Monthly Archives: February 2016

T.G.I.F. Cherry Bomb Martini

Cherry Bomb Martini

Cherry Bomb Martini

I used to believe that if I followed a wholesome diet and included certain supplements and super foods that I would ward off disease. If I wanted to reduce my risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes or memory loss all I had to do was have more almonds, salmon, yogurt, berries, soy beans, fiber, red wine, etc. If I didn’t like or have time for these foods, I could get them in pill form — fish oil, probiotics, multi-vitamins, fiber supplements, co-enzyme Q-10, glucosamine-condroitin, and so on. I refer to this as the magic bullet approach. If I had steak for dinner, the cholesterol would be negated by a glass of red wine. What was I thinking? I made a major lifestyle change over three years ago by adopting a plant-based diet and so I don’t focus on supplements or super foods too much. After all, everything I eat now is a super food. I have, however, been looking into the health benefits of cherries, specifically tart cherries and their affect on inflammation and joint pain. I have osteoarthritis in my back and pain in my knees that has been creeping up on my body for decades. According to, sour cherries, because they contain high levels of the active ingredient cyanidin, might be 10 times stronger than aspirin in fighting inflammation without the risk of side effects. If it can’t hurt me and could potentially help me, why not incorporate tart cherries into my diet on a regular basis? I opted to order tart cherry juice as fresh sour cherries are hard to come by even when they’re in season and dried cherries lose some of their health-promoting qualities in the drying process. Not only are cherries good for inflammation, but they are supposed to help with fighting cancer, gout, heart disease, stroke, alzheimers and diabetes. I’ve been drinking a small glass every day. I’ll report back on my progress.

As it happens so often, I get inspiration from trying new food products and this cherry juice is no exception. As soon as I took my first sip I wanted to come up with a cocktail for it. The Cherry Bomb Martini as an occasional kick-back cocktail made with vodka, cherry brandy, tart cherry juice and a splash of orgeat syrup. (Orgeat is a syrup made from almonds that’s also used to make a Mai Tai. It’s tricky to find it in stores, so I made my own a few years ago and it’s still good. Click here for an orgeat recipe.) The cocktail is named after the Cherry Bomb explosive which ranges in size from three-quarters of an inch to one and a half inches in diameter. How can something so small pack such a wallop? I thought about all the healing potential of those tiny tart cherries and thought it fitting to name this cocktail after the explosive cherry bomb. Whether you drink your cherry juice straight up or dressed up, you’re bound to enjoy the healing benefits of this tangy tonic. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

P.S. In the middle of enjoying my Cherry Bomb, I rummaged through the pantry for something to pair it with. I pulled out a bag of Fig-Strawberry cookies that I recently picked up at Costco. Wow! These turned out to be the perfect complement to this sweet-tart of a cocktail.

Cherry Bomb and Fig Drops

Cherry Bomb Martini

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part cherry brandy
  • 1 part tart cherry juice
  • Splash of orgeat or simple syrup (optional)

Pour all ingredients over cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake and strain into glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry if desired.

27 Feb 2016

Peace & Harmony: Mashed Potatoes 4 Ways in an Instant

Mashed PotatoesI’m living in a blended family, but not blended as our society has come to know it. First we have Mom who is an omnivore. As much as I would like her to, she is not going to change her way of eating. Then there’s Bruce who’s on a mission to reduce his sodium intake and eat less refined foods. And then there’s me, the plant-based girl who just wants to have fun. Without any health issues to contend with I still like to salt my food and have some sugar in my baked goods. At times it’s a challenge to get everyone to agree, especially about food.  Last night I made mashed potatoes in my instant pot. In the four minutes that they were under pressure, I came up with a plan to appeal to everyone’s palate. After the potatoes and onions were mashed with some almond milk, I placed a portion in a separate bowl for Mom and, with a grimace, added some butter. The remaining potatoes were mixed with black pepper and brought to the table. Bruce had his potatoes straight up with a side of steamed vegetables. I divided my share in two and judiciously sprinkled black truffle salt on one half and a generous dusting of The Gentle Chef’s sour cream and cheddar seasoning on the other half. This dinner dilemma was solved with an ounce of ingenuity, a spoonful of diplomacy and a few pounds of potatoes.  Mashed potatoes can stand in as a side to a lentil loaf or bean dish or be the focal point surrounded by a side of steamed vegetables or sauteed greens. You could replace the onion with four large cloves of roasted garlic or add some herbs like rosemary or thyme. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker simply place the potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, simmer until soft and drain.) However you serve them up, these mashed potatoes are sure to bring some peace and harmony to your table. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mashed Potatoes 4 Ways in an Instant

Way 1:

  • 2 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup hot non-dairy milk (or more if desired)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Way 2: add Sour Cream & Cheddar Seasoning from The Gentle Chef

Way 3: add truffle salt to taste

Way 4: substitute 4 large gloves of roasted garlic for onion

Place potatoes, onions and water in pressure cooker or instant pot. Set pressure to high, then cook for four minutes. Use quick release to open pressure cooker. Add hot milk, salt & pepper and mash to desired consistency.

25 Feb 2016

Stay Hungry: Smokey Portabellas with Baked Beans

Smoky Portobella Under Baked BeansWhen I say “stay hungry”, I’m not referring to physical hunger but to a hunger for knowledge and experience. What I love about mushrooms is that they feed my hunger for new culinary challenges. The beauty of mushrooms is that they can be grilled, sauteed, souped, stewed, marinated, burger-ized, stuffed or stuffed into something else. (Did I leave something out? Probably.) I made a baked bean recipe from the Fat Free Vegan website the other day. After all the chopping, saucing and baking I realized that I wanted something more. On its own this bean dish has enough in it to make an entire meal, but “baked beans” just seems like a side to me. I remembered the four portabella mushroom caps that I was saving for another recipe and thought they might make a nice foundation for a mountain of baked beans. I wanted to make a grilled mushroom that would be tasty on its own but would also complement a myriad of other foods. I made a marinade using the apple cider-orange juice reduction from the Orchard Grove Cocktails that I made this past weekend and added some liquid smoke, soy sauce and seasonings. I brushed it on both sides, let the mushrooms marinate for a few hours, grilled them on the barbeque grill then piled on the baked beans. The subtle smoky sweetness of the mushroom was a nice complement to the saucy baked beans. Of course you could substitute your favorite bean or lentil recipe for the baked beans or simply enjoy these mushrooms on a bun with grilled onions and BBQ sauce. You can slice the mushrooms (after grilling them whole) and layer over or under mashed potatoes, sauteed greens or a tossed salad. The possibilities are limited only to your imagination and what you have in your kitchen. Stay hungry, my friends, and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smokey Grilled Portabellas

  • 4 large portabella caps
  • ½ cup apple cider-orange juice reduction
  • 2 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika

Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl. Brush on both sides of mushroom caps and let marinate for several hours. Grill on high heat, turning once, until mushrooms are brown on both sides. Enjoy as is or top with baked beans or other filling.

20 Feb 2016

Arroz Rapido: Fast-Track Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

A Cuban, a Puerto Rican and a Dominican walk into an office . . . Many years ago I learned how to make recaito, a green Puerto Rican seasoning base used to make Spanish rice. The recipe was based on the recipes from several co-workers of mine. While they came from different backgrounds, they had similar methods for making Spanish rice and they all used some version of recaito. It’s quite a production — cilantro, recao leaves, bell peppers, onions, garlic and aijes dulces. I usually make a big batch and freeze it small containers. How is it possible that I couldn’t find one small container today? No big deal. I had some of the ingredients on hand and went ahead with a scaled-down version: cilantro, garlic, onion and bell pepper. The measurements are an approximation as I just threw the ingredients in my mini-chopper. You can season the rice with store-bought Sazon, but since I’m trying to cut back on our sodium intake I make my own blend. To make your own salt-free Sazon seasoning, process one tablespoon each of cumin, coriander, garlic powder and annato in a coffee grinder. My three friends also agreed on another important aspect of making Spanish rice and that is getting the bottom layer of rice browned and stuck to the bottom of the pot. This lends a nutty, caramelized flavor to the rice. It’s a delicate balance between browning and burning the rice and it took me awhile to get it down. To brown, or not to brown; either way you’ll have Spanish rice that’s fast and flavorful. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fast Track Spanish Rice

Makes 3 cups


  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onions
  • 1 garlic clove


  • ¼ cup chopped tomato
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1-1/4 water
  • ½ teaspoon Sazon seasoning

Prepare the recaito: In mini chopper, process cilantro, bell pepper, onion and garlic until a chunky paste is formed.

Set Instant Pot to saute and brown the recaito for about one minute. Add tomato and stir for about 30 seconds, then add rice, water and Sazon. Cover and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Use instant release then remove cover when pressure is completely released. Set pot to saute and let bottom layer of rice brown slightly, about 1 minute. Re-cover and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Stovetop Method:

Brown recaito ingredients in sauce pot (you may need a little oil to do this), adding tomato and rice as above using 2 cups of water and cooking for 15 minutes.

18 Feb 2016

Holy Mole Memories: Mushroom Enchiladas

Mole Mushroom BurritoSometimes things turn out differently than we expect them to. I recently purchased an Instant Pot and made the Holy Mole Black Bean soup from Vegan Under Pressure. It turned out great and while it’s a healthy recipe it was way too rich-tasting for me. Since I had a lot left over, I portioned it into four pint-size containers and popped three of them into the freezer as I had plans for that fourth pint. (Here’s where I get all teary-eyed and sentimental.) When Bruce and I were first dating, one of our favorite restaurants was a small Mexican place in New Jersey called Pecos. I still remember the life-sized statue of a mariachi musician posted at the entrance. Pecos closed down before we moved, but its memory will live on in our hearts. I always ordered their chicken enchiladas with mole sauce and a side of Spanish rice. Mole is a Spanish sauce made from chilis, nuts and chocolate. I made it at home . . . once. The recipe had an ingredient list that was an arm’s length and a multi-step process, so I haven’t made it since. As soon as I tasted this soup made I knew it would make a good mole sauce for enchiladas. The filling recipe came together with whatever I had on hand — mushrooms, peppers, onions and garlic. The pint of mole soup was the perfect amount of sauce for four enchiladas.(Yea! I have three more pints ready for use in the near future.) If you don’t own an Instant Pot or the Vegan Under Pressure cookbook or don’t want to make your own mole you can use a store-bought sauce. If you don’t care for mole you can always substitute your favorite enchilada sauce. Just one bite of these enchiladas transported me back to that little Mexican restaurant that we remember so fondly. Make some memories of your own and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Mushroom Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

2 extra large portobella mushroom caps, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teapoon cumin powder
About 4 tortillas (whole wheat, white, brown rice, etc.)
1 pint of mole or enchilada sauce (see note)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water, then the onions and peppers. Saute until light brown. Add garlic and cook for another minute before adding mushrooms. Continue to saute until mushrooms are brown and liquid has evaporated. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with mole or enchilada sauce. Fill enchiladas (about ¾ cup per tortilla), roll and place seam side down on top of sauce. Cover with remaining sauce. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Note: I used the Holy Mole Black Bean Soup recipe from Vegan Under Pressure cookbook, but you can use any sauce you like.

17 Feb 2016

Our Daily Bread: Italian Panettone

PanettonePanttone is a sweet bread that originated from Milan, Italy. I remember that you could only find Panettone in an Italian specialty store around Christmas. Nowadays, you can get it year round at a regular supermarket. Since it contains eggs, butter, sugar and raisins it’s more like dessert than bread. I like to toast it and have it with a cup of coffee for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon.  Authentic Panettone is made during a long process that involves curing the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. Since I’m neither a seasoned bread maker nor a food scientist (and my parents didn’t name me Patience, I’ll forgo this “mystical” and time-consuming method of making Panettone in the traditional way. I had been making Panettone with butter and eggs for years in a bread machine, so I decided to try making a non-dairy version. It was quite simple; all I did was replace the eggs with aquafaba and use the Better Butter from The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook. I also incorporated some almond extract and orange zest into the recipe. This recipe is meant for a bread machine, so I don’t know how it would work if you kneaded it by hand and raised it on the counter.  I used to have a Breadman, which has been replaced with a Panasonic bread machine. The recipe works well in both machines. The only difference is the order in which the ingredients go, so please refer to your owner’s manual. (If you don’t have a bread machine, it’s a worthwhile investment. Most store-bought bread has a lot of salt and other ingredients like corn syrup, etc. If you like pizza, bread machines can make perfect dough in under an hour.) The Panettone comes out slightly sweet with a hint of orange and almond flavors. It makes a nice breakfast right out of the toaster, but can also be used to make non-dairy French toast or bread pudding. Make some Panettone and you can have your slice of daily bread every day. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Panettone (Dairy-free for Bread Making Machine)

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from one orange
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup non-dairy butter
  • 5 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid drained from canned chickpeas)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup raisins

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for making raisin bread, using the three cups of flour as your guide for machine settings. I use the light setting for the crust.

Makes one loaf.


12 Feb 2016

On Your Mark. Get Set. Go. Banana Pancakes

Banana Pancakes

Banana Pancakes

I love tradition. It doesn’t matter if it’s rooted in family, culture, patriotism or religion. I just enjoy embracing it. In the US, the day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday. It is more commonly known as Mardi Gras, which is simply Fat Tuesday in French. It gets its name from the custom, in many Catholic countries, of marking the day with feasting before the fasting season of Lent begins. In the UK, this day is known as Pancake Day. According to Historic “Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – was traditionally a time of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were “shriven” (absolved from their sins). A bell would be rung to call people to confession. This came to be called the “Pancake Bell” and is still rung today. Shrove Tuesday was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before embarking on the Lenten fast and pancakes are the perfect way of using up these ingredients.In the UK, pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes. The most famous pancake race takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire. According to tradition, in 1445 a woman of Olney heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan.”  Now, doesn’t this look like fun?

Author: Robin Myerscough. licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I wanted to celebrate Shrove Tuesday by coming up with a sinfully-tasting pancake recipe that you could enjoy any day of the year. My favorite pancake recipe to date is for Pumpkin Pancakes, so I figured I could use banana puree in place of the pumpkin. I used a mixture of spelt and whole wheat pastry flours and eliminated the sugar since the bananas are naturally sweet on their own. With just a tablespoon of coconut oil in the entire recipe and the use of a non-stick electric griddle, these pancakes are VFF (virtually fat-free). Whether or not you observe a Lenten fast, these pancakes are so healthy and guilt-free that you won’t need any absolution and the only racing to be done will be that of your family coming down for breakfast. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Banana-Nutmeg Pancakes

Makes about 12 to 16 pancakes

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk, warmed to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 1 cup banana puree (about 2 large bananas)
  • 1 tablespoons melted coconut oil, plus extra for the griddle

Whisk the flours, flax meal, baking soda, sugar, salt, and nutmeg together in a large mixing bowl.

Grease a non-stick griddle with coconut oil and over medium heat. Alternately, heat an electric griddle on high (I don’t grease mine).

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together vigorously the milk and apple cider vinegar until the mixture is a little frothy. Mix in the coconut oil, banana, and the vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix them until the batter is totally smooth.

Use a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup or a ladle to portion the batter onto your griddle. Once you see bubbles at the top of your pancakes and their edges begin to turn golden, they’re ready to flip. Flip the pancakes and allow them to cook for a few minutes on the other side.

Serve the pancakes with maple syrup.


07 Feb 2016

Waste Not, Want Not: Creamy Carrot Puree with Roasted Garlic

Creamy Carrot Puree

Creamy Carrot Puree

Not one to waste food, I save vegetable trimmings to make cooking stock. I don’t get hung up on what goes into the pot since I use the stock to flavor other recipes. I’m also not a super-taster so my taste buds are not that discerning when it comes to subtleties in food. I was making some stock today and decided to add a few carrots to the pot. As I was straining the stock I thought it would be a waste to throw out the carrots. Then I recalled having a buttery carrot puree in a French restaurant many years ago and decided to come up with a recipe of my own. After pureeing the carrots, I had about 1-1/2 cups of puree. I added cashew cream for richness, roasted garlic and maple syrup for a savory-sweetness and a pinch of Chinese Five Spice for a little zest. It’s easy to adjust the ingredients to your liking. Super simple, super tasty. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.


Carrot Puree with Roasted Garlic

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

  • About 4 large carrots, boiled
  • 2 tablespoons cashew cream
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 clove of roasted garlic
  • Chinese Five Spice to taste

Add all ingredients to container of food processor and process on high until smooth.



04 Feb 2016

Pick Your Pasta: Macaroni with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Sunday dinner in my family always meant “macaroni”, typically served with a gravy made from meatballs, sausage and bracciole. For as long as I can remember, we always called it “macaroni” not matter what size, shape or form it came in. With the advent of food TV and the evolution of gourmet dining, chefs were referring to my “macaroni” as pasta. So, what’s in a name? I don’t know, but maybe “pasta” sounds more sophisticated than “macaroni’. I checked Wikipedia and found out that “macaroni” is a cut, tubular-shaped pasta. Different in form from noodles and other flat pastas, “macaroni” is made from the same ingredients and should taste the same. So what’s the difference? For me, it comes down to the sauce, tradition and some pragmatism. I like to use certain types of pasta because, by design, their shape allows the sauce to get caught up in their nooks and crannies. For a creamy vodka sauce, something like penne or rigatoni works well. (I like this recipe from the Humane Society.) Our family tradition for Christmas Eve was a pasta dish called fra’ diavlo (spaghetti with a red sauce made with shellfish.) I pay homage to that tradition with my Linguini with Shitake Mushroom Sauce and will always use a flat pasta for this dish.  Flat pasta like fettucine or linguine is a good choice for a thick marinara or an Alfredo-type sauce since the sauce is able to coat the long strands of pasta. However, a pasta dish that calls for vegetables like leeks, mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant is better suited for a cut pasta because it’s easier to get the different ingredients onto your fork and neatly into your mouth. A recipe like Macaroni & Peas definitely needs a small, cut pasta (and a spoon). And yet, it all comes down to personal taste; you just might prefer the appearance or mouth-feel of one type of pasta over the other.  A few notes about this recipe. Depending on how saucy you want to like your pasta this recipe will cover from 8 to 12 ounces of pasta. For an alcohol-free version, replace the wine with more broth. If you don’t have leeks, you can substitute yellow onions. Call it what you like, this is one delicious and nutritious dish. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Macaroni Creamy Cashew Mushroom Leek Sauce

3 to 4 servings

  • ½ cup cashew cream (see recipe below)
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used white and cremini, but you could use exotic mushrooms as well)
  • 3 leeks
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp Better Than Boullion No Chicken Base dissolved in 1 cup water
  •  8 – 12 oz. pasta, cooked according to directions

Thinly slice leeks, rinse thoroughly and drain. Saute in deep skillet or saucepan until soft, adding water a tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking. Remove and place in bowl. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until lightly browned, adding a little bit of water or oil to prevent sticking. Return leeks to pan, add thyme and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add wine and continue cooking until evaporated. Add broth and cashew cream and simmer until thickened. Toss with pasta.

Cashew Cream

Makes about 2¼ cups

  1. Rinse 2 cups whole raw cashews (not pieces, which are often dry) very well under cold water.
  2. Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water.
  4. Place nuts in a blender with enough fresh cold water to barely cover them. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. (If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix or Blend Tec, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.)


02 Feb 2016

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