Isa Does It: Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta


Do you ever read cookbooks just for fun?  I do.  I spend a lot of time perusing my beloved stash of cookbooks and drooling over the photos, making plans to incorporate them into my menus in the coming weeks.  I especially love cookbooks with gorgeous photography and pretty, professional layouts, which may be why Isa Does It is a continual favorite on my coffee table.

This cauliflower pesto photo is one that I found my eyes returning to again and again, but for some reason, it took me a year and a half to actually make it!  The idea of mixing cauliflower right into my pesto pasta both intrigued me and scared me a little.  Why mess with my perfectly delightful pesto?  But…it kind of looked amazing.

So, last night I took the plunge.  I roasted the cauliflower (as per one of the optional notes in the recipe) and then I stirred it right in!  The result:  delicious.  I really enjoyed the melding of flavors here, and so did my husband.  I think the kids would have preferred them separately, but what did I expect?

As far as tisa does ithe pesto, I actually just made my own tried and true recipe.  I also used a whole pound of pasta, which is double the amount called for, and I should definitely have upped the quantity of the pesto to match – I wanted more sauce!  Instead of breading tofu as Isa suggests, we just had some marinated baked tofu on the side, along with some cherry tomatoes.  I’m still healing from a broken ankle and cooking with the help of a knee scooter, so I shamelessly took some shortcuts here.

All that said, this was another winner from Isa Does It.  I’ve yet to experience a miss from this awesome book!

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Vegan Red Pepper Macaroni and Cheese


Over the years, I’ve more or less stuck to the same vegan macaroni and cheese recipe.   It is so delicious that even in times when my family has gone back to “just vegetarian,” we always make our mac and cheese vegan.  It doesn’t really taste like cheese, but it has that savory, creamy, totally addictive thing going for it.

I’ve played with different ingredients and spice combinations, but I find that I prefer to keep things really simple.  As yummy as sauteed onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, or other ingredients are pureed into a mac and cheese sauce, I rarely go to all that trouble.  But last night, as I was eating a bagel with my favorite red pepper spread from Trader Joe’s, I had an inspiration:  I could add that to my mac and cheese for a super easy, tasty twist!  We tried it today for lunch and it was fantastic!  I also made a couple of other variations from my original recipe – using white macaroni noodles (that’s all they sell at Trader Joe’s), and omitting the turmeric and the bread crumbs.  The turmeric was only in my original recipe for color, but I find that if I use something red (red pepper, tomato paste, or paprika), the combination of that with the yellow nutritional yeast gives the final dish a nice orange color.


Vegan Red Pepper Macaroni and Cheese


  • 1 lb (16 oz) dry macaroni noodles
  • 3 Tbsp Earth Balance margarine (same measure of oil works, too)
  • 3 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour (white is fine)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups plain nondairy milk (I used soy)
  • 3 Tbsp Red Pepper Spread (if you don’t have this, you can sub tomato paste)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 2-quart baking dish (or 8 x 8 square pan).

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare macaroni noodles according to package directions.

While your water is heating and noodles are boiling, work on the sauce.  In a small dish, stir together flour, sea salt, and pepper.   Add 3 Tbsp earth balance to a medium sauce pan, and melt over medium heat.  Whisk in flour mixture until smooth and glossy.  Add nondairy milk and continue to whisk to be sure there are no lumps in the mixture.  Add the red pepper spread, and continue stirring, intermittently, until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat, and whisk in nutritional yeast flakes.

Drain pasta and add it to the sauce.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.  It will be a little soupy when you first pour it in, but don’t worry!  The pasta absorbs the sauce as it bakes.

Cool for about 5 minutes, and serve.


Posted in Entrées, Kids, Lunch, Pasta | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Isa Does It – Chimichurri Pumpkin Bowl


You know how awesome it is when you discover a healthy, tasty meal that everyone in the family loves?  And it’s quick to make, to boot?  This is one such meal.  Isa Chandra Moskowitz, vegan chef extraordinaire, has blown me away with her recent cookbook, Isa Does It.   Every single recipe I’ve made from this book has turned out fabulous!

One of my favorite sections of the cookbook is entitled Bowls (And Plates):  My Idea of a Heavenly Dinner.  In this section, Isa puts together complete meals – usually some combination of grains, beans, and veggies, tied together with a sauce that can top all three components.  The flavors and colors in each bowl or plate complement one another perfectly – taking all the guesswork out of the meal.  The Chimichurri Pumpkin Bowl is our family’s favorite.  My 11 year old was helping me to unload groceries last week, and as soon as he saw the pumpkin seeds and the soba noodles, he said, “are you making that meal?”  When I said yes, he dashed off to share the good news with his brothers.  That is how good this dish is!

The first time I made this, I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin – but I’ve since branched out to make it with whatever orange vegetable is in season or catches my eye at the grocery store.  Pictured above is half a baked sweet potato, but I’ve also made this with cubed and roasted sweet potato or winter squash, or baked winter squash.

What really makes this dish is the delicious chimichurri sauce.  It’s bright, tangy, and a little spicy, and goes so well with everything that I got a little carried away in my drizzling here!  I’m a bit generous with the pumpkin seeds as well.  I’m normally a bulk bin kind of gal, but for my pumpkin seeds, I spring for Eden Dry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.   There’s just something about the way they roast these that makes them a step better than the rest.

For this recipe alone, I would recommend getting your hands on this cookbook.  Luckily, the whole book is filled with awesome recipes, and cooking tips, and such gorgeous photos that it makes for entertaining reading material before you even set foot in the kitchen!  Other winners from this book are:  Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings, Lentil-a-Roni, Potato-Cauliflower Pasta with Breaded Tofu, Marbled Banana Bread, and Chai Spice Snickerdoodles.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg – so check this book out, and get cooking!

I was hoping to cook several more meals from this cookbook to add to this book review, IMG_20150626_093655718but alas – sometimes plans change.  While running down the stairs in stocking feet earlier this week, I slipped, twisted, and fell, and now I’m laid up with a broken ankle.  Bummer!  The cooking duties have fallen on my husband and childrens’ shoulders for the time being.  I’m in good hands – they are quite good cooks!  In fact, my son made Isa’s Marbled Banana Bread a couple of days ago, but we gobbled it up before we remembered to snap a photo.

Have you tried any recipes from Isa Does It?  What are your favorites?  What meals do you have in your arsenal that are sure to please every member of your family?

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What We’ve Been Eating Lately

Wow, over 2 years since my last post!

A lot of changes have happened in our family over the past 2 years – we bought our first home in a new city, and we started homeschooling!  My time and focus have definitely been taken up by these endeavors.  But we are still eating great vegan food every day, and I’d love to start sharing some photos and recipes again.  Now that summer is upon us, it’s the perfect time to dig back in!

The first meal I want to share is this gorgeous South of the South of the Border Tortilla PizzaBorder Pizza, from the Forks over Knives Plan book.  I checked this book out from the library last week and as I flipped through the recipes, this one immediately caught my eye!   I decided to take a short cut and use whole wheat tortillas to make individual pizzas for every family member, rather than roll out a pizza crust.  It turned out just as vibrant and colorful as the photo in the book!  Almost all of us ate two of these, minus our 5 year old who just finished one.

Next, I’ll tell you about this fantastic hummus recipe, from one of my most well-used cookbooks, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein.  It’s a simple, classic hummus, made interesting by the addition of fresh scallions and vegetable broth.  It happens to be an oil-free recipe, thClassic Hummus with Scallionsough there is certainly plenty of healthy fat from the generous proportion of tahini.  Even if you have a go-to hummus recipe, this one is worth a try – and there are so many other fabulous recipes in this cookbook, as well!  We ate our hummus with whole wheat pita bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado (not pictured) – delicious.

Last, here is a photo I snapped of my oatmeal this morning.  Oatmeal is such an economical and healthful breakfast, but it can get boring if you don’t miStrawberry Banana Oatmealx it up with some interesting toppings.  I thought today’s combination was especially pretty:  sliced banana and strawberries, chopped walnuts, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a splash of soy milk.   We probably eat oatmeal 2 or 3 times per week, and more often in the winter.

What is your opinion of oil in a plant-based diet?  Do you think we should be getting our healthy fats from nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, and whole olives?  What role should foods like olive oil, earth balance spread, and vegenaise play, if any?

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A Week’s Worth of Vegan Meals and Snacks

Hello Everyone!  I’ve recently been inspired to return to my blog, and I know just the thing that I’ve been wanting to post.  Over the years I have posted a lot of recipes, and I hope that people have been able to create delicious meals for their families using some of my ideas!  But you may be wondering how all of this comes together within the framework of a vegan (or mostly-vegan) family.  How do you eat a healthy, hearty, delicious vegan diet over the course of a day, or a week?

Awhile ago I reviewed some food tracking websites, and my highest rating went to My Fitness Pal.  It really is great, and I’ve been using the handy dandy app on my phone to track my food for the past several weeks.  (You can read the review, but in a nutshell:  It’s free, it’s easy to use, and you can track a lot of nutrients to ensure a balanced day.)    As a result, I have a nice, detailed log of what I’ve eaten day in and day out that I can share with you!

Please keep in mind that I’m not a dietitian and I fully admit that some of my habits are not the healthiest!  (Sweet creamy coffee, I’m looking at you.)  But overall I think I do okay as a busy mom.   I get my fruits and veggies and whole grains and protein…and plenty of chocolate!  (In my defense, this was Valentine’s week so we had a lot of it around the house).   This is exactly what I ate for one week…as tempted as I was to pick and choose the healthiest days out of my food diary, that would not be realistic.  So here it is, a brutally honest look at one week of eating for this vegan!


Breakfast:   Oatmeal (old-fashioned, thick cut oats) with raisins, sliced mango, vanilla soy milk, and maple syrup.   Sweet Creamy Coffee (Coffee with 1/2 cup soy milk and 2 tsp sugar).

Lunch:  Tofurky Bologna Sandwich on whole wheat bread.  A side of Trader Joe’s Kale Chips.

Afternoon Snack:  Chocolate Pirate’s Booty, a handful of mixed nuts.

Dinner:  Nut-Based Vegan Lasagna (recipe from VegNews Magazine), green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

Evening Snack:  Banana

Exercise:  Dance Class!


Breakfast:   Grape Nuts with vanilla soy milk.  Orange Juice.  Almonds.  Sweet Creamy Coffee.

Lunch:  Leftover Chinese Food (Vegan almond “chicken” stir-fry, white rice).  2 clementines.

Afternoon Snack:  2 Banana-Oat Bundles.  Tea with 1/2 cup soy milk.  Apple slices.

Dinner:  Black Bean Enchiladas with vegan sour cream and salsa.  Baked Butternut squash. Another Banana-Oat Bundle.

Exercise:  Half-hour walk/run.


Breakfast:  Small fruit smoothie with hemp seeds.  Oatmeal with maple syrup and soy milk.  Creamy Sweet Coffee.

Lunch:  Raw kale salad with creamy curried almond dressing and a whole can of chickpeas. Nutritional yeast flakes sprinkled on top.  2 clementines.

Afternoon Snack:  Almonds, clementine.

Dinner:  Fettuccine Alfredo (Chloe’s Kitchen), roasted cauliflower, and Tempeh Tickle.

Evening Snack:  Peanut butter filled pretzels, a few chocolate chips.

Exercise:  Dance Class


Breakfast:  Fruit/hemp smoothie, Shredded Wheat cereal with vanilla soy milk, Sweet Creamy Coffee.

Lunch:  Big bowl of brothy vegetable soup with tofu, fried won tons, and 2 spring rolls.

Afternoon Snack:  Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks, 2 Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

Dinner:  Leftover Fettuccine Alfredo, vegan chicken nuggets, peas, and a chocolate truffle.

Evening Snack:  Almonds, dark chocolate.


Breakfast:   Steel-Cut Oatmeal with walnuts, maple syrup, and vanilla soy milk.   Apple slices.  Creamy Sweet Tea.

Lunch:  Leftover Lasagna (Nut-based).  Carrot Sticks.  One Wholesome Oat Snackle.

Dinner:  Thai Chickpea Almond Curry with sweet potatoes, served over brown rice.  Green Beans.  One chocolate truffle.

Exercise:  45 minute walk.


Breakfast:  Green Smoothie.  Brown Rice Pudding.

Lunch:  2 Whole wheat tortillas with vegenaise, hickory smoked Tofurky deli slices, and baby spinach.  Cinnamon-sugar almonds.

Afternoon Snack:  Cinnamon Coffee Cake (Joy of Vegan Baking)

Dinner:  Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf (Veganomicon).  Baked Butternut squash.

Evening Snack:  Soy yogurt sprinkled with hemp seeds.

Exercise:  Taught 2 dance classes.


Breakfast:  Cinnamon Coffee Cake.  Black Tea.  Banana.

Lunch:  Veggie Grill!  Carne Asada wrap, sweet potato fries, and I split a chocolate pudding parfait with my husband.

Afternoon Snack:  2 pieces of Turkish Delight.  Tea with Silk creamer.

Dinner:  Vegan BLT:  whole wheat bread, vegenaise, lettuce, tomato, and veggie bacon.  Baked Beans.  Raw veggies.

Evening Snack:  Almonds and dark chocolate.

Exercise:  55 minute walk with the kids!

There you have it folks…what one week of vegan eating can look like!  I included my exercise just for fun, and so you can see how I might eat more on a day that I exercise a lot vs. a day that I don’t.

If you’ve never done it before, it can be very enlightening to track your food for a week…check out My Fitness Pal and give it a try!  See how well you are meeting your nutrient needs!

Posted in Reviews, Vegan Weight Loss | 2 Comments

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Oh my, I blinked my eyes and here we are in November!  How did it get here so quickly?

I have not been the most regular of bloggers, but I didn’t want to leave anybody hanging for those Thanksgiving plans.  Perhaps you are a new vegan and you are not sure how to make some of your favorite holiday dishes without the animal products.  Or more likely, you are not a vegan but you have a vegan guest or two who will be showing up at your holiday table.  In any case, I’m here to walk you through a very vegan Thanksgiving day.

Don’t Skip Breakfast!

Serve something wholesome and hearty like Steel-Cut Oats, Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal, or a Tofu Scramble.  A healthy morning meal will sustain you through all those hours of food preparation and allow you to come to your holiday table without feeling famished and ready to stuff yourself!  If you want to indulge a bit and have a more festive breakfast, try Low-Fat Vegan Pumpkin Muffins*, perhaps alongside that scrambled tofu.

Honor Your Traditions

Family holiday traditions vary so much – but here’s what I grew up with on Thanksgiving:  Stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and…oh yeah, turkey.  What can I say?  For me it has always been all about the side dishes.   For dessert we always had pumpkin pie, usually accompanied by one or two other types of pies…apple, pecan, berry, or whatever else a guest may have brought.  Think about what dishes are really important to your family and friends and be sure not to leave out anybody’s favorite.

Veganize It

So how do you make everybody’s favorite dishes vegan?  First, whenever the recipe calls for butter, use Earth Balance non-dairy spread.  You can bake a nice flaky pie crust with it, you can have those buttery mashed potatoes, you can put it in your stuffing, and you can melt it on your pan for candied sweet potatoes.  (Speaking of those sweet potatoes, try topping them with Dandies vegan marshmallows!)

Next, use vegetable broth instead of chicken or turkey broth.  Better Than Bouillon makes a great vegetable broth paste that will work in any recipe, and Rapunzel vegan bouillon cubes are excellent as well.  You can make a nice rich gravy by melting earth balance, whisking in some flour, and then adding vegetable broth and stirring until thick.

Last, use a nondairy milk to replace cow’s milk in any recipe.  I’m partial to a plain soy milk (not vanilla), because it is nice and thick, but plain almond milk can also be used if you don’t like soy.

The vegan at your table will appreciate any veganizing that you do – and if you can’t figure out how to make every dish vegan, try to find out what your vegan guest’s favorite dish is, and be sure to veganize that.  My mom knows how much I love stuffing, so she makes it vegan and then only puts half inside the turkey, baking the other half in a separate casserole dish for me and my family.  Maybe you would like to try her Decadent (veganized) Bread Stuffing recipe!

Buy a Field Roast

If it just won’t feel like Thanksgiving without a turkey, I recommend a product called Field Roast.  The company is based in my very own Seattle, and they use wholesome ingredients to make a chewy, savory roast that is quite satisfying.  Tofurky and Gardein also make similar products, but Field Roast is my own personal favorite.  It’s not essential for me to have this, but it’s tasty, my kids really like it, and it does provide a lot of protein.

Try Something New

In addition to the usual holiday favorites, I have some new dishes that I’ve more recently grown to love at Thanksgiving.  One is sauteed kale.  It brings such a lovely color to the table, and provides a host of essential vitamins and minerals to keep you balanced on an otherwise indulgent day.  Another new favorite is roasted brussels sprouts – just toss with some olive oil, add salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour.

You can also try something new when it comes to the Thanksgiving centerpiece.  If you aren’t feeling the Field Roast idea and you want something more whole foods based, try a brown rice and lentil pilaf stuffed inside a pumpkin, or stuffed inside halved acorn squash for individual servings.  Just a tip – roast the squash first, then stuff and re-roast to meld the flavors.

Leave the Guesswork Out of It!

Last but not least, we come to dessert.  For me, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie.  Now, pumpkin pie can be a tricky recipe to veganize.  You can’t use some egg replacer powder and soy milk and come out with a good pie…it just won’t firm up.  And if you use a tofu pumpkin pie recipe, the texture will be good, but in my opinion it just doesn’t taste right.  Several years ago I tackled the vegan pumpkin pie challenge, and I think I’ve got it down – so when it comes to your beloved pumpkin pie, make it easy and just use my Homestyle Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe.  Top with a dollup of Soyatoo whip if you want that traditional taste, or make up some whipped coconut cream for a tasty, all-natural solution.

Save the Debates for Another Day

The best part about the Thanksgiving meal is relaxing around the table with friends and family.  Whether you are vegan, an omnivore, or something in between – don’t let the Thanksgiving table become a platform for a debate.  Vegans – don’t try to convince somebody that they shouldn’t be eating that turkey when they have some in their mouths!  Omnivores – try not to put the vegan in the room on the spot by asking, “so, why don’t you eat turkey?” as they are trying to enjoy their plant-based meal.  By all means, have these conversations, just not over your holiday meal!  This is a time to relax, celebrate, and express our gratitude.  Happy Thanksgiving!

*I’ve been making these with only 1/2 cup of sugar these days, and they turn out just fine. Add a peeled, chopped apple to the mixture for a delicious variation!

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I’ve been Vegucated!

A few weeks ago, I had a free evening and was flipping through my Amazon Prime account on the TV looking for something interesting to watch.  I stumbled upon a documentary called Vegucated – right up my alley!  An hour and 17 minutes later, I couldn’t get the smile off my face.  It was that good!

Now, I love documentaries.  I’m a documentary-watching kind of girl.  But this one was particularly well-done, and I think just about anyone would find it to be an easy watch.  Rather than plowing through a list of compelling reasons to go veg, Marisa Miller Wolfson had the brilliant idea of asking for three volunteers to go vegan for 6 weeks, and then following them on their journeys.

I absolutely love this premise because it allows the viewer to experience the information presented in the film through the eyes of these three volunteers.   It was heartening to watch their reactions as they were exposed to new information and ideas, and to listen to the conversations that they had with each other, and with Marisa (the long-time vegan).  I’ve often thought that if more people learned about the lives and deaths of farmed animals, at least in the United States, they might feel differently about eating them…and that is exactly what happened with these three.

For example, Tesla, the 22 year old college student, said that she had fully intended to go back to her old ways after the 6 week experiment, but hadn’t expected to feel guilty about doing so!  That is so similar to my own experience!  Once you know what animals have to endure in order for people to eat their meat, dairy, and eggs, it is impossible to look at those foods the same way ever again.  Even if you don’t go vegan, or stay vegan (ahem…looking at myself and my flip-flopping history)…you just can’t eat a slice of cheese or a hamburger and feel at peace with that decision.  I could also relate to her struggles to eat vegan without any friends or family on board…after all, I first went vegan back when I was in college, and I didn’t end up sticking with it at the time.

There was another moment in the film that really struck a chord with me.  Ellen, a single mother of two, made a telephone call to an organic, free range farm and placed her call on speaker.  Her kids were giggling in the background as she began to ask a list of questions about the treatment of the animals.  Yet, as the telephone call progressed, the children’s reactions went from giddy to somber, as did Ellen’s.  It was a really good illustration of how misleading those feel-good labels like “free-range” and “organic” can be.

Along with the heavier stuff of the film, there was a lot of humor and entertainment value as well.  Brian, the bachelor from New York City, was always entertaining the crew…if you watch this film, stay through the credits and listen for his “breast milk cheese” song that he sings to none other than Dr. Joel Fuhrman, as the doctor dances along!  There is also a beautiful moment in which the group takes two “spent” hens who would be otherwise sent to slaughter, to a farm animal sanctuary, and gets to witness their first steps into a field of lush green grass.

I loved this film so much that I ended up watching it again, in full, last night!  If you have an Amazon Prime account, I urge you to watch this – it’s totally free!  If not, you can rent it from Amazon for $3.99…not so bad, and totally worth it.  Don’t worry…this isn’t 77 minutes of undercover footage of factory farms like Earthlings (though, if you have the stomach for it, I’d recommend watching that, too.)  This film is entertaining, humorous, touching, and thought-provoking.

So…go on, get Vegucated!

Posted in Film/Movie Reviews, Vegan Issues | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments