My garden salad

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden...
But though an old man, I am but a young gardener."
Thomas Jefferson, 1811

Do you have a small plot of earth that you can cultivate and grow vegetables? It has recently become so satisfying to me. I love to dig around, check under leaves and plan meals - what am I gonna do with all those jalapeno peppers???? 

 Above you see lettuce, roasted zucchini, roasted beets and kale chips. All from my tiny garden. 

Nanny's Fruitcake Cookies (Taste of Home)

I just found these Christmas cookies on my camera and the worst part is, I don't seem to have a photo of the completed, baked cookie. That's too bad because they are wonderful. Crispy and chewy and full of fruity flavor. I remember sampling the fruits and nuts while they were soaking in the Triple Sec. YUMMY.

You might recall that I'm in charge of a large Cookie Walk fund raiser and I sold these beautiful cookies there. It's a good way for me to try new recipes and break away from the usual Christmas cut out cookie. 

You can find the recipe in Taste of Home December 2014, or HERE on their website. Thanks to Nanny for her excellent recipe! 

Pasta Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

Have you ever heard those radio shows where people call in asking for certain recipes? Maybe it's for a particular cake they had at their book club. Or perhaps they're looking for a crock pot recipe using onion soup mix. Scalloped potatoes is always a favorite recipe that is shared on this type of radio show. Cheese, cheese and more cheese! (oh, and canned soup!) 

Another variation of this radio show is a 'copy cat' recipe - you know, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the famous biscuits from Red Lobster, the blooming onions. (OMG-- have you eaten those? DELICIOUS) 

Well, I totally nailed this copy cat recipe and I share it here on my little blog. I'm embarrassed to show you how much I paid for 2 pounds of this salad, but it is so, so good! My version has been veganized and is not quite as salty as the store bought. I also cut back on the mayonnaise. The most recent time I made this salad, I added some cashew Parmesan (recipe HERE) for a little bump in the cheesy flavor and a hit of salt. 

16 ounces penne rigate pasta - cooked more than al dente
1/3 C minced onion
1 C corn
1 C grated cheddar
1 t dried basil

1 T red wine vinegar
1 roasted red pepper
1/2 C mayo or more to taste
1/4 t cayenne pepper or more to taste
1/4 t garlic powder

Cook the pasta till soft, drain, rinse and set aside. Add in the onion, corn, cheese and basil. Whirl the dressing ingredients in a high speed blender, using a spatula to move it all down. Pour over pasta and mix well. Add Parmesan cheese if desired. 

Chunky Portabella Veggie Burgers (from The Kitchen Whisperer)

This recipe was floating around my Facebook page a few months ago. I kept looking at it and looking at it and looking at it.  If you peek HERE at the original photos at TheKitchen Whisperer, you'll see a most gorgeous burger, shiny, grilled to perfection. Who wouldn't want to eat it? I simply had to try them!

My burgers and photos are a bit more dull and flat, but the burger was delectable! I served it with a chickpea salad that had a lime dressing and some rice to which I added the remaining broccoli and some green onions.

I think this burger could be improved by drizzling something great over them.....a roasted tomato dressing? A jalapeno crema? Cilantro pesto?  Another tiny complaint - the recipe was huge! Do you see those 9 gigantic burgers? They did not hold up very well as leftovers.....tasted fine, but turned into a type of 'Portabella/broccoli/black bean casserole.' No worries, we ate them all. Stuffed them in pita bread, rolled them in tortillas, packed them for lunches.

Thanks to The Kitchen Whisperer for an excellent recipe - Go check out the recipe and try these hearty burgers! 

Carrot Sausages

I never thought I'd put those two words together: carrot and sausage. But somehow, through the magic of peanut butter, it works.


This unbelievable recipe comes from the tiny cookbook entitled "Vegan Made Simple" published by Parragon/lovefood. Anyway, it's the type of cookbook you might see on the discount table or in a garage sale. You know, the little book that no one notices because it doesn't cost $45.00 and it's not wrapped in a glossy book jacket. Check it out on Amazon and see for yourself. (As I write this, you can purchase a used copy for $3.95!) 

Every single recipe I have tried from this gem of a cookbook has been remarkable. Asparagus Walnut Lasagne, Thia Noodle Soup, and a Raspberry Chocolate Cake are just three of the recipes that I have made. This carrot sausage recipe is really unusual, but seriously, good enough for company.

I actually bragged about this unusual meal at my workplace, and then brought some leftovers in for my friends to try. Great reviews from all the meat-eaters, and one perfect suggestion - these could benefit from some type of drizzle or dipping sauce....maybe something mustardy? With the cilantro and peanut butter, they have a slight Thai feel, so keep that in mind. 

Here's what you need (my modifications are included here)
1/3 C minced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 t cumin
4 C shredded carrots
1/2 t salt
3 T chunky peanut butter
1/2 C fresh cilantro, minced
2 C bread crumbs (1 C seasoned and 1 C Panko)

Here's what you do: 
Saute the onion, garlic, jalapeno and cumin in a bit of olive oil.

Add the carrots and salt, cover the pan and  continue to cook until the carrots are soft. 

Add the peanut butter and stir it in until it's all melted. Remove carrot mixture to a large bowl.

Mix in the cilantro and then add the two types of bread crumbs. Use your hands to form 8 sausages. Set on parchment paper in the fridge to rest for at least one hour. 

 Carefully brown the sausages in a tiny bit of oil until brown on most sides and cooked through. 

Vegan Queso Fundido with Rioja Sauce

This queso fundido with  rioja sauce is absolutely the best! The flavor is very intense and rich. I served it on garlic toast along side some marinated mushrooms and corn fritters. It is not a true queso fundido, which traditionally has loads of meat and dairy cheese; it's better because it uses a creamy almond cheese. (You can find the Simple Almond Cheese recipe that I use HERE.)

The Rioja Sauce is the base for the queso fundido: it has everything good in it - tomato sauce, red wine, green olives, garlic, garlic, garlic and olive oil.

I served the sauce on my potato torte (HERE)  which was the perfect accompaniment. This sauce is much too concentrated to serve over pasta, so think of it as a dipping sauce, or a drizzling sauce or even something to spoon over your main meal. (Still eating chickens? It would be great over grilled tofu.)

In a recent post I mentioned that my mom inspired my potato torte and this rioja sauce was also inspired by her. See my note that suggests to serve the potatoes with rioja sauce?
I've been in a cooking dead-zone lately, so being with my mom and her incredible meals very much inspired me to get-back-in-the-cooking-saddle and put a meal on the table.

Any way, try the sauce. Try the fundido. Let me know.

Here's what you need:
1/4 C olive oil (I cut back on this)
1/4 C minced garlic (I did not cut back on this)
1 C dry red wine
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 T capers
1 C good green olives - leave them whole for a pretty presentation
2 T dried basil

Here's what you do:
Warm the garlic in the olive oil until it is cooked - NEVER brown your garlic - use a low heat. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick and cooked down.

To Make the Queso Fundido:
Spoon some sauce into an oven proof serving dish (or a cast iron skillet). Spoon some Simple Almond Cheese over the top and bake until bubbly. NOTE: the rioja sauce really, really intensifies during its time in the oven! Perfect for garlic toast.

Potato Torte

"Love your family. Spend time, be kind and serve one another. Make no room for regrets.
 tomorrow is not promised and today is short."

My dad just celebrated his 80th birthday! What a great life he has had and what a great father he is! To make this special day even better, my sister and brother and I all drove up north to surprise him. No spouses, no kids, just us. It's been a long time since the 5 of have been alone together. Life gets so busy, it's rare that we even see one another much at all!

How my mom kept this all a surprise from my dad, I'll never know. She's the type to make all the meals ahead of time, change all the bedding, plan outings and picnics. But she pulled it off.

Meals were great, of course. I brought some Field Roast brand hamburgers and everyone loved them. I also brought portabella mushrooms. Everything else was lovingly prepared for a vegetarian to eat. Thanks Mom!

This potato torte is loosely  based on one my mom made that weekend. She based hers on two different recipes, and I jotted down the method and veganized it and I must say.... it was pretty dang good!

I served this heavenly potato creation with a Rioja Sauce - also inspired by my mom :)

(I just saw that "Pure Vegan" by Joseph Shuldiner has a gorgeous potato torte which I will most definitely try! )

Here's what you need:
Yukon potatoes
about 1/4 C Sour cream
2-3 Ener-G eggs
1/4 C melted butter
herbs to taste (I used thyme and oregano)
grated cheese ( I used a hard mozzarella type vegan cheese)

Here's what you do:
Boil the potatoes until fork tender - don't overdo it, like I did...
Sautee some onions
shred the cheese
make the Ener-G eggs and set aside to thicken
Mix the sour cream, the melted butter and the 'eggs' and set aside

Slice the potatoes and layer in a greased springform pan. Sprinkle some onions and cheese over the potatoes and continue layering in this fashion. Pour sour cream sauce over all and allow to drizzle down between the potatoes. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover and brown the top. Allow to cool before unfastening the springform pan. 

Layered Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing

Layered Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing
I forgot to add the avocado :(

Are you ready to be the talk of the July 4th picnic? Are you the type who must always bring the most beautiful and delicious dish to the potluck? Are you a salad freak like me? Then I have the recipe for you! Basically, it's layer upon layer of fresh veggies and beans and a super simple creamy dressing made from your favorite salsa. Best part? It's low calorie.

Straight from a thread on my Facebook, and then linked back a thousand times to a FB page called "Eat Clean. Train Mean. Live Green," I bring you "Layered Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing." You're gonna love it!

I do recommend serving the dressing on the side, because it's not the prettiest looking dressing on the salad. Also, plan to have leftovers - another good reason to keep the dressing on the side. I actually doubled the dressing and plan to use it on burritos, quesadillas and some tasty corn fritters I have in mind. 

For the salad:
layer chopped romaine
black beans -drained and rinsed
fresh mango
frozen corn (thawed)
red onion
orange bell pepper
cherry tomatoes 

For the dressing:
1/2 C coconut milk (I used Silk brand)
1/2 C salsa
2 T mayo
1 T olive oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/2  t chili powder
1/4 t salt

fresh cilantro (maybe 2 T or more to taste)

Blend all the dressing ingredients, except the cilantro, well. Add in the chopped cilantro and blend it quickly one last time. 

Smoky Little Devils

I'm still working my way through the many files on my camera. See what I found today. These Smoky Little Devils can be found on the FOK - Recipes app, which I HIGHLY recommend! FOK stands for "Forks Over Knives," which I pray and hope you have all heard of. Excellent movie and excellent resources. Be forewarned -- viewing this movie might just change your life .... for the BETTER, I must say.

I served these at a church potluck last December and they weren't well received....not because they're not delicious, but because the crowd was very 'meat-centric' and couldn't get enough chicken and ham and cheese and whatever else was filling them up. So, I just ate them all myself, with no prob! Literally, walk past and pop one in my mouth...put three more on my plate....walk past again and pop another in my mouth.... and on and on and on....

The filling is a green onion hummus and it has just a bit too much turmeric for my taste. I'll cut back next time.

Spring Cleaning

I have been going through old files on my camera - a sort of spring cleaning, if you will. So many great meals were hidden away there, like this one! I have no idea what cookbook I used, or if I made this recipe up, but I do remember I made it on a weeknight. I recall feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of using phyllo on a work night. What was I thinking? (The truth is that phyllo is pretty easy to work with and completely forgiving.)

I think this recipe might come from Dreena Burton.....looks like it has white beans, red peppers, and spinach. Something in there made it creamy. 

See how many tears and rips and shreds the phyllo has? No prob! Just glue it together with olive oil and bake. Who cares what it looks like when it tastes good on a week night? 

There was an error in this gadget