Festive Green Broccoli Lentil Soup, and a Holiday Break From Blogging

So far the holiday has been a blast!  I've gotten to spend time with friends I don't get to see very often, and my brother and sister-in-law made it into town last night.  With all of the festivities of Christmas beginning I thought I would make one last post before Christmas.  This post will be for Festive Green Broccoli Lentil Soup.  I made this one earlier this week as a hearty pureed soup that has become a favorite of mine this winter season.  

Festive Broccoli, Split Pea, and Lentil Soup

1/2 c uncooked split peas
1/2 c uncooked lentils
2 c vegetable broth
2 c water
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 t dried basil, or 2 T fresh basil
1 lb pre-roasted winter squash or pumpkin (how to)
2 c fresh spinach (optional)
2 c broccoli, cut into florets
1 c mushrooms, quartered
1 T curry powder (optional)

Directions:  In a small saucepan, boil the uncooked split peas and lentils until at a soft consistency.  Strain and reserve for later.  In a large soup pan, combine vegetable broth, water, basil, and chopped onion and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add pre-roasted winter squash to soup and reheat to a simmer.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.  Turn off of heat and stir in spinach until it begins to wilt.  Puree the entire soup in a blender or with a blender.  Return soup to soup pot and add broccoli and mushrooms.  Simmer for 10 more minutes, remembering to stir regularly.  Add in lentils, split peas, and curry powder.  Serve hot with a sprinkle of paprika in each bowl.

Amy's Notes:  With adding the spinach to the puree of the soup, it turns a very green color.  This is why I called it "Festive" Green Broccoli Lentil Soup, and it's even more festive with a punch of red paprika on top!  If you want less of a Christmas-y effect, omit the added spinach.  This soup definitely takes some time to prepare, but is easy to heat up for leftovers the next day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!  I will be spending Christmas in Spokane before heading to Sequim on the 28th for New Years, then I will be heading back to Spokane with Kevin before returning to Pullman for next semester to start school on January 9th.  My next blog post will not be until school starts again, so I hope everyone enjoys the healthy foods of the holiday and I look forward to coming back in a few weeks to provide you with more yummy nutritarian recipes.

What would you most like to see from my blog when I return?  Any recipes with ingredients you're not sure how to use?  Substitutions for non-nutritarian favorites?


Blog Poll Recipe: Massaged Kale Salad

Since being back in Spokane for Christmas, it has been so nice to relax and enjoy good healthy food with my parents.  Unfortunately, when I got into town on Saturday, I was having terrible stomach pains and felt nauseous all day.  I'm not sure if it was mild food poisoning from something I ate last week, due to the dark beer I had the night before, or a delayed nervous reaction from my last final exam on Friday, but I felt terrible.  So terrible that I wasn't able to make it to my friend April's annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party :(.  That night I was able to "get-down" some dinner that my mom made.  She showed me from the table (as I may have been sicker than I was and contagious) how to make her great bean burgers.  With a bit of guacamole on them, they were spectacular.  I was lucky I was a bit sick or I would have eaten the whole batch of bean burgers hehe!

The next day, Sunday, I felt much better; good enough to go to church.  This was nice to see all of the people I grew up in faith with that I haven't seen in a long while, and to be reminded that I have more than one family in Spokane that care dearly for me.  After church my parents and I went to Round Table Pizza... to have the salad bar of course!  The salad bar there wasn't anything too fancy, but we loaded up on greens and enjoyed what would have been a very expensive salad at another restaurant (without the hassle of telling the server to put the dressing on the side, and hold the meat, and hold the cheese, and hold the croutons, etc.).  Later that evening, my dad and I wanted to treat my mom to making dinner, so my dad got to work on Vegetable Shish-ka-bobs as I made a quick salad for dinner.  

This today's recipe will feature kale.  I got the idea for the salad from this book.  The idea for massaged kale is from this book and so is the idea of how to handle the cashews for the salad dressing.

Massaged Sweet Kale Salad
(sorry for the blurry picture)
1 bunch kale (leaves size of 2-3 fists)
1-2 t olive oil (or less)
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c fresh blueberries

1/2 c cashews
3/4 c boiling water
1 c pineapple juice
2 T rice vinegar
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 T balsamic vinegar

Directions:  Boil water and pour into a small bowl with cashews, let sit for 15 minutes.  Strain cashews and add all dressing ingredients into a blender.  Blend the ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate dressing until time to serve.  Cut the stems from the kale and rip into bite size pieces.  In a small bowl, place kale inside and spray with olive oil (if you have a Misto), or lightly coat your fingers in olive oil.  Then massage the oil into the kale leaves with your fingers, until all leaves have a nice light gloss to them.  Do not use more olive oil than needed, a little goes a long way!  Add the dried cranberries and blueberries to the salad.  When ready to serve, toss a small amount of the dressing to the salad and toss until all leaves are well covered.  Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on the salad and serve. 

Amy's notes:  The dressing makes more than is needed for the salad as written, so feel free to double or triple the salad part of the recipe; the dressing will be able to easily stretch for that.  Also, the pineapple juice can be substituted for any other fresh juice you desire.  As I said, I sprayed olive oil with a Misto, which I find to be a great investment for anyone trying to eat healthy or eating a nutritarian diet.  It is sold for around $10, but I received it as a gift from my sister-in-law last Christmas.  It is a great way to use olive oil if it is a necessity, as it is in this recipe, while helping a small amount spread a bit further.

What is your best trick to keep added oil to a minimum in oil-heavy adapted recipes?


Veggie-Loaded Quinoa Salad

It finally snowed in Pullman last night (and stuck), but unfortunately I only got to be a spectator from my window as I was working on a take-home final for my Limnology (freshwater ecosystems) class, and am now working hard to study for my Oceanography final tomorrow at 8 am.  I've been fortunate enough to have this be my only real final, while the others have been culminating projects and take-homes.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow more than I have any other day this week.   I'll be done with my last final by 10 am, am having coffee (decaf for me) with a friend at 11, end of the semester beer-cheers with my best friend within my major in the late afternoon, and an evening with Kevin uninterrupted by the necessity to do finals studying.  I'm planning on traveling home on Saturday in time for the annual ugly christmas sweater party my good friend April is hosting.  

But, unfortunately for now, I'm stuck with doing a short blog post so I can get back to studying.  Today's recipe was a quick one I made earlier this week to suffice for lunch.  It's my own thrown together creation with lots of veggies and a yummy sauce on top.  

Veggie-Loaded Quinoa Salad
1 c uncooked quinoa, prepare by package instructions, or use this explanation
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch fresh basil, finely chopped
3 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 c pesto or creamy pesto sauce
1 t nutritional yeast (optional)

Directions:  Prepare quinoa as directed, and prepare pesto sauce.  Chop all vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl.  When quinoa is done, add pesto sauce and nutritional yeast while still hot and stir well.  Allow quinoa mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Add quinoa to mixing bowl with veggies and mix well. Serve heated or cold.
Amy's notes:  I used a pre-made package of creamy pesto sauce (pictured above)that required 1/2 c almond milk and a small amount of olive oil.  If you prefer to make your own pesto from scratch, or buy the pesto pre-made from the store, it will work perfectly with this recipe.  The nutritional yeast was added to give the dish a slight "cheesy" flavor, but is ok to omit.  Warning, this recipe stayed on my breath for hours, so may not be something you want to eat in a public setting.  Enjoy!

What is your favorite healthy dish when your week feels insanely busy, and you feel quite exhausted?


Amy's Canning Adventure

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, my big kitchen project this season was to make my yummy Thai Peanut Sauce and can it to give out as presents to my family and friends for the holidays.  I've made this sauce in single and double batches, but it has never made as much as I was going to need for this canning project.  So, I think I increased the recipe by nearly 15 times, and made it in a large saucepan.  On the other large burner of my stove, I had my grandma's old HUGE canning tub, that I used to boil the jars in water before and after filling them.  In a smaller saucepan, I boiled the lids to sanitize them until I filled the jars.  (I am by no means an expert on canning, so please do not use my crude explanation of how I canned my jars as a basis for canning on your own.  I would suggest researching the "art" of canning and all of the techniques on your own, as well as being informed on the dangers of canning food and food safety.)

Here are some of the pictures of my process (my nearly 5 hour long process):

Starting the sauce, while boiling the jars and lids.

The Sauce is ready and the canning begins.

I used a wide-bottomed funnel to help me fill them.

After the jars boiled, cooled, and the seal was checked, I decorated them with some Christmas-y fabric my Mom had left over from sewing and quilting, and some basic inexpensive red ribbon.

Health Discussion:
I know that the holidays have always been a time that many of us go overboard with eating, I usually end up gaining several pounds and working my butt off to lose it at the beginning of the year.  While it feels good getting healthy after the new year, I am always kicking myself through the holidays for my bad eating decisions.  Part of me says "I just want to try everything," while the other part of me is encouraging "just get one more serving, it tastes so good!"  I know that this year will be much different, mostly because my parents and I are on-board with a nutritarian lifestyle, so there will be less temptations of "bad foods" and more available yummy good-for-us foods.  

I was chatting with my mom the other day about what recipes we will be making for Christmas dinner this year, during which both of my brothers and sister-in-laws will be in town.  On the list so far are: Kitty's Asian Slaw, Pumpkin Basil Soup, and Thai Vegetable Pizza.  Ok, so not a traditional Christmas meal, but these are some of my Mom and my favorite foods since becoming nutritarian, and ones that I know the rest of my family will enjoy.  We will also be serving a large bowl of mixed fruit, as well as a large side salad with several types of lettuce, walnuts, and cranberries.  I know that this time last year, I would have thought a Christmas dinner looking like this would have seemed so strange, but this year I can't wait to spend the morning and afternoon helping my mom prepare this food that we can be proud to serve, both because of taste and because we know we are giving the people we love most in the world the healthiest things for them.  

What is the most weight you've gained during the Holidays?  What will you do differently this year to change that cycle?


Nutty Green Bean Casserole

Some other things I got from Trader Joe's last week was a big bag of fresh green beans, and a box of shitakki mushrooms.  I have never used shitakki mushrooms in my cooking before, so I thought I would give it a try!  This is yet another recipe from Dr. Fuhrman called: Nutty Green Bean Casserole.  The only differences between the original recipe and mine, is that I halved the recipe.

Nutty Green Bean Cassarole

1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed &  sliced on the bias
4 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c raw almonds+ 2 T chopped almonds to top
1/2 c non-dairy milk
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
dash ground black pepper

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Blanch the green beans in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain beans, and arrange them in a 9x9" casserole dish, sprayed with olive oil.  Water saute the mushrooms and onions until onions are tender.  Add cooked mushrooms and onions on top of the green beans.  In a food processor, blend the remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Pour sauce over beans and mushrooms.  Sprinkle chopped almonds on top of casserole.  Bake uncovered at until bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.  

Amy's notes:  When I blended my cream topping for the casserole, it stayed pretty chunky because my food processor is not the best and/or on it's last leg after blending so much peanut butter last week.  I'd suggest blending it in a blender.  Also, for the next time that I make this, I would add dates to the cream mixture.  It was a sweeter dish altogether, and that would give it even more of a sweet bite.  While not my favorite recipe lately, it is very filling as a main dish, and a good side dish to another plant-based dish.

What is your favorite plant-strong holiday dish?


Stuffed Artichokes, and I love Trader Joe's

Last weekend, when I was in Spokane visiting my parents and friends, I stayed with my good friend from high school, April, who lives on the South Hill of Spokane.  Earlier this fall, or maybe it was summer, a Trader Joe's opened up on that side of town.  I had never been to one, but had heard that I would be someone who would love it.  Little surprise when April and I went last Sunday morning, I LOVED IT!  Granted, it's not as cool as some farmer's markets and co-ops I've been to, but it had great prices on their produce, and an awesome selection of products in their other sections.   I got one thing I have been looking for for a good price forever: whole, fresh artichokes.  So I decided to do a recipe on artichokes today (since some of my final projects for school are wrapping up, and I finally have some time to cook).  Today I am making Dr. Fuhrman's Stuffed Artichokes.

Dr. Fuhrman's Stuffed Artichokes

4 medium artichokes
3 stalks of fresh basil
1 c walnuts
1/2 c non-dairy milk
1 t dried oregano, or parsley
1t garlic powder

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Trim the stems and small leaves from the bottom of the artichokes.  Cut about one inch off the top so that it is flat.  Using a steamer basket and 1 inch of water in a large pot, steam the artichokes for 15 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the outer leaves.  (for this I used my microwave steamer, and steamed the artichokes for 8-9 minutes, checking on them periodically)  In a food processor, blend together the basil, walnuts, soy milk, and oregano or parsley.  Place the steamed artichokes up right in a small casserole dish, and separate the leaves outward to expose the inner area for the stuffing (pictured below).  Spoon the mixture into the artichokes, making sure to get into all of the crevices.  Sprinkle with garlic powder.  Bake in the casserole dish for 15 minutes.

Amy's Notes:  This dish turned out fairly well.  The stuffing was a bit bland, so I added fresh ground black pepper to the top.  In the future, I would want to make the original stuffing, then mix it with pre-cooked quinoa before stuffing it into the artichokes.  Also, I would probably drizzle on some balsamic vinegar after baking for a bit more of a zing, since the stuffing was a bit bland.  I didn't want to go overboard with adding too much to spice up the stuffing the first time for the recipe, as I tend to overdo it.  As for serving size, this would be a great add on to a meal with another dish for four people, or most of the meal for two.  I ate two of them and felt plenty full.  Make sure, when you do eat them, to not only eat the whole hearts of the artichokes, but also to scrape the bottoms of the outer leaves for their edible flesh.  Also, you don't want to eat the "fuzzy" part near the base and inside where the heart leaves are.

I have sometimes had the problem with recipe's from Dr. Fuhrman's website being too bland, although they are great nutritarian recipes at the core.  I've tried to stray away from adding any salt, so I find myself adding fresh ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar, or cayenne pepper to dishes to spice them up, and make them more interesting.  After all, eating a nutritarian, plant-strong diet is all about making vegetables the center of your meal, but also enjoying them!  I've been thinking about other ingredients I could add to dishes to make them more interesting and enjoyable.  I've seen a few recipe with a "smokey flavor" extract added, or nutritional yeast to give dishes a cheesy taste.  Maybe I will have to try one of those.

What are some of your go-to ingredients to kick-up the flavor of a more bland recipe?


Prepping for Canning Christmas Presents, and Peanut Butter is Amazing

Yesterday I finally got some time to prepare for my big canning project.  This year, I am borrowing my sister-in-law's idea of home-making Christmas presents.  I will be giving out a canned jar of my favorite Thai Peanut Sauce.

The recipe for the peanut sauce, obviously requires a lot of peanut butter to make a large batch for canning.  For this recipe, I like to use my own homemade peanut butter.  After having homemade peanut butter, trust me, you will never go back to the creamy, salty, processed peanut butter you buy at the grocery store.  I have tried other natural peanut butters from health food stores, but I still prefer mine.  I get my peanuts from Winco, a local grocery store, in the bulk food items, and I usually get the unsalted, roasted peanuts.  If you get unsalted, unroasted peanuts, you can just as easily make raw nut butter.

So where did I learn to make peanut butter?  From, what I consider the authority on nut butters, a blog called "Heather Eat's Almond Butter", specifically this post.  It is relatively simple: with your nut of choice, place a good amount into a food processor (no more than half-way full), and grind, grind, grind!  At first, depending on your nut choice, it will turn into a crumbly, granular powder.  Eventually it starts to become nice and smooth.  Depending on what nut you use, and the quality of your food processor, this could take a few minutes, or a while longer.  I know that I have a very small food processor, but it handles nut butters fairly well.  If it feels like it's taking a long time to thicken and become creamy, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and try again.  I find that this let's the nuts have time to leak their natural oils, and make blending a lot easier and faster.  Here is me with one batch (I had several batches to make enough butter for canning I'll do another day):

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have never canned anything before, but I have done quite a bit of research so far.  I'm planning on canning my sauce on Sunday this week, so pictures and funny stories are sure to come after that.  When I was young, I remember my grandma canning in her kitchen.  She usually canned raspberry, grape, or strawberry jelly, which was a family favorite we could enjoy all year.  As my very loved and missed grandma has passed away two summers ago, I will be able to use her canning equipment, with new jars I have purchased.  I'm hoping with her canning pot, jar rack, and widened funnel, I will be able to channel her canning skill and know-how, all while remembering her importance in my life during this wonderful Christmas time.  

My grandma taught me many things, from card games, to baking and cooking.  The most important lesson in the kitchen she taught me was just to be scrappy.  By that I mean, don't always follow the rules of baking and cooking and just do things the way you want to.  A lesson I think is very well reflected in my recipes on this blog.  One of my favorite memories of her, is when we made peanut butter oatmeal cookies, or something along those lines.  Near the end, the dough was so thick, my little arms could barely mix it, so my grandma had me wash my hands and just go-for-it!  I had the best time just mixing the dough with my hands and the cookies came out better for it, and better for grandpa to enjoy sampling.

Another large influence of my cooking life has been my mom.  The most important thing my mom has taught me is the value in having a meal together.  At least four nights a week when I lived at home, my family and I were lucky enough to have a homemade meal.  That is something I hope to continue with a family of my own someday.

I know that my cooking skills and love of, what I consider one of my hobbies, has come from my grandma and my mom.  I was so lucky to learn as much as I did (and am still learning) from these wonderful women.  And since my mother has become plant-strong, we have found a new way to connect and enjoy ourselves cooking together and talking about recipes every chance we get.  

Who started your love of cooking (and eating)?  What is the best lesson about cooking or life that you have learned from them?


I'm sure you're getting tired of hearing that I'm busy... so am I!

Well this is the last week of classes in winter semester for me, and next week is finals week.  I have had a couple of culminating projects due, which have been taking up the majority of my time and energy.  So, I have been having leftovers and not having much fun cooking lately.  This will be yet another week that I can't promise any posts, and probably no posts on recipes.  

Hope everyone enjoys their week, that, for your sanity, I hope is less busy than mine!

What are your strategies for eating well when you don't have much time to prepare meals?


Butternut Squash Soup

Well this week has lived up to be as busy as expected!  I've practically lived at the library, so thank goodness for sack lunches and dinners.  A recent favorite weekday meal has been my Barley Veggie Medley.  My roommate informed me that she did not think it looked appetizing, but I beg to differ.  It's a super simple mixture of cooked barley, roasted brussel sprouts, and chopped celery, carrots, and green onions.  Top it off with some fresh ground pepper, and zap it in the microwave if you want.  It's a perfectly filling mid day meal.  I'll feature this recipe with pictures sometime this weekend or possibly next weekend.

As a new feature to my blog, check out the poll to the left on what your three favorite greens this season are!  I'll take the top three choices after the poll closes next Friday and feature a few holiday recipes with them the week before Christmas!

The recipe for today is Butternut Squash Soup.  I made it earlier this week to have leftovers to get me through the week.  Be warned, if you use whole butternut squash, and not pre-cut cubes from the store, it will take quite a while to peel and cut the squash.  Given that I have a slight handicap of a bandaged finger with stitches, it took me a good 45 minutes wrestle two butternut squashes to get them finally ready for the soup.  The soup turned out nice and creamy when blended, but for future recipes I would add more vegetable broth and make it stretch a little farther.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup
2 medium sized butternut squashes, peeled, seeded, and cubed (approx. 8-9 c)
8-10 c vegetable broth
2 c white beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet or yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 c chopped mushrooms (I used portobello)
1 tsp minced ginger
1 T ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  In a large saucepan or dutch oven, saute the onion and ginger in a small amount of water.  Once onions become tender, add mushrooms and saute for an additional 5 minutes.  Add the cubed butternut squash and beans into the saucepan, then add enough vegetable broth to cover all the other ingredients.  For me this was about 8 c, but I would probably use 10 c next time.  Bring to a simmer and cover.  Simmer for an additional 25 minutes, or until the squash cubes are tender.  Turn off heat and allow to cool from a simmer.  In a blender, or with an immersion blender, blend the soup in batches until all is creamy.  Return to the saucepan, stir in seasonings, and reheat to serve.

Amy's notes:  In the future I might be a it more creative with this soup, such as adding well chopped kale at the end until it is nicely wilted, or maybe keep the mushroom pieces whole and add them at the end as well.  This is a very nice base creamy soup that is great on its own, but definitely has room for experimentation, so get creative if you like!  I served my soup topped with ground black pepper and some cayenne pepper and with a grilled portobello mushroom with  red pepper hummus, lettuce, and green onions wrapped in steamed collard greens.  So yummy!
This weekend I will be traveling home to Spokane to spend the weekend with some hometown friends and shopping with my mom.  I actually haven't gone shopping at all this Christmas season, unless you count some amazon.com purchases.  Because money is in short supply this year for me, as I have just payed off some college loans, I will be making several homemade presents this year.  I got this idea from my sister-in-law who gifted some of us with a lovely braided bread, vodka pasta sauce, unique noodles, and fruit preserve.  I am not good at making anything like that, so I will be making a large batch and canning my Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce, and canning it to give with a small recipe book with ideas of how to use it, like on Thai pizza, with noodles or rice, and as a dipping sauce.  This will be my first time canning anything, so I am a bit intimidated.  I'm sure I will make a post when it comes time about my successes and failures with this endeavor.

Do you have any canning advice for me?  How should I decorate the jars once they're sealed?