Celebrating 4 years together at Sweet Tomatoes

Celebrating 4 years together at Sweet Tomatoes

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Apricot Almond & Chocolate Very Special No-Bake Bars Modified From Runs On Real Food, and My Own Peanut-Coconut & Raisin Baked Granola Bars

These granola bars were truly a hit at our holiday soiree.  I searched quite a bit looking for an appropriate recipe to use as a base.  I wanted it to be pretty simple, but deliver good nutrition and staying power as a snack between meals.  I found the recipe on Nutritionist in the Kitch.  She was hosting a guest blogger~Running On Real Food.  Both have a plethora of delicious recipes you can enjoy in good conscience.  Those that I looked at our simple and healthy, which fits our Plant Based SASS formula here~ Super Affordable, Simple & Satisfying.

The Apricot Almond & Chocolate Bars that I made were a bit of an accident.  Luckily it was a very very good accident.  Of all that I prepared of healthy vegan treats for our holiday soiree, it was these bars that people really got lit up about.  Everyone liked everything, but these bars melt in your mouth, and make you exclaim out loud, "Oh my God!"

If you want to see what Deryn's No-Bake Apricot and Dark Chocolate Bars are supposed to look like, click here, or on the link above.  Mine came out looking a bit different.

The accidental version I made came about because of my attempting to multi-task.  I thought I'd make two batches at once, one true to the recipe, and one with some modifications.  I heated the almond butter and real, grade B maple syrup~which I like to call liquid gold~together for the two batches, but unintentionally added ALL of the almond-syrup blend into a single batch of the oat and dried fruit mixture I had already prepared in a large bowl.

Let me restate this.  Twice the amount of almond butter and maple syrup went into my version of these Apricot Almond & Chocolate No-Bake Bars.  As a result, they appeared much darker, as if really loaded with chocolate, and they literally melted in your mouth, filled with liquid gold goodness.  And, I decided to make the second batch with a peanut butter containing flax and chia seeds, as I basically used up the rest of our almond butter in the first batch.  I added raisins and coconut instead of the apricots as well, and decided to try that batch baked.

Both bars ~ the Apricot Almond & Chocolate No-Bake bars, and the Peanut-Raisin & Coconut Baked Bars came out really good.  A great bar to have around as a quick snack when running low on fuel.  They provide healthy plant-based sources of protein and fat, and just enough carbohydrate and mix of salty and sweet to provide you with exactly what you need when blood sugar dips, or before or after exercise.

Apricot Almond & Chocolate No-Bake Bars Ingredients & Steps:

1/4 cup each of almonds & cashews, or use 1/2 cup of your nut of choice
1&1/2 cups oats*
1 cup of pitted and chopped dates* (Deryn's recipe calls for 1 cup packed of the pitted dates)
1/2 cup almond butter (Deryn's recipe calls for a heaping 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup grade B real maple syrup (best) or grade A
1/4 chopped dried apricots
1 tsp. cinnamon (try with a pinch of cardamom or nutmeg too!)
~ 1/4 tsp. good ground sea salt
1/4 cup dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips*
Optional: 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds

Using a food processor, first pulse chop the nuts, and place them in a big bowl.  Then pulse chop the oats.  Here is the first thing I did differently.  I prefer using rolled oats to instant, partly because the instant oats have been found in studies to effect hunger levels differently than using rolled oats.  They are more processed and refined.  However, I also didn't want to have a chewy 'raw' oatmeal bar.  So, first I pulse chopped ~ not into a flour, but enough to break the oats down a little.  Place in the bowl with the nuts.

Separately, heat the almond butter and syrup in a small pot.  Here is another thing I did differently than the original recipe.  I added roughly 1/3-1/2 cup of hot water from the kettle to the syrup-almond butter mixture.  This was the second thing I did to help moisten the oats and ensure the texture wasn't an uncooked/raw oat texture and taste since these were not baked.

Chop the dates up well until they are ground up and begin to clump up together in the food processor.  I had this done ahead of time, and when I went to measure, I realized that I was able to pack in a lot more ground up date into a 1 cup measure than just measuring a cup of the whole, pitted dates!  So, I may have used a bit more.  When I realized, I did take some out.

The final thing I also did was take the dark (dairy-free) chocolate chips I had and pulse chopped them in our coffee grinder.  I wanted the 1/4 cup to be fairly evenly distributed, and figured the smaller the pieces, the easier that would be.  Deryn used an 85% dark chocolate bar that she chopped up. (I happen to love that really dark chocolate too, but I only had the dark chocolate chips on hand.)

Add the chopped chocolate, apricots, cinnamon, and sea salt all to the big bowl of oats and nuts.  Add optional ground flax if you want to boost the omega 3's, or alternatively, you could also add chia seeds...all optional.

When the syrup and almond butter with a little water have melted together and warmed up, pour on top of the oat mix.  It took a bit to work it all through, but the water helped.  I kept the hot water nearby to add a splash here or there as needed.

Press the mixture onto an 8 X 8 pan line with two sheets of parchment paper facing in each direction so that the bars are easy to remove.  Press the mix in well, working all around to even it out.  Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, and keep them stored wrapped in wax paper, or air tight container in the fridge once ready.  Score and cut into the sizes you would like.

Peanut-Coconut-Raisin & Dark Chocolate Baked Bars

The recipe is similar to above.  This time I used a peanut butter from Trader Joe's that happens to have flax and chia seeds in it.

1/4-1/2 cup nuts (almonds &/or cashews ) ~ use more or less, depending on your preference.  If wanting it to be a little lower calorie, use less.  If you want it to have substance for you, leave use the entire 1/2 cup.
1 & 1/2 cups rolled oats, lightly pulse chopped if you feel like taking the time.  I did, but didn't fuss as much as I baked this batch.
3/4 cup dates, ground up into a paste as above
1/4 cup raisins (or sub currants, or even try with the apricots or dried cranberries)
1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar
Heaping 1/4 cup of peanut butter of choice
1/4 cup + 1 or so tablespoons of real grade B maple syrup
1/4 tsp. fresh ground sea salt
A little hot water
Optional:  1 tbsp. flax or chia seeds

Follow the same steps as above.  Place oats, dried fruit, dates, coconut, cinnamon, sea salt, chocolate, and flax or chia seeds if using into a big bowl.  Heat the peanut butter, maple syrup in a small pot.  Once the peanut butter melts and is combined well with the syrup, add about 1/3-1/2 cup hot water (boiled separately in a tea kettle is best) to the mix.  Stir it up, then pour over the oat mix.  You can alternately just heat the nut butter and syrup, and keep the hot water nearby to add as needed straight to the oat mixture.*

Adding hot water to the oats is how we often make our morning oatmeal.  We either add boiling water, cover, and let it sit, or add boiling water and steam the oats.  Both ways are easy, and come out good without much mess.  Check out two great recipes for steamed oats here, and here.

Press the mixture into parchment lined 8 X 8 pan, or lightly spray.  This mixture came out thicker than the first bars.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the bars are nicely browned, and a little stiffened up.  Let cool, score, and cut into squares.

The peanut bars had a little hint of sea salt.  They were less sweet, and reminded me almost of a cross between a granola bar, and a rice crispy bar, without being crispy if that makes sense.  There was a familiar taste to them.  I really enjoyed them, but the first bars were the chosen ones from the majority of those who tried both.

Feel free to mess around with the recipe, and share your personal tweaks.  I'll have to forward this to Deryn and let her know her bars were a hit, especially after being prepared with my little double almond-syrupy blunder!

For more delicious treats that I made for our holiday soiree at our clinic, click here for the Low-Fat Apricot Pumpkin Bread, or follow the thread of the rest of the awesome recipes as I post them.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Vegan Low-Fat Apricot Pumpkin Bread Recipe ~ My Modified Recipe From the Vegetarian Times

Don and I had a holiday soiree at our clinic the weekend after Thanksgiving to show case our services, locally made products, and some super yummy and healthy vegan/plant based snacks and special treats along with my immune boosting Chinese Chai Tea.  It was a lot of fun having some other practitioners join us to stir up some good energy.  I worked my little butt off preparing several recipes I found online and elsewhere, including a few of my own recipes from Make Every Bite Count.  I thought I'd do a series of posts to share the recipes I used, and my modifications so you could enjoy some of these delicious and healthy plant-based/vegan treats guilt-free, during the holidays and beyond.

Here was what was 'on the menu':

Sweet treats:

  • Low-Fat Apricot Pumpkin Bread 
  • Banana-Oat-Peanut Butter 'Damn Good Cookies' ~ two variations
  • Sesame Coconut Cookies
  • High Protein/Black Bean Brownies
  • Amazing Granola Bars:  'Raw' Almond-Apricot & 'Baked' Peanut-Raisin
  • Quinoa Breakfast Cake
Savory Sides:

  • Low(er)-Fat Veggie Hummus
  • White Bean & Olive Dip
  • Red Cabbage Salad with Cranberries
  • Home made Corn Chips with a green and a red salsa
  • Chinese Immune Boosting Chai Tea
Low-Fat Apricot Pumpkin Bread:
This bread is just the right amount of sweet.  I used to make this recipe years ago.  I had clipped it from a magazine, and loaned it out.  I spent some time googling on line, and finally found it.  It was in a Vegetarian Times magazine in 1995.  You won't miss the fat.  The pumpkin provides the perfect alternative, and the dried apricots also help keep this bread moist. The flavor of the apricots combined with the pumpkin, brought out by the little bit of orange juice and orange zest creates a great synergy of flavor with the traditional pumpkin pie spices.  We just happened to pick up our first bag of locally grown oranges, so the timing was perfect.    I've been enjoying little square cut pieces as my 'first breakfast' prior to exercising.  

Follow the link to the Vegetarian Times issue (pg. 28), or here for an easier to see version for the original version of this recipe.  I'll recreate the recipe here with the modifications that I made which included the following:
  1. I added a little more cinnamon, and a 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg in lieu of the cardamom as we were out.
  2. I added 2/3 pumpkin puree, and 1/3 steamed kabocha squash, since I didn't have a full can of pumpkin to use as needed in the recipe.
  3. The flour I used was whole wheat pastry flour rather than all purpose flour.
  4. I used less of the brown sugar.
  5. I used less salt
  6. I added vanilla

Steps & Ingredients from my version:  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

1&3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder & 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, & a 1/4 tsp. each of nutmeg, coriander, & ginger
3/4 cup brown sugar (If modifying, you will need to adjust the wet:dry ratio)
1/2 cup or a little more of chopped dried apricots
Blend the above with a fork or whisk in a large mixing bowl.

In another smaller bowl, mix:

2 egg substitute with 4 tbsp. of water ~ I used Ener-g egg replacer.   You could also use flax seeds.
Add 1/3 cup orange juice, and 1 tbsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla
1 can pumpkin puree (or a blend of pumpkin and steamed kabocha squash)

Combine the wet with the dry.  Stir until well combined.  Transfer to the loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Depending on your oven, you may need to place a tent of aluminum foil over the top towards the end of the baking time if you notice it is already a nice brown before being completely baked.

I didn't get any close up photos of the apricot pumpkin bread once baked, but, if you get your magnifying glasses out, you can see them sliced on the table to the right of the red and gold bags.

Those red and gold bags were filled with some super yummy granola bars, so I'll get the recipe up for those next.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pumpkin & Banana Bread Oatmeal ~ Two More Delicious Steamed Breakfast Oats to Liven Up Your Morning

Since I put the post up about making steamed oatmeal for breakfast, I've been coming up with new combos to enjoy.  This Pumpkin Oats, and Banana Bread Oatmeal are anything but boring.  Liven up your morning oats routine with these fun steamed oatmeal recipes, all prepared in the same bowl you eat it from.  No messy pot to clean!  Simplify meal prep, and invest in a good––preferably double tier–– steamer pot, as it is definitely worth it!

These recipes fit the bill for perfect Plant Based SASS fare ~ Simple, Affordable, and Super Satisfying.  Providing you have enough water in the pot, you can mix it up in your bowl, pour boiling water on top, put it in the steamer, and off you go to exercise or get ready.  Top with some non-dairy milk, and a little brown sugar or grade B maple syrup, and you'll be enjoying a bit of warming, tasty heaven!

This morning I had the Pumpkin Oats.  So darn good!  I opened a can of pumpkin for another reason, so I decided to see how it would come out if I added some to the oats.  Pumpkin is high in fiber, low in calories, and a good source of vitamin A, among other nutrients.

Pumpkin Oats Ingredients & Steps:

2/3-3/4 cup multi-grain blend or rolled oats (not instant)
1 tbsp. flax seeds, ground
1/4 +/- raisins
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4-1/3 cup canned pumpkin, or use previously steamed or baked pumpkin or other winter squash
1-2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
.5-1 banana, sliced
1 cup boiling water
About a tsp. of tahini
.5-1 cup soy milk, or ND milk of choice

Optional:  Handful of blackberries
Optional:  1 tsp. of brown sugar, or drizzle of real, preferably grade B maple syrup because it is so very good, and low glycemic

Step 1:  Choose your heat proof bowl (most earthenware, pyrex, or ceramic bowls can be used, providing it doesn't have any dyes on it, otherwise use a stainless steel bowl.)

Step 2:  Measure in your oats or multi-grain rolled flakes blend with the cinnamon, raisins, and flax seeds.  Stir in the pumpkin, working it into the oats.  Add sunflower seeds, and sliced banana.

Step 3:  Pour boiling water on top, and stir.  Top with optional berries if using.

Step 4:  Place in the steamer pot w/ a couple inches or more of water in the pot to prevent having the water boil out while you are out for a walk, or getting ready.  Let steam on medium to med.-high for at least 10 minutes.  It can steam for 20 minutes or longer, however, it may be best to turn the heat to medium or a little lower if you may be leaving it in for a while.

Step 5:  In a tight fitting jar, add soy milk and tahini.  Shake it up to blend, and pour on top, along with any sweetener if using.  Or just drizzle the tahini on top, add the sweetener and soy or other ND milk, and stir through.  The tahini just really brought this over the top.  I actually did the shake method because I was at the end of our jar of tahini, and was trying to get out every last bit I could.  Do whatever is easiest.

Alternatives:  Try the pumpkin with a few chopped dates or apricots instead of the raisins.  Use chopped walnuts or almonds instead of the sunflower seeds.

Do try this with a drizzle of tahini, as it adds a great flavor to this.  Plus the fat can make it really a satisfying and lasting breakfast.

The Banana Bread Oatmeal was on a whim to see how adding a banana would come out steamed.   I typically have 1-2 bananas, &/or 1-2 pears as my first mini breakfast.  But I woke feeling especially chilled one morning.  We keep our balcony sliding door open 24/7 so the cat can get to her litter box.  Our home faces north, and doesn't get any sun.  It's ideal during the summer, but I feel chilled much of the winter.  This one particular morning, I just felt shivery chilled to my bones.  I wanted everything warmed, so I sliced the banana up to add to the bowl instead of having it raw first.

Don had the raisins out, so I added the raisins and cinnamon first.  The net result was a taste that reminded me of banana bread.  I used sunflower seeds, but I would try this combo with walnuts or even a few chopped pecans instead next time for that real banana bread taste.

And of course, having veggies with our morning oats helps balance out the meal, and gets us off to a good start.  The veggies add low calorie nutrition, great if you desire to lose weight.  It's a way to make the oat breakfast more sustainable, without eating more of it than is comfortable.  Adding some whole plant fats help as well.  For those with sugar balance issues, you can enjoy your oats, and feel satisfied without feeling hungry soon after, and without spiking blood sugar.

For this really easy veggie blend (for 2):  Steam 1-2 pounds of green beans and 2-3 carrots in the last 5 minutes of steaming your oats.  Add the juice of half a small lemon, 2 tbsp. of nutritional yeast flakes, and 1 tbsp. of ground almond meal, cracked black pepper and a bit of cracked sea salt to taste.  Toss through well.  Makes a nice almost parmesan cheesy savory broth.

Banana Bread Oatmeal Ingredients & Steps:

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/8-1/4 cup raisins (or use dried prunes or dates if preferred)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (also good for blood sugar balance, and 'warming the channels' as we say in Chinese medicine.)
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, or chopped walnuts or almonds
3/4-1 cup boiling water
1 banana, sliced
1/2-1 cup soy or other ND milk
A little brown sugar or grade B maple syrup

Optional:  Add .5 scoop plant protein powder to boost the protein if desired.  It will also improve satiety, and blood sugar balance.   If weight loss is a goal, add the protein powder, and reduce the rolled oats to 1/2-2/3 cup total to not feel over stuffed.  Have veggies first, enjoy this Banana Bread Oatmeal like a healthy breakfast dessert.

Step 1:  Get your bowl ready!

Step 2:  Measure in the oats, raisins or other dried fruit, cinnamon, chia and sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts.

Step 3:  Top with boiling water.  Stir through.  Add banana.  Place in steamer pot.

Step 4:  Steam for about 15-20 minutes on medium-high, or at a little lower temp if steaming longer.

Step 5:  If using plant protein, add to a jar with a tight fitting lid, along with soy or other ND milk.  Shake it up, and pour on the oats.  Top with sweetener if desired.

Let me know what combos you have found you like!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tofu, Cauliflower, & Sweet Potato Hash on Lemony Kale ~ Pure Alchemy

I love sweet potatoes, especially this time of year.  And I love a good tofu scramble for breakfast.  This Tofu, Cauliflower, & Sweet Potato Hash served over Lemony Kale was pure alchemy.  It's a great way to use previously steamed or baked sweet potatoes, or any other type of potato for that matter.  The cauliflower in here adds even more nutrients, but is cut small, and melts right into the dish.  Even kids will love this if they like sweet potatoes.  Plus, I make use of another ingredient that many people tend to throw away.   Bread crusts. That is right, I have the end of 2 different loaves of bread~a sprouted grain, and a multi-grain bread~oat flakes, crumbs, and all.

What I don't have are pictures.  I was video taping this recipe for our Plant Based Solution YouTube channel.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures along the way, and worse, the camera was on when I thought it was off, and off when I thought it was on.  So had to do a quick re-do at the end, once it was already done cooking.  (Enter the big Homer Simpson's  DOPE here.)  But, here is what the second helping piled onto my plate of this super warming, simple, and satisfying Tofu Hash looked like:

Tofu, Cauliflower, & Sweet Potato Hash on Lemony Kale ~ Ingredients & Steps:

1/2 onion, diced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1/2 green bell pepper, diced (or any other color pepper)
1-2 crusts of bread, diced
2/3+ cups of water

1 block extra firm, or firm tofu.  Open package, drain, set tofu back in the package on its side to drain a little more until ready.  (My ultra lazy press method)  Cut into cubes.

1-3 leftover steamed sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks  (We used 3 in this batch, which made plenty for 2 big servings each, or up to 4 people, depending on appetite, and if having with tortillas on the side, not shown here.)

Generous amount of oregano and cracked pepper
Several shakes of Tapatio or other mild-medium hot sauce
1 & 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
Whole wheat tortilla (optional)

For Kale:

1 bunch, de-stemmed, cut into chunks
Juice of lemon ~ about 1/4 or up to 1/2 of a smaller lemon
~1 tbsp. +/- nutritional yeast flakes

The lemony kale adds to the alchemy of flavor.  If not using, adding a spritz of lemon to the hash may taste good too.  There's something about the flavor of lemon, salt, and pepper on sweet potatoes.

Step 1:  Begin to pan fry onion on medium heat in a big and deep skillet.  When it begins to brown, start to stir it.  Add garlic, then about 1/3 cup of water.  Keep stirring.

Step 2:  Add cauliflower, lots of oregano, and black pepper.  Keep stirring.  Add bread and bell pepper, and another 1/3 cup of water.  Stir through.  Cover to steam heat for about 1-2 minutes.

Step 3:  Prepare kale while that simmers.  Steam kale for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Set aside.

Step 4:  Add tofu, and more oregano, and cracked black pepper.  Cover again to steam for another minute or two.

Step 5:  Add peeled and cut up sweet potatoes, several shakes of Tapatio, the soy sauce (add to taste, but the 1 & 1/2 tsp. was a good amount for us.)  Add another 1/3 cup or so of water, and stir through with a wooden spatula, scraping the bottom.  The potatoes will absorb the water, and begin to stick to the bottom.  Add water as needed, stir, and scrape without adding more than needed so it doesn't get to wet or soupy.  Cover, steam on medium for a few minutes more.

Step 6:  If using a tortilla, place on top of hash in pan, cover, turn to lower heat, simmer another minute or so, until the tortilla has softened.

Step 7:  To plate ~ place kale on plate.  Squeeze on some lemon, and sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of nutritional yeast flakes.  Pile the hash on top.  Fold the tortilla into quarters and serve on the side.
adjust seasonings to taste.  Make a burrito at your plate, or use the tortilla to eat on the side, and scoop up the sweet potato goodness.

This dish definitely wins my SASS award ~ Super Affordable, & Simply Satisfying!  Enjoy!

As a side note:  We make many variations of Scrambled Tofu.  Feel free to add any veggies you like, or use other types of potatoes.  I just happen to love this combo of the tofu, sweet potatoes, and added flavor of the diced bread crusts with lots of oregano.  The Tapatio adds the perfect amount of heat and warmth.  When you take a bite of it all together, the lemony kale and sweet potato blend with all that oregano is reminiscent of familiar flavors.  Or so I thought.  Let me know what you think!  I'll be posting the video link to this recipe as well when it is ready.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Super Simple Southwest Veggie Medley & Nutty Green Beans, Broccoli & Carrots

This is sort of a follow-up to the previous post, focusing on 'ridiculously easy' ways to prepare veggies with two different vegetable medleys.  I can't attest to many kids out there, but I know my inner child enjoys these vegetable dishes!  They feature some great fall vegetables, including one of our favorite root veggies~carrots.  And of course, it keeps to our plant-based SAS formula: Simple, Affordable, & Sustainable 'peasant foods' that will help you feel like royalty!

As a preface here, before anyone thinks I'm peddling steamer pots, which I sort of am (click on any of the links for a variety of different decent steamer pot options) or trying to drive sales to my Amazon affiliate account, I want to say that in all truth, I'm a horrible sales person.  Unless of course it is for something, or someone that I really believe in, and feel is a good value.  I'm really conscientious about people's budget, and not big into consumerism~hence I'm not one to try to sell a lot of stuff just for some extra income.  I will always have the best interests at heart, as I believe we all need to be more conscientious about our purchases~and our escalating levels of waste!

I am emphasizing steamer pots in particular, as they are the quintessential kitchen tool for low-fat plant-based cooking.  By low-fat, I mean topping out at roughly 25% of calories from whole plant fats, possibly higher for some people.  And, everyone, no matter whether they are vegan or not, should be eating more produce.  So a steamer pot is ideal for all as a utensil you will get your money's worth out of.  It helps for preparing simple, healthy meals without added oils, and can be used for reheating leftover meals as well.

While the microwave is quick, you can reheat leftover grains or soups in a heat proof bowl in the steamer pot while you go for a walk, or get ready for work.   Microwaves to me are more a back up tool, rather than a primary cooking tool to rely on for fast meals, as the long-term safety of food prep using microwaves~along with the environmental impact~may still be unclear.  Steamer pots are an ideal, versatile substitute.  However, that being said, I encourage people first and foremost to eat more fruits, veggies, and other plant foods, and to do it by whatever means works best.  Life is a journey, and taking care of our health is a process.  We have to start where we are.

On to a couple super easy and delicious veggie dishes!  Many people feel at a loss as to how to prepare healthy yet simple veggie dishes, so here are two options.  First up:  Super Simple Southwest Veggie Medley.

Ingredients & Steps:

4 carrots, cut on the bias (diagonal)
1/2 onion, sliced into thin half moon shapes
2 zucchini, (cut into long, 1/2 inch diagonal pieces)
5 or so campari tomatoes, cut in quarters, or a good handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 bunch of lacinato kale, cut across into thin pieces
1 avocado
Juice of about 1/2 a lemon
A good green chile salsa, like the Trader Joe's Hatch Valley green chile salsa shown below.
Celtic sea salt or other good tasting coarse salt you can grind fresh, and fresh cracked pepper

(The details above are for your increased enjoyment.  We eat with our eyes, hence the pretty shapes.  Also, the flavor of the salt on the surface of the food is to accent the dish, and balance the acidity of the lemon.  A nice tasting sea salt can make a difference.  All of this is optional.)

Here is where the steamer pot comes in:

 If you have a two-tier pot, place the onions and carrots in the bottom tier, and the zucchini and tomatoes in the top tier.  Steam the carrots long enough to create a nice, sweet, tender flavor.

Let the zucchini and tomatoes steam until soft, but still vibrant color.  They will take longer if stacked on top as a second tier. The longer they steam, the more translucent, and mushy they become, so don't over cook!

Since they continue to cook after being removed from the heat, you can turn the heat off prematurely and just let the veggies coast with the lid still on for a minute or so.

Toss everything into a big bowl as it becomes ready.  Once the carrots are steamed, throw them into a bowl, and steam the kale.  The kale will only take a couple minutes.  Steam until just tender soft, but deep vibrant green.

You can do this all in one tier, just start with the longer cooking veggies first, and add in phases.  To keep the zucchini nice and white, and cooked perfectly, I steamed the kale separately.

Cut the avocado in half, then use your knife to cut across one way, then the other creating nice chunks.  Add it to the bowl, squeeze the lemon juice, top with a tablespoon or more of the salsa, and season with a couple grinds of salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until all is coated well.

I love New Mexico Hatch green chiles.  This new salsa from Trader Joe's
is kind of handy for adding some warm heat to bean or veggie dishes.

Packing our veggies to go in these BPA free light weight containers
I found at Safeway.

Next up:  Nutty Green Beans, Broccoli & Carrots

Ingredients & steps: 

A pound or so of green beans, trimmed
3-4 carrots, cut across into 2 inch pieces, then cut into quarters, lengthwise
Optional broccoli or cauliflower, cut into florets (frozen can be used as well)
1/4-1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Juice of about half a lemon, give or take
2 Tbsp.  Bob's Red Mill Large flake food yeast (great condiment!~good source of B vitamins and amino acids for plant-based diets)
1-2 Tbsp. ground almonds, or almond meal
Fresh cracked pepper & sea salt to taste

Steam the veggies.  (BTW, bamboo steamers run under $20, and impart a slight nutty flavor to foods.  This is a great option as well, made from sustainable bamboo.)

If using frozen broccoli, add to steamer pot for the last 2 minutes of steaming.  Place veggies in a big bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and toss to coat.  For those who like the taste of parmesan cheese on, well, everything (my sister comes to mind!) ~ this will be a great alternative.  Nutritional yeast flakes are provide a great earthy, savory, somewhat cheese-y/salty flavor which many people love to use to make plant-based cheese sauces.  Adding the plant fat from the almonds improves absorption of fat soluble vitamins in the veggies, such as vitamin A and E, both essential nutrients for the health of our eyes and skin.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fluffy Light & Lemony Low-Fat Mashed Potatoes & Salad with Super Creamy High Protein Sesame Dressing PLUS Other Ridiculously Simple Plant-Based Meals!

Hold the gravy on these super easy, light, fluffy, and lemony mashed potatoes, as you won't miss it!  I have several ridiculously simple plant-based meals here for you today on this plant-based power post!

If you are new to eating a plant-based diet, or looking for new inspiration for simple plant-based meals, this is the place.

As a petite older female, I need to focus on eating right, as all that I do that doesn't work will show up quickly.  Being over 50 means I also need to work against the odds of gaining weight and fat, and diminished muscle mass that occurs as we age.  I need to forge my meals in such a way as to ensure I feel satisfied, focused, and amply fueled for the day without over eating calories.

People often think of meal preparation being complicated when considering a plant-based diet.  (They have yet to find my blog!)  Here are some super delicious and satisfying uber simple vegan/plant-based meals.

You can always be rest assured that what is found here will have healthy amounts of sodium (not too low, not too high), and minimal added oils.  I may use a teaspoon or so here or there of olive oil or toasted sesame oil, and on occasion, coconut oil in baked goods.  That is always optional.  Our meals are typically protein/veg with some starch, or starch and veg with some whole plant fats.  Fruits are eaten as appetizers, or first thing in the morning.  Oranges or berries may also be eaten as desserts.

Fruit smoothies usually have some added nuts/seeds, greens or frozen broccoli, and possibly a plant-based protein powder.  This style of eating has served us well for realizing our weight and fat loss goals, and improving fitness conditioning and recovery.

That being said, on to some ridiculously simple meals we've enjoyed recently, lest any more time passes and I forget.

First up?  Fluffy Light & Lemony Mashed Potatoes and a salad with a Super Creamy Sesame Dressing

These potatoes came out so good.  Light and fluffy, and just the right flavor.  No need for gravy which can be heavier and salty.  I made this up on a whim, and it worked really well.  Here is the basic recipe, play around with what you have on hand.

Fluffy Light & Lemony Low-Fat Mashed Potatoes ~ (Hold the gravy!) Recipe & Process:

2-3# peeled and rough cut russet potatoes (preferably organic)
~1-1.5 tsp. white miso paste
~2 tsps. tapioca flour or other thickener (kudzu, arrowroot, or if need be, perhaps corn starch, although that could change the flavor.)
~2 Tbsp. lemon juice
~1 tsp. yellow dry mustard
~1 tsp. olive oil
~1 Tbsp. warm water & more of cooking water as needed
~cracked pepper, smokey paprika garnish, and possibly tiny pinch more salt

This makes about 1/4 cup of 'broth' but feel free to make more if desired.
White miso paste, yellow dry mustard, lemon juice, tiny bit of olive oil, &
tapioca to slightly thicken it.

Boil potatoes in water to cover until soft and tender when pierced.  Strain into a heat proof stainless bowl.  In a separate small bowl, mash and dissolve the miso paste, dry mustard,  & tapioca in the warm water, adding more as needed.  It should dissolve into a somewhat thickened liquid, not a thick paste.  Add the lemon juice and olive oil (optional if you want to omit.)  You will want enough to make roughly 1/4-1/3 cup, more if desired.  Pour on top of potatoes.  Add some fresh cracked pepper.  Mash with a potato masher.  It won't take too long.  Mash to desired mashed-ness!  Garnish with smokey paprika, and a tiny pinch of salt if desired, or more pepper.  The amounts are good estimates, but play with it to get what you like.  This had a wonderfully fluffy, lightly lemony flavor with just the right amount of moistness and salty flavor.  Add cooking broth if you need more moisture.

For the salad, we just used red leaf lettuce, and raisins.  The dressing adds protein to this meal, and that creamy comfort.  Since we didn't have a heavy or fatty gravy on the potatoes, this combination as a meal worked really well.

Ready for this?  Here goes:

Super Creamy Sesame Dressing Ingredients and steps: (Plenty of creaminess in this for two!)

1/2 Brick soft tofu
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (can sub tahini)
Juice of about 1/2 a lemon
Small piece of ginger, peeled, and diced
Pinch of sweetener like stevia, or real grade B maple syrup
Small amount of water as needed for desired consistency

Whirl it up in a food processor or blender, and toss.  Speaking of blender, that $299 Vitamix special offer on the side bar ends soon!  A great deal to be had for a new would be Vitamix-er (that perhaps being you!)  The simple salad of just lettuce and raisins added a tad more sweetness to this super creamy and delightful, very simple salad!

Need another ridiculously delicious and simple meal idea?  Tis the time of year for these babies!

Winter squashes.  Love love love them!

This Epicurious page has an easy to look at list of various winter squashes with a description of each for anyone wanting to see/learn more.  The recipes are not low fat or plant-based.  Read on for a couple more super easy meals to prepare using squash.

Kabocha squash, cut in chunks and steamed, above
Sweet dumplings, cut in half, seeds scooped, and baked upside down on
parchment paper below.  Bake at 350-375 for around 40 minutes, give or take,
until soft and tender inside.  And, if lucky, some sweet syrupy ooziness
seeping out onto the paper!

(*Norpro super affordable and good quality steamer pot with rave reviews linked above.
Don't have a big steamer pot yet?  DO check it out.  You won't be sorry!)

First meal up:

A real Native American/Southwestern blend of squash and beans, with greens.

The pinto beans were previously pressure cooked.  Cook beans with a little kombu or kelp for added minerals and iodine (good for thyroid health) and a couple cloves of garlic.  Once cooked, season as desired with chili powder and cumin, and possibly a little low-sodium tamari.  Or, fuss not as long as you have a good jar of a green chili salsa like the new one available at Trader Joe's.

Layer up your bowl w/ steamed kale and kabocha, and fresh cooked beans.  Top with green chili salsa or other hot sauce or chili powder seasonings as desired.  Minimal fuss, minimal mess.  Simple, affordable, plant-based goodness!

This next meal was our Sunday dinner.  We finally used that coupon for a $1 off of Beyond Meat Grilled plant-based chicken.  Not bad.  Definitely a chicken breast texture.  Don felt the flavor of the meat itself was a bit bland, but then again, so is chicken without salt, pepper, or any seasonings.  This stir fry, however, was delish!

Continuing with the lemony theme, I made these to resemble a lemon-pepper chicken and veggies I have had in the past from an Asian faster food type joint.

Lemon-Pepper Beyond Chicken Stir Fry Recipe & Process:

1 package Beyond Meat grilled plant-based chicken
1/2 big onion, sliced into skinny half moons
2 cloves of garlic, chopped, sliced, or minced
1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced long and thin
3-4 Tbsp. lemon juice
lots of cracked pepper
Drizzle of teriyaki sauce, or low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

Add onions to a pan, and turn to medium heat.  Once it begins to cook, add a tablespoon or two of water, cook stirring as needed for a couple minutes, then add garlic.  Cover and cook a few minutes, until onion begins to soften.  Add chicken, peppers, and lemon juice.  Cover, steam another few minutes.  Pile chopped kale on top, then drizzle with teriyaki sauce or tamari or soy sauce and cover again.  Steam until kale shrinks down, and turns a vibrant green.  Remove lid and stir to toss it all together.

Use any veggies you like.  Broccoli would be good.  Add it before adding the pepper as it takes a couple more minutes to cook then the kale.  We enjoyed this with the above oven roasted sweet dumpling squash which didn't need anything else.  We got a good one that was pretty dense and sweet like the kabocha.  It absorbed the lemony liquid on the plate.

We finished our meal with a fresh batch of Don's steamed buns.  Ever use leftover squash or sweet potato mashed up on bread or a rice cake?  I used to a lot way back in my earlier veg/Macrobiotic days.  Great with almond butter too!

(Click on the above link to go to the PBS YouTube channel video recipe for making these
great steamed buns.)

He added more yeast this time to quicken the rising time.  They came out light and fluffy, like something else we had earlier...hmmm...what was it?  Oh yes, those Fluffy Light & Lemony Mashed Potatoes!  So, I've come full circle.  Hope you enjoy this post, and these ridiculously easy plant-based meals!  Share a comment about which are your favorite simple plant-based meals to enjoy.