Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

Category: Recipes

Rebecca’s Vegan Holiday Peppermint Mocha


My mom’s Starbucks order: grande decaf mocha with six pumps peppermint, no whip. Six pumps tastes like a shocking toothpaste shot to me, but to each his own. 🙂 I thought I would create a more healthful version for her. It’s easy, fast, wholesome, vegan, and very cheery. Happy Holidays, Mom!

Rebecca’s Vegan Holiday Peppermint Mocha Recipe

For each cup of mocha:

1. Combine two heaping spoons good quality cocoa powder (or to taste – as a chocoholic, I like to use two tablespoons but others in my family prefer as little as one teaspoon) with enough agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener, such as date syrup or maple syrup) to make a smooth paste.

2. To this homemade chocolate syrup/paste, gradually whisk in a cup of soy, almond, rice, oat, or quinoa milk. I like the nuttiness of almond milk for hot cocoa and mocha.

3. Heat for two minutes in the microwave or stir in a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop. Taste, and adjust by adding more milk if the sweetness or chocolate is too strong, or by adding more cocoa blended with liquid sweetener if it is not strong enough. Continue to heat and stir.

4. Once it’s warm and frothy, add a spoon of instant coffee or espresso granules (I like to use Starbucks Via, but my mom prefers a decaf instant coffee) and a drop (or two) of peppermint extract. My mother-in-law likes to top with a non-dairy whipped topping and top with chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

P.S. This is 2 Weight Watchers Plus Points if you use agave nectar, which is a free sweetener. How sweet is that? 🙂


Compassionate Holidays Begin with Vegan Baking


The rule to remember when substituting for eggs, dairy, meat, fat, sugar, and/or animal by-products is that what you put in should function the same way (leaven, bind, tenderize, provide structure, etc.) in the recipe as what you take out.

Some products you can substitute cup for cup, as in, for example, soy or rice milk for dairy milk. Other ingredients need to be replaced by two ingredients to achieve the same function. For example, you’d need to replace buttermilk with a combination of non-dairy milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Some substitutions may require that you lessen or increase other ingredients in the recipe to compensate. For example, if you substitute oil for butter in a cake recipe, you’ll use only 7/8 cup oil for every cup of butter, and you’ll need to increase the sugar and egg substitute to avoid creating a heavy texture. Sometimes a substitute you may use to replace something in one recipe won’t work in another. For example, ground flaxseed mixed with water is a great substitute for eggs in baked goods, but won’t work in recipes where eggs create the structure of the food, as in meringues or cheesecakes, or in flourless cakes and cookies that rely on eggs for structure.

Use a great guide:
The absolute best, most comprehensive resource I can recommend for substitutions is The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions, by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman. Their guide covers substitutes for dairy, eggs, meat, animal by-products (honey & gelatin), gluten, soy, sugar, and fat. They walk you through how and what to substitute, and provide convenient substitution tables. Each section of substitutions gives you a sample of an “ordinary” recipe, like one from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which has yucky ingredients swapped out for healthy, vegan ones. They also provide great recipes for staples, such as a gluten-free baking mix, eggless mayo, and seitan, as well as meals, desserts, and baked goods, such as their versions of shepherd’s pie, chocolate pie, and gingerbread cake. These are not hockey puck granola recipes. I am serious when I say these are better that what our society has grown up on. The switch to real, chemical-free, pain-free ingredients creates refreshing, delicious food.

Get it here:
It is also available on Kindle and iBooks, so there is no excuse not to have this amazing resource in your kitchen.

Get info online:
To get an idea of the role of different baking ingredients, you can check out FoodWorks.
(Note that the sweetener section is not complete; it leaves out agave nectar, date sugar, and maple syrup, among other alternatives.)

Cook’s Thesaurus, at, is another great resource for looking up ingredients, their functions, and possible substitutions.

The Post Punk Kitchen has a very informative, refreshingly-written piece on baking substitutions for vegans and when each substitute works best. You can find it here:

Try substitutions I’ve used:

Replacing Milk (cup for cup):
*Coconut milk
*Soy milk
*Almond milk
Note: You can make your own. Blanch a 1/2 cup of raw, organic almonds, then slip the skins off when cool. It doesn’t hurt to leave the skins on, but they can have a bitter aftertaste. Blend up your almonds and 2 cups or so of filtered water, depending on how thick you like your milk. You may need to stop and stir, then blend again. Strain out the nuts that are leftover using a mesh filter. If you’re using the almond milk for a savory recipe, I wouldn’t add anything else, except perhaps a pinch of salt. If you’re drinking it or using it for baking, you can add agave nectar or date or maple syrup to taste.
*Rice milk
Note: Read this article from Vegan Reader about the connection between Rice Dream brand and Monsanto. It also provides a great, easy recipe for making your own rice milk.

Replacing Buttermilk:
Buttermilk acts differently than milk in recipes and can’t be replaced with milk alone. The acid in it reacts with baking soda to help baked goods rise. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, replace it cup for cup with
*1 cup of any milk alternative plus 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

Replacing Cream:
*Tal Ronnen’s Cashew Cream
Note: The recipe is available in his amazing book, the conscious cook, and also on his website,, where you can watch a video of Tal preparing it himself.
*Coconut cream

Replacing Butter:
*Earth Balance (available at Whole Foods)
*Coconut Oil (solid at room temperature, available at Whole Foods)
*Vegetable Shortening (Celine & Joni recommend subbing 3/4 c shortening for every cup of butter a recipe calls for.)

Replacing Oil:
*Date paste
*Mashed avocado
*Mashed beans thinned with water or liquid sweetener

Replacing Eggs:
*For each egg replaced: Mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed and 2-3 tbsp water, let sit a few minutes until thickened
Note 1: Use this in baked goods like cookies and cakes but not recipes in which the eggs provide much structure, like flourless cakes and cookies, meringues, etc.
Note 2: Buy whole flax seeds & grind them yourself in a cleaned-out coffee grinder, as ground flax easily goes rancid on store shelves – if you grind more than you end up needing, refrigerate unused portion in airtight container or plastic zip bag. Store unused flaxseeds in the freezer.

*Egg replacer, such as Orgran Gluten Free No Egg Natural Egg Replacer
Note: This comes in powdered form. It is used by mixing the powder with water, and can also be used straight in some recipes. Details for each brand differ. I get mine at Whole Foods.

Follow this link to the Post Punk Kitchen for a more comprehensive list for egg replacement, as well as which substitutes can be used in which sorts of recipes:

Replacing Sugars:
If you decide to use granulated replacements in place of liquid sweeteners, or liquid sweeteners in place of granulated, your ratio of dry to wet ingredients will change, and you’ll need to adjust your recipe accordingly by increasing or decreasing your other liquids.

Replacing Granulated Sugar (refined white sugar isn’t vegan, as it is usually filtered with animal bone)
*Less refined sugar, such as Sugar In the Raw or Sucanat
*Brown sugar
*Molasses sugar
*Date sugar
Note: You can make this yourself by drying the dates (pits removed) in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then grinding.

Replacing Liquid Sweeteners (corn syrup, honey, etc.)
*Agave nectar
Note: Agave is great because it has a low glycemic index. This means it doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels like ordinary sugars do.
*Date syrup (I started using this after my recent move to teach at an international school in the Middle East. I love it because it has an earthy sweetness that is less sharp than refined sweeteners. It’s made of dates boiled in water.)
*Maple syrup (real, not the pancake stand-in)
*Celine and Joni mention using brown rice syrup or fruit syrups, which I haven’t yet tried.

Replacing Meat (in sausage rolls, cornish pasties, pot pies, etc.)
*Mushrooms (never underestimate the mushroom’s ability to mimic meat’s chewy mouthfeel or its ability to absorb any flavor it’s simmered in!)
*Chopped walnuts
*Soy meat substitutes (such as MorningStar Farms Veggie Sausage Patties)
*Tofu or tempeh
*Mycoprotein such as Quorn brand (I LOVE this stuff)
*Quinoa & lentils (both great sources of protein, and although quinoa is fluffy, like rice, mixed with lentils it can sub in baked goods where you might use ground meat)
*Beans (whole or mashed)

Alternatively, don’t bother subbing, and use great recipes instead:
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Vegan Baking Classics by Kelly Rudnicki. Because baking (in our society, at least) is so synonymous with eggs and dairy, oftentimes our attempts at recreating childhood favorites sans eggs and milk end up in the trash. If you want proven, scrumptious, like-you-had-at-home baked goods without the bother of reading up and testing new recipes, this baking book is an absolute must-have. Kelly began creating recipes for her son, who is fatally allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, and legumes. Because she has five children to feed, she doesn’t use expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. These are recipes created by the drive a mother has for her children, and the necessities of low-cost, wholesome, easily accessible baked goods. Her first cookbook, The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, was snapped up by vegans. This second baking book is a response to the demand.

Get it here:
Vegan Baking Classics is also available on iBooks and as a Google ebook.

Vegan Pumpkin Nog


I was on Our Family Eats last night, and found an awesome homemade pumpkin creamer. Loving autumn and all things pumpkin, I was ecstatic to find this idea of using pureed pumpkin in coffee, instead of buying the heavily-sugared stuff from Starbucks. I didn’t have all of the ingredients though (the dairy or maple syrup), so I mixed up mine with soy milk and agave nectar. It was incredible, and by itself tasted like a thick, creamy pumpkin eggnog, sans egg. Who needs to add coffee? 🙂 I’ve had three cups of it today, and the day isn’t over yet.

Basic ingredients:
soy milk
pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
agave nectar
autumn spices such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg

The ratios are up to you and your individual tastes. You may like more or less pumpkin, more or less agave nectar, and you’ll probably use the spices you have on hand. If you have a pumpkin pie spice, that would work, too. Here’s what I do for an individual cup:

Into a mug, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (I used the 365 Organic brand). I’d start with 1/4 then add more if it wasn’t thick enough. Mix in a tiny pinch each of ground clove, ground nutmeg, and ground ginger, and a pinch each of cinnamon and ground cardamom. I would opt on the teeny tiny side and then you can add more spice if you need to. If you mix the spices in with the pumpkin first, it will help them to incorporate into the cold soy milk. Not to worry if you don’t have all of those spices sitting around. You can also just use cinnamon, or any combination. Fill the rest of the mug with cold soy milk (I’m sure almond would work, too). Mix with a mini-whisk, then add a few tablespoons of agave nectar to taste. I squirt my in straight from the bottle. I haven’t tried it with maple syrup or honey, but I’m sure those would work, as well. Happy Autumn!

Garden Lasagna (vegan)

My favorite recipes are loose guidelines – the sort my grandma and mom passed down. Our family’s muffin recipe calls for a cup of smashed fruit, for example, and any fruit will do. It calls for half a cup of moistener – could be oil, applesauce, smashed banana, or butter. You get to use your creativity, but you know you’ll come out with something delicious…

This lasagna recipe is like that. Use your favorite vegetables. It is lighter and more vegetable-y  than it is saucy or cheesy. If you want it to be heartier, choose lots of different mushrooms for your vegetable layer, for flavor and texture, and use a hearty, thick bottled sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Basically, you’ll create pasta sheets, sauce, vegetable filling and “cheese”.  Alternate in layers, beginning with sauce on the bottom, then pasta sheets, then veggies, then cheese, until your pan is filled up. Top with either the sauce or the veggies. The “cheese” is best used up in one or two layers at the most, midway through. Bake, covered for 30 minutes or until everything is heated through (might take 45 minutes). I sometimes take the cover off after the 30 minutes, and heat an additional five or ten if the vegetables have released a lot of moisture that I want to evaporate.

1) Pasta Sheets: To create your own, follow this recipe. I haven’t tried to find vegan pasta sheets at the store, but I’m sure they’re out there. If you can recommend any, leave a comment! 🙂

2) Sauce: To create your own, follow this recipe. You can also use your favorite jarred sauce, although watch out for high sodium and added high fructose corn syrup (just read the ingredients label to ensure you’re choosing a healthful sauce).

3) Vegetable Filling: The amount you need depends on the size of your pan, and the vegetables you need depend on your tastes. For  a 9″ x 13″ pan, I saute a chopped onion in olive oil until it is translucent, then I add garlic, a chopped eggplant, one bunch of kale, chopped, a few handfuls of fresh green beans, chopped, and a package of mushrooms, (in that order) and I usually end up with a few cups extra, which I save and add to a stew or use to make extra individual lasagnas. I just undercook the veggies, knowing that they’ll cook more in the oven. If you are using something that cooks quickly, like spinach, don’t add it to your saute – the 30 minutes in the oven will be enough. Add it directly to the vegetable layer as you’re layering.

4) Cheese: I tear one block of extra firm tofu into shredded, uneven chunks  about an inch each, then sprinkle liberally with lemon juice and sea salt to taste and let sit while making the sauce and veggie filling. The tanginess of the lemon juice and saltiness of the sea salt help mimic ricotta, especially once it is next to the vegetables and sauce. I usually only do one layer of the “cheese”.


Photo Credits: Simon Howden

Pasta Dough From Scratch

Here are two from-scratch pasta dough recipes that I use all the time- one vegan, one vegetarian, both by wonderful chefs. It is easy to experiment with pasta flavors – incorporate flavors that mesh well with the sauce you’re going to use (like garlic, spinach, or basil for a pesto sauce, or red chile for a marinara). Try chopped fresh herbs, like basil and oregano, or powdered spices like garlic and red chile powder. You’ll have to experiment according to your tastes, but I’ve found that if I’m using fresh herbs, I need a few tablespoons at least, whereas if I’m using powdered spices, I’ll use one or two teaspoons or so of all of them combined. It also depends on how fresh your powdered spices are. Fresh spices are obviously stronger, and so you’ll need to use less. Knead your herbs into the dough or, if using spices, premix into the flour before creating your egg well.  Keep in mind that fresh pasta, while tasting better, will also fall apart more easily if boiled too long. Remember that pasta continues to cook unless you rinse well with cold water after straining.


Tal Ronnen Vegan Pasta Dough Recipe – Utilizing tofu in place of traditional eggs

From the indispensable the conscious cook

4 ounces silken tofu

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red palm oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

Pasta dough: Place all ingredients except flour in a food processor with 2 tablespoons cold water and process on high for 1 minute.

Gradually add the flour, ½ cup at a time. It may be necessary to add a bit more water to make a smooth dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes. Wrap or cover, and sit in fridge to rest for 30 minutes.


Tyler Florence Pasta Dough Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, plus 1 for egg wash

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cornmeal, for dusting

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. [Note: Don’t skip the step of making a well with the flour and slowly incorporating the flour into the egg – if you try to combine it all at once, it will not form a smooth, pliable dough.] Continue as directed above.  Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with the remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.


Wondering what to do with your dough?

Watch a video about how to use a pasta machine.

Photo Credits:Dan at

Foods for Fasting

People have fasted for centuries for many different reasons. As a Baha’i, I participate in the fasting tradition, and abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset between March 2nd and March 20th. In addition to reminding us that we are truly spiritual beings, fasting can help us regain balance in our eating habits. It forces us to eat purposefully, and to choose what we eat wisely. My first fast over 15 years ago didn’t go well because I didn’t fast practically – I thought that spiritual help would come and I wouldn’t have to pay attention to what I ate before the sun came up and after it went down. I’ve realized by now that we are given intellect for a reason! In addition to using prayer, meditation, and yoga to refocus spiritually, I regain balance in my eating habits through purposeful choices, as well.

Here is what I do:

*Remember that because calorie intake is reduced, all calories count. Cut out all empty calories during the fasting period. This includes processed foods (like soda and frozen dinners) and high glycemic index foods (like white bread), which don’t provide a lot of nutrients for the calories you’re eating and don’t last as long in your body as low glycemic foods (e.g. whole grains). Click on the glycemic index link above for more information.

*Hydrate wisely. Because of its high caffeine content, coffee dehydrates your body. If you’re one of those whose only liquid in the morning is in the form of coffee, you should probably consider rethinking this habit during the fasting period. I love coffee, but can get too dependent on the caffeine, and my yearly fast helps me break that caffeine addiction. Each morning I drink a few cups of tea, water, and Gatorade. Gatorade (or any other drink with elecrtolytes) helps my body stay hydrated throughout the day, which greatly reduces dehydration headaches.

*Include whole grains and fiber in your breakfast. Whole grains take longer to break down, and therefore keep you feeling full longer. Oatmeal (whole oats – not instant) is a great breakfast for the fasting period. I’ll microwave half a cup of oats, 1 cup of water, and a quarter cup of raisins and pecans at 50% power for five or six minutes, then stir and add a bit of honey and sea salt.

*Include protein in your breakfast.  I am sure to include lots of protein for breakfast to keep up my energy supply for the day. I’ll have a soy sausage patty, eggs, yogurt, bean burrito, chocolate soy milk, or soy protein shake in addition to a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts.

*Break your fast slowly. When the sun goes down, I purposefully break my fast with water or tea, instead of gorging (as my hunger sometimes urges me to do!) on whatever is to be had. Friends of mine break their fast with broth or juice. Rehydrate with fluids, and then go ahead with your meal.

*Plan ahead. I try to plan out a few meals that will be quick to prepare and ensure I have the ingredients on hand. If I don’t do this, then I end up eating whatever junk can be had at the end of the day. Here are some quick meals I make during the fasting period that are packed with nutrients, fiber, and whole grain:

Bean Burritos – vegan: Saute onion in olive oil until translucent, then add a few cloves of chopped garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Stir in either chopped green chile or dried red chile flakes, to taste. If you can’t get find good green chile (not canned!) I would go with the dried red chile flakes, which are easier to find. At this point, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll add two or three cups of prepared beans, either from the crock-pot or canned. If I have a bit more time, I’ll add in some other vegetables I have on hand in with the onions, such as zucchini, summer squash, corn, and tomatoes. Saute until zucchini is crisp-tender, then add in the beans. Stir to heat through, then remove from heat. Salt to taste, then wrap in whole wheat tortillas. If you’re not vegan, you can top with sour cream, yogurt, or cheddar cheese.

Egg Fried Rice – can be vegan (substitute egg beaters for egg): Prepare a cup of basmati, jasmine, or brown rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few diced carrots and peas, and a handful of edamame, saute a few minutes more. Add in sliced mushrooms, then the rice. You may need to add a bit more oil at this stage. After everything is stirred through, make a well in the center of the rice, and break in one or two eggs. Scramble quickly, breaking the egg up into small bits, and then incorporate in with the rest of the rice. Remove from heat. Sprinkle over with sesame oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and top with sliced green onion.

Pilau -vegan – Prepare a cup of basmati rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a handful of raisins and/or chopped dates, and a handful of chopped nuts such as almonds or pecans. Saute through, and sprinkle with sea salt, a 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp cardamom, and a 1/4 tsp cumin. Stir in the rice, adding oil if necessary. Taste, and adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary, and increasing other spices to your liking. Set aside. Saute cubed extra-firm tofu in vegetable oil until golden on all sides. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Add to the rice. Eat with flatbread and a garden salad.

Quelites (beans and spinach) – vegan: Chop an onion and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Add in a few cups of prepared pinto or red kidney beans, either from a can (in this case, use two cans) or homemade. Stir through to heat, and add a few teaspoons of dried red chile flakes (to taste) and a bag of fresh spinach. Heat through just until the spinach wilts. Eat with whole grain tortillas or flatbread.

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta – vegan: Saute a diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Dice up a few cups (total) of whatever vegetables are in season where you are. For me this includes summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Saute the vegetables in with the onion and garlic, adding olive oil if necessary. Set aside. Add in a rinsed can of beans of your choice, or chop extra-firm tofu into 1-inch cubes, then saute in oil until browned on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare whole wheat penne according to package directions. When drained, add the pasta to the vegetables and beans or tofu. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, then squeeze over with lemon juice and add in either fresh chopped rosemary or fresh basil or red chile flakes.

Do you fast? If so, do you fast for a cause or a religious tradition or health? Do you have special meals that cleanse or sustain? I’d love for you to share!

Photo Credits: lobster20 at

Green Bay Guacamole & Steelers Salsa (with Homemade Tortilla Chips)

Green Bay Guacamole

Can this be called a recipe? We love guacamole in New Mexico… I have been eating this since I was a child. One of my favorite snacks is a homemade griddled tortilla filled with smashed avocado and roasted green chile, sprinkled with sea salt. Yum! This recipe is dedicated to my brother in Colorado, who is at this moment decked out in Green Bay gear, whipping up good things in his kitchen, heart beating in anticipation of the upcoming game… Go Green Bay!

Start with the amounts given, then adjust accordingly to taste.

4-6 avocados, depending on size of avocado

1 – 2 tsp salt

1 – 2 jalapeños (more or less depending on how hot you can take it)

squeeze of juice from 1/2 a lime or lemon (this adds taste but also ensures your guacamole won’t turn brown, so don’t skip it!)

1 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced.

To obtain avocado flesh, make an incision around the avocado long-wise (your incision will cut through the part where the stem was) through to the pit. Twist each half of the avocado in opposite directions in order to separate the halves. You should now have two little bowls of avocado. Scoop the flesh out of each with a spoon (after removing the pit from one) and mash (I like my guacamole chunky, so I don’t mash too much). Repeat with all avocados. Add the squeeze of lemon or lime juice, salt, and garlic. Mince the jalapeños (wearing gloves if you have them – if you don’t, be sure that you don’t rub your eyes or nose later on…) and then add them to the avocados. Taste, then adjust, adding more salt or jalapeños if necessary. If you’ve already added too much salt or too many jalapeños, add in another avocado.

The following recipes for Salsa Verde and Homemade Tortilla Chips are from Vegetarian Planet by Chef Didi Emmons. I absolutely love this resource, which includes whole food recipes for everything from Spelt Walnut Bread to Thai Tofu with Red Curry Sauce over Coconut Scallion Rice to Chocolate Blackout Pudding. I especially love that whole pages of informational sections are included, such as how to cook various grains and differences in taste, texture, and cooking times of various Chinese noodles.

Salsa Verde

2 quarts water

1 lb tomatillos, husked

3 large garlic cloves

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 to 1 jalapeño pepper, minced [Note: I use 2]

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the husked tomatillos, boil for 3 minutes. Drain, and put into a blender or food processor.

2. Add remaining ingredients to the tomatillos. Blend or pulse for only a few seconds, leaving the salsa chunky. Store in a sealed container up to 4 days.

Makes 3 cups salsa.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Didi’s recipe calls for flour tortillas, however, corn tortillas are what we use in New Mexico…

Take a short stack of tortillas. Four tortillas will make 24 chips, so adjust accordingly.

Cut the stack in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges. Heat a large griddle over medium-high heat. Coat with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Lay the tortilla wedges on the griddle, salting generously, and let sit 5 minutes, adjusting the heat to ensure the tortillas don’t burn. Once they are golden, remove them and let them dry on paper towels.  Serve as soon as possible.

Photo Credits: Michal Marcol

Oprah’s Vegan Week & A Recipe for Moong Dhal

Watch Oprah’s show about thinking about what you eat and where it comes from here:

Although I was glad that Oprah did this show, and I appreciated Michael Pollan’s contributions, I was not happy with the way vegan eating was represented. The whole aura of the show was “doing without” and making substitutions. It looked and felt like everyone was on a strict diet. They seemed to view it this way, as well.

Our society is most familiar with a meat/starch/vegetable format for meals. Instead of looking at other meal formats, the vegan representative took one of Oprah’s producers on a grocery run which included only highly processed meat and dairy substitutes, and instructed the producer to cook what she normally would using these processed substitutes. If you are going to examine what you eat and where it comes from, you can’t simply raise your head enough to make substitutions and then stop there. There are meat substitutes that I enjoy and cook with – in moderation. You can’t, however, take the meat/starch/vegetable eating habits of our society and simply throw in a meat substitute and make a vegan. The reason everyone on the show was floundering is because of the way our society views meals and food. What can you make instead of your chicken dinner with peas and mashed potatoes? Interchange the chicken with a chicken-like soy product and use soy milk and butter-substitute in the mashed potatoes? Ugh. Please. You simply can’t live off of processed substitutes any more than you can live off any other processed food.

Ours is an animal-based eating format. To continue eating in this format without animal products is strict and diet-ish. No wonder everyone felt deprived. If you see the need to be cognizant of what you are putting in your body and where it comes from, you need to take the extra step and look at other eating formats the world over. You need to educate yourself and experiment with a variety of nutrient sources. Meat and dairy are two, out of hundreds, of nutrient sources on this earth. Consider that there are over 65 types of leafy greens, over 29 types of legumes, 15 types of sea vegetables, and over 50 types of root tubers – I’m not even getting into seeds and grains – each teeming with nutrients. To eliminate meat from your diet, you need to take a look at other meal formats.

My favorite eating format is Indian, which includes a wealth of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Although some Indian cuisine features animal products, the Indian eating format is not animal-centric. To illustrate, in most cities in India, a restaurant will advertise that it is “non-vegetarian” – if it doesn’t specify, then it is assumed to be vegetarian, which is the norm.

I spent my high school years in Tanzania, which has a large Indian population. I was often at friends’ houses, watching their mothers make whole grain chapatis and moong dhal. Dhal is a sort of thick soup made of lentils, beans, or peas. There are as many recipes for dhal as there are households. Mung beans are highly prized in Ayurvedic cooking and are often used to make khichari, a nourishing dish for those who are ill.

When I make moong dhal, I eat it with quinoa, which is a high-protein grain. Each grain is smaller than a grain of rice, and round instead of oblong. Its taste is mild, like rice, but slightly nuttier. I cook mine in the rice cooker, using one cup quinoa to one cup water. Use the quinoa link above for cooking instructions on the stove top and quinoa recipes.

Moong Dhal Recipe


1 cup mung beans, rinsed well

2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder (or more, to taste)

1 tsp red chile flakes

2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil



If using garlic cloves, peel, smash, and dice the garlic, and saute in olive oil or coconut oil briefly over medium high heat. Add the chile flakes and turmeric, and heat for half a minute or so. If using garlic powder, add all spices at once to the oil and heat briefly. Add your mung beans, stir a bit, and then add 3 cups of water. When the water boils, lower heat to medium and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes, adding in your salt about half way through. You may need to add more water throughout the cooking time, so keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally. The beans should be quite soft when done, having absorbed all of the cooking liquid. I prefer mine this way, mostly whole, but partially smashed due to the stirring. Others like to place the beans in a processor, so that the dhal has a smooth consistency similar to split pea soup. Taste your dhal, then adjust seasonings as necessary.

Photo Credits: Photo by Dan at

Recipe: White “Sausage” Gravy from The Grit Restaurant

(Before you read this post….Yes, I believe in whole, fresh food – mostly raw and green. But the half of me that is not Tongan is deeply southern. Sometimes I need some soul food. Biscuits and gravy are my guilty pleasure…)

The next time you are in Athens, Georgia, you need to experience The Grit. The first time I opened the menu at this edgy-yet-homey, art-filled vegetarian & vegan restaurant, I was daunted by the idea that I could order anything off of it. (So used to scanning a menu to find what is vegetarian and then choosing between two or three options…) This is true, down-home, southern cooking that happens to be vegetarian/vegan. I thought I’d forever given up my grandmother’s biscuits and gravy – but I experienced a version no meat-eater could turn away at The Grit. The Reuben Sandwich (on their homemade Ted Bread) gave me chills. It was at The Grit that I discovered I could actually love tofu. I now cook it the Grit-way (which involves breading with nutritional yeast) at home at least three times a week. They serve up everything from southern Collard Greens to southwestern Roasted Corn and Zucchini Quesadilla to Coconut Ginger Curry.  About half of their items are vegan, including their homemade Famous Vegan Ranch Dressing. All of these recipes (130 in total) are published in The Grit Cookbook, which I was lucky enough to receive for my birthday last year. 🙂 I love that it includes recipes for staples, like hummus, breads, dressings, stocks, pie crusts, tofu, and seitan, as well as recipes for dishes, like  Sunday Miracle BBQ Sandwich, and desserts, like their vegan Crumble-Top Apple Pie. Here is their recipe for White “Sausage” Gravy. If you were raised by a southern family, you know what to do with this. Slather it over fluffy biscuits and escape into heaven. The only question: After cutting your biscuit in half, do you place the fluffy, just-cut halves of the biscuit down on the plate, or face up? My mom and I argue about this. I side with my grandmother, who hailed from Tennessee: fluffy side up. And so, lucky you, on to the recipe:

The Grit White “Sausage” Gravy

Ingredients [Note: The butter and milk links take you to the Living Cruelty Free page which discusses dairy farm certification]

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter

8 breakfast link vegetarian “sausages” such as Morningstar Farms, frozen

1/2 scant cup all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk [Note: I haven’t yet tried this with soy milk…if you do, let me know how it turns out!]

2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce [Note: the non-vegan sauce contains fish]

1 1/2 teaspoon salt [Note: I like sea salt]

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 scant teaspoon ground sage

1/2 scant teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions: [Note: These directions are my sum-up of what the cookbook says…]

Melt butter in skillet and fry frozen “sausages” until thawed. Either remove from skillet, chop up, and return to skillet, or do it the lazy-Sunday way and mush them into pieces with your bamboo spatula right in the skillet. Set aside.

In a saucepan or large skillet, melt butter, then stir in flour.  Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has bubbled for 4 minutes. Gradually add milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly all the while. I sometimes use a whisk for this. What happens is that what you have in the pan is a nice, thick, gravy already, but once you add milk, it thins out. Whisking it ensures that the milk blends evenly with the gravy. Stir it longer, over heat, and your thin gravy thickens up again. If you get impatient and add the milk all at once, your gravy may not thicken up at all…. so be sure to let it thicken up between additions of milk. Add the Worcestershire sauce and spices with the last addition of milk. Continue stirring until your gravy thickens up again, then add the cooked “sausage”. Remove from heat and allow to sit five to ten minutes before serving.

Green Your Home With These Green Cleaners

Sensitive skin runs in my family. Any kind of harsh cleaners (read: Clorox) make my skin turn red and peel. I used to have to wear gloves to wash dishes or clean the kitchen or bathroom, until I found out that homemade cleaners cleanse just as well without all of the skin-stripping chemicals. Not only are they so much better for my hands, lungs, and eyes, but they are better for the environment, because chemicals aren’t being washed down the drain. As an added bonus, they are inexpensive to make.

Before you start:

*Don’t use old cleaner bottles to store or mix your green cleaners. You don’t want any nasty chemical reactions.

*Use containers with tight-fitting lids, and label and date.

*I absolutely love liquid castile soap. You can use it to hand wash clothes, dishes, or your skin. It is a gentle, truly all-purpose cleaner. I carry a small bottle with me on trips to wash my To Go-Ware® and delicates, and to use as a body wash. I often mix baking soda with castile soap for a gentle scrub for dishes, sinks, and my face. 🙂 Find out more at Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (fair trade!).

Other recipes:

All Purpose Cleaner:

Makes 10 oz. (296 mL)

1 tsp borax

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp lemon juice

8 oz. (237 mL) hot water

Note: I don’t always have borax on hand. Often times I’ll mix up a bit of baking soda with lemon juice or vinegar to scrub the sink or stove, and it works fine.

Glass Cleaner:

Makes 24 oz. (709 mL)

8 oz. (237 mL) rubbing alcohol

8 oz. (237 mL) white vinegar

8 oz. (237 mL) water

Note: For some reason, wiping the glass with newspaper instead of paper towel or cloth leaves windows and mirrors streak-free.

Furniture Polish:

Makes 12 oz.

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

Fabric Softener:

Add 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle

Microwave Cleaner:

2 tbsp lemon juice or baking soda

1 cup water

Mix in microwave-safe bowl, place in microwave, and heat 5 minutes or until liquid boils and condensation forms on interior of microwave. Wipe clean.

Chrome, Silver, and Jewelry Cleaner:


Linoleum Cleaner:

Club soda

Recipes courtesy Tupperware®.

Photo Credits: Mantas Ruzvelta