Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Zucchini Tomato Pasta

So, it’s August and every gardener has more zucchini than recipes and more cherry tomatoes than any salad can hold. Here is a simple meal that only takes 15 – 20 minutes to prepare using all your garden abundance. Strikingly beautiful on the plate, I served it as a warm salad on a plate of fresh arugala for even more color and vitamins, but I think any dark leafy greens would work as well.

While you are preparing the vegetables, cook 2 cups small pasta according to package directions (shells, elbow macaroni, or spirals work well). Drain well. Add a few drops of olive oil, and toss to keep pasta from sticking together

. Ingredients:

1 medium size zucchini, cubed

2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole (they will soften as they cook and pop when you chew them — I like that)

2 TBS. Olive oil

1 TBS. Minced garlic (fresh or bottled)

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dry Italian seasoning

Herbamare (seasoned salt) or Himalayan pink salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 – 5 TBS. Marinara sauce

Feta cheese, or cheese substitute for topping (optional)*

Method:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and garlic; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Season with Herbamare and pepper. Add red pepper flakes and dry Italian seasoning. When vegetables are tender add the marinara sauce and heat through. Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables in your skillet and mix gently. Serve warm on a bed of greens.

*If desired, top with feta cheese or feta substitute (There is good recipe for vegan feta,”Betta Feta,” in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, by Jo Stepaniak; Book Publishing Company, Green Press Initiative, 2003).

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Tomato Chips

Because it’s the end of the growing season, and gardeners probably have an overabundance of tomatoes, I thought I would share this again. I use these tomato chips in place of sundried tomatoes all year long. Delicious!

This is the easiest way I have found to preserve your abundant tomato harvest.  Only two ingredients besides the tomatoes, and so simple!

The first thing you will do is thinly slice the tomatoes — not more than 1/4 inch thick.  Spread the slices in a single layer on the dehydrator mesh tray making sure the slices are not touching each other.  There is no need to line the tray with a teflex sheet or parchment paper.20130917_211051 tomato chips ready for dehydrator, 2

Lightly sprinkle each slice with a little Herbamare (or any sea salt and herb seasoning you desire). Then top with some nutritional yeast. Dehydrate for 6 – 8 hours or overnight.  Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the pantry, and they’ll stay crisp all winter. 20130921_134958 tomato chips jarred, 2

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Grandma’s Chili (Vegetarian Style)

20130123_175023 Blog photo Chili

What is the perfect dinner for a cold winter evening?  A steaming bowl of heart healthy chili!  This recipe will provide mega protein and fiber with very little fat and calories.  It’s a very simple recipe made with common ingredients, and is delicious with or without the optional ingredients. As a bonus, you can also throw everything in your crockpot and let it cook on LOW all day.  Dinner will be ready when you return home!

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped and sautéed in 1 Tbsp oil (if you have the time)

1 large can tomato sauce

1 large can kidney beans

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Optional Ingredients (use any or all as desired):

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. sweetener

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 – 3 cloves minced garlic

1 chopped red bell pepper

a little cayenne pepper or Tabasco Sauce (to warm you from the inside out!)

Method:

Cover and simmer all ingredients for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 1 pkg. Morning Star Farms (frozen meat substitute) Crumbles, and cook for an additional 15 minutes to heat crumbles.  Remove from heat and enjoy with salad and warm cornbread.  Mmmm-m-m-m! This chili tastes even better the second day, so look forward to any leftovers 🙂

Vegan Tapioca Pudding

Here’s a simple recipe for a comfort food we all remember from childhood.  This recipe makes a lot, so if you don’t really love tapioca pudding you may want to cut it in half.  I do love this stuff, so if I’m going to spend the time then I want to make a BIG batch!

First of all, soak 1 cup of large pearl tapioca overnight (or at least 8 hours).  This step is crucial.  (If you’ve tried making tapioca pudding before and couldn’t figure out why your pearls never cooked all the way through, this is the reason why). The next day drain pearls in a colander.

In a large heavy pot mix:

2 qt. vegan milk (I used a mixture of almond, soy, and canned coconut)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

3/4 c. raw sugar

Heat this mixture until it just comes to a boil. Add drained tapioca to pot; cook and stir constantly over med./low heat at least 30 minutes or until tapioca is clear and mixture thickens somewhat. (It will get thicker as it cools).

Remove pot from heat and add:

2 tsp. vanilla extract

pure stevia powder (if desired) — just a sprinkle to taste

  Stir well.  Chill and serve.

Note: If pudding seems too thick after chilling, simply add a little vanilla almond or soy milk, OR if you’re lucky enough to have “So Delicious Coconut Nog” or “Silk Nog” on hand you may use that to thin the pudding.

Homemade Vegetable Wash (Spray or Soak)

I have to admit that it just breaks my heart to spend a big chunk of my food budget on veggie wash.  Those tiny spray bottles of veggie wash never seem to last long the way I use it, and plain water just doesn’t do the job for soaking leafy greens. Here are two simple solutions you can make at home with common household products you probably already have on hand. They cost only pennies to make and work really well.  (You should refrigerate the spray because it contains fresh lemon juice)

SPRAY:

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. baking soda

1 cup water

SOAK:

1/4 cup vinegar

2 Tbsp. salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. SPRAY: Put all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake gently to mix (it will foam). Spray on vegetables or fruit and allow to sit for 2-5 minutes, then rinse with cold water and dry.

2. SOAK: Fill a clean basin or sink with cold water. Add vinegar and salt, then stir until salt dissolves. Place vegetables or fruit in sink and allow to sit for 25 – 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water and dry.

These ideas came from http://www.food.com where you can find even more great recipes and money-saving hints.

Vegetarian Food Prep: Make it Easy

One of the comments I often hear is that vegetarian cooking takes so long and is so inconvenient.  I agree. All that chopping, slicing, and dicing is time consuming, but YOU ARE WORTH IT, so take all the time you need to be healthy. Better health for you and your family starts in the kitchen.

I would like to share some things I’ve learned that make preparing healthy foods a little quicker and easier:

–First of all, PLEASE, don’t cook for only one meal.  It is just as easy to make 10 cups of brown rice as it is to prepare 2 cups, so make a big pot and save the leftovers for future meals.  If you won’t use it all this week you can easily freeze leftovers to use next week or even next month.

–The same goes for dried beans; make more than you need and freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze two cup portions in plastic freezer bags for use later.

–Cleaning and peeling vegetables is best done when you have a big chunk of time, but I like to peel a 5 lb. bag of organic carrots as soon as I bring it home so that fresh carrots are always available for juicing and recipes.

–Romaine lettuce also gets washed as soon as it hits the kitchen; separate the leaves and let them soak in the sink with cold water and a little vinegar while you put the rest of your groceries away.  After draining, roll the leaves in a clean dishtowel, put it in a plastic bag, and store in the frig until you’re ready to make a salad or sandwich.  You’ll be surprised how fresh and crisp it stays this way!

–Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk.  Raw tomatoes (whole, cored), raw peppers and onions (chopped), and raw peas and berries (whole, washed) can be frozen with little preparation, and can make individual meal preparation go faster if you have them on hand.

–Finally, considering how mind-numbing a task chopping, slicing, and dicing is, consider multi-tasking.  You can put the phone on speaker and still have both hands free.  Or, USE that wasted time in front of the TV — chop the vegetables you will need for tomorrow’s supper tonight while watching your favorite show.  You’ll be so glad you did this when you get home tomorrow after work, and all that meal prep is already done!

I hope these ideas to make eating for better health faster and easier are helpful to you.  If you have any other time- saving ideas, please share them!

Two Easy Granola Recipes

These are two of my favorites.  I always have some type of granola in the house for a quick nutritious breakfast or an easy pie or cobbler topping.  With the price commercial cereals it really is more cost effective to make your own, and then you know exactly what’s in it — all your favorites!
Both of these recipes are very adaptable.  I’ve been trying to avoid wheat, so I don’t use the wheat germ or bran, but double up on one or two of the other ingredients or simply omit them. Granola #2 (low-fat) is perfect for the dehydrator instead of baking; 105 degrees for 4 – 6 hours, or until dry. (I haven’t experimented with Granola #1 in the dehydrator yet)
Granola #1
3 c. rolled oats                                                1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. coconut                                                     1/2 c. honey
1 c. chopped nuts
1 1/2 c. wheat germ
1/2 c. toasted sesame seed
1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds (unsalted)
Toast oatmeal 10 minutes @ 250 degrees.
Add other ingredients (I use a large oblong cake pan to do all this).
Blend together honey and oil, and pour this mixture on top of everything in cake pan.  Stir well to coat.
Spread out mixture and bake @ 300 degrees for about 30 minutes stirring every 10 minutes.
Cool and add any dried fruit you like (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, etc.)
Granola #2
In a large bowl combine:
4 – 5 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. wheat bran
1/2 c. bran or bran flakes (optional)
1/2 c. sesame seeds
3/4 c. coconut
3/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
3/4 c. flax seeds (ground or not)
In a separate bowl mix together:
1/3 c. raw, unfiltered honey
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. fresh apple juice
Pour liquid over dry ingredients, stir to distribute evenly.
Spray oblong cake pan with PAM. Pour entire mixture into pan and bake @ 300 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring every 10 – 15 minutes.
Cool.  Add any chopped dried fruit.  Store in airtight container.
Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars

I have been on a search for a good granola bar recipe for a long time.  They are nice to have on hand for lunches or a quick grab-and go breakfast or snack.  The price of granola and power bars in the supermarket is just going through the roof, and I refuse to pay so much for something I know is just a compilation of the ingredients I already have in my own kitchen.  Also, I like to know exactly what goes into the food I am eating, prefer organic, and cringe to read the long list of unidentifiable ingredients in most packaged products in the grocery store.

This recipe makes 12 – 16 good size bars.  They can be individually frozen or dehydrated if you prefer a crisper granola bar (I have found that dehydrating them is more successful if they are sliced thinner, so you will have more, but smaller, granola bars).  The recipe is very adaptable so feel free to experiment*.

Ingredients:

4 c. Old Fashioned rolled oats

1 c. raw sunflower seeds

1/2 c. chopped dates

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/3 c. raw honey

1/2 c. almond or cashew butter

1/2 c. almonds or cashews, chopped

2 Tbsp. tahini

juice of one fresh orange

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients.  In a smaller bowl blend together nut butter, tahini, raw honey, and fresh orange juice; pour over dry ingredients and stir well to mix until it starts to hold together almost like cookie dough.

Press mixture into an oiled 8″x8″ pan and refrigerate overnight.  Cut into bars, individually wrap, and enjoy.  (May be frozen or dehydrated after cutting).

*You can play with these ingredients by substituting pumpkin or flax seed for half the sunflower seeds, use a different type nut, add some dried berries in place of half the nuts, etc.  It will still make a delicious granola bar, so be creative!

Sweet and Sour Slaw

This is a Hallelujah Acres recipe.  (You can find more of their delicious recipes at http://www.hacres.com).  It is so healthy, fresh, and tasty!  The combination of apples and onions with the veggies is outstanding.  I appreciate the dressing — it’s much lighter than traditional cole slaw dressings that rely on mayonnaise or sour cream as a base.  If  you use a food processor the prep time is much lower than chopping and shredding everything by hand.  Be warned: this recipe makes a HUGE amount.  I used fairly small cabbages and it made over a gallon of slaw — make it for a crowd!

Ingredients:

1/2 green cabbage, finely chopped

1/2 red cabbage, finely chopped

4 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 carrots, shredded

1 onion, finely chopped

2 apples, finely chopped

Dressing:

1/ cup raw honey

1/2 cup lemon juice or Bragg’s vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 tsp. sea salt

1 Tbsp. celery seed

Blend raw honey, lemon juice or vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt until smooth.  Stir in celery seed.  Pour dressing over prepared vegetables and apple.  Toss lightly to distribute dressing and set in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Serve cold.

Crockpot Sweet Potato Soup

This is a wonderful fall recipe; the color, aroma, and taste are all the best autumn has to offer.  It’s the perfect way to warm up on a crisp cool evening.  This soup can either be made on the stove or in a crockpot.  I like to throw all the ingredients in the crockpot just before leaving for work — what a stress reliever to come home to the smell of dinner only minutes from serving!

Ingredients:

1 c. celery, chopped

1/2 c. onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. olive oil

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

32 oz. Imagine “No-Chicken Broth”

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. honey or maple syrup

Method:

Saute celery and onion in olive oil until tender.  Put sautéed mixture in crockpot and add all other ingredients. Cook on High for 8 – 9 hours (until you return home).

Remove bay leaf. Puree cooked mixture with a submersible stick blender.  (Or if you have extra time, cool cooked mixture and puree in batches in blender.)

Add: 16 oz. rice milk, 3 scoops rice “Better Than Milk,”  3/4 tsp. cinnamon and puree again until creamy.  Add more rice milk if soup is too thick.

Serve hot topped with chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, croutons, or chopped scallions.