a preventive, but a treatment. She said that she needed to exercise every day now, because her life depended on it.

I wouldn't make the change to a plant based diet for another year, but what she did for me that day was to flip a switch in my brain, she turned on my ears. I started paying attention. Lo and behold, there IS a lot of evidence out there that animal protein is highly correlated with cancer. In fact, there's vast, enormous, overwhelming evidence of it. Why don't we hear about it? Well, for one, there's the Dairy and Meat Industries. They are powerful and they wield tremendous influence over public policy at the state and federal level. And for two, most of us just aren't paying attention to it. It's there, we're choosing not to see it. Google cancer + diet and you'll find page after page after page of credible, peer reviewed scientific studies showing links between cancer and animal product consumption, as well as page after page after page of credible, peer reviewed studies showing a reduced incidence of cancer amongst vegetarians. These studies get reported on by CNN and BBC and numerous other news agencies, and for some reason it just doesn't seem to register on our collective consciousness.

And then there's exercise. Did you know that the USDA recommends 60-90 minutes of vigorous exercise most days of the week? In fact, most credible sources (such as the American Cancer Society) make similar recommendations. Bet you though you could get by with 20 minutes 3 times a week, huh? Two years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of 60 minutes of exercise a day (who has that kind of time?), but I'll tell you what. I get that now (I aim for 90 minutes, 6 days a week, of strenuous exercise), and it doesn't seem like all that much any more. I've found ways to fit it into my schedule and my body LOVES it. It really isn't that big of a deal once you're doing it.

Do you want to know more? Read my favorite book, "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell. It's based on actual scientific research, it's easy reading, and it's quite eye opening.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Story of Stuff

As the spending season (gag) descends upon us, it's worth taking a moment to remind ourselves that the things we choose to spend our dollars on have far reaching effects on our planet and the people we share it with.

The Story of Stuff

Now lest anyone accuse me of not doing my patriotic duty by spending my way out of this recession (what?), let me assure you that like any red-blooded American Woman I do enjoy a good shopping spree. But I've become keenly interested lately in using my dollars (my most powerful vote) to support companies and individuals that are making the world better, rather than companies that are producing cheap crap that falls apart after two uses and ends up in a landfill leaching toxins into the earth and water...oh, and polluting third world countries and exploiting their citizens in the process of manufacturing said cheap crap. What we buy matters.

Plus, I choose to express my love for my kids by feeding them nourishing, healthy meals that I create myself, rather than by buying them a ton of toxic crap that will break the second time they play with it. Is that Un-American? I'm starting to think it might be.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bosc Pear Balsamic Vinaigrette

I had a bosc pear lying around that was just past the point of ripeness that I like for eating, and I was getting a little bored with my usual Goddess Dressing, so I decided to experiment. I just cored and chopped the pear (left the skin on) and pureed it with a few tablespoons each balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. It was super creamy (with no dairy or dairy substitute!), and delish on my salad of mixed baby greens, chopped celery and cucumber, crumbled tofu, steamed broccoli and kalamata olives. Plus all the extra fiber and potassium to bolster my already nutrient dense salad. Win win!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On How Women Are 'Supposed' to Look

Warning: minor rant ahead.

A few times of late I've heard people say that muscular women 'aren't supposed to look like that', that they look like men. Well here's the thing, I look like this because I use my body to do what it evolved to do: work hard and move a lot. Our ancestors didn't sit on their butts all day like we do. They walked thousands of miles every year, they hunted (chased!) game on foot, they built their own shelters (sometimes several times a year), they carried their young on their backs, they dug tubers out of the ground and gathered fruit from the tops of trees, they crossed rivers with loads on their backs, they climbed mountains and crossed deserts and rowed boats across entire oceans...they depended on their bodies to be strong and agile, and you can bet your patootie that our foremothers had biceps and pecs and lats every bit as well defined as our forefathers. THAT is how women are supposed to look. That is how our bodies evolved to function. If my body wasn't supposed to look strong and muscular, it wouldn't. All I'm doing is moving. I'm not taking steroids or supplements or even eating a high protein diet. I'm simply using my body the way it was designed to be used, and the result is that I look...GASP...strong. The truth is that I don't look like a man, I look like a strong healthy woman, and people are just so unaccustomed to seeing such a thing that they file me under the heading they're used to filing strong people under, 'man'.

I can do pullups and you know what? You can too. Women are NOT inherently weak, our capacity for strength is far greater than we (and our society) give ourselves credit for. And there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON that we shouldn't use our bodies to their full capacity. In fact, I'd contend that NOT using our bodies to their full capacity is the real disservice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Ramen" Noodles, Vegan Foodie Style

My kids like these. I do too, they remind me of the Top Ramen we ate every day after school (can't believe we survived). Simple and easy, this is all about kid-friendliness, and certainly a step up the nutrition ladder from Ramen.

2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
7 cups vegetable broth
1 pound whole wheat linguini, spaghetti or angel hair pasta
2 cups cooked chickpeas
fresh herbs, chopped

Brown the garlic in the oil, then add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in beans and herbs and serve.

Friday, November 20, 2009

West-African Style Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

Like peanut butter? (who doesn't?) This is a peanut butter lover's dream soup.


* 4 large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds), diced
* olive oil
* 1 medium onion
* 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 TBSP ground cumin
* 1 TBSP ground coriander
* 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
* 8 cups water
* 2 ounces (half a can) tomato paste
* 1/2 cup peanut butter (or more, to taste)
* chopped fresh cilantro

Saute onions, garlic and ginger until softened and lightly browned. Add sweet potatoes and water, bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, then stir in spices, tomato paste and peanut butter, cook a few minutes more. Puree with a hand-held blender. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Protein Question

EDIT 8/9/2011:
Since writing this post I've cut most grains out of my diet and replaced them with leafy greens and more fruit. The result is that I'm now getting closer to 25% of my calories from protein.

So I get asked a lot, where do I get my protein? We're a pretty protein-fixated culture. I visit fitness blogs and see all sorts of protein-shake-this and whey-supplement-that. These same sources generally refer to animal based protein sources as 'high quality' because they contain all the essential amino acids in one simple package. Essential amino acids are the ones our bodies don't produce, that we must obtain from food. I think 'high quality' is a misnomer, I think 'convenient' (in the way that fast food is convenient) would be a more apt description. You can get all the essential amino acids from plants simply by eating a variety of plant based proteins through the day: beans, nuts, seeds and grains.

My simple answer to The Protein Question is that I get my protein from plants. The slightly more complicated answer to the question is that virtually ALL the sound, peer reviewed science out there suggests that the human body runs best on a diet of 15-20% protein. If you are an American with anything close to a typical American diet, you're getting WAY more than that.

Recently I started tracking my food at Calorie Count. I average between 10 and 15% of my calories from protein per day. Conventional 'wisdom' says I'm not meeting my protein requirements, especially as an athlete with a vigorous workout schedule to fuel and recover from. Um, you've seen my picture there at the top of the page? Does it look like I'm not getting enough protein? Or any other nutrient, for that matter?

I think we really need to get beyond The Protein Question. We're all getting enough. If you're having a hard time with energy levels or building muscle mass, look elsewhere in your diet. Are you getting enough fiber? Are you getting enough vitamins and minerals? What about the nearly 1000 phytonutrients that have been identified in whole plant foods? Are you getting enough of those? Our bodies need more than protein to run efficiently and to build and repair muscle. The best source of the nutrients most of us are deficient in is fruit and vegetables. I eat 15-20 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I don't even think about protein, my priority every day is to get those fruits and veggies into my body. It's working out pretty well for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

See? I'm not the only one!

I can totally relate to this guy's experience. I've also seen enormous changes in my body and energy and health by following a plant based diet. And though I haven't completed an Ultraman (yet) I HAVE accomplished far more, athletically, than I EVER thought I was capable of. I absolutely, without reserve, credit my diet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What DO I eat?

EDIT 8/8/2011:
Since writing this post my diet has evolved a bit. I've cut most grains out of my diet and replaced them with more leafy greens and fruit. This has bumped up my protein intake (as a percentage of my calories) considerably. You can see my recent posts for a more accurate idea of what my diet looks like.

I get asked this a lot. People think that a plant based diet is limiting! But there are thousands of edible plants! My diet is actually quite rich and varied, the only time I have trouble finding something to eat is when I go to a potluck-type function. It's AMAZING to stare at a long table spread with dish after dish after dish, and every single one of them has meat in it. People really have a hard time getting out of the meat box. So here's a sampling of the kinds of foods I eat.

Breakfasts are typically toast (made from homemade bread) with natural peanut butter, or soy yogurt with fruit, or oatmeal with raisins and walnuts, or a homemade muffin and fruit, or tofu-veggie scramble, etc.

Lunches are typically a huge salad with all sorts of raw veggies and nuts, or leftovers from the evening before, or a veggie burger on homemade bread, or a vegan 'caprese' sandwich (sliced tofu, heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper on toasted bread), or a hummus and veggie wrap, etc.

Dinners are typically some kind of veggie and bean soup or stew, or pasta with an herb/nut sauce (walnut pesto for instance), or tofu/tempeh prepared in any number of ways, or a veggie stir fry with quinoa or rice, or homemade veggie/bean burgers, or lentil loaf with mashed potatoes, or bean burritos, etc.

I love larabars for snacks, as well as fruit and nuts/nut butters. I eat dark chocolate and drink coffee every day. I eat between 2500 and 3000 calories in a typical day. I try to include at least one (and preferably 2-3) different fruits/veggies in every meal and snack. I base my meals (especially dinners) around the veggies I have on hand, rather than around a protein source. Speaking of protein, I don't make any effort to increase the protein I consume. I barely spare a thought for it in fact. As you can see from my pictures, it doesn't seem to be preventing me from building lots of good strong muscle mass. I don't take any supplements other than turmeric (which I think everyone should take). I DO eat walnuts every day for essential fatty acids. I drink copious amounts of water. Plain old tap water. I don't drink energy drinks or protein shakes or any other new-fangled sports 'nutrition' invention. I don't eat anything concocted in a lab or manufactured in a factory. I eat foods as close to the way they come out of the ground, or off the vine or tree, as possible.

By following this 'diet', I've lost 70 pounds (and counting) without counting a single calorie or ever going hungry.

Weight Loss Progression

A bikini shot progression, starting in May 2009. I had already lost about 45 pounds at that point. I wish I had started taking these pics sooner!
May '09July '09August '09 Sept. '09

dec. '09

feb '10

Dec. 2010


Here are some of the few before pictures I have. I did a great job of staying behind the camera.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

WHAT?!?!? I haven't posted my vegan pesto recipe?!?!?!


• 1 bunch basil, woody stems removed
• 1 lb. Spinach, steamed (ok to use frozen, thawed)
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 cup raw walnuts
• 1 Tblsp lemon juice
• 1 Tblsp minced garlic
• Salt and pepper to taste

Puree it all up in your food processor and enjoy! This stuff is so good I could eat it with a spoon. And it's a great way to get spinach into the kids.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Warm Cozy Soups

I made two good soups this week with veggies I had handy. They both turned out well enough to share. So here goes...

None of the ingredients here are exact, just eyeball and go with your gut, both of these soups are pretty hard to mess up.

Cream of Potato, Leek and Broccoli Soup

olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
8-10 fingerling potatoes, skins on, diced
6 cups water
1-1.5 lbs broccoli florets, chopped
handful of fresh dill
handful of fresh parsley
4 oz. crumbled tofu
1 cup unsweetened plain soymilk
salt and pepper

Sautee the leeks and celery in olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add potatoes and water, bring to boil. Turn down heat to medium and simmer until potatoes begin to soften. Add broccoli and cook another 5-10 minutes until broccoli is soft but still bright green. Add herbs, tofu and soymilk, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (or process in food processor). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Braised Greens Garnish

olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
6 cups water
2 roasted red bell peppers (ok to use jarred)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 TBSP dried coriander
4 oz. tofu
1 cup unsweetened plain soymilk
2 cloves garlic
2 bunched chard, chopped

Sautee leeks in olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add squash, water, cinnamon and coriander and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until squash begins to soften. Add peppers, tofu and soymilk and simmer a few minutes more. Puree with an immersion blender (or food processor) until smooth.
In a separate pan, braise the greens and garlic in olive oil until cooked through. Serve soup with a spoonful of greens garnish floated on top.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup

Another one the whole family liked!

1 bulb fennel, chopped
4-5 stalks celery, chopped
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, chopped, rinsed and drained well
1 pound small red potatoes, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
4 oz. firm tofu
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soymilk

Saute the celery, fennel and leeks until soft and lightly browned. Add potatoes and broth, bring to a boil, and simmer until potatoes are tender. Use a stick blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth. Puree the tofu and soymilk together in a blender until smooth, then stir into soup.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Really Easy Lentil Soup

I get a lot of people asking what I eat, so I'm going to try to post more often, even the mundane (though tasty!) stuff like tonight's soup.

Chop/cube/dice to your desired size: 1 onion, 1 large yam (light colored flesh, not too sweet), and 4 carrots. Cook in a little olive oil in a soup pot until soft and lightly browned. Add about 1.5 cups rinsed and drained lentils (I used a combination of red and french tonight, but any variety will work) and 6 cups of warm water, bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until lentils are tender. Remove cover and add a head of broccoli cut into florets (I used a bag of Trader Joe's precut and washed florets) and 5-6 ounces spinach leaves (again with the Trader Joe's pre-washed bag o' spinach), simmer a few more minutes until everything is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve as-is or with a dallop of plain yogurt. Simple, fresh, healthy and delicious!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Best Vegan Lasagna

The Best Vegan Lasagna

• 20 oz whole grain lasagna noodles


• 1 Tblsp olive oil
• 1 large onion and 1large red bell pepper, finely diced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 lb extra firm tofu, crumbled
• 1 eggplant, 3 zucchinis, 2 portabello mushrooms, finely diced
• 1/3 cup Tahini
• 1 Tblsp nutritional yeast
• Pepper and salt, to taste


• 2 large handfuls basil leaves
• 1 lb. Spinach, steamed
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 cup raw walnuts
• 1 Tblsp lemon juice
• 1 Tblsp minced garlic
• Salt and pepper to taste


• 1 - 3 heirloom tomatoes, 1/2" slice

1. Boil water in a large pot. Add a drop of olive oil and the noodles. Reduce heat to medium high and cook until pasta is al dente. Rinse in cold water, set aside
2. Sautee veggies in a large pot, beginning with onions, garlic and peppers and adding the rest once the onions and peppers begin to soften. Cook until soft and golden (up to 30 minutes)
3. Reduce heat, add crumbled tofu, cook 5 minutes, stirring. Mix with remaining filling ingredients and set aside
4. Pesto: process all ingredients in a food processor
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
6. Lightly oil the pan. Layer noodles, 1/3 pesto, and ½ filling - twice.
7. Finish with a layer of pasta, then pesto, then garnish with sliced tomatoes
8. Bake until lasagna is thoroughly heated, approximately an hour
9. Cool 10 - 15 minutes before serving

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cheap, yummy and healthy

Here's a simple dish you can put together for just a few bucks. Be sure to take a gander at the rather impressive nutrition information I'm posting after the recipe!

Cauliflower Lentil Curry
with Tomato-Cilantro Chutney
Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups lentils
3 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds cauliflower florets, chopped into bite size and smaller pieces
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP coriander
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cups chopped cilantro

Rinse and drain lentils. Boil vegetable broth in a medium pan, then add lentils. Return to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onion in the olive oil until tender and beginning to brown, then add spices and stir until fragrant, 1 minute or so. Add cauliflower and cook for a minute or two, then add a splash of water and cover to let steam until cauliflower is tender, not more than 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat, stir in lentils. In a small bowl stir together tomatoes and cilantro. Serve lentils with a small dallop of tomato-cilantro chutney.

200 calories per serving, 80% of your vitamin C RDA, 60% fiber RDA, 20% iron RDA, 10% vitamin A RDA, 4 grams of fat (all unsaturated) and 13 grams of protein

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Broken Arm Bread

This bread owes it's name to the event that led to its inception. My daughter broke her arm falling off the monkey bars, and being confined to the house nursing her I had time to come up with new recipes. As always, simple is best. I used the herbs I had on hand in my garden, and I imagine this bread would be good with any number of herb combinations.

Broken Arm Bread

2 cups luke warm water
1 TBSP active dry yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
fresh herbs by the handful - I used a generous handful each of basil, rosemary, dill, parsley and sage, but use what you have on hand. Pulse in a food processor or mince by hand.
12-20 pitted kalamata olives (depending on how olive-y you want the bread to taste), chopped
4 TBSP wheat gluten (optional)
4-5 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in water in a large bowl. Whisk in salt, olive oil, herbs, olives and gluten. Add 3 cups of flour and stir with a spoon until a wet dough forms. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on kneading surface and turn dough out of bowl onto floured surface. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on top of dough and knead until flour is absorbed. Add more flour if/as needed until dough stops sticking to kneading surface. Your total flour should be somewhere between 4 and 5 cups. Place dough ball in oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Place in a warm spot and let rise for about an hour, until it's doubled in size and doesn't spring back when indented. Punch down and knead a few times, then form into a round loaf and place on a baking stone or inverted cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Place in oven and allow to rise another hour or so, then turn oven on to 375 and bake for 1 hour. Serve with butter or olive oil for dipping, or use for savory sandwiches!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Veggie Bean Burgers

I was happy with how these turned out. This recipe makes a lot of burgers, so you'll have leftovers for lunch the next day.

1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained
1 can navy beans, drained
1 TBSP ground coriander
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2-3 TBSP hummus
1 cup rolled oats
4 - 6 slices day old bread, pulsed in food processor to crumbs

Sautee onion through garlic until softened. Add onion mixture to food processor with beans, coriander, yeast, hummus, oats and half the bread crumbs. Pulse until well mixed. Place the rest of the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Form bean mixture into patties, dredge in bread crumbs and brown in a pan coated with cooking spray or a light coating of olive oil. Serve as you would any other burger. Makes 8-10 burgers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mediterranean Vegetable Bean Stew

I didn't know what to make for dinner tonight so I gathered up what I had lying around: carrots, leeks, red bells, canned canellini beans, artichoke hearts and tomatoes, and zucchini. Add a little garlic and Greek herb mix and voila!

Mediterranean Vegetable Bean Stew!
Olive oil
3 large or 6 small leeks, chopped and rinsed well
3-4 carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 zucchini, diced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 T Greek herb mix

In large pot over medium heat, combine olive oil, leeks, carrots and red bells. Saute until softened. Add zucchini, artichoke hearts and garlic, continue cooking until lightly browned. Add beans, tomatoes and herb mix, stir, cover and simmer 10 minutes or so until cooked through. Serve with quinoa and freshly ground sea salt and pepper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coconut Lemongrass Soup

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced into 4-6 rounds
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2 inch rounds and lightly crushed with edge of knife
zest of one lime
2 cans lite coconut milk
juice of one lime
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp roasted red chili paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
1 lb tofu, tilapia or chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

Place stock, ginger, lemongrass and lime zest in a large soup pot and bring to boil. Boil one minute, then add coconut milk and return to boil. Add lime juice, sugar and chili paste, then add tofu/tilapia/chicken and boil until tofu/meat is cooked through. Serve over a scoop of cooked brown rice.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chickpeas Romesco!

This was so good I have to share it, even though I didn't make up the recipe myself. It's from Veganomicon, my current favorite cookbook.

Chickpeas Romesco

1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
2 roasted red bell peppers (I used jarred from Trader Joe's)
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (more if desired)
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Grind the almonds into a meal in a food processor, set aside. Next, puree the tomatoes and peppers together until smooth, set aside. Over medium heat, saute the garlic, shallots and crushed red pepper in oil until golden. Stir in the white wine and deglaze bottom of pan. Add tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, thyme and rosemary, bring to a near boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the ground almonds, then the chickpeas, and simmer another 25 minutes or so until sauce is slightly reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with:

Saffron-Garlic Rice

2 cups hot vegetable broth
pinch of saffron threads
olive oil
5 cloved of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup long grain brown rice
pinch of ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste

Add saffron threads to vegetable broth, let sit until ready to use. Saute the garlic and onion in the oil until golden. Add rice and stir to combine, sautee for about a minute. Pour in vegetable broth and stir in coriander, bring to a boil. Stir, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat a let stand a few minutes, fluff with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bread, perfected.

I think I finally got my bread recipe down pat. This creates a fairly dense loaf. Don't make it if you're looking for fluffy bread. It's very tasty and toothsome though, especially toasted with butter. I don't use exact measurements of flour and additions (whole grains and flax meal), so am ball parking here on those. This recipe makes two good sized loaves, so you can freeze one for later.

Amber's Whole Wheat Bread

4 cups tepid water
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 to 1.5 cups cooked wheat berries or barley
1 cup flaxseed meal
3-5 cups finely ground whole wheat flour

Let yeast dissolve in water in a large (very large) bowl for about 10 minutes. Then whisk in salt and gluten. Stir in cooked grains and flax meal, then start adding flour a half cup or so at a time, stirring with a spoon, until dough is too thick to stir any more. Make a mound of flour on a kneading surface, pour the dough onto the flour, and put more flour on top of dough. Start kneading with your hands, adding flour a bit at a time if needed until dough forms into a nice solid ball and doesn't stick to your hands any more. Stop adding flour now. Keep kneading for 5 or so minutes, then place dough ball in a large bowl coated with oil or cooking spray. Cover with a towel and set in a warm spot and let rise for about an hour. Roll dough out onto kneading surface, knead for a few minutes, then cut into two equal halves, form into loaves with a slit on the top and put in oiled/sprayed bread pans. Let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour. Place on middle rack in oven, turn oven on to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 for about 55 minutes.