Mexican Quinoa Salad w/Lime Cumin Dressing

I thrMexQuinoaSalad1ew this together recently for dinner when it was over 100 degrees outside.  Didn’t feel like a hot meal, and definitely didn’t feel like turning on the oven or spending a lot of time at the stove.  The only cooking required is for the quinoa and that’s super quick, especially if you have a pressure cooker in which it quinoa takes 5 minutes at high pressure.

This is a great dish to share at a potluck, picnic, or for this coming weekend, a Labor Day BBQ.  It holds up well in the fridge for a few days; the sauce/dressing soaks in quite a bit but the flavor is still there.  Delicious on its own or on a bed of lettuce.

Red Lentil Taco “Meat”

TacoMeat TacosTacos are the world’s best food.  That’s how we feel in my house, anyway.  Tacos are just so versatile and easy.  You can put practically anything in a tortilla and call it a taco! We use all sorts of different things like mushrooms, squash, potatoes, veggies, and all different types of beans.  This one, using red lentils, is a staple for us.  It’s super easy and is reminiscent of ground taco meat, like the kind we used to have back when we ate like crap and fried our tortillas (did I just say that?).

Of course, you can make tacos with the fake taco meat sold in stores, but that stuff is highly processed and has a ton of fat and oil.  I’d much rather use healthy, fiber-rich filling and save my fat for avocado and Sour Un-Cream.  I use my own, homemade taco seasoning but you can use store-bought if you’d like.  For me, most of them are too spicy, salty and many have MSG. See below for my recipe.  Also, see in Recipe Notes for slow cooker directions.

2 TBS chili powder, 2 TBS cumin, 1 TBS smoked paprika, 1 TBS sea salt, 1/2 TBS onion powder, 1/2 TBS garlic powder, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne.  Shake everything up in a small jar and use whenever you make Taco “Meat”.

Now have at it!

Baked Chickpeas

bakedchickpeas2I try to have a batch of these around as often as possible.  They are so flavorful and easy to make.  Great to have on hand to grab when you need something quick.  They don’t quite come out crunchy but they are firm, and the sauce hardens somewhat as the chickpeas cool.  If you want them crunchy, I would try cooking them longer, at a higher temp or use a dehydrator.

BBQ Black Bean and Sweet Potato Patties [vegan, gluten-free, oil-free]

PepitaAvocadoSauce1This recipe came to me while I was working out, as many recipes do (I should be thinking about the workout and not food, I know!). I wanted to throw something together for an easy lunch and this is what I came up with.  They are easy to make but taste like they were a lot of work. They’re moist but hold together well.  Really yummy.  I like serving them with avocado and Sour Un-Cream, or my Toasted Pepita Avocado Sauce as pictured.

Chili Chowder

ChiliChowder This delicious, hardy dish has flavors similar to chili, with the texture and consistency of a thick chowder.  I love it! Top with avocado and/or Sour Un-Cream.

I have made this using both canned black beans and beans I made from scratch with the pressure cooker.  As is usually the case, I preferred the version with the homemade beans.    If you have a pressure cooker, it’s SO easy.  Soak 1 pound of dried black beans overnight or 6 hours (some say soaking isn’t necessary but I always do).  Rinse and place in your pressure cooker and add just enough water to cover the top of the beans – the water should be just touching the beans.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, a few bay leaves and 2 tsp cumin seeds.  Cook at high pressure 14 minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally.  Beans are done! Makes about 5 cups of black beans. Remove the bay leaves, stir and add the whole batch to the rest of the Chili Chowder ingredients.

I order my dried beans online from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Northern California.  They are heirloom beans, which are open-pollinated seeds that can be planted and you’ll get the exact same bean. They tend to have a lower yield and can be much more difficult to grow but the pay off is in the unique flavors and textures that you don’t find with bland commodity beans.  They are always fresh too, which is great.  You never know how old the beans at the grocery store are, and old beans can take forever to cook.  I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans.  It’s fun to experiment with all the different varieties they offer. Now get cooking!

Giveaway Time! And Review and Recipe from Dreena Burton’s “Plant-Powered Families” – Saucy BBQ Chickpeas & Green Beans

June 16, 2015

One of my most favorite things about being a recipe blogger is getting review copies of cookbooks from publishers.  I have a thing for cookbooks – it’s actually getting a bit out of hand.  Need more bookshelves.  Anyway, Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton, one of my favorite vegan authors, is one of the books I get to play with this time and it’s a real treat.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Dreena’s but the one thing that bummed me out in the past was that I had to adapt her recipes to not include oil.  I was thrilled to find she doesn’t use any in her latest work.  Yay!  One of the things I like most about Dreena is how considerate and detailed she is with her recipes.  She clearly spends a lot of time tweaking and getting the ingredients and methods just right to make things as easy as she can for her readers, and she shares tips, tricks and alternatives for many situations.  She adds notes to each recipe with her suggestions for kicking it up, mellowing it out, use this instead of that, or simply adjusting flavors for adults’ or kids’ tastes.Plant-PoweredFamilies_FrontCover_WEB

Dreena has 3 young daughters so she understands the challenges involved in getting healthy food into picky kids who are busy and on the go.  Her recipes in this book are appealing to kids and adults alike with dishes like Sunday Morning Pancakes, Apple-Spice Hemp Muffins, Red Lentil Hummus, Zippy Chickpea and White Bean Dip, Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Umami Sun-Dried Tomato and Almond Burgers, Home Fries, Lemon-Kissed Blondie Bites and Banana Butter Ice Cream, just to name a few of many.  The book includes mouth-watering photos, and is laid out really nicely beginning with a section on priming your pantry with plant-based staples, followed by color coded chapters such as Healthy Mornings; Lunch Fixes; Salad Dressings, Sauces and Toppers; Dinnertime; Sweet Treats.  The back of the book has some cool resources like a section on Picky Eaters and how to manage them, School and Lunchbox solutions, Tips for Hosting and Attending Kids’ Parties, Sample Meal Plans and a FAQ’s section.  She didn’t miss a beat with this book – everything is covered, and honestly, you could use this book and none other for your family and be set. My only complaint about this book is that it doesn’t include allergen notations for each recipe, which is pretty lame since it’s easy to do and most books have.

Everything I’ve made from the book has been excellent, and today I’m sharing one of the recipes with you – Saucy BBQ Chickpeas and Green Beans.  I used broccoli because hubby hates green beans but otherwise I stuck to the recipe and it was delicious – and so simple! I will be doing a drawing to give away a free copy of this awesome book.  Tune in to my Facebook page for details on how to win! https://www.facebook.com/PlantifulWellness Enjoy the recipe.BBQSaucyChickpeas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Reasons to Use a Pressure Cooker + Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe (vegan/gluten-free)

If you’re anything like I used to be, you equate pressure cookers with the 1950’s and a fear of getting hit in the face with scalding steam and a hot lid.  I hear it all the time; “I have a pressure cooker, but I’m scared to death to use it.”  Fear not, my friends! Nowadays pressure cookers have been built with safety features to assure ease of use without scalding, or sky-rocketing lids.  There is definitely a learning curve as it’s a different way of cooking, but once you experiment and get a feel for it, you’ll wonder how you ever went without!

Cuisinart-Pressure-Cooker

Electric pressure cooker

Stove-top pressure cooker

Stove-top pressure cooker

For those who don’t know, pressure cooking is a method which uses water to create steam that does not escape the vessel while the food is being cooked.  A fraction of the water is used compared to other methods.  Since there is less water to heat, it takes less time for the water/food to reach cooking temperature.  As well, due to the intense pressure and heat, items cook faster than simply steaming, boiling or braising.  And they are easy to use – put your food in the pan, lock the lid in place, turn on the heat, wait until it comes up to pressure, turn down heat and wait.  The units are available in electric and stove top versions, and while some steps differ slightly between the two, the concept is the same. Some dishes such, as green veggies, require you to let the steam out manually, which simply means pressing the valve and allowing steam to flow.  Others, like beans and grains, call for natural pressure release, which means you don’t do anything but wait until all the steam has slowly escaped on it’s own.  If you aren’t yet sold on the beauty of a pressure cooker, let me share some other benefits with you:

TOP 5 REASONS TO USE A PRESSURE COOKER:

  • Time savings – “I don’t have time” is the most common reason I hear for why people don’t prepare more of their own meals at home.  Well, a pressure cooker can help!  Example: brown rice would normally take about 40-45 minutes when boiled.  Using a pressure cooker it will cook in half the time.  Garbanzo beans take 14 minutes of cook time (not excluding the time it takes to come up to pressure, and release naturally).
  • Nutrient retention – Since the food is exposed to heat for a shorter period of time, fewer nutrients are lost in cooking.  As well, vitamins and minerals are not whisked away by water since there is so much less of it.
  • Energy savings – Thanks to shorter cooking times, the fire and/or electricity are used less.
  • No stirring required – If you’ve ever made risotto you know what a drag it can be, stirring and stirring and stirring.  You can make arborio rice risotto in the pressure cooker, at 5 minutes high pressure, without having ever lifted a spoon.  How cool is that?
  • Less water – water is a precious resource that is not as abundant as it once was, especially here in Southern California.  The less water we can use in every aspect of life, the better.

Some typical dishes for which I use my pressure cooker:

Steel cut oats
Oatmeal
Beans, chilis and stews
Whole grains such as rice and quinoa
Sweet and white potatoes
Kale and other greens

So basically, pressure cookers are awesome.  They can be used for anything you’d boil, steam or braise.  The tricky part is converting a recipe and figuring out how much liquid to use.  It just takes some experimenting.  In the meantime I wanted to share this yummy recipe with you for Butternut Squash Risotto using brown rice.  Easy and so delicious, without the constant stirring typical risotto calls for.  Also, a wonderful cookbook for pressure cooking is The New Fast Food by Jill Nussinow.  Invaluable, really.  Have fun cooking under pressure, and I hope you enjoy this dish!

Delectable Mushroom Soup | vegan, oil-free, gluten-free

MushroomSoup1txtDelectable was the word used by my sister to describe her feelings on this soup, so I figured I’d call it just that – Delectable Mushroom Soup.  Much more fun than plain old Mushroom Soup.  And honestly people, not to toot my own horn or anything but it really is delectable.  I got lucky with this one, for sure.  I had a ton of cremini and chanterelle mushrooms (thanks to Costco) and realized I’d never made a creamy mushroom soup before, and it sounded really good to me.  I was hopeful the recipe would work out so I made copious notes as I went along.  So glad I did.  The best part?  It’s EASY to make!

This soup is rich and creamy but not overly fattening.  I used only 1/3 cup raw cashews which adds fat of course, but not too much.  The items I used for garnish are optional and do add a small amount of fat.  I grated a very small amount of Miyoko’s killer Smoked Farmhouse “cheese”, and a few drops of truffle oil on top of the fresh chives. Deliciously delectable.  🙂