Mushroom Bolognese

Italian cuisine is a favorite for plant-based meals. When I come across ways to pack in extra veggies, I will always try. This sauce is perfect for adding in extra veggies and it can be used in so many ways.

Try it with lentil walnut loaf balls, crumble in some tofu, ladled over rice or pasta, or especially good over roasted spaghetti squash.

Mushroom Bolognese

A veggie packed sauce that is wonderful on gluten free penne pasta or roasted spaghetti squash.
Prep Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: gluten free,, plant-based, sugar-free, vegan
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • dutch oven
  • knife
  • food processor (optional)

Ingredients

  • 2 cup yellow onion chopped
  • 1 cup carrots about 3
  • 1 cup celery 2-3 stalks
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 (15 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes diced with juices
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat, when hot add 2 tablespoons of water along with the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Add carrots, celery and mushrooms stirring to combine and cook until all become a bit tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water, followed by remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
  • While sauce is cooking, prepare pasta, rice or roast a spaghetti squash.
  • When sauce has thickened a bit, serve over your choice of starch.

Notes

To make light work of the chopping, cut the onion, carrots, celery  and mushrooms into similar sized chunks and place in a food processor and pulse each until finely chopped. there's no need to wipe out container between ingredients. 
If you'd like the sauce to be more "saucey" and less chunky, process half of the cooked sauce in the food processor until smooth and add back to remaining sauce.

Lentil Walnut Loaf

I’ve tried several different meatless loafs and this one that I adapted from Oh She Glows is my favorite at this point.

The lentil walnut mixture can be used to make meatless balls as well. Be sure to press the mixture together tightly when patting it into the loaf pan or into balls.  Try the balls with the mushroom Bolognese sauce or make the loaf slices into meatless loaf sandwiches, that are sure to bring back good childhood memories of grandma’s meatloaf sammy’s.

Lentil Walnut Loaf

This is a hearty plant-based loaf that really is delicious. Oats, flax and walnuts add texture and nutrient density. This recipe is adapted from Oh She Glows.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten free,, nuts, vegan
Servings: 4 people

Equipment

  • loaf pan
  • pot
  • food processor
  • mixing bowl
  • skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sweet onion chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup celery (2 -3 stalks) minced
  • 1 cup carrot (2-3) minced
  • 1/3 cup apple shredded
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 cup oats
  • Pinch of cayenne optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • Grease a 5X9 loaf pan. Add lentils to a pot and cover with water. Cook at a simmer for 25 minutes. then drain and add to a large bowl, mash them with a fork into a chunky paste.
  • While the lentils are cooking, warm oil in a skillet and add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook stirring to prevent garlic from burning. Cook until onion and celery are tender, about 10 minutes, then stir in apple and herbs, stir for a couple minutes and remove from the heat.
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse the oats into a coarse flour, then add the walnuts and pulse on and off to break them into small bits.
  • Transfer the walnuts and oats to the lentils in the mixing bowl and add ground flax. Mix to combine.
  • Stir in the skillet veggie mixture and season to taste. If the mixture seems dry, add 2 tablespoons of water and mix well. Getting your hands into the mix can help to combine and soften the texture of the mixture, also making sure that the mixture will hold shape. Add more water if needed.
  • Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan and press firmly to form a loaf.
  • In a small bowl combine tomato paste and balsamic vinegar, mix well and spoon over the top of the loaf.
  • Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until edges are brown and its firm to the touch. Serve by the slice or crumble over salad.

Notes

To mince the carrots and celery quickly, roughly chop the carrots into large pieces and chunk the celery and add to a food processor and pulse until minced.  

 

Should You Eat the Impossible Burger?

Eating more plants is one of the best things you can do for your health. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet and were created to be the perfect foods for us (at least that’s my perspective). From nutritional research I’ve learned that plant foods are key players when it comes to supplying the nutrients necessary for the body to recover, prevent and reverse disease. Clinical studies show a positive impact in all body systems from gum health to immune regulation to heart disease and more when plant foods are increased.

There’s been a lot of interest and marketing hype about the plant burgers on the market now especially with the introduction of the Impossible burger. Although the Beyond burger has improved it’s original formulation and is “meatier’ and has been available for a couple years now, the Impossible burger is new and has been reviewed as tasting so close to beef, that it’s hard to tell the difference, it even bleeds like beef. (For those who are grossed out by meat, these burgers would not be appealing.)

So should the Beyond burger and Impossible burger be thought of as healthy and a beneficial plant based option for those seeking to increase their plant consumption? Many people think that because they are plant-based, they must be good for you. However, to determine that, the ingredients should be considered even when the nutritional label looks good, as I recommend with any food product.  Both burgers have highly processed ingredients. There is not one whole plant food in either one. Take a look at the labels…

Beyond Burger ingredients: water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, contains 2% or less of the following: cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, natural flavor, maltodextrin, yeast extract, salt, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, dried yeast, gum Arabic, citrus extract (to protect quality), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), beet juice extract (for color), acetic acid, succinic acid, modified food starch, annatto (for color).

Impossible Burger ingredients: Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12

Both burgers are formulated to be similar in protein content, fat and taste to beef. Although neither burger claims to be whole food based, the “plant-derived” and “plant-based” marketing message makes them seem healthy and appealing to those consumers who are interested in increasing their plant consumption or for those concerned about reducing the environmental effects of the meat industry.  They may certainly be better for animals and the environment, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy for us to eat?  They should be considered  a processed food, and should make up only a very small portion of the diet, if any. To maintain or improve health, whole plant foods should make up the majority of food that’s consumed.

Is one burger healthier than the other?  I believe the Beyond burger is the better choice, mainly because it does not contain GMO leghemoglobin-yeast and soy, which are present in the Impossible burger. There are studies that show the detrimental affects of consuming different GMO foods (See Institute of Responsible Technology and Genetic Roulette).  For that reason alone, I will not eat the Impossible burger. There have not been any long term human studies evaluating the consumption of that particular kind of GMO food. It is something our bodies have never been exposed to before. So no one really knows what will result. The Center For Food Safety, which is a watchdog group that opposes genetically engineered food, has asked the FDA to recall the Impossible burger because of safety concerns about the genetically engineered soy and heme.

The fact that these burgers are created in a laboratory and they are not something I can replicate in my kitchen also influences my choice not to consume them. The whole foods created for us by the Creator provide better health results. Those foods are whole plant based foods including: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If animal products are included, keeping the quantity low and quality high (studies show that it should be 2-3 oz. 2 X week or less and grass fed, organic and wild caught) has shown positive results in maintaining health.

But please keep in mind, that with increases in animal based foods, health risks also increase. The imitation burgers can possibly meet a need for those transitioning to a more pant focused diet. But whole foods need to be the focus with the occasional processed or animal based food.

For a plant-based burger recipe that does not mimic beef, check out my recipe HERE

Nutty Stuffed Delicata Squash

This recipe comes together quickly, but will take about 40 minutes to bake depending on the size of your squash. The one I used in this recipe was pretty large for a Delicata. But this recipe works with any size squash.  Delicata is easy to work with because there’s no need to peel this squash, the skin is tender enough to eat and doesn’t really have much flavor.  Just be sure to wash the squash before using.

The filling is a combination of sauteed onions, garlic and nuts. I used almonds and walnuts, but pecans and pine nuts could be thrown into the mix as well. To bind these together we’ll mix equal parts chickpea flour and water, add some nutritional yeast and plant milk and any herbs you’d like to bump up the flavor. Mix this with the onions and nuts and spoon into the squash. Place in the oven and bake until tender.

Here’s the quantities I used:

  • 1 large Delicata squash
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup almonds, shopped or slivered (pecans, hazelnuts)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped (pine nuts or seeds)
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T plant milk
  • 1-2 T nutritional yeast ( to your liking)
  • fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme or go sweeter with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove)

Wash your squash, halve it and scoop out the seeds. in a bowl, combine the chickpea flour, water, plant milk and nutritional yeast. In a skillet over medium high heat, saute onion and garlic until soft and golden. Add the nuts, herbs, a couple pinches of salt and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and pour in flour mixture. Stir to evenly mix. Spoon this into the squash halves. Depending on the size of your squash, you may have extra filling. If you do, cook the filling in muffin tins, it will make a mock mini quiche.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced.

 

Sugar Fasting

I just finished 40 days of fasting sugar and for me that meant cutting out all forms of processed and “healthy” sugar options and sticking with only fresh, frozen and dried fruit. It wasn’t like I had candy hiding around the house, but I would add honey or maple syrup to my coffee, tea and oats, snack on granola, chips or a square of dark chocolate and then more dark chocolate after dinner. (Maybe there was chocolate hiding, but I hadn’t labeled it “candy” because dark chocolate is good for you, right?) But what made me decide to do this was to become more aware of habitual eating I may not have paid much attention to, and to intentionally let go of a substance that doesn’t offer much in return.

It started when I saw this opportunity to join an online group for the 40 day fast with daily encouragement and accountability. Guess what? My husband decided to join me, and he’s used to having a soda and several sweetened teas at work and then an afternoon trip to the candy bowl and joins me for a square of chocolate after dinner. With a little creativity on my part, we both made it through without too much fuss. It is interesting what we learned and how we’re feeling now.

To begin, we committed to drinking more water whenever we had an urge for something sweet, and then to having a piece of fresh fruit. Apples, oranges, kiwi. pineapple and berries filled our fruit drawer. My husband, Barry, would take fruit to work and make his own unsweetened tea. I drastically reduced my coffee, because I don’t like bitter coffee and drank more herbal and green teas which tend not to need sweetener. The first couple days I used a few stevia drops in coffee, but I really preferred plain tea to the coffee with stevia . For my typical winter breakfast of oats, instead of adding the honey or maple syrup, I just loaded it with a chopped orange and some raspberries, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Delicious!

I did need to find a way to only use fruit in the granola I make, which is what Barry takes for breakfast. So instead of melting coconut oil and mixing it with maple syrup, coconut sugar and vanilla to pour over the oat, nut and seed mixture, I blended a half banana, two apples, a couple dates and cinnamon with a little water and poured that mixture over the oat, nut, seed mix and then baked. It was a little less sweet than my original. but nicely flavored.

I also kept a small jar of dates soaking in water in the fridge. I would use the water to sweeten some things (coffee, if I really wanted it) and the soft dates in a recipe I was making if it needed a sweetener. But for the most part, I cooked simply, enjoyed a little more fruit than I usually eat and did not bake, except for a date sweetened chocolate birthday cake for Barry, (It was good!).

When I wanted a crunchy snack, I had mixed raw nuts and seeds on hand, as I always do, and I made some kale chips a couple times. But I really missed the after dinner chocolate square. So as a fruit based replacement, I pitted 6 dates and put a small scoop of almond butter in the center of each and kept those in the freezer. Oh my! They have taken the place of the chocolate, at least for now.

I think doing the fast helped both of us think and be more mindful of what we were eating and at the same time, reflect on why we were inclined toward sugar. Reasons like boredom, avoidance, sheer habit and feeling down surfaced. Also sharing a little more sweetness and more hugs with each other helped too! We both benefited by feeling less achy and slept better and Barry lost a couple pounds and saw improved focus at work.

We haven’t returned to our pre-fast behavior and plan to keep a better balance on the use of sweeteners. Whole fruits really can be used in place of sugar and sweeteners in most recipes and I’ll be putting some sugar free recipes together if you need some inspiration. But if this is something you’re interested in doing, I encourage you to go for it.

Warming Vegetable Curry

Add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and two stalks of celery, chopped, to large high sided skillet or soup pan. Sauté until onions soften.

Chop a bunch of broccoli, separating florets from chopped stems. Chop 1 cup of cauliflower into small florets.

Gather 1/2 cup of red lentils, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of coconut milk and 1T of curry powder.

Add the chopped cauliflower and stems of broccoli to the pan along with the tomatoes, lentils and curry. Fill the tomato can 1/2 full with water and add to the pan and stir everything together. Then add the can of coconut milk. Full fat or lite can be used.

Stir together and bring to a simmer, cook uncovered for about 15 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. The lentils and vegetable should be tender. When the vegetables are tender stir in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and serve!! This fills the kitchen with a warm curry aroma and tastes fantastic.

Creamy Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup

Creamy Mushroom& Wild Rice Soup

1 lb sliced mushrooms 

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves 

1 cup Wild Rice 

3 cup water

4 cup veg broth

1/2 cup cashews

1/4 cup gf rolled oats

2 tsp thyme

1 tsp rosemary 

1/2 tsp sage

In a 4 qt saucepan, over medium heat, sauté the onions in a tsp of olive oil until softened. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute so the garlic does not burn. Then add the mushrooms. Stir to combine and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. When the mushrooms have released their moisture and the pan is almost dry, transfer mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside. Into the same pan add the wild rice and water and a tsp salt. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to a simmer and cover pan. Cook for 30 minutes. While the rice is cooking, in a blender, combine cashews, oats and 2 cups of broth. Blend until smooth and creamy, about a minute. 

When the rice is tender, add the remaining 2cups of broth, the mushroom mixture, herbs and the cashew blend to the pot and bring to a simmer and cook for another ten minutes. The soup is ready when thickened. 

Garnish with more fresh herbs and a sprinkling of sliced almonds, if desired. 

Beet Hummus

  • 1.5 cups cooked chick peas or 1 can
  • 1 cup steamed beet puree
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 3 Tbs tahini
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

In a food processor or blender, place the chick peas, beet puree and zucchini. Blend until it starts to become creamy.  Stop the blender, scrape down the sides of the container and add remaining ingredients. Blend until thoroughly combined. Serve as a dip, spread or as a filling for green leaves, peppers or tomatoes.

Holiday Recipes

Roasted Sweet Potato Hash

  • Three sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into I inch cubes
  • 8 oz baby portabella mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, halved and each half cut into quarters lengthwise and then cut crosswise in thirds, making chunks
  • 1 bunch kale or Swiss chard, washed, leaves removed and torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon Braggs or Coconut Aminos
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tsp smoked sea salt (optional)

Prepare vegetables. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with a little oil and toss to coat. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and put potatoes into a single layer on pan. In the same bowl mix the onion and mushrooms. Sprinkle with a little oil to lightly coat and place on another lined sheet pan, spread out the vegetables into an even layer. Place pans in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, check onions and mushroom and remove if tender. Continue cooking sweet potatoes for another 10-15 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven when lightly browned and cooked through. In the mixing bowl massage the kale leaves with a little oil to coat. lay on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until crispy, but not charred. Remove and add all vegetables into a mixing bowl. Toss with the smoked sea salt or a good mineral salt (pink or grey). Whisk the oil, aminos and syrup together until slightly thickened and pour over vegetables. Serve and enjoy. This is actually good cold as well as warm right from the oven.

Thanksgiving Salad

  • 1 pound Brussel sprouts
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1 delicate squash
  • 1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple juice or water
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry the squash. Cut lengthwise in half, clean out seeds and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch moons (the squash skin is edible). Toss with a little olive oil and then lay on a parchment lined sheet pan. Pour cranberries onto the sheet pan and spread out around the squash. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes, check for doneness, cook a few minutes longer if needed.

Prepare the vinaigrette: combine the maple syrup, juice, vinegar, Dijon and salt in a small bowl and whisk to mix well.

Thinly slice the Brussel sprouts and kale, combine in a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and toss well or massage to coat the greens. When squash and berries are done cooking, toss squash, cranberries and walnuts with the shredded greens and top with more vinaigrette.

Pumpkin Mousse

  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (cooked or raw)
  • 1/2 cup date paste (dates packed and blended smooth with a little water)
  • 1/2 cup nut or oat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered coconut sugar (grind your own into a fine powder) or 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice (1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp clove)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

In a blender, combine the date paste, nut milk, vanilla and sweetener. Blend until smooth and completely combined. Add in the pumpkin puree and spices, blend again. Scrape down container sides and add the coconut oil. Blend until oil is incorporated and mixture is smooth, about 35 seconds. Pour into serving dishes or into a prepared crust or tart shell and chill for 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!