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My Nutritarian Diary: Quinoa and Green Bean Salad

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If you’re not sick of salads yet, this Quinoa and Green Bean Salad is for you. It can be eaten on its own as a meal, or it makes an excellent side.

The original recipe calls for a lot more olive oil than I’m comfortable using, so my recipe significantly reduces that ingredient. The original also called for a cup of flat leaf parsley leaves, and while I like parsley, I thought that flavor was too strong for this salad when I made this the first time. Instead, I used a half a cup of fresh, hand-torn basil leaves. (I don’t recommend cutting basil with a knife, as the leaves will turn brown too quickly!)

I love how quick this recipe is to make and how nutritious it is. Not only that, as the picture shows, it is beautiful! One of my nutritarian travelers mentioned that this salad would look holiday festive if diced red bell peppers were added. I thought that was a great suggestion, so I passed that along to you, too. You’re welcome.

Really skies the limit as to seasonings and options for this gem of a salad. If you discover a particular combo that really tickles your palate, please share!

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Quinoa and Green Bean Salad
(Slightly adapted from Meatless, a Martha Stewart Living cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • low sodium vegetable broth for sautéing
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup tri-color quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • ½ cup fresh basil, hand torn in small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (red-wine, white-wine, brown rice, apple cider, or a combination)
  • ⅓ cup almond slivers
  • DIRECTIONS:
    Place onions and garlic 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable broth in a saucepan. Lightly salt and pepper onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent. Stir in quinoa and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. According to the original recipe directions, “Remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes; fluff with fork. Let cool completely.”

    While the quinoa mixture is cooling or as you cook the quinoa, blanch green beans in a pot of boiling salted water for about four minutes. You don’t want to cook the beans much longer than that, as they lose their crispness quickly. Drain and rinse the beans in cold water to stop the cooking.

    In a large bowl, combine the quinoa mixture, green beans, olive oil, if using, vinegar and almond slivers. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Cool salad completely in refrigerator. Then, enjoy!

    My Nutritarian Diary: Loaded Veggie Wheat Berry Salad

    Veggie Wheat Berry Salad Header
    This Loaded Veggie Wheat Berry Salad (or as my husband likes to call it, “A vegan salad so good even your hunter husband will like it”) is as nutritious as it is delicious. It is very similar to another wheat berry salad I’ve featured on my blog but with more veggies and an easier dressing option.

    Most of the veggies in this salad can be found at your local farmer’s market, too, but not for much longer now that fall is around the corner. Take a look at some of the health benefits this salad is packed with:

    • Carrots-Improves Vision, Promotes Healthy Skin, and Fights Cancer
    • Zucchini-Lowers Cholesterol, Maintains Low Blood Sugar, and is an Anti-Inflammatory
    • Tomatoes-Builds Strong Bones, Makes Hair Strong and Shiny, and Prevents Kidney Stones
    • Artichoke Hearts-Promotes Heart Health, Aids Digestion, and Supports Muscle Health
    • Basil-Protects Cells from Damage, Fights Bacteria, and Improves Blood Flow

    And that’s just a handful of the ingredients!

    I hope I have convinced you to give it a try. Remember, even my hunter husband said it was a hit.

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    Loaded Veggie Wheat Berry Salad

    SALAD INGREDIENTS:
    • 5 cups of water
    • 1 cup of wheat berries
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 ½ cups carrots, finely chopped
    • 1 ½ cups raw zucchini, chopped
    • 1 ½ cups cucumber, seeded and chopped
    • 1 ½ cups green pepper, chopped
    • 1 ½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
    • 1 (14-ounce) can of artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered
    • 4 ounces of baby spinach
    • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn in small pieces
    • 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano
    • ¼ to ½ cup onions of choice, finely chopped, optional
    • ½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
    • 1 ½ cups of cooked black beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
    • ¼ to ½ cup of favorite low-fat Italian dressing*
    • 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, if desired for taste
    • Salt and pepper, if needed
    • Lettuce leaves, to plate salad, optional

    *I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place the water, wheat berries, and ½ teaspoon of salt into a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer. Cooking time varies depending on the desired texture and the brand you are cooking. Generally, I prefer to cook mine for 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.

    In a large bowl, while wheat berries are cooking, place the carrots, zucchini, cucumber, green pepper, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, basil, oregano, onion (if using), olives, and black beans, and mix well.

    Add the wheat berries and the dressing to the veggies and combine. Adjust taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, if desired.

    Place desired amount on a plate of lettuce leaves, and serve.

    (You could easily replace wheat berries with quinoa. Just cook 1 cup of quinoa according to its directions and use it instead.)

    My Nutritarian Diary: Sunny Bean Burgers and Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread

    Bean Burger Header2This last weekend, I did not want to cook. At all. I was so desperate for something quick and something that tasted “junk-food” yummy, but I wasn’t desperate enough to cave into the full monty by going to a fast food restaurant.

    I practiced some restraint and settled for store-bought, low-fat, vegan Boca Burgers and some Alexia 98% Fat Free Roasted Straight Cut Fries with Sea Salt. I found some small 100% whole wheat buns in the discounted baked goods section, and all told, I spent less than $10. Not bad for a weekend craving.

    It’s one of those compromises that I often make because it’s 7 p.m., I still don’t have dinner made, and I am going to the store anyway. Thus, packaged “healthy” junk food.

    But, what I had really wanted was to make a homemade bean burger that was nutritious and delicious. All was not lost. I did make that the next evening this time serving it with carrot sticks instead of fries. My husband even had a pickle.

    Two things that made this weekend junk food so yummy and healthy was I used a Tosca Reno Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread (on the Boca Burger, too!). And I found a very nutritious Joel Fuhrman bean burger recipe that was quick to make and tasty.

    If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are those recipes.

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    Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread
    (Slightly adapted from “The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook” by Tosca Reno)

    INGREDIENTS:
    ½ cup vegan mayo
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil, rehydrated in hot water and drained
    1 handful fresh basil leaves (a must!)
    1 clove garlic
    ¼ teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Place all Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread ingredients in a food processor and whirl until thoroughly blended. Spread will be a little chunky. Scrape in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use” (Tosca Reno).

    Sunny Bean Burgers
    (Slightly adapted from “Eat to Live Cookbook” by Joel Fuhrman)

    INGREDIENTS:
    ¼ cup sunflower seeds
    1 (15.5 ounce can) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
    ½ cup minced green onions
    2 tablespoons ketchup
    1 tablespoon old fashioned rolled oats
    ½ teaspoon chili powder
    ¼ teaspoon sea salt, optional

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

    “Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Chop the sunflower seeds in a food processor or with a hand chopper. Mash the beans in the food processor or with a potato masher and mix with the sunflower seeds. Mix in the remaining ingredients and form into six patties.

    Place the patties on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, until you can pick up each patty and compress it firmly in your hands to re-form the burger. Return the patties to the baking sheet, bottom side up, and bake for another 10 minutes” (Joel Fuhrman).

    MY NOTES:
    You can eat these patties served on a whole-wheat bun with Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread (see recipe above) or wrapped in lettuce leaves. Excellent sides are carrot sticks or Alexia 98% Fat Free Roasted Straight Cut Fries with Sea Salt.

    My Nutritarian Diary: BBQ Soy Curl Salad in a Jar

    BBQ Soy Curls Header

    The web for all its glory and grandeur can be a very confusing place especially in the arena of diet advice. Today, to help lessen some of that Internet confusion, I want to talk fat with you as well as share my new favorite salad recipe.

    Let’s start with general consensus out there that the percentage of calories we need in our daily intake from fat is 20-35% (some doctors and nutritionists who advocate a low-fat, plant-based diet even take that figure down to 10-15%). In addition, the general consensus out there is that we shouldn’t consume more than 10% of our calories a day from saturated fat, to help prevent cardiovascular disease and perhaps Type 2 diabetes.

    To start breaking this down for you, I am going to examine the fat make-up of several foods and base my nutrition percentages on a 2,000-calorie diet, since that’s what our labels use. You would lesson or increase that figure depending on whether you wanted to lose weight or if you were more active.

    First, let’s look at the fat make-up of several plant-based foods in no particular order. (I used caloriecount.about.com and the nutrition labels of the items I had on hand for these numbers.)

    Food Total Fat Saturated Fat
    24 Almonds (1 oz.) 22% 5%
    1 TBSP Safflower Oil 22% 5%
    ½ Medium Avocado 20% 12%
    12 Large Pitted Olives 12% 0%
    1 TBSP Ground Flaxseed 3.5% 1.5%
    1 TBSP Peanut Butter, Natural 12.5% 8%
    Trader Joe’s High Protein Super Firm Organic Tofu (84g/1 Serving) 11% 5%
    Butler Soy Curls (3/4 cup/1 Serving) 7% 0%

    It’s easy to see that the saturated fats in this category of foods is significantly less than the total fat. Also, nuts, oil, and avocados are higher in fat, and probably should be eaten in smaller portions than I’ve listed above in order to prevent weight gain. And as much as many of us love peanut butter, it’s probably best to eat in teaspoon portions rather than tablespoon ones.

    Next, let’s look up the fat make-up of several animal-based foods that are low in fat. (I used caloriecount.about.com for these numbers.)

    Food Total Fat Saturated Fat
    Egg (Cooked, Hard-Boiled) 7% 8%
    Chicken Leg (Meat Only, No Skin) 4% 3%
    ½ Chicken Breast (Meat Only, No Skin) 5% 0%
    4 oz. Lean Ground Turkey (93% Lean) 12% 12%
    3 oz. Lean Hamburger (85% Lean) 20% 25%
    1 oz. 2% Milk Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese 8% 15%
    ½ Fillet Salmon Atlantic, Wild 19% 10%
    3 oz. Beef, Top Sirloin (Trimmed to ¼” Fat) 8% 10%

    In general, this category of food has a higher saturated fat ratio than the plant-based category (white chicken breast and salmon the exceptions in this list), and that’s even when eating these foods in very small portions. While this family of foods may not be high in total fat, their saturated fat make-up along with the realization that in general portion sizes of these foods are rarely as small as listed above, you can see why limiting this source of food may be beneficial to your health.

    To sum it up, at least for me, I have cut out of my diet most animal-based foods due to their saturated fat and cholesterol content. This choice has significantly lowered my cholesterol for the good.

    In addition, I follow a lower-fat diet, only because I think I generally eat too much fat if I don’t watch it. With that said, I also believe I should eat good fats from plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, avocados and so on. I think limiting vegetable oil intake is a must for me, as well, since I can reach the low end of my daily caloric intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet in one tablespoon of oil.

    So, while it may not be 100% accurate to say we need to eat a strictly low-fat diet, it’s probably best if we eat a lower-fat diet than most of us currently do, since fat calories add up quickly.

    If that speaks to you and you want to start eating less fat, here’s a great recipe I’ve incorporated into my diet recently that helps with that goal.

    (Please understand I’m not a nutritionist and do realize everybody has different nutritional needs. Also, higher fat diets are good for those who are very active, so I would definitely encourage you to do your own research based on your own genetics and lifestyle.)

     IMG_4424 (667x1024)
    BBQ Soy Curl Salad in a Jar

    INGREDIENTS:
    1½ cup of Butler Soy Curls*, reconstituted in warm water per package directions
    ¼ cup of BBQ Sauce
    1 cup of sweet corn, defrosted if frozen
    1 cup of cherry tomatoes
    3 cups of salad greens
    1 32-oz. mason jar
    *You can buy these online at www.butlerfoods.com

    DIRECTIONS:
    In a medium pan, pour BBQ sauce over the soy curls, mix together and cook them over medium heat until lightly browned and pan-fried. Set aside to cool.

    Soy Curls Collage

    Layer the corn, cherry tomatoes, BBQ soy curls, and salad greens compactly (but not too compactly) in a 32-ounce mason jar, and place in refrigerator until ready to eat. (Probably should eat in a day or two.)

    When ready to eat, pour salad fixings in a large bowl, dig in, and enjoy!

    I find this salad tastes fine without a dressing, but feel free to add a dressing of your choice to it (keeping in mind the recommended fat calorie intake if you don’t use a fat-free dressing). If you are packing a mason jar, place the dressing at the very bottom.

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    My Nutritarian Diary: Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

    chocbanpbic2
    It’s hot out. Really hot out. And it isn’t going to let up for at least another week here in Spokane, WA, as far as I know. So, today I chose a recipe that is hot-weather worthy: Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It’s a variant of the Chocolate Banana Ice Cream recipe I posted on my blog about four and a half months ago. I made this delightful version this week and was so amazed at how yummy it was, I had to share it.

    First, in the spirit of blogger full disclosure, I need to be honest with you all. I have not been as diligent eating nutrient-dense foods (especially desserts) over the last month, and I believe I paid for this in gaining five pounds. Now, if those five pounds were the result of working out, I would not even bring it up. But they are not. And that’s the other item I need to share with you. I have not been very diligent in working out, either, which is as good for me as eating well. There are three main reasons why. One, it’s hot out. Two, I am so busy, and I just can’t seem to fit it into my schedule. And three, it just hasn’t been as much of a priority to me as eating cleaner, whole foods.

    This week, though, I took small steps to improve my after-dinner sweets, this recipe being one of them, as well as to incorporate more exercise into my week.

    In his Eat to Live Cookbook, Joel Fuhrman recommends eating dessert. He writes, “One trick to prevent overeating is to have a delicious dessert at the conclusion of dinner—before you’ve overeaten. Let dessert mark the end of your day’s eating experience and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning.” What great advice! And so, I don’t deny myself sweets, I just make ones that are nutrient dense (ones that are fruit-centric and made with no sugar, except the sugar found in fruits).

    And as far as exercising, I get bored very easily. Because of that, I believe doing a variety of activities during the week is what will work best for me. This week, I did some yoga, took walks, and did some cellulite-busting exercises that I linked to on myfoxspokane.com’s facebook page this #wellnesswednesday. My husband and I also purchased a bike trailer for our daughter, which will allow me to add bicycle riding into the week. And when it’s this hot out, the wind on your face as you’re biking is a great relief.

    It is in the small steps that we make significant changes. I try to be kind to myself when I veer off the path now and then. I just make a course correction, and get back on track. So, without further ado, here’s one of those course corrections.

    IMG_4331 (683x1024) (2)
    Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
    Recipe slightly adapted from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon. (I halved her recipe for one serving.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 frozen banana
    • 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond milk, depending on desired consistency
    • 3 teaspoons of natural peanut butter
    • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Place all ingredients together in a food processor and allow the motor to run until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stop and break up large clumps with a spatula as needed.” (Lindsay S. Nixon)

    Taste and adjust ingredient amounts as preferred.

    Pinterest:Impossible – Gyoza and Teriyaki Chicken

    pinterestimpossiblelogonobackgroundThere’s just something about having family in town that makes me want to cook. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but feeding a large group (at least half a dozen adults and two kids going through a picky phase) of people whose opinions actually matter to me seems like an excellent challenge. AND an excellent opportunity to try out some more recipes from Pinterest!

    Last week for Family Dinner I made gyoza, Teriyaki chicken, and chicken fried rice. I pulled gyoza (or potstickers if that name works better for you) and Teriyaki chicken recipes from Pinterest and used my own tried and true fried rice recipe. I’ve spent YEARS perfecting that one and am quite proud of it.

    And to be completely honest here, I’ve made gyoza before so they weren’t a huge challenge for me. The recipe I found was not exactly the same as the one I’ve used in the past, however, and two times out of every five that I make gyoza I burn them a bit, so there is still some work involved for me in making them.

    chinesefood

    Before you ask, yes, of course, I made substitutions and changes to the recipes. I can’t seem to help it. I like stuff the way I like it and that is that. The gyoza called for cabbage to be included in the filling along with the pork, but I’ve never thought it was necessary. The pork is so flavorful by itself (well with all the spices and seasonings mixed in) that cabbage seems superfluous to me. PLUS it always seems that if I buy cabbage I don’t use enough in the gyoza and there is tons left over and I don’t know what to do with it. I’m cool with cabbage but I don’t love it and I don’t want to be eating it for weeks just because it comes in giant quantities.

    I also took out the shiitake mushrooms and I’m not sorry. I don’t like mushrooms and I don’t want them in my gyoza. So there.

    Gyoza are wonderful and delicious and addictive, but they also take awhile to make as you have to individually fill the little wrappers and then fold them properly so they don’t fall open while cooking. THEN you have to fry them a bit til the bottoms are a light brown and then steam them a bit so the sides are nice and chewy. It is an involved process that takes more than a few minutes and so I needed the dishes that I was making along with the gyoza to be a bit simpler. That’s why I was very happy to find a Teriyaki chicken recipe that was made in the slow cooker. I set up the chicken and sauce before I left for work and by the time I got home it smelled amazing and tasted even better. The only change I made to that recipe was cutting up the chicken before adding to the slow cooker. I thought it would be easier to deal with once it was cooked if it was cut into small chunks.

    The fried rice turned out to be the most complicated (and messy) dish I made, and that was mainly because I was making it in my dad’s kitchen without the use of my giant rice cooker and electric wok. Juggling different mix-ins between frying pans and big pots was not the easiest thing to do but I managed as well as I could. And the rice turned out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself (and I do!).

    Between the gyoza, Teriyaki chicken, and fried rice, I’d have to say everything turned out well. My family ate lots of food and my picky five-year-old nephew even ate two gyoza, so I’m counting this Pinterest:Impossible a success!

    – Mia V.

     

    *Be sure to check out all the great recipes we have on our Fox 28 Foodies Unite! and Pinterest:Impossible boards!

    **Interested in my fried rice recipe? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to share!

    SOURCE – gyoza
    SOURCE – crock pot teriyaki chicken

     

     

    Pinterest:Impossible – Stuffed Hot Dogs

    pinterestimpossiblelogonobackgroundIt’s National Hot Dog Month and what better way to celebrate than by making (and eating) hot dogs! I scoured the Pinterest boards trying to find the tastiest looking hot dog recipes out there. I’ve always been a ketchup-onions-relish kind of girl myself, but I’m pretty open-minded and it was fun seeing just how many dozens of recipes for hot dogs exist.

    I actually picked two that looked interesting and delicious, but only ended up making one. Hey, it was the Fourth of July and I was drinking fun ‘lady’ beers (Mike’s Hard Lemonade) and watching RoboCop 3 (yes, seriously, I sat all the way through it and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about that) and it was hot and cooking sounded less than fun, so I only made one recipe and that’s that.

    Stuffed Hot Dogs were what I went with. They included fun toppings like crushed Doritos, cheese, ketchup, onions, and Worchestshire sauce, but instead of being placed on top of the dog, the dog was split open and had everything stuffed inside. They were not too difficult to make, though I was a little concerned while splitting the hot dogs open as I wanted to make room for all the filling but didn’t want to split the dog so far it would fall apart.

    stuffedhotdogs

    In the grand tradition of Being Me, I did change up the recipe somewhat from the listed instructions. I got Doritos instead of potato chips and sandwich rolls instead of hot dog buns. Nothing too big, but I think the Doritos added an extra flavor kick to the filling mix. The sandwich rolls were tasty but too big, so I’m thinking in the future I need to pay closer attention to how things match up size-wise.

    The first hot dog I ate without any additional condiments. I figured with all the stuff squashed inside of the meat it wouldn’t need anymore flavor. While it was tasty, it was also a little dry, so for my second hot dot I added a generous dollop of honey mustard.

    I love honey mustard. It’s the best condiment ever invented. I could eat it (and have eaten it) on almost anything. (Bit of friendly advice though, don’t try honey mustard on chocolate cake. It will not work out.)

    Stuffed Hot Dogs are a fun twist on a classic food and this recipe was nice and easy to make. I’d definitely call this Pinterest:Impossible a WIN, even if I had to cut off the end of the sandwich rolls to make the hot dogs fit.

    – Mia V.

     

    *Be sure to check out all the great recipes we have on our Fox 28 Foodies Unite! and Pinterest:Impossible boards!

    (SOURCE – stuffed hot dogs)

    My Nutritarian Diary: Vegan Eggplant Meatballs

    Vegan Eggplant Meatballs Header
    In my opinion, great plant-based recipes taste great, are nutritious, and feature vegetables prominently. Well, this Vegan Eggplant Meatballs recipe does that and more. One of the things I like most about these little guys is that they can be eaten in a variety of ways.

    These “meatballs” are great served hot out of the oven on noodles (zucchini, wheat, or gluten free) and topped with a homemade veggie marinara sauce. They would make an excellent warmed appetizer dipped in your favorite store-bought, plant-based spaghetti sauce. And as leftovers, they taste excellent cold served on top of a large salad.

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    So whatever your eating style or mood, these eggplant delights are an excellent treat!

    And if you decide to eat the leftovers on a plate of lettuce, why not whip up some of Dreena Burton’s “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette to go with it.

    Or if you are in the mood for another delicious eggplant-centric meal, I recommend giving my Baked Eggplant Spaghetti recipe a try!

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    Vegan Eggplant Meatballs
    (Slighty adapted from skinnytaste.com, which slightly adapted it from Mark Bittman’s VB6 Cookbook)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • ¼ cup (or more) of low sodium vegetable broth, for sautéing
    • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubed pieces
    • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) sea salt, mixed
    • ½ teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves of garlic (or more depending on taste)
    • 1 cup cooked white beans (or drained and rinsed canned beans)
    • ¼ cup fresh parsley (or a ¼ cup mix of fresh parsley, fresh oregano, etc.)
    • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs or panko
    • ¼ cup of nutritional yeast, optional
    • pinch of red chili flakes, optional

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Heat the oven to 375°. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray [or line sheet with parchment paper].

    Place [vegetable broth] in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant …. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. [Add more vegetable broth if necessary to keep from sticking.] Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

    Add [more vegetable broth] to the skillet with the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add to the food processor along with the drained beans and parsley [or other fresh seasoning blend] and pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed.

    Combine the mixture with the breadcrumbs, [nutritional yeast if using] and red chili flakes if using. Taste for salt then roll into 12 meatballs, about 2-inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and browned, about 25 to 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, warm the marinara sauce and serve with the meatballs over pasta, zucchini noodles or on a whole wheat roll” (skinnytaste.com).

    My Nutritarian Diary: Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad

    Savory Pasta Salad Fireworks Header
    Sometimes simple is best. Sometimes ingredients that don’t call for a lot of work, are just what the weary cook needs. And sometimes a great, wholesome meal can include foods that are somewhat processed. I am still a huge advocate of not buying processed food, and if I do, I want to make sure it has the fewest ingredients possible. But from time to time, I need the added assistance of something already made.

    That is definitely the case with this salad. I had a couple of Trader Joe’s items I thought would mix well with fresh veggies and pasta, and in about the time it took to cook the pasta, I had a wonderful pasta salad with flavors that delighted my palate.

    Ingredients Collage
    The two ingredients I totally recommend not changing for this salad are the Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar and the Savory-Flavored Organic Baked Tofu (pictured above).

    However, use the rest of the recipe below as a guide and adjust where your inner chef takes you.

    IMG_4295
    Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 10-12 ounces whole wheat spiral pasta
    • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 medium zucchini, chopped (about 2 cups)
    • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
    • 4 green onions, diced (about ⅓ to ½ cup)
    • 7 ounces Trader Joe’s organic, savory-seasoned and baked tofu, cut into small cubes
    • ¼ cup fresh basil, finely diced
    • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely diced
    • 1-2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely diced
    • ⅓ cup to ½ cup Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar, or another Italian dressing of your choice
    • Salt and pepper, to taste, optional*
    • Salad greens to plate, optional

    *The savory-flavored tofu along with the dressing was sufficient seasoning for me, so I did not add salt or pepper to mine.

    DIRECTIONS:
    Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, combine the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, green bell pepper, green onions, baked tofu, basil, parsley, and oregano in a large bowl. Toss together. Add cooked pasta and dressing and toss to combine. Taste and adjust amount of dressing and add salt and/or pepper if needed. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow seasonings to get more defined. Serve on a plate of greens, if using.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo”

    Sun-Dried Alfredo Header
    This Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo” is a wonderful recipe for a few reasons. First, it’s absolutely delicious. The sun-dried tomato flavoring gives this sauce one of the best flavors I’ve tasted since going mostly plant-based in my eating.

    Second, it’s so easy to make! I mean the only thing you have to “cook” is the pasta. Really, that’s it. Isn’t that great?

    Third, this “alfredo” is better for you than its fat-laden (and yes, I’ll add delicious!) cousins. Using lite silken tofu and cashews helps provide the creamy texture that wonderfully coats the pasta. Cashews are a great alternative to using heavy dairy creams in recipes, and the tofu makes the sauce go further.

    Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and you have a dish that packs a nutritional punch of fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and more! And the artichoke hearts are worth a mention, too. They are full of health benefits including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol, and possessing a high amount of the antioxidant vitamin C.

    So, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think!

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    Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo”
    (Adapted from Tosca Reno’s “Penne with No-Cook Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Cream, Artichoke Hearts and Basil” recipe in The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 12-16 ounces of pasta of your choice (I used 12-ounces of tri-colored penne pasta)
    • 1 (12.3 ounce) package firm lite silken tofu, drained, at room temperature
    • ½ cup raw unsalted cashews
    • ½ cup hot water
    • 1 cup rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil), drained
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
    • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (or more, to taste)
    • 1 (12 ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
    • ¼ teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and cook the pasta according to package directions until ‘al dente’. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Do not rinse the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

    In a blender (or food processor), blend the tofu, cashews and hot water until very smooth. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, [nutritional yeast], salt and pepper, and blend until combined, but you can still see little chunks of tomatoes. Pour over the pasta, add the artichoke hearts, and toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta cooking liquid a bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency” (Tosca Reno).

    MY NOTES:
    The original recipe called for one tablespoon of chopped marjoram, which I didn’t have on hand. Also, I added nutritional yeast to my version for more of a “cheesy” flavor. And Tosca’s name for this recipe was just entirely too long for my blog post title, so that is why I’ve renamed it.