plant-based food love

plant-based, healthy foods + flavor = LOVE!


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An Easter feast for all the palates at our table…

Signs of spring: roses and strawberries

Signs of spring: roses and strawberries

Whatever the details of the various venerable traditions of renewal, most of us have one, right? Friends and family around our table yesterday reflected on their family traditions and childhood experiences of Easter, in the deep American south, in New England, in mid-century SoCal and in faraway Wales, from religious to non-religious households. And at the center, always food, glorious food!

And in my health-conscious quest for plant-based deliciousness, another holiday meal provides me with another pleasurable chance to create a festive food experience tailored to the eaters around our table. It’s 100% fun for me, especially with my plant-based food explorations still less than a year old. With a couple of vegans in attendance along with several meat-lovers, and given my “primary food values” of simplicity, balance, and layers of flavor, I settled on the following menu, a mix of beloved faves and experiments. Why not, right?

Mama’s Salsa with Chips
Fresh Lemonade

Grilled Tri-tip and Roasted Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos
Spring Linguini with Basil
Julie’s Creamy Deviled Eggs
Tomato Salad with Garlic Toast
Baby Greens with Green Goddess Dressing

Brownies with Lemon and Blood Orange Sorbet and Strawberries

Mmmmmmmmmmm.

My sons love my salsa, so that’s an easy “gnosh” for them when they breeze in from their busy lives to hang out with us during final food prep. The stuffed portobellos were the grand experiment of the day that I daydreamed about for a week, intent on incorporating color, texture, flavor, and succulence. I settled on red quinoa and spinach simmered in a base of onion, garlic, celery and carrot, with chopped avocado and cilantro folded in at the end. (I completely forgot the chopped walnuts that I was envisioning in the mix.)

A leftovers vignette

A leftovers vignette

I wanted fresh peas for my fresh linguini but settled for thin asparagus spears and baby broccoli that I chopped and threw into the salted pot with the linguini before folding in extra virgin olive oil when I piled it all into a big bowl. And I tossed big shavings of parmigiano-reggiano–to be easily spotted and bypassed by choice–and chopped basil onto the heaping bowl as I brought it to the table, an example of my plant-based approach that doesn’t completely exclude animal products but rather uses them very sparingly, like exotic condiments.

My tomato salad with toast is a chunky take on bruschetta. It’s a fail-proof fave, while the green goddess dressing was another enjoyable “animal-free” experiment. After browsing and tinkering, I settled on a base of tahini to which I added fresh garlic, cilantro, parsley, scallions and chives along with fresh squeezed lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, a couple of splashes of ponzu sauce, and salt to taste. Succulent, creamy, bright, and satisfying. Makes me happy!

"Care plate" for a friend

“Care plate” for a friend

And, interestingly, in my heart the highlight of the day had nothing to do with food, as my musical younger two of three wild, wonderful sons had a rare jam session with me afterward, before they chilled in front of the TV with their lovely ladies for the brownies-and-hockey-game phase of the afternoon. Very comforting for this mom in perpetual are they really gone from the nest? mode. Kevin and I relaxed with dear Julie and John as Julie schooled us on planning our wedding before a good catch-up call from my eldest in the midst of a New England Easter experience with his lovely lady. (Ahhhhh, life. Ah, Spring!)

And so welcome, Spring! Welcome, new beginnings and continuing 21st Century explorations of food, family, friendship, and authentic seasonal celebrations around our table. Beautiful!


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Heat for a winter cold, anyone? Try tomato tea!

Tomato TeaThere’s an old adage about starving a cold, but there’s another tried-and-true method about applying heat to it, and I’m swearing by it more and more these days. Instead of getting a hopeless, helpless feeling at the onset of cold symptoms, I make “tomato tea”, with tomato or vegetable juice and as much of my heat of choice — Sriracha, thinly sliced hot peppers, jalapeno or other pepper brine, horseradish, Tabasco, etc. — as I can stand, plus the juice of a lime and anything else that intrigues me at the moment. Grated fresh ginger, maybe? A stalk of celery to crunch and munch? Think wintery virgin Bloody Mary.

Heat up the concoction and sip away or simmer it on the stove for 20 minutes first for extra kick. Repeat often. It will jumpstart your immuno-response toward feeling good again. That’s a delicious development. And here’s my version with a few more ingredients, Teresa’s Immuno-Turbo Tomato Tea, from last spring’s cold season. Here’s to vibrant winter health!


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My Bright-Bite Chili with TVP

ChiliwithwhiteborderTruth told, I’m rather floored to come into relationship with Textured Vegetable Protein. It’s a BIG DAY whenever a new ingredient enters my kitchen–and my cooking repertoire–that I know will be with me for the long haul. (Thank you, Chef Kayla Roche of MUSE School CA!)

I bought a big bag of TVP at Follow Your Heart Market and Cafe in Canoga Park, CA last week. They sell it in bulk, too, which I’ll choose next time now that I know how endlessly useful it is. I’ve already made a killer marinara with it in addition to this beautiful chili. The chili had me more unexpectedly jazzed when I threw it together December 24th while puttering in the kitchen than did my big holiday dinner that came after!

1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped, or a yellow or orange pepper if you prefer
2 16-oz cans organic dark red kidney beans
2 16-oz cans organic black beans
1-1/2 to 2 28-oz cans organic crushed tomatoes
1 cup Textured Vegetable Protein
juice of 1 to 2 limes
Dry chili powder and cumin to taste
Chopped fresh organic cilantro and green onion to taste
Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Heat in some form to taste, optional

Saute the onion in a soup pot with a little olive oil, sweating the onion with a little sea salt, and add the chopped pepper after a few minutes, while draining and rinsing all the beans in a colander. Add the beans, more salt, fresh ground black pepper, about a tablespoon each of chili powder and cumin, and stir it all up to coat and begin flavoring the beans.

Add a can to a can and a half of crushed tomatoes, an equal amount of water, the juice of one lime, and the TVP. Bring everything up to a simmer, lower the heat, cover the pot, and let the TVP hydrate and the flavors marry for 30 minutes or more. Check the pot periodically to adjust the liquid ratio with additional crushed tomatoes and water. Taste along the way for seasoning and “plumpness” of the TVP, and adjust or continue simmering accordingly.

To serve, add plenty of just-chopped cilantro and green onion, including the crunchy whites, more lime if you want the extra acid, and your choice of heat to taste. (I always make heat optional so my cooking is as inclusive as possible.) And serve a generous bowl of crunchy organic corn tortilla chips alongside. Wow! This yummy, healthy concoction will wake up your palette!

The “revolutionary” secret good-health weapon, TVP, lends body and a mouth-feel that evokes ground beef’s comforting place in many of our childhood kitchens. And you could always include a bowl of just-made guacamole for topping your “bright bites” of chips topped with chili. Mmmmmmmm. DELICIOUS. Enjoy!


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Simple, delicious self-care: lentils and kale

Lentils and kaleOh, how I love this simple soup! Now whenever I see a big spray of gorgeous, textured green kale–at the farmers’ market, in the grocery store produce section, or in the kitchen at inspiring MUSE School CA–I get an instant sense of comfort and a zing of desire. YUM!

I make this soup for myself on Sunday afternoons now as I prepare for the week, hanging out in my kitchen cooking and planning upcoming MUSE-ical endeavors. Feels like beautifully balanced living to me!

1 to 3 garlic cloves, per your preference, minced
1 to 2 carrots, chopped
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh organic kale
dry white wine, optional
8 oz organic dried lentils, rinsed
16 oz organic canned plum tomatoes and their juices, or fresh chopped tomatoes, etc.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute garlic in a little olive oil with a little sea salt for a couple of minutes, then add the onion, then the carrots if you’re using them. As that yummy mixture fills the kitchen with its inviting aroma, remove kale leaves from their stems, chop the stems coarsely, and add them to the saute pan.

After a little more saute time, add a splash to a half cup or so of white wine if you want that layer of flavor. (I do!) After it has reduced down a bit, add the lentils, saute them briefly, then add about eight cups of filtered water and bring it to a boil while you chop the kale coarsely and then add it. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover the pot, and let it all come together deliciously for about twenty minutes.

Then I usually add tomato in some form. Often that’s a few big dollops of my homemade salsa. I’ll share that recipe soon.

Once the soup has simmered a little longer, I’ll have a first big bowl with some toasted baguette slices drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with a freshly halved garlic clove. Mmmmmmmm. Then into the fridge the pot goes, there for my enjoyment all week. At the table I’ll add a little more salt and pepper, a splash of red wine vinegar, and heat in some form, either my chili oil or green Tabasco. And voila! Super-healthy comfort food!

Enjoy, my dears! Add your own personal touches, and share them with me, yes? Bon appetit!

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A holiday menu for my guests AND me… with love!

We had a beautiful Thanksgiving day, feasting twice. I was having such fun with food prep that I didn’t even take any pictures. Different for me lately!

Kevin wanted turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry relish, a speciality of his that’s a quick saute of fresh cranberries with a squeeze of honey and a splash of orange juice. Yummy, huh?

He jammed on the turkey early in the day and made the potatoes the way he likes them. I helped him with the dressing and gravy (I’m a Southerner, after all), and obsessed pleasurably on these dishes to satisfy my appetite for super-fresh, plant-based flavors:

  • A hearty lentil, carrot and kale stew that I’ll share here soon
  • Crimini and white button mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with onion and garlic, splashed with balsamic, and finished with a handful of chopped cilantro
  • Italian chunked-tomato salad, using the last of this year’s glorious local summer tomatoes, with garlic-rubbed toast
  • Local wild arugula with toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced green olives and green onion, barely dressed with great olive oil and a spritz of Meyer lemon juice

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

We finished our second feast with pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream, another speciality of Kevin’s, and blood orange sorbet for me. (I’m addicted to its super-bright flavor this season. Mmmmmmm!)

Ah, such delights to offer to my visiting sons and their ladies! This kind of compromise – featuring traditional American holiday feast foods accompanied by plant-based dishes designed to gradually seduce with deliciousness! — makes me very, very happy.


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A breakfast improvisation

I love it when delicious bits and pieces from yesterday’s meals becomes today’s breakfast. Cooking is relaxing for me, so the chance to whip up a spontaneous concoction before a busy work day starts it beautifully, helping to bring a pleasurable balance to my life.

This treat came together in a quick flash in a hot skillet with a swirl of great olive oil: last night’s leftover angel hair, fava beans that didn’t make it into the accompanying salad, a handful of tender arugula, a few pumpkin seeds that I threw into the skillet first to toast, a little seasoning, and voila. Instant happiness in my mouth, belly, heart, and mind!

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Connecting sustainability and food choices

These days I’m mesmerized by images like this. We’re such a SMART species, able to get powerful context on the beauty and uniqueness of our planet! Meanwhile, I’ve always said fish can’t see the ocean they swim in, my go-to metaphor for understandable unconsciousness. But I don’t actually know. Do the earth’s other creatures have capabilities to get a macro-sense of their environment, its beauty and vulnerability, abilities that we don’t readily imagine through our human-centric lens?

While pondering that, I’m considering this beautiful planet the context for everything I care about and enjoy these days. How do my habits, intentions, commitments and actions, my use of my own intelligence and creativity, help or hinder our earthly home?

I tend toward a life’s beautiful, enjoy it approach, which is surely one contribution I make to life! And it’s also time for me to commit to and share my sense that we regular folks have to move beyond complacency now. Over the years I’ve heard friends and acquaintances share views like oh, it’s hopeless, and thankfully things will only worsen gradually in my lifetime. I’ve always replied that mothers can’t resign themselves to any of that.

So periodically I’ll share big-picture context for my new plant-based food choices, and their connections in my heart and mind to… LOVE! Tending lovingly to the planet that gives us everything we need seems like the ultimate context. And bringing deliciousness and a sense of playful discovery to that process, well, that absolutely feels like me.

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