On one of the few rainy days that LA experiences each year, it can be nice to have some good ol’ fashioned comfort food. A recent winter rainfall stirred me to whip out a classic: grilled cheese and tomato soup. Both were fairly easy to make and made for a very scrumptious lunch. What follows are the simple steps to tasty comfort.

Simple Spicy Tomato Soup

  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (to saute)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (best if you can find tomatoes in a glass jar! A BPA-free guarantee)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt (salt to taste)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 drops of hot sauce

Start by sauteing the onion and the garlic in 1/8 cup vegetable broth in a medium-sized saucepan on medium-high heat. Saute until the onions are translucent and fragrant. Add another 1/8 cup veggie broth and the carrots and celery. Let it cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, stir in the tomatoes, veggie broth, thyme, salt, pepper (to taste) and the hot sauce.  You can add less or more hot sauce depending on how spicy you like food (I like a nice, bold kick). Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes on a low-medium heat. And it’s finished! This soup serves about 4 nice full bowls.

As the soup simmers and develops it’s delightful flavor, go ahead and make that grilled cheese!

Vegan Sourdough Grilled Cheese Sandwich

  • Fresh, sourdough bread of your choice. I bought a fermented sourdough basil bread from the farmer’s market.
  • Vegan cheddar cheese of your choice – this time I used the brand “teese” which was recommended by the store cheese lady. It was good and got the job done, but I’d still suggest that you use Daiya brand vegan cheese – it’s a guarantee good bet and sure to please.
  • Vegan margarine. I used Earth Balance.

Slice your bread, if it isn’t already sliced. Spread a thin layer of margarine on one side of each slice of bread. Next, add the cheese to the un-margarined (um…word?) side and then add the other slice of bread on top. The sides of bread with the margarine should be on the outside. Turn your frying pan on to a medium heat. Go ahead and place your sandwich on the pan, and let it “grill” on one side for about 4-6 minutes before flipping. Each side of the sandwich should be golden-brown and the cheese should get nice and melty on the inside.  Serve with a bowl of the soup – and there you have it! A quick, tasty, comforting classic lunch, friendly for vegans and delicious for all.

Give it a go and let me know what you think!

Goodness, guys. I made a really kickass salad. I found a few recipes that seemed interesting online, and combined/altered them to make this divine leafy creation. I’ve been trying to incorporate more fresh greens into my diet again, so have been exploring various salad recipes to experience some new flavors atop my greens The discovery/creation of this particular lunchtime delight is one worthy of repeating, and I am just tickled to share the recipe with you all.

Cranberry Pecan Salad

  • 1 cup raw pecans, in pieces or halves
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1 tablespoon oil (olive or canola)
  •  Half a head of red-leaf lettuce or your favorite leafy greens (butter lettuce works great), washed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup of fresh baby spinach, torn up into pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked red quinoa, cooled.
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup vegan blue cheese (we found ours at Whole Foods – it added a LOT to the salad. Of course you can use real blue cheese if you aren’t vegan)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the pecans, agave and oil together in a bowl. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until they are crunchy and flavorful.

Mix the roasted pecans, lettuce, spinach, quinoa, cranberries, pomegranate seeds together in a large bowl.

Toasted Sesame Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (just put them on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder or minced onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup agave
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients together, shaking very well. Add to your salad mixture and toss. Add the blue cheese last on top when you serve.

Now…..EAT!!!

This makes about 4-6 servings, depending on serving size. This salad is rich in antioxidants and gets a protein boost from the quinoa, and it is absolutely delicious. Great for any time of the year. It makes an excellent lunch!

I’ll start by saying that this recipe differs from most of my others as it is not a quick one, and does require a little “labor.” This is because these delectable fine foods are made from scratch, by hand, and, oh yes, it is soooo worth it.

For my vegan Thanksgiving feast this year, rather than making a plate of familiar yet gourmet side-dishes, as I usually do, I decided to make these tortellini as the main event, something different and quite special. They have a unique flavor – nourishing and carrying the weight of squash’s comfort quality, yet holding a hint of almond cookie sweetness while proclaiming as a savory dish. I drew inspiration for the recipe from one taken from the Food Network, yet, being a vegan, tweaked it to make it a little different and very vegan friendly. This was definitely a successful dish, worthy of making again, particularly fit for the fall – winter season when comfort foods reign and perfect for those times when you want to step up your game (or impress that special someone). Get at the recipe, posted below, and please let me know what you think if you make it!

Let’s make sure we have the right ingredients (for you non-vegans, feel free to use a cottage cheese or cream cheese to replace to vegan cream cheese and tofu – if you prefer).

Squash Tortellini

1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds, cubed (about 3 cups – you can also buy pre-cut squash to make this process much, much easier)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus another 2 tablespoons

1 1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and more to taste

2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup medium-firm tofu, smooshed with your hands

1/2 cup vegan cream cheese

4 small vegan almond flavored cookies, crushed. I used one I found at Whole Foods that had oats in them as well – they worked perfectly fine. The original recipe calls for Amaretti cookies, so you want to achieve a similar flavor. I found the almond cookies to be the ideal compliment.

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Do not put too much of this in! Nutmeg can be overbearing if you go overboard. Modesty with nutmeg!

1 package small wonton wrappers – I did not find a vegan brand at Whole Foods (be sure to check the packaging, some have eggs in them) but rather at my normal grocer.

Brown “Butter” Sauce:

3/4 cup Earth Balance butter (or another vegan butter of your choice, but I prefer Earth Balance)

2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves (you can use dried…but the fresh definitely steps this dish up majorly)

1/2 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries, or both (I used cranberries)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

Optional: 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (I left them out because someone in my party was allergic)

Directions

Now let’s get to making these tasty little suckers!

First, we gotta roast that squash. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. While it’s heating, get to chopping and peeling your squash (this is where having pre-cut squash is worth the few extra bucks). Toss your squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and your Italian herbs together and then spread the chopped squash out on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in the oven until they are soft and golden, about 25-30 minutes. Be sure to check with a fork to make sure they are soft and ready.

While those are roasting away, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic about 3 minutes until just golden.

Next, let’s blend it all up! Throw the squash into a food processor, add the shallot/garlic misture, the tofu and the vegan cream cheese and pulse a few times until it’s beginning to blend. Add the crushed almond cookies, the nutmeg, the salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. The great thing about this, is that you can do this a day ahead if you need!

Now we make the tortellini! This takes time, but is not difficult. Begin by laying out 6 wonton skins at a time. Don’t let the remaining skins dry out – keep them in the package. Place 1 tablespoon of squash mixture in the middle of the wonton skin. With a pastry brush, dampen the edges of the wonton skin with a little water. Gently fold the square wrapper into a triangle by bringing opposite corners together, making sure that the edges are securely closed and there are no air pockets (very important!). Now dampen the 2 long corners of the triangle and pull them together to touch just below the center of the long end of the triangle, creating your tortellini. Place on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Now lay out another 6, but be sure to dry your work space first. Continue as before until all the mixture is used up. It should be approximately 36 tortellini.

You can freeze these tortellinis and use at a later date – I found it was helpful to put wax paper between layers of them and put them in small containers. I also found it was best to freeze them before cooking at all, so they held their shape better, as they were getting too soft and melty in the fridge.

To cook these little guys, get some salted water boiling, and gently spoon them in. Let them cook for about 4 minutes, until they float to the top of the water. Gently spoon them out and serve with the sauce.

For the sauce, you can make this while your water is boiling before you toss in the tortellini. Melt the Earth Balance butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the cranberries and sage, and walnuts if you decide to add them. Let the “butter” begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and immediately pour over your tortellini to serve.

That’s it! These are absolutely delectable. Savory, comforting, rich with flavor and super satisfying. Give them a go and let me know what you think!

 

 

For the winter months, I definitely like some hot food in me. So I’ve gone back to making one of my favorite dishes: tofu scramble. This is such a simple dish that provides you with essential nutrients and is delicious. It’s clear that I like things to be easy and hassle-free, so of course my tofu scramble is just that. Tofu is an excellent source of easily digestible protein, and is, thankfully, very easy to cook with. The recipe also calls for spinach, a lovely little vegetable with a wealth of benefits, including iron, flavonoids (cancer fighting phytonutrients), vitamin K (bone health), vitamin A (skin and immunity) and various other awesome attributes. It is argued by many nutritionists and other people who study food stuff (very legitimate, clearly) that spinach is most nutritionally valuable when it is lightly steamed. Thus, in my recipe, it is one of the last ingredients added, just to steam it lightly as it is mixed into the scramble. This whole recipe takes about 15-20 minutes, 10 if you are quick and have pre-chopped onions, and serves 1 person a delicious steamy scramble – easily doubled or tripled as you see fit. The greatest thing about this recipe is that you can easily swap out ingredients for veggies and meats/faux-meats that you prefer. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

Easy Tasty Tofu Scramble

  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon veggie oil
  • 1/4 block of firm tofu, drained and then mashed/crumbled with a fork
  • your faux-meat of choice – I used tempeh bacon, 2 slices, cooked up in a pan with a little oil until crispy on the edges, then chopped into little pieces
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast – optional, but adds yellow coloring, more flavor, and B vitamins – easily found at health food stores
  • handful of spinach, torn or chopped
  • other veggies of your choice: diced tomatoes, corn, chopped broccoli, bell pepper, etc.
  • salt and pepper
  1. Saute and lightly brown chopped onion in a frying pan with oil
  2. Add your fake (or real, as you pleas) meat to the browned onions, heat
  3. Any other veggies you’d like to add – this is the time to add
  4. Add tofu to the pan, heat as you mix with the onions and meat.
  5. Stir in nutritional yeast, salt and pepper – to flavor
  6. Add spinach in, gently mix into the scramble until it just begins to wilt and looks bright green. Don’t let it stay too long! You may add a dash of water to the scramble if it looks a little dry, just to help steam the spinach

And that’s it! Plate and serve. So easy, so yummy. Serve as is, or with some hot sauce or ketchup. Nutritionally balanced, hot breakfast to get your day started right!

There is something so sensual about preparing and then eating living foods. Maybe it is because the enzymes are active and more potent, and your body senses the life entering it, causing some sort of satisfying stimulation. Or, it could be that I’m the only one that feels this way. Either way, I feel that there is no denying the somewhat sensual act of eating fresh, juicy, flavorful food with your hands, the flavors dripping down your chin and all over your fingers. My delightful discovery of raw tacos – easy to make, simple, fresh and surprisingly flavorful – are what I believe to be the prime example of such a sensual living foods experience. Again, we know I’m a somewhat lazy amateur chef and like to do what is easiest yet still tastiest, so I googled my raw hippie heart out until I found a few recipes that looked simple enough for me to make in a short amount of time. I changed a few things and formulated my own vegan nacho cheese sauce, and came up with the following delicious and quite simple recipe.

Taco “meat” (taken from http://www.live-green-smoothie-diet.com/2009/04/genuinely-meaty-raw-taco-meatwith-chunky-guacamole-and-fresh-cherry-tomato-jalapeno-salsa/):

  • 1 Portabella mushroom cap, rinsed and chopped medium-fine (nearly 2 cups finished)
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped (not too fine… leave some texture)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cold-pressed olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw cane sugar (rapadura) or some other raw sweetener
  • squirt fresh lemon juice (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • quality natural salt & fresh pepper to taste (I use Himalayan Crystal Salt)

Mix all ingredients well and check for taste. Be sure to add enough salt! This will carry a lot of the flavor.

The website calls for you to spread this on a dehydrator for a bit to bring out the flavor of the mushrooms. I do not yet own a dehydrator, so I popped mine into oven on “warm” for about 4 minutes, just to let the mushrooms achieve their flavor potential and get the “meat” slightly warm. Be sure not to bake it!

Next, the Raw Cashew Nacho Cheese Sauce! This is the best part!

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 1-2 hours, drained
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (not necessary, but adds the cheesy color)
  • A few grinds of fresh Himalayan salt (or whatever salt you choose, if you don’t care about it being authentically raw)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • purified water

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor (or blender if you don’t have one) until smooth and creamy, adding water as needed to get the desired texture. Also add salt as needed.

For taco assembly:

  • fresh pico de gallo
  • fresh chopped avocado
  • fresh, washed butter lettuce or your favorite lettuce fresh off the head – don’t chop, keep the leaves whole. This is the tortilla!

To assemble the tacos:

  • Take a piece of lettuce, layer on the “meat,” pico de gallo and avocado, and top with the nacho cheese sauce. Make as many as you want – the meat will keep for up to a week in the fridge, the cheese will keep for at least a week.

Voila! That’s it – so simple and definitely a pleaser for your little taste buds. Raw foodies and your meat-eating friends alike will appreciate the fresh, flavorful meal. Share with someone you want to get sensual with. Or someone that you don’t mind seeing you with raw taco juices dripping all down your face.

 

 

 

I know you are probably thinking: what, I already know how awesome olive oil is, its good for your skin and is good for stir-fry and in salads. Right? Well, this precious liquid is so much more that just nourishing food!

First of all, as food, olive oil IS incredibly nutritious and beneficial for our bodies, but needs to be used correctly. Heating olive oil above 200-250 degrees can actually be toxic. Olive oil starts of thick and green, filled with antioxidants and nutrients, and as it is heated at a higher temperature, it burns off all the nutrients, and the fumes it burns turn toxic. What you are left with is an oil that is nothing more than fat for your body. So to correctly eat your olive oil and get all the rad nutrients it offers you, add it at the end, after you have cooked your food, just a drizzle, on your potatoes, fish, veggies, or salad.  Research shows that ingesting olives can prevent certain cancers, and it also provides us with nutrients such as Vitamin E (good for the skin and hair) and healthy fats that can actually improve your cholesterol (when used in moderation).  Also, uncooked olive oil is more flavorful!

So we know that olive oil is fantastic for your insides, and we now know how to properly use and non-cook it in our meals. But olive oil is also a fantastic addition or substitution to your beauty regimen. I say substitution because I use it almost exclusively for most of my “beauty” habits. In educating myself on oils for skincare, I discovered that oils are actually a wax and can hydrate your skin by sealing in moisture. When I get out of the shower, before I have dried my body off, I use extra virgin olive oil directly on my skin, all over my body, to seal in the moisture that is left from the shower. Do not towel dry first, just use the oil to trap the water into your skin. It works so well – people will go nuts at the feel of your skin, trust me on that one.

You can also use olive oil on your hair, which I will do before I shower in which I will then shampoo it out, and it makes my hair incredibly soft and very manageable. I love this. My use of conditioner has drastically declined, and its not greasy.

Olive oil is also awesome for your face. It is a great all-natural way to remove makeup without worrying about getting anything in your eyes, and it is both a deep and effective cleanser as well as a wonderful moisturizer. If you think using oil as a cleanser is crazy, understand that oil attracts oil, whereas water and oil do not mix. So it makes sense that an oil based cleanser or straight oil would attract a lot of dirt from your skin, while nourishing it at the same time. To use it as a cleanser, simply rub a generous portion of it in and onto your skin in firm strokes for a few minutes before steaming off with a hot washcloth of hot running water. End with cold splashes to close your pores. I also use an aloe-vera spray on my face with olive oil as an effective and enriching moisturizer.

I seriously can’t even begin to tell you how awesome olive oil is and simply encourage you to try it in ways you haven’t before.  Be sure to buy extra virgin, cold-pressed organic olive oil, and it is very important to store it in a cool, dark place, as it is heat and light sensitive. I get mine at Trader Joe’s which sells a few varieties for very affordable prices. Enjoy this natural treasure!

When discussing ways to green your life, I often am presented with the argument that it is inconvenient. This is the silliest argument against going green that I’ve ever heard! The thing is, we make habits for ourselves based on how we were raised and what the media tells us to buy and wear and eat and we just go with it, because its normal and seems to work okay and anything outside of that space would just be too weird and too difficult to adapt. I know for a fact that making changes to take steps towards a more environmentally friendly home and life is simple and can take a small amount of effort because I have done them myself. By being aware of what you are buying and using in your home, you can make your home and your lifestyle a little more eco-friendly!

Become a conscious shopper

Household items: If you have half a brain and have listened to any reports done on ammonia and various other harsh  chemicals, you know you should avoid using them at all costs. Not only are they terrible for you, they cause harm to our precious atmosphere. Rather than buying the standard cheapo cleansers like Windex and other surface cleaners, look for cleaners that have 10 ingredients or less with names you can pronounce. You can also clean most of your home with white vinegar, baking soda and lemon. Cheap, super effective, and non-harming to you or to this kickass world of ours. Find some ways to do this at: http://www.natural-healthy-home-cleaning-tips.com/vinegar_baking_soda_cleaning_recipes.htm

This site also points out that studies have proven a 5% solution of white vinegar to kill 99% of bacteria. Dopeness!

If you want convienence, Whole Foods and other health stores sell environmentally friendly brands of cleaning supplies and kitchen goods, including sponges, gloves, dish soaps and paper cupcake liners. These are little, simple things that may not seem like a big deal to you, but remember that every time you purchase something, you are voting for what you want out there on the market. The more “green” items bought, the more the companies will produce, and less of the other crap. Also, do not be fooled by an item that is marked “green” or “natural.” Always check the ingredients! Any company can put “green” or “natural” on their label as there are no regulations for it, so check the back!

Clothing: In his incredibly informative book Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough (http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm) discusses how our recycling system is actually a method of “downcycling,” not true recycling. I put both recycling and downcycling to use when it comes to clothing. When buying new clothes, look for items that are made from recycled materials (a form of downcycling), and definitely buy organic when you can. Buying organic cotton is incredibly important because cotton is the number one treated product! Grosssssssss. Shop at vintage and thrift stores for recycled clothing.  Always be conscious about the companies that you purchase from.  Most importantly, don’t buy what you don’t need! I try to buy new clothes only when I need them and be conscious about where I am getting them from. Sometimes you can go through the clothes you already have and reinvent them with a little creatitvity.  Also, don’t throw away your old clothes in the trash – donate them to Goodwill or another thrift store or charity service so someone else can get wear and joy out of them!

The biggest thing I can stress to you, is that every time you purchase anything, you are voting for what you want on the market. When you are faced with organic or conventional, compare prices and if the price difference is not that much, go for organic, always. Places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have their own brands of organic foods and products that are often only 20 – 50 cents more than the conventional product. Totally worth the extra dimes!

Shopping is necessary for convenience in our lives, but should not be a frequent activity of recreation. Be conscious with everything you wear, eat and use. Its easy and makes a difference! Both the world and I thank you, greatly.

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