Category Archives: Vegan

Balsamic Marinated Portobello Mushrooms

Portobellos are definitely my favorite mushroom for grilling. They are delicious in just about anything else too. I love their thick, meaty texture that feels almost like a burger patty but for only 10 calories per ounce (NutritionData). My favorite marinade for meaty things has to include balsamic vinegar. It gives that salty, umami depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I got some portobellos on sale and marinated them in this, and they turned out wonderful!

You could put these babies straight on the grill as a burger, or stuff them with grain/veggie combo. I sliced them and put them in a taco, you could also put them in stir fry or on a panini.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp Nature’s Seasons mix

Step 1: Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag. The best route is likely a platic bag so you can flip it, but I just poured the marinade over the mushrooms in a shallow pie pan.

Step 2: Place in the refrigerator and marinate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. They are like little sponges and will soak up all those tasty flavors. After a few hours they get soft, don’t panic.

Step 3: Put on an oiled grill or fry in a pan. You could also roast in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes. I cooked mine for 5-10 minutes each side on the stove top, then sliced into strips.

With some avocado, cooked rice, roma tomatoes, and feta cheese, I had the perfect vegetarian burrito! Portobellos also have 1 gram of protein per ounce, plus the avocado and cheese. It will very filling without feeling heavy. These mushrooms will be a staple part of my summer cooking repertoire for sure.

What do you do with mushrooms?

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup Bread Bowl

Broccoli cheddar soup is definitely one of my favorite go-to soups. It is relatively easy and quick to make, and I almost always have frozen broccoli on hand. I’ve tried several ways, adding and taking out ingredients as I had them available, but this batch was the best by far. It was thick, smooth, and creamy, with a perfect balance of flavors. I had some large bread rolls so I hollowed them out to use as bread bowls, and it was a perfect meal. Try it yourself!

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen broccoli florets
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3-4 tbsp butter/margerine
Salt & black pepper

Step 1: In a sauce pot, bring butter, chicken stock and milk to a simmer. Cook the broccoli for 5-10 minutes, until heated through and soft.

Step 2: In a blender, combine the soup, spices, cheese, and sour cream. [You can use an immersion blender if you’re fancy enough to have one] Reserve 1 cup if you want broccoli chunks in the finished soup. Blend until smooth and return to the pot. Heat through, about 5 minutes.

Step 3: Hollow out a large round bread roll by cutting at an angle with a sharp knife all along the edges. Pull the middle out, and fill with hot soup. Sprinkle a little cheddar on top, and enjoy!

This soup was so good I had to have two bowls. Luckily the bread roll was big enough that I had plenty left for dipping. If you’d like to make this vegetarian soup vegan, just omit the milk and cheese, maybe use some vegan cheese product instead.

What’s your favorite soup to eat in a bread bowl?

Under 100 Calories per Bowl: Cruciferous Vegetable Soup


I’m always a big fan of recipes that help “clean out the fridge or pantry“, and if they are healthy as well then bonus! We all have some assorted cans, boxed, half bag of frozen mixed vegetables, etc. that have been sitting around since approximately we moved into whatever abode we inhabit.

Even the most strict, list-making, meal-planning, leftover-eating of us have odds and ends we need to try to use up before expiration dates. It is especially hard with produce. I have a bad habit of buying everything that’s on sale, I want to cook eventually, sounds healthy… and then I have a fridge packed full of five-day-old veggies beginning to wilt and lose nutrients. Sad face. 

That’s why this soup is fantastic! You can mix and match what vegetables you add based on what you have waiting to be used, and choose whatever protein and grain is in the half-empty box in your cupboard. There is of course a few caveats.

You need a huge ratio of veggies to other stuff, and a large portion of it must be water IF you are going for a filling, vegetarian, healthy, low-cal, low-fat soup.

Try to choose mostly cruciferous vegetables and/or leafy greens, as those pack the most nutrients and fiber for the least carbs and calories. Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc. Limit the beans and grains to one cup each to keep calorie counts low. If you have a “meat tooth” feel free to throw in some cooked shredded chicken or steak.


  • 1 whole head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Garlic salt
  • Lots of water (stock or bouillon for extra flavor)

Step 1: Chop all your veggies and add to the crock pot. Add the grain (barley) and protein (beans) as well as diced tomatoes. You can sub fresh chopped tomato or tomato sauce, or forget the tomatoes. I just super love diced tomatoes in all the things.

Step 2: Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until veggies, barley and beans are tender. Add any other seasonings you like. Enjoy for under 100 calories per bowl as often as you are hungry!

*Disclaimer: I do not recommend crash diets like the cabbage soup diet where this is all you eat all day, but I do believe that soup before a full meal will help dampen hunger and make it easier to eat healthy and manage a healthy weight, and broth based soups should be incorporated into your meal plans to keep total grocery costs for the week low.

Breakfast Burritos for the Busy


I always say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However I also understand mornings can be the busiest time of the day. This is why I have become quite talented at whipping up fast, hot, filling breakfasts in under 30 minutes. Sometimes, I even make several breakfasts I can leave in the fridge or freezer, then reheat and run out the door.

If you have a few minutes to spare in the AM or some time on Sunday to get ahead for the week, this a perfect idea to make filling your belly in the mornings easy. I made two, but you can scale this to whatever size you want.
2 tortillas
2 eggs, scrambled
1/4 cup cooked beans (I used canned kidney)
1/2 cup veggie (sliced zucchini featured here)
2 slices cheddar cheese

Step 1: In a sprayed or non-stick skillet, cook the veggies (I’ve used peppers, onion, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, squash, carrots…). Add the beans just to heat them, then pour in the beaten eggs. 

Step 2: Cook the eggs until fully done. Sprinkle on some salt or other seasonings if you like.

Step 3: Heat the tortilla for 10-15 seconds in the microwave, then add the cheese and half the egg mixture. Fold both ends of the tortilla in, then roll it up. I ate one that morning and saved the other for the next day. 

Please do get creative, you could add refried beans, black beans, spinach, sriracha… the possibilities are endless so you never get bored. These are also a quite affordable source of some major protein.

What’s your favorite wrap combination?

Simple sauteed power greens

One of the things I like best about growing up is changing tastes. When I was little, I had an on-off relationships with most vegetables, notably mushrooms. I loved them one week, and hated them the next. With growing up comes changing ideas of what tastes good, and I love it. I can be more creative, try different ingredients and recipes, and cook things that are good for me at which I would have turned up my nose years ago.
One of those things is kale. Since I worked on a CSA farm and tried Kale Chips for the first time, I have been looking for more ways to use this power green more often. One excellent option is in soup, like the Olive Garden copycat of Zuppa Toscana I made. Delicious and packed with healthy ingredients.
So as I had recently purchased more kale at Sprouts Farmers Market, along with some golden beets and fresh garlic heads, I decided to try another kale classic: Italian Sauteed Greens. I’m sure this is yet another popular side dish with a long and debated over past. But basically it’s garlic and olive oil with various greens sauteed lightly, and usually a tangy dressing like vinegar or lemon juice added. Also it is sometimes spicy, but since I’m a wuss I did not add hot peppers or hot pepper flakes. Feel free to if you love heartburn.
1 bunch kale, cut into small strips
1 bunch beet leaves, in small strips
3-4 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1/4 cup sour liquid (I used banana pepper liquid and 3 tbsp lemon juice, you can also use any type of vinegar)
Sprinkle of sea salt
3-4 banana pepper or hot pepper rings

Step 1: Dice up your garlic into bits. You can use a garlic press or chopper if you want.

Step 2: Saute the garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil 4-5 minutes, you should be able to smell it.

Step 3: Cut the greens into thin strips. Add to the pan, and cover tightly. Let it steam in the garlic oil for 10-15 minutes, or until fully wilted.

These greens were so vibrant and lovely even before cooking! All that heart-healthy nutrient-packed deliciousness…

Step 4: Add your sour notes, lemon juice and banana peppers. Stir, cover, and saute another 5-10 minutes.

Banana pepper rings are a new love of mine. I put them on tuna sandwiches, on pizza, into my greens… they’re awesome. And lemon juice is a necessity for life.

Step 5: Once wilted and everything is combined, move to plate and garnish as you like.

I added a little sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese and some sea salt. It was the most perfect balance, and the tart juices took away a lot of the harsh bitterness most people don’t like about greens.

These greens were tangy and delicious, and if you enjoy spicy food would go great with some hot peppers.  I also had some cottage cheese on the side, to complete a whole, light lunch. It’s filling without feeling stuffed, and ridiculously good for you.


What’s your favorite way to cook greens?

Perfect refried beans – low-fat, high protein!

Refried beans, known as frijoles refritos, are a staple in Mexican and Mex-inspired cuisine. It translates into “well-fried beans”, which is an accurate description. Most often pinto beans are used, though sometimes pink or red kidney beans can be used as well. The beans are fully cooked, and any water or broth is drained from them. Then they are mashed well, and put into a frying pan to be cooked again over low heat. Refried beans tend to be made with bacon grease and/or lard and/or bacon added, which sure boosts the flavor, but also may boost your hip size. It’s super simple to make your own at home with only three ingredients and no added fat.

1 can pinto beans, drained (use no added sodium kinds if you can find it)
2-3 bay leaves
1 tbsp cumin
Step 1: Drain the beans. Rinse them as well if not low-sodium to remove some excess sodium. (You can also use dried beans. Soak them overnight in the fridge and boil until soft, then drain.)
*Side note: bean cooking water is apparently awesome for watering gardens
or house plants. So if you cook beans from raw, keep that in mind!

Step 2: Pour the beans into a frying pan. Add about 1/4 cup water, and cook on low until the water bubbles and beans are heated through. Mash with a fork or potato mashed until mostly soft and creamy. 

Step 3: Add bay leaves and cumin. You can also add salt and pepper if you like. Mix well, continue to cook on low heat for 10 minutes to an hour. Add more water periodically if they seem to dry out too much. Enjoy as a side dish, on tacos or burritos, or with eggs at breakfast.

Think Geek has more in-depth info on how they are prepared and when to eat them, Food Timeline has a neat comparison of various historical accounts of what refried beans are and when they originated, and Wikipedia covers why the mistranslation into “refried” is wrong on two counts.

What is your favorite way to cook beans?

Mashed cauliflower & potatoes

One of my favorite healthy foods to hide is cauliflower. Because of its subtle taste and versatile texture, cauliflower can be hidden in many foods, the easiest of which is mashed potatoes. Most people cannot jump right into mashed cauliflower alone, so a 50:50 mixture is a good place to start.
From the family “Brasicaceae” (I don’t know how to say that either), cauliflower is related to broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and collard greens. For the long history of cauliflower breeding, see Wikipedia. In one cup of raw cauliflower alone, there is only 25 calories, yet 10% of your daily recommended fiber and over 75% of your daily vitamin C! Bet you didn’t think a boring white veggie could help fend off colds, but it’s true. It has no fat of course, but also not much protein, which is acceptable. I don’t recommend mashed cauliflower alone as a meal. The World’sHealthiestFoods website recommends cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower a minimum of 2-3 times per week. Cauliflower has nutrients that help support the immune system, anti-inflammatory system, and antioxidant systems. It has been linked to some amount of cancer protection, likely because of these protective effects.

1/2 head of cauliflower
4-5 potatoes
1 1/2 cups stock (chicken, beef, veggie, homemade)
Garlic salt

Step 1: Peel the potatoes, dice them, and cut the cauliflower head into florets.

This is veggie stock I made myself in a slow cooker earlier.

Step 2: Put the stock (or water) into the crock pot and then add in potato and cauliflower.

The cauliflower should break apart easily in your hands.

Leftover scraps of potato and cauliflower will go in the freezer until I have enough to make another batch of vegetable stock.

Step 3: Cook on low 2-3 hours or high 4-5 hours. Mash the potato and cauliflower together, adding any spices or more liquid if needed. You can now serve or doctor however you would normally use mashed potatoes. If you don’t tell, no one will even know the difference! 

What’s you favorite way to use cauliflower?

Vegan acorn squash & potato gnocchi

Acorn squash is a cheap, healthful, tasty, nutrient-packed way to get your fiber. It stores for pretty much forever on a shelf or in a cellar. The most common variety is deep green with an occasional orange spot on one side, though yellow, white, and variegated varieties have been bred. According to Wikipedia, though it is considered a winter squash it is in the same family of summer squash which includes zucchini and yellow squash. 

According to SELFNutritionData, one 4 inch squash has only 172 calories, a mere 4 of those are from fat. Zero cholesterol, and nearly no sodium as well. A single squash has a quarter of your daily recommended fiber, 30 percent of vitamin A, and nearly 80 percent of vitamin C. And as if that weren’t enough, it is mildly anti-inflammatory, gluten-free, and extremely low glycemic index. If I haven’t yet convinced you of what a super food acorn squash is, check out more Healthy Facts About Acorn Squash from the Healthy Eating website.

I had picked several squash a few months back at a local farm where for $30 you get to keep anything you can fit in a little red wagon. With some creative pyramid skills, I and some friends split quite a haul. I still had three acorns left, so I was trying to come up with something to do with it besides oven roasted with butter and brown sugar. Not that I don’t love it like that, I do, but I’d had that twice already in the past month. My mom suggested a recipe out of the blue for acorn squash gnocchi. As a good Slovak/Polish girl, I had grown up loving all types of pasta, gnocchi especially. The chewy, thick texture is completely unique.

She didn’t remember where the recipe came from so rather than try to remember it all, she told me to just Google it. My favorite current verb, “to Google”. I wish I could invent something so widely famous that the name becomes a verb. Anywho… The most intriguing recipe I found came from the blog the Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. This is someone who thinks like me, working in a very tiny place, using what she’s learned and instinct and creativity to come up with new and inventive recipes. Based mostly on that but with my own spin (mostly since I’m out of eggs currently), I present to you my Vegan Acorn Squash and Potato Gnocchi recipe.

Vegan Acorn Squash and Potato Gnocchi 

1 acorn squash
3 medium potatoes
1 1/2 cup flour (plus extra)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt

1 jar pasta sauce
1 can chickpeas
2 carrots
1/2 bunch celery

1. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. If you like, you can rinse the seeds and save them for roasting at 350 for 15 minutes as a light snack.

2. Put the squash in the microwave cut side up with some water in the hole, microwave 5 minutes. Pour out the water, place cut side down and microwave another 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes for 15 minutes total. Squash should be soft when poked with a fork. Remove and set aside to cool.

3. Rinse three potatoes and stick on all sides with a fork. Microwave in 3 minute bursts for a total of 9 minutes.

4. Peel the squash and mash the insides in a large bowl. The peel should slip right off using your fingers, you can use a fork to help lift the squash out.

5. Peel the potatoes as well. If you grab it in both hands and twist, the peel should slide off easily if fully cooked. Mash them into the squash. Get a large pot of salted water to boiling.

6. In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp water, 2 tbsp baking powder and 1 tbsp oil. This replaces one egg, so you can use one egg instead. But this is what makes the dough vegan. It should bubble a bit. Add to the squash/potato mixture, as well as the flour (which, if you’re gluten intolerant, you should use gluten-free flour), and mix well. Your hands work best, dough will be slightly sticky.

7. Flour your work surface and take a handful of dough. Roll it with your hands into a 1-2 inch thick log.

8. Cut the log into small, 1 inch cubes. You can try to shape them with a fork but I just tossed them in the pot like so.

9. Boil the pasta for 3-5 minutes. They should begin floating to the top of the water when fully cooked. Boil in batches. Don’t leave them in longer than about ten minutes or they will become mush. Remove to a strainer to let drain. Meanwhile you can start the sauce.

10. Open the chickpeas and drain. Add to blender along with the pasta sauce and puree until completely liquid, adding some water to thin if needed. If you have a juicer, juice the carrots and celery to add. If not you can simply omit them, or boil them for 20 minutes then add to the blender. I also added in a dash of Italian seasonings.

The gnocchi are chewy and salty, just how I like it. This pasta dough could probably be used to create any kind of pasta, with varying degrees of success. I ended up adding quite a bit more flour to help it stay together and be less sticky. It still ended up a little slimier than I would like, but I will try again.

My boyfriend is a hard-core carnivore, so I added some ground beef to the sauce. I didn’t tell him what it was before he tried it (bless his heart he will try anything once if I made it), and he said he actually liked it and would eat it again! Trust me, that’s a stellar review! These have all the taste and texture of traditional gnocchi with an added dose of fiber and vitamins. Why not?

Nutrition Information

For the gnocchi alone, SparkRecipes nutrition info:

  • Servings Per Recipe: 4
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 345.1
  • Total Fat: 2.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 2,017.5 mg
  • Total Carbs: 72.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 6.7 g
  • Protein: 8.4 g

For the pasta sauce (minus ground beef), SparkPeople nutrition info:

  • Servings Per Recipe: 8
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 90.5
  • Total Fat: 0.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 357.0 mg
  • Total Carbs: 18.3 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.9 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g

Therefore a 1-cup serving of pasta with 1 cup of sauce is only 435 calories and yet 10.6 grams of fiber and nearly 12 grams of protein!

Do you have a favorite way to cook squash?

Ratatouille niçoise

There are several recipes or types of food which I’ve heard of, tried, or seen but have not yet tried to cook myself. One of those is ratatouille. The 2007 Disney movie brought the dish into the main stream consciousness with its adorable main character, Remy, a rat who just wanted to be a great chef. Ever since then it’s been in the back of my mind as a ‘make this someday’ dish.

Ratatouille the dish is traditionally a French dish consisting of stewed vegetables. It originated in the French province of Nice, and comes from the Occitan language “ratatolha” and the French word “touiller” meaning to toss food. There are similar dishes in many other cuisines, including the Catalan samfaina, the Majorcan tombet, the Spanish pisto, the Italian caponata, Greek tourloú, and Filipino pinkabet. French chef Michel Guérard came up with a new version called Confit byaldi for the Disney movie. It can be served as a side dish, or made a whole meal when served over rice.

In my version, I pulled together several variations, and used what I had available in my kitchen. I had planned on a potato leek soup sometime this week, but silly me had only bought one leek, so into the ratatouille it went. While I’m at it, I’ll throw the potato in there too. Oh, and a single turnip I had bought for who knows what reason. Also I had no fresh tomatoes, but my pantry is never without a can of diced tomatoes.

3 zucchini (I just happened to have three different colors, so at least it’ll look pretty)
1 turnip
1 potato
1 leek
1/2 red onion
3 large bulbs garlic
1 leek
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 green bell pepper, sliced

Step 1: Slice the onion into thin strips, dice up the garlic, and slice the leek. Add them and the bell pepper to a frying pan on low with the butter and cover.

Let that cook and caramelize, stirring occasionally, while you preheat the oven to 350 and proceed to the next step. 

Step 2: Slice the zucchini into thin coins. Peel and slice the potato and turnip as well.

 Step 3: Layer the potato, turnip, and zucchini in a casserole pan.

Step 3: To the pan add the can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then pour over the vegetables in the casserole dish.

Step 4: Cover in foil and bake at 350 for 45 min to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the slices are soft when poked with a fork.

I also took the foil off after 45 minutes and let it bake another 15 minutes to evaporate some of the juices. You can now serve it over rice or couscous, with fresh crusty bread, and/or sprinkle on some mozzarella. Deliciously vegetarian and very low fat and low calorie. Bake up a batch, put on the Ratatouille movie or some classic Julia Child and enjoy!

If you have a favorite French recipe, anecdote of your trip Paris or first year of chef school, or a story of attempting a French recipe that ended unfortunately, please share here!

Hearty Quinoa with Peppers, Corn & Black olives

Quinoa is one of my newer food obsessions. As you may be able to tell, I’m quite the avid reader of food blogs, magazines, articles, TV shows, recipe swapping, etc. If it has to do with food and cooking, I’m interested. I love learning new ways of cooking, new foods I’ve not yet heard of or tried, new spices. Since coming to Colorado I met someone from Ethiopia who introduced me to Injera and all sorts of new and exciting foods, meaning a post on those will likely be coming soon! Anyhow, when I find one I like enough, it becomes a part of my food routines. Thus is the case with quinoa. It is tiny grains like rice, with a nuttier flavor that pairs well with nearly anything. But it can be a bit bland if you don’t add things to it.
If you recall from earlier posts, I moved recently and set about a mission to use up as much food from the pantry as I could so that I didn’t have to cart it with me to the next place. In the final week before moving, I discovered a box of quick-cook quinoa I didn’t realize I had. I decided that I would add as many canned items as I thought would go well together and make one heck of a side dish. For vegetarians and vegans, this could also be a main dish. Once it was all mixed together, it turned out super tasty! And it makes a ton, so be aware of that. Maybe 8 cups worth?

1 box couscous (maybe 2 cups uncooked)
1 can corn
1 can beans (I had garbanzo)
1 can black olived
1 jar roasted red peppers

Step 1: Open and drain the corn, beans and olives. Pour into a pot and add a full can of water each and set to boil. Dice the black olives and red peppers into small pieces. Add the peppers to the pot.

The mixed up canned goods looks like soup.

Step 2: Once it boils, pour in the couscous and mix. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes covered.

 Step 3: Once all the liquid is absorbed, fluff it up with a fork. You now have healthy veggie and protein packed side dishes for about 8-10 people or meals!

 The flavors and colors worked together nicely. As I said, this could be a full meal in its own right. You can also experiment with adding other vegetables, meats or cheeses too.

Served with steak and a side salad. Perfect.