CREAMY ASPARAGUS RICE CASSEROLE

This is the best plant-based comfort food, perfect on a cold winter day! It doesn’t call for any exotic ingredients, and you can mix and bake it all in the same casserole.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups No Chicken Broth or Boullion

2 1/2 cups water

1 – 1.5 lbs. fresh asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces

2 Tbsp. melted organic butter or plant-based spread

1 tsp. sea salt

3 cloves minced garlic

1 cup uncooked arborio rice

3/4 cup red lentils

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

You will need a big (3 qt) glass casserole dish or oven-safe pasta bowl.

Place all the prepared ingredients, except the broth and water, in the casserole dish.

Heat broth and water unil hot, and pour over all ingredients in casserole.

Stir well and cover.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Stir, recover, and bake another 30 minutes.

Check to see if rice is cooked and creamy. If not, stir, recover, and cook for another 10 minutes or until done.

What Does a Vegan Eat for Breakfast?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

This may be a simple question for some to answer, but believe it or not, it is a real delemma for people trying to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. They are confused about what to eat in the morning. Changing lifelong habits can be baffling, especially when you first wake up. This is understandable if you are used to the standard bacon and egg breakfast or a quick doughnut and coffee grabbed on the way to work. If you are not a morning person and don’t wake up with the energy and motivation to follow a recipe and actually cook your first meal of the day, then your plan to eat more healthfully can be derailed before the day even begins. Here to help are some suggestions for easy plant-based breakfasts that require little to no preparation:

First of all, think outside the box. What leftovers are in your frig.? Leftover cooked brown rice, quinoa, corn grits, barley or millet sweetened with maple syrup or rice syrup and topped with fruit, nuts, seeds and any plant milk you prefer is a healthy alternative to boxed cereal. You can eat this cold or warm — it will be delicious either way.

Muesli is a raw whole grain cereal usually made from oats combined with dried fruit, nuts and seeds. It is more expensive than granola in the stores, but it is simple to make in large batches, so all you need to do in the morning is scoop some into a bowl. Here is an easy-to-make-ahead muesli recipe: https://vegtutor.com/2020/08/05/homemade-muesli/

For an even more basic breakfast idea: raw fruit and nuts can’t be beat. If you prefer, you may substitute natural nut butter instead of nuts and use it as a dip for sliced whole fruit. All natural, and so simple that even a child can prepare it! Each of these ideas contains enough protein to keep you fueled all morning, and that is important. A little protein in each meal will help you avoid food cravings between meals.

Toasted wholegrain bread or bagel topped with mashed ripe avocado, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt is another option for those who want something more savory.

Photo by Kasumi Loffler on Pexels.com

Of course, you could always go the way of veggie bacon and egg substitutes, and that is okay for a rare treat, but not every day. Fake animal substitutes are overly processed and should not be a regular part of your healthy diet. If you habitually use fake animal foods as a crutch, then you will never learn to appreciate the flavors and health benefits of real whole plant foods… the foods your body was designed to thrive on. If you train yourself to eat as close to the garden as possible, you can’t go wrong!

Vegan Coconut Pumpkin Custard

It’s still pumpkin season, so here is another delectable fall recipe you will love. This one has all the flavor of pumpkin pie, but without the fat and calories contained in typical pie crust. I never eat the crust anyway because let’s face it — the filling is the best part, right? This custard is so rich and creamy, with slight caramel undertones, that it will surely become one of your fall favorites.

I used homemade pumpkin puree, not canned pumpkin, in this recipe. In Autumn I like to decorate inside and out with natural elements, so we usually have several pumpkins to sacrifice as we move toward Christmas. You probably do, too. I want to caution you, however — the typical Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkin is not the one you want to use for this recipe (or any pumpkin pie or custard recipe). When the season is past, Halloween pumpkins are best left to feed the wild squirrels and bunnies. Those pumpkins simply don’t have enough pulp, color, or flavor to make a good pumpkin custard. Instead, Cinderella pumpkins are the best!

These are Cinderella Pumpkins, also called Storybook or Fairytale Pumpkins (think Cinderella’s coach).

And here is a link to video instructions on how to roast your Cinderella pumpkin: https://youtu.be/FApTV4FoQ58 After roasting the pumpkin, when it cools a bit, I puree it using either a stick blender or the countertop blender so the roasted pulp is free of any strings or lumps. This puree freezes well, so freeze extra two-cup portions to use in pumpkin recipes all year long.

COCONUT CUSTARD RECIPE (please read to the end before starting)

(Makes six 2/3 cup servings)

Ingredients:

One 13.5 oz. can full fat coconut milk

2 cups homemade pumpkin puree

1/2 – 3/4 cup organic sugar (to your taste)

Egg-Replacer* equal to 5 large eggs. (You can use Ener-G Egg Replacer or make your own)*

1/2 tsp. Himalayan pink salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

a pinch of ground cloves

About 1 Tbsp. cinnamon/sugar mixture to sprinkle on top

How to:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray six 1-cup ovenproof custard cups with cooking spray.

With a mixer, whisk, or blender beat coconut milk, sugar, Egg-Replacer (Because homemade pumpkin puree is quite moist, do not add water. Use just the amount of powdered egg-replacer to equal 5 eggs), extract, and spices until well mixed. Pour into prepared custard cups. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Make a water bath by filling a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with 4 cups of hot water. Place each filled custard cup in the baking dish.

Carefully place the baking dish on the center rack in preheated oven, and bake 35 – 40 minutes. (It will look only semi-done, but custard will firm up completely as it cools). Transfer each cup to a wire rack to cool, then cover cups and regrigerate until serving.

Garnish with non-dairy whipped topping and/or a few raw pepitas.

*How to Make Your Own Powdered Egg Replacer:

2 1/2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)

1 1/2 cups organic Non-GMO cornstarch, or tapioca starch, or tapioca flour

2/3 cup aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 cup baking soda

Measure all ingredients into a bowl, and whisk together to mix. Store in a tightly covered jar, and use as needed.

This recipe makes the equivalent of 45 – 50 eggs and works best in baking and cooking recipes. (It does not perform well in meringues).

To use: 1/2 slightly rounded Tbsp. powder + 2 Tbsp. water = 1 egg

Pre-race Dinner Idea

Two of our daughters and daughter-in-law are running an early half-marathon race tomorrow. Tonight they wanted a light, but protein-packed dinner — something that would fuel their race, but not weigh them down. So, they put their heads together and came up with this beautiful plant-based veggie bowl.

Quinoa, marinated tofu, and spiced chickpeas provided the protein. The colorful veggies included: roasted squash and mushrooms, onions, pickled carrots, snow peas, avocado chunks, and grape tomatoes over a bed of crisp greens. A choice of light dressings completed this delicious veggie bowl.

I am so proud of my girls, not just for running, but for coming up with this much healthier pre-race meal, so different from the carb-loading pasta dinners I remember from their highschool days. This is a much healthier and satisfying meal.

PS: They all finished with good times. Shannon came in third in her class. (Could it have been the quinoa?) 😉

SMASHING IDOLS: Transform Your Body, Mind, and Spirit with a Plant-Based Lifestyle

This book has lived in my heart for a long, long time, but now it is finally published! I am not going to review the book here because I have lived it for so many years (I might be a bit partial), but I hope you will take a look. I pray that readers will be blessed and changed by SMASHING IDOLS. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09G2KJ1M6.

Book Review: “Alaska Sourdough, The Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan,” revised edition, by Ruth Allman (forward by Addie Studebaker)

If you have ever thought about making your own sourdough bread, but were intimidated by the online instructions and videos detailing the complicated method involved in creating and keeping a living starter, then this is the book for you. I admit the whole process seemed daunting and mysterious to me. I really didn’t want my life to revolve around feeding a sourdough starter morning and evening for a whole month before even trying to bake bread. If you do some research you will discover that there are dozens of ways to create, and kill, a sourdough starter, and I wasn’t willing to take any chances after that investment of time and effort. This book is perfect for people like me — like you?

Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan was first printed in 1976, but has recently been revised for the modern reader. I love the wisdom and charm of Ruth Allman’s notes and advice. She makes everything seem simple, and her common sense style of writing will convince you that yes, even you can bake your own sourdough bread. Throughout this book she intersperses the history of early Alaskan pioneers who depended on their sourdough starter to keep them alive through bone-chilling winters on the frozen tundra. These early pioneers were not expert chefs or bakers. They were in Alaska to homestead, find adventure, and hopefully strike it rich. They did not have the luxury of allowing their sourdough efforts to fail. Their very lives depended on the success of their sourdough, and the author is generous in sharing their many no-nonsense tips and tricks for success.

So, encouraged by their efforts, I dove in and made the starter using her potato water recipe. I expected to wait and feed the starter daily for at least one week before baking. Well, by the second day my starter had nearly doubled in size, and by the third day I had to bake, or it would have overflowed the quart jar where it was bubbling and brewing like a witch’s cauldron. The two loaves of bread I made on the third day came out great! I continued to feed the starter following the author’s simple instructions, and two days later used some to make delicious sourdough hotcakes for three hungry adults. All this in less than one week! I have plans for more bread and sourdough pretzels in the near future. If I can do this, you can, too. I highly recommend Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan, by Ruth Allman, and wish you much success on your bread baking adventure!

My sourdough starter on day 2. (The rubberband marks the starting point on day 1). On day 3 it was definitely time to bake!

August Zucchini Casserole

If you garden, you are probably up to your eyeballs in summer produce by now. We currently don’t have room for a garden where we live, and I do miss growing my own veggies. There is just something so primal about digging in the warm earth and nurturing your own nutrition to life. I guess you can take the girl out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the girl! Fortunately, we have generous friends that are willing to share their bounty with us. Thanks Mary and Rohn! And, that’s how this simple and economical recipe was born.

Ingredients:

2 – 3 zucchini, thinly sliced

2 – 3 peppers (red or green), diced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 – 3 large tomatoes, diced (include the juice)

1 – 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded veggie cheese of your choice

Herbamare for seasoning

Vegan parmesan and Italian herbs (garlic, basil, oregano) for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a 13 x 9 inch glass casserole dish. Spread about 1 Tbsp olive oil in the bottom of the dish.

Layer one half of the zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and all the chickpeas.

Season with Italian herbs and Herbamare

Spread shredded veggie cheese over all.

Then layer the remaining half of the zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes and a final layer of zucchini.

Drizzle some olive oil over top, just a tablespoon or two (or you can spray some over the top)

Season with Italian herbs, Herbamare, and veggie parmesan. (You can make your own with this recipe: Vegan “Parmesan Cheese”)

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 1-1/4 hours.

The Greenhouse Cafe, 18 State Hill Rd. Wyomissing, PA 19610, Phone: (484)509-2121

We visited The Greenhouse Cafe in Wyomissing, PA last weekend. What an enjoyable experience! It isn’t often you find a restaurant where all the food is plant-based, so we were in breakfast heaven when we saw their menu. The friendly staff will greet you with a warm welcome and offer to answer any questions you may have. Have any special dietary requirements? Eating gluten-free? They will try to accommodate your request.

We both chose the Tofu Scramble, which came with a side of breakfast potatoes, because we were so hungry. (I apologize for digging in before taking the photo, a very bad habit of mine). This hearty Tofu Scramble will fill you up with no cholesterol to sabotage your diet.

Hot or iced, a non-dairy Matcha Tea Latte is my favorite breakfast drink, because it’s a delicious way to start the day with healthy greens. This matcha latte did not disappoint, and the guilt-free caffeine kick was just what I needed to face the long drive home that morning.

The Greenhouse Cafe offers a casual, relaxed atmosphere. You may choose to dine inside in airconditioned comfort, or outside on the sunny patio (pet friendly). They are open for breakfast and lunch 8 AM – 3 PM most days, close at 6 PM on Wednesday and Friday (closed Monday). You will notice and appreciate the effort that has been put into making sure this cafe truly is green in every way. Food is healthy and prices are reasonable.

To learn more about The Greenhouse Cafe, view their full menu and more photos, please visit them online: http://www.thegreenhousecafepa.com