Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Low Fat, Vegan, Spicy Senegalese Peanut Soup

I had the most amazing vegan soup at Revolutionary Soup the other week.  I haven't stopped thinking about how delicious it was... and that was two weeks ago.  I wondered if I could come up with something similar on my own.  I scoured the web and found some delicious looking recipes but none of them were quite right.  I ended up having to play around quite a bit.

While experimenting, I tried versions with lite coconut milk.  I figured if it worked, I'd then work on finding a lower fat alternative but it really didn't add much at all to the dish.  I ended up omitting it all together.  By contrast, the curry powder was absolutely critical.  It added incredible depth to the soup.  I used Tandoori seasoning (my favorite curry powder blend by Penzey's).

I was able to reduce the fat in this dish quite a bit by using PB2 in lieu of full fat peanut butter.  Powdered peanut butter has all of the flavor of peanut butter but 85% less fat.  You can find it at the link I provided or Amazon.  I've also seen it at some Whole Foods, albeit for a premium price.

This will be a go-to dish for me.  It is hearty, flavorful, filling, and has a decent amount of protein.  Enjoy!

Spicy Senegalese Peanut Soup


1/4 cup water or broth plus more as needed to keep onions and veggies from sticking
2 1/2 large onions, diced
3 tsp, chopped fresh ginger
3 medium to large sweet potatoes, cooked, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 medium carrots, diced (these would probably be optional)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 TB tandoori seasoning (or your favorite curry powder)
1 tsp kosher salt (you can add more to taste)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (use additional flakes or cayenne if you like it spicy, this quantity will render a mild version)
1 - 29 oz. can tomato puree
1 - 32 oz. container low sodium vegetable stock
3 cups water
1 1/2 cup PB2* - not packed
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 block tofu, diced into 1/4 inch cubes (optional)
additonal fresh cilantro and scallions for garnish


Cook 3 medium sweet potatoes on high until done in the microwave, turning over as necessary.  Put a big soup pot on a burner and set to medium high.  Put 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water into the pot then add onions, carrots, and ginger and saute about 10 minutes until the onion caramelizes and the carrots soften.  Add more water as necessary through the cooking process to keep the veggies from sticking. Add garlic and sautee another 5 or so minutes.  Add seasonings and cook for just a minute or so longer.  Add sweet potato from microwave (skins included) cut into 1"-2" chunks.  Add the tomato puree, vegetable stock and water.  Stir everything until combined.  Bring to a low boil, cover and lower the heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the PB2 and stir until mixed in.  Add the chopped cilantro. Puree the soup until smooth in batches in a blender.

At this point you can return the purred soup to the large soup pot and add the tofu and cook until the tofu is heated through.  I skip this step as I prefer to freeze my leftovers and I'm not sure how well the tofu will freeze in the soup.  I'll update this post when I figure that out.  For now, I put fresh tofu in each serving as I go.  Serve with a sprinkle of cilantro and scallions.

Makes 15 cups. Yeah, it's A LOT!  I personally need leftovers to help me out when I don't feel like going to any trouble.  Prepared meals in my freezer replaces any desire for processed food.

*Note: PB2 is powdered peanut butter, see link here.  You could use 3/4 to 1 cup peanut butter in lieu of PB2 but it will increase the fat content.  Nutritional information was calculated using PB2 and does NOT include tofu bits so be sure to add that if you are counting calories/fat grams.

Nutritional Information:
Amount Per Serving, 1 cup
  Calories 110.7
  Total Fat 1.4 g
     Saturated Fat 0.3 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 1.1 g
     Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 228.4 mg
  Potassium 434.3 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 18.8 g
     Dietary Fiber 3.2 g
     Sugars 7.5 g
  Protein 5.8 g

Cost Analysis:
sweet potatoes $4
garlic $1
pb2- $4
carrots and onions  $1.00
ginger $.25
cilantro $.50
tandoori $.50
veggie broth $3
tomato puree $1.25
tofu $2
= $17.50/10 big bowls OR $1.75* per bowl (cup and a 1/2)
*This can be brought down to $1.45 a bowl by using homemade stock

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

On our way to healthy - End of the 28 day Challenge

So I finished the plant strong challenge on Wednesday.  Prior to this challenge I thought I was doing everything right, eating a low fat diet and exercising 5 hours a week.  I filled my plate at night 1/2 full of veggies, literally.  I lost 24 pounds, a.k.a. all my baby weight, and yet I still had crazy high blood pressure.  I couldn't believe I still had high blood pressure (160's/100's).  It was supposed to come down when I lost the baby weight.

Anyway, I know God gives us these signs for a reason and I prayed for resolution.  As you know a friend of mine had heard a lecture on a plant-based diet and its healing affects on the body in regards to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.  So after some research, I figured I'd give this vegan thing a go even though I was very skeptical.  I lost 6 pounds through the 28 day trial process.  I believe a good deal of that was water from a lower sodium intake and an increase in potassium from all the veggies.   I'd have probably lost more weight if I moved more but, as luck would have it, there was a nasty cold virus circulating through preschool that had me (and the kids) down for a good two of the weeks!

The diet change was a huge success where I wanted it most, a.k.a. lowering my chronic high blood pressure.  I'm now on 1/4th the medication I started this lifestyle on and my BP has been in the low 100's/60's.  I'm very close to being off blood pressure medicine completely.  That is awesome.  I didn't like how being on the full dose of blood pressure medicine made me feel.  I felt weird and not myself. I admit, at first, part of me wanted the plant based diet to fail because it was a hard lifestyle to commit to.  But I'd much rather commit to this then a handful of pills and a lifetime of slowly feeling worse and worse.  I'm only 35 and too young and active for that mess.  Our family history is terrible when it comes to heart disease and diabetes.  It feels empowering to know we don't have to completely surrender to it.  God has given me some awesome tools.

I think the next course for us will be to figure out what the next step will be.  I also want to work on making sure our diet is low on the glycemic index.  I think that is especially important for the long term.  There is also good deal of conflicting information on the "good" fats in fish and it has left me wondering if maybe adding that to my diet just once a week would be OK.  For now though, we'll keep going as is.  I don't feel deprived.  Quite the opposite.  I feel liberated.  I feel satisfied, happy, and energetic continuing on a plant based diet.


Slow Rise, Vegan, Low Fat, Waffle Recipe (improved with lower sodium!)

OK, so I think I cracked the code for a low fat, vegan, low salt waffle.  I scoured the web and couldn't fine one that fit all those crazy requirements so I had to come up with one on my own.  I think you'll be happy with the results!

These waffles are a little crispy out of the waffle maker but if you are a super crispy waffle fan just give 'em a quick toast in the toaster oven once they're done.  We like them as-is.


3 cups whole wheat flour (you can use pastry flour)
3 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 TB sugar (this is needed for yeast to feed, you can try turbinado but I didn't)
1 TB agave nectar
2 1/4 cup non dairy milk (we use almond milk)
1 cup warm water (you can use more almond milk but this will raise sodium content)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 Energ-g Egg prepared (i.e. 2 1/3 tsp mixed with 3 TB water)


In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients, then add the wet and mix just until combined.  Allow it to rise in your fridge overnight.  Remove from the fridge and allow to sit on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes.  Proceed as you would any waffle recipe.  Most modern waffle makers have a nice nonstick surface so you don't need pam but you may need it.  Add blueberries or vegan chocolate chips or make them plain as my hubby prefers them.  As they come out of the waffle maker, we put ours in a 200 degree pre-heated oven until all the waffles are all done so we can sit and enjoy them together!  Top with a bunch of yummy fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Yummy and guilt free!

Vegan Whole Wheat Slow Rise Waffles
10 Servings (a.k.a. 10 LARGE waffles)

Nutritional Information:
Amount Per Serving: 1 large waffle
Calories 151.0
Total Fat 1.2 g  
  Saturated Fat 0.1 g  
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g  
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 150.9 mg  <----  Check it out!!!!
Potassium 45.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 32.3 g  
  Dietary Fiber 4.7 g  
  Sugars 5.0 g
Protein 5.0 g

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegan Stuffed Pockets Healthified

I made a modified version of these DIY pockets from Chow Vegan today for lunch for the family.  My husband is kind of hooked on lean pepperoni pockets and if this is how I have to entice him to the herbie side, that's what I'll do.

I healthified the Chow vegan version by switching a few ingredients, namely by using only whole wheat flour, eliminating the oil completely, and reducing the salt.  They came out great.  They definitely aren't the old kind of pockets, but they are good and a joy to eat.

Vegan Stuffed Pockets Healthified
(makes 6 pockets)

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar or other unprocessed sugar
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
3 TB alternative milk
3/4 cup water
3 TB cornmeal for rolling
additional alternative milk to brush on top at the end
your favorite salt free seasoning mix for top (I used a garlic blend)
Filling -pizza sauce and veggies or anything that strikes your fancy.
I used 1 cup sauce, 1/2 onion diced, 1/2 cup mushrooms diced, and 1 italian Tofurkey sausage diced (a modest cheat, especially considering 1 sausage link was used to flavor all 6 pockets)


Preheat oven to 375.  Mix all dry ingredients except the cornmeal for rolling, then add the wet ingredients.  Divide into 6 parts and place each part individually onto a surface that has been prepared with cornmeal to avoid sticking when rolling.   Roll out dough into a circle no less than 1/4" thick using more cornmeal as needed to keep from sticking to the rolling pin.  Fill with your desired ingredients on 1/2 of the circle leaving 1/2" of space from the edge.  Roll the unfilled pocket flap over to the filled side and crimp the edge with a fork.  Brush very lighlty with milk and sprinkle on your favorite seasoning.  Bake for 20 minutes on parchment until heated through.

Below is the nutritional information based on how I stuffed them.  It can be made even healthier (eliminating fat) by omitting sausage and throwing in other veggies.

Nutritional Information:
Serving size: 1 pocket
Calories 185.4
Total Fat 3.0 g    <----- 27 calories from fat= 14.56% of calories from fat
    Saturated Fat 0.4 g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
    Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 572.5 mg <------ This is WITH a significant sodium reduction! You can imagine what the original version must be, like all your sodium for the entire day.  Watch your portions, serve one with a hearty salad or veggie and you'll stay in check.
Potassium 150.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 32.6 g
 Dietary Fiber 6.2 g
    Sugars 4.0 g
Protein 10.1 g


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Slow Rise Vegan Pancakes

I used to think my old pancake recipe was pretty awesome but when I examined the nutritional information in reference to my new guidelines, I discovered the salt was really out of control.  Baking powder and baking soda both contain sodium.  So, I went on a hunt to figure a new recipe out.

I found a good recipe with some good bones here.  Then, I made a few simple engine 2 modifications to make them healthier.  I'm so happy.  These were so good!

Some of the Engine 2 modifications I made include, replacing the white flour with 100% whole wheat, replacing the oil with applesauce, halving the salt (I might even quarter it next time), and thinning them out with some water.  These were so delicious and guilt free too!  Be sure to pile on the fruit and maybe limit the syrup.

I have 5 hungry people in my family so this makes a lot.  Overall we felt they could have been thinned out a little more.  We had already thinned them out a bit from the original recipe as evidenced below.

Slow Rise Pancakes
Makes 16 thick 4-5″ pancakes
3 Cups whole wheat Flour
3 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tb sugar (you can probably use turbinado, it is necessary for the yeast to feed on)
2 1/4 cup non dairy milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 Ener-g Egg, prepared (i.e. 2 1/4 tsp mixed with 3 Tbs water)
2 cups water (or additional alternative milk)
additional water (or milk) the next day to thin to the desired thickness.

These are thick and hearty pancakes.  You'll find it challenging to eat more than three! 


The night before you want the pancakes, mix all the dry ingredients together until combined.  Then, add the remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, remove the batter from the fridge and stir in any additional water or milk to thin it if needed/desired. Let the batter sit out on the counter for 20-30 minutes. Heat a non-stick griddle.  Spray with oil spray lightly (not much is needed with a good non-stick pan).  The batter may be thick if you haven't thinned it out with water/milk.  We had to kind of spread it out to flatten it out a bit on the griddle.

We added apple slices to the batter before it set.  Sprinkle on your favorite fruit topping.  Once the top is bubbly and the edges are set, check to make sure the bottom is brown. Flip and cook until done.  Voila!

Calorie count/nutritional information does not reflect the addition of fruit nor additional milk/water for thinning so keep that in mind.

16 servings.

Nutritional Information

Calories 90.9
Total Fat 0.8 g
   Saturated Fat 0.1 g
   Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
   Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
 Cholesterol 0.0 mg
 Sodium 130.6 mg
 Potassium 28.2 mg
 Total Carbohydrate19.2 g
   Dietary Fiber 2.9 g
   Sugars 2.2 g
 Protein 3.1 g


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Three Weeks Plant Strong

We are 3 weeks plant strong and I think we are finally getting a hang of this.  My BP is hovering around 114/70.  It's awesome.  I was in the 130's/upper 90's on bottom when I started.  It feels like magic.

I've been doing my supper recipe planning and it's been kind of a breeze of late.  I'm getting comfortable with the ways of vegan cookery.   I've learned you can make a veggie burger out of just about any veggie you love.  Today I made one out of sweet potatoes and beans!  I was going to add quinoa but I chickened out at the last minute and went with a more straight forward recipe.  Next time, I'll add it.  I was inspired by several different recipes all over the web and I combined a few to make the recipe below.  They came out great!  Nick told me I should make them again.  

I would like to encourage anyone to try a recipe or two on the web to get a feel for veggie burgers  and then get creative and try your hand at it using the tastes and spices your family loves.  It's fun, easy, and delicious, not to mention way better and cheaper than the stuff in the freezer section at the grocery store.

My recipe was as follows:
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 cups white beans
1/2 cup wheat gluten
1 Tb tahini (yes, I added a tiny bit for a little depth, a modest cheat)
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp maple syrup (I was going for sweet and smoky)
1/2 cup whole wheat panko crumbs, seasoned (To season I added just a touch of salt to this mixture as I find I can reduce the salt if I add salt last, i.e. to the outer most layer or final stage of cooking)


I basically baked the sweet potatoes in the microwave and then removed the skin and mashed them.  Then I added and mashed the white beans.  Then, I mixed in everything else but the crumbs.  I formed the mixture into 7 patties and pressed the patties into the seasoned panko crumbs.  I baked them for 450 on parchment for 10 minutes and flipped and baked for another 10. 

  Calories 178.7
  Total Fat 1.5 g
    Saturated Fat 0.2 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
   Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 107.1 mg
  Potassium 466.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 29.0 g
    Dietary Fiber 5.0 g
     Sugars 2.9 g
  Protein 12.3 g

Here's an example of last week and next week's menu plan.  You'll notice a burger of some kind, a veggie pasta, and pizza are on the weekly rotation.  Some things are just worth repeating every week.

Mon- portabello burgers, roasted potatoes and cauliflower
Tue- veggie enchiladas
Wed- "meat"loaf muffins and mashed potatoes
Th- veggie fajitas with fat free refried beans
Fri- cheeseless pizza, salad, broccoli
Sat- sweet potato veggie burgers, asparagus, cauliflower
Sun- pasta bake, broccoli, salad *


Next week, I think it will go something like this:

Mon- soup and whole wheat yeast rolls
Tue-falafel on whole wheat pita, side veg
Wed-veggie chili, vegan cornbread *
Th- sloppy joes, asparagus, salad
Fri- cheeseless pizza, broccoli
Sat-  mushroom burgers, sweet potatoe fries, side veg
Sun- 'beet'balls and pasta

* - contains soy.  I try to keep soy not so high on the rotation

Not bad, eh?  :)


Big Weekend Breakfast

It's 3 weeks into the challenge and I'm making a VERY adapted recipe of slow rise yeast pancakes I found on Vegan Yum Yum.

For the first time ever, I'll be using this beautiful product; Ener-G Egg Replacer.  Isn't it funny that this product hasn't updated it's box since what appears to be the 70's?

I'll let you know if it works out.  Among the many modifications, I'm using only whole wheat flour, I cut the salt in half, replaced the oil with applesauce and added some liquid.  I'll let you know if it works out.  You have to start somewhere!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day - Vegan Butter Bean (or any white bean) Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made chocolate chip cookies for my valentine and I made them out of white beans. Yep!  Beans.  I did.  And they were crazy good right out of the oven.  I got the recipe here.

They were moist, delicious, and sweet but not sickeningly sweet.  I love chocolate chip cookies but I hate how they give me an awful feeling afterward.  You won't with these, I promise.  I will say the only down side of this recipe is that they do change in texture over time (they get dry) so they really are best eaten right away.  Trust me on these.  Give them a try!

Note:  I couldn't find any no salt added white beans (I used white northern beans) so I read about a method to reduce the sodium.  I first drained the can of beans and rinsed them reserving the liquid as requested in the recipe.  Then I put the beans in a large container of fresh water and soaked them over night.  I drained and rinsed them again and proceeded per the recipe.  I tasted the beans before and after soaking and it did seem that the beans had lost their saltiness.

UPDATE:  I found this great article about soaking the beans.  Draining, rinsing, and then soaking for 30 minutes reduces the sodium in beans by 45%.


Meatless dinners: Portabello Burgers

Wow, these were delicious and there is no recipe.  I basically took 4 portabellos, rinsed and patted them dry, de-stemmed them and sprinkled on some vegan steak sauce.  Then, I threw the mushrooms gill side up in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.  I took the stems, a half of an onion, and a chopped bell pepper and threw them in a pan.  I sauteed with some water and towards the end I threw in a dash or two of steak sauce.  I assembled the burgers gill side up so they could hold all the extra veggies.  These were so, so, good!!!!  My tummy is so happy tonight!

My eldest daughter doesn't like mushrooms so I served her the "ground" mushroom burgers by Happy Herbivore we made a while back and had thrown in the freezer.  I just heated those up for her. She has no idea that the burgers are made of mushrooms and she devoured it.

I served these with some asparagus and roasted potatoes.


Meatless Dinners: Cheese-less Pizza

A friend of mine recently asked me for our pizza dough recipe and I though I would share the tips I've learned through the years along with the recipe.

Cheese-less pizza covered in veggies.  The sprinkling of "parmesan" on top is nutritional yeast.


Here are a few additional notes you'll want to keep in mind:

- Engine 2 modifications: I use all whole wheat, and none of the white. I also don't add oil and it still worked out just fine.  Just add a few tablespoons of water.We prefer all whole wheat and have been doing it that way for years.  If you are adjusting the family to whole wheat though, I would recommend you gradually change your ratios as the kids may rebel.

- You must NOT forget the sugar and hot tap water to activate the yeast. The sugar is imperative, so is the hot water.  You could try using turbinado if you are against processed sugars but I think, in this case, it's a tiny amount and necessary for the yeast to rise.

- I use a dough hook to do the kneading for me. It doesn't take long to become smooth. The consistency should be tacky and pulling from the sides of the bowl when done. I find the dough can vary in wetness somewhat. Sometimes I add flour/water as necessary.

- This recipe is easy to triple. I hextuple it by doing two batches of 3 because I can only get 3 batches in my dough mixer at a time.

- We like thin crust so one recipe equals two large pizzas. When I hextupled it, it made 12 pizzas! Not bad for one bag of whole wheat flour ($2.59 at my store)!

- We roll out our dough in cornmeal.  It's awesome!

-I have an electric oven and I like to put the dough in the oven and "preheat" for 30-60 seconds to get it close to 80 in there and favorable for dough rising. You just have to be careful not to overheat it accidentally.  If it's too cold in your house it will take forever to rise.

-For a super crispy thin crust pizza without having to use a pizza paddle, we pre-bake the crust on a dark sheet pan directly on top of a pizza stone for about 5 minutes.  Then we take the pizza out, pile on the sauce and topping and cook for another 10-14 minutes, again with the pan directly on top of the pizza stone.  It's very, very crispy that way.  If you don't have a pizza stone, you can still do this and it will be crispy just not quite as crispy as when you put the pan directly on the pizza stone.  We lost too many pizzas trying to put the pizza directly on the stone.  It's hard to do with thin crust pizzas.

Hope you like it! We are big fans!


Vegan Oatmeal Shakes

I made oatmeal shakes for breakfast this morning and boy were they YUM!!!   I found the recipe here.  I love the recipes on the "Vegan Stoner" Site because they are all base recipes with the idea that you can add your seasonings/flair to make it personal.  Most of the recipes look like they'd be easy to convert to Engine 2 standards.  Some recipes don't need any conversion at all as with the oat shakes.  Good STUFF!!

For my version I took 1/2 cup rolled oats and 1 cup water and I nuked the oatmeal until it was done.  Then I added the specified ingredients along with a very large dash or two of cinnamon and a tinsy bit of vanilla into the food processor (we don't own a blender) and mixed until done.  Next time I might add a few soaked walnuts.  Or maybe instead of the apple I'll add a cup or two of blueberries?  Or maybe some of those blackberries we picked last year that are still in the freezer?  The possibilities are endless.

Update - Added 2 cups of spinach and forgot (on accident) the sweetener.  I dare you to throw in some greens!  You won't even notice it!

Update 2 - My newest favorite addition is cocoa!  1 banana, 1 bowl of cooked oatmeal, + couple tablespoons of cocoa + 1 cup milk = YUMMY!  Sometimes I'll even add some PB2 (see link on left side) for some added protein.  Wowza!!!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Meatless Dinners: Chef AJ's Disappearing Lasagna

I'm a solid two weeks into this new plant based challenge and there have been some hits and misses.  This one was a real big hit!  Ladybug asked for thirds.  This was delicious and probably my favorite thing I've tried thus far. Nick too.

Delicious dishes high in fat, sugar, and salt are easy to make.  It takes mad skills to make things this healthy this tasty and I am IMPRESSED by the creator of this recipe, Chef AJ.

Video presentation of Chef AJ's Disappearing Lasagna

If you'd like to see a written version of the recipe you can see it here.

My favorite part of this dish was the creamy "ricotta" and spinach layer.  Oh, WOW!  The cashews made this dish so creamy and flavorful.  I ALMOST got a guilty feeling.  The cool thing is that I was able to use the garden basil I froze last year in place of the fresh basil and it really came through.  Nothing beats the taste of "fresh" garden herbs in your pasta dishes.  YUM!

Now that I've tried the recipe I think the mushroom and onion layer is the place where you can really make it personal.  Say you don't like mushrooms or maybe something else is cheap and in season.  Why not pick another vegetable that's good at caramelizing and pairs well with a tomato based dish?   Maybe some roasted eggplant and onions or fresh summer squash and onions?  The variations are endless.  Season the veggies with tamari and roast/saute the veggies until most of the liquid is gone like Chef AJ did and layer it on!

This dish made a HUGE amount of food.  I divided my lasagna into two 8x8 pans in lieu of one 9x13 and froze the other half for later.  It was a hearty meal.  I served it alongside a salad and asparagus.  With the sides, we still had plenty left over even after halving it.  I also didn't need two boxes of noodles.  I used one box of regular 100% whole wheat noodles from Kroger.  I boiled two but only needed one.   I couldn't find no boil whole wheat at my super market and I opted for the $2 box of 100% whole wheat over the $6 box of brown rice noodles.  I'm not sure why it called for two boxes of noodles except maybe the brand of noodles they used was a smaller box.   I also didn't make the faux parmesan.  I just sprinkled nutritional yeast.  Maybe next time I won't be so lazy.  I also messed up one of the layers and forgot to add the layer of mushrooms the second time so I just added it on top.  The mistake was really no big deal.

Nutritional Facts:

Servings Per Recipe: 12
Calories: 309.0
Total Fat: 8.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 674.5 mg
Total Carbs: 46.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.9 g
Protein: 14.9 g

Cost Analysis:
Mushrooms $6
Cashews $1
Spinach $2
Tofu $2
2 jars Marinara Sauce $3
onion $.50
lasagna noodles $2.50
misc. vegan pantry staples $1 (miso, tamari, nutritional yeast)
garlic $.25
1/2 lemon $.25
generic vegetable side to round out meal $2
$20.50/8=$2.56 a serving (it probably would work out to less as it makes very generous portions)


Valentine's Weekend - Vegan Low Fat Whole Wheat Waffles

Oh. my. gosh.  These are so good!  These waffles make my heart sing with happiness!  We haven't had waffles on our family menu for a long, long, time.  Mainly because they are so high on calories.  Well, waffles are BACK my friend!  We haven't made homemade waffles in so long that when we pulled out the waffle maker, GreenEyes exclaimed, "No!  You're doing it wrong.  Waffles are made in the toaster!"

I did a nutritional analysis of our new low fat, whole wheat waffle recipe.  It looks good in every way except for one thing.  It is a higher sodium food being a "baked" item so you'll need to limit your portions and pile on the fruit to stay in check for your meal.  Unfortunately, most breads are like that.  The only way to reduce the sodium is maybe to do a slow rise yeast waffle or to use baking powder/baking soda substitutes.  You'd want to be careful using potassium substitutes though.  It is my understanding that too much potassium is bad for you too and not good for everyone.

I will get back to you as I work on a low sodium, slow rise yeast, whole wheat, fat free, waffle recipe.  Wow, those are a lot of requirements!  We have made the yeast kind of waffle before but we'll need to re-tweak it to not use egg and oil.  For now though, these yummy waffles really are fine as-is provided you limit your portions to keep your salt to a healthy intake.

I added vegan chocolate chips to one and blueberries in the other.  Then I piled on strawberries and also ate a banana.  That'd be a perfect weekend breakfast if you ask me!  The chocolate chips are a bit of a Engine 2 cheat, but whatever.  These are a great weekend treat and perfect for Valentine's Day too!

We used whole wheat flour in lieu of white wheat flour and corn starch in lieu of potato starch.  You could use whole wheat pastry flour for a lighter waffle too.  I honestly was surprised at how light these tasted for being whole wheat.  I should say that we prefer whole wheat in our house and we rarely ever use the white stuff.  I grew up hating wheat bread.  Funny, how my tastes have adapted over time.

The recipe made 8 SCANT waffles for us so I'm showing the adjusted calorie and sodium counts for that.  I prefer scant waffles because I like to have two waffles in lieu of just one big one.  It tricks my brain into thinking I'm eating a ton.  The recipe writer said they made 12 waffles.  That definitely was not the case for us.  Our waffle maker makes some mighty big waffles apparently!  If we made full waffles, we might have gotten 6 out of the recipe.

Nutritional Info:
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Calories: 89.9
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 483.3 mg   <------Be careful on your portions!!  Fill up on the fruit!!
Total Carbs: 19.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 2.7 g

Cost Analysis:
whole wheat flour $1
pantry incidentals $1
almond milk $.50
real maple syrup $1.50
frozen blueberries $2
strawberries, bananas (or other seasonal fruit) $4
$10/4= $2.50 per serving


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Plant Based Challenge

I've been tracking everything (every last morsel) of what I eat on Sparkpeole while I do this plant based challenge.  I thought the pie chart below (provided to me thanks to Sparkpeople) was very interesting.  They provide me with traditional recommendations I should try to aim for, calorie ranges, etc.  I used to pretty much naturally match Sparkpeople's recommendation regarding the percentages of carbs, proteins and fats.  Now, I don't.

I'm exceeding on my carbs and going under in fat and coming slightly under the minimum of protein requirements.  You'd expect being on so many carbs I'd be jittery and weird, but I'm not.  I am encouraged to eat as much as I want so I never have the jitters.  I have had issues with running but I'm convinced that the last few runs I was coming down with a nasty cold/laryngitis thing.  I'll be able to better assess how the lack of protein affects my running performance next week.  Unfortunately, now that my girl is in preschool she brings a bunch of germs home!

My fat intake ranged from 12-31 grams (27-60 is recommended).  The higher 31 one was a "cheat"/go out day.  The vast majority is between 12-20 grams of fat.
My carb ranged from 210-397 grams (135-252 is recommended).
My protein ranged from 36-60 grams (60-136 is recommended).

Probably the most interesting to me is the change in fiber intake.  I used to get a decent amount of fiber but I've never taken in as much as I do these days.  My fiber intake is between 46 and 60 grams!  Only 25-35 grams is recommended by Sparkpeople.  That is through the roof!  I believe I read that going over the recommendations of fiber would mean that I might not be able to absorb all the nutrients I take in.  But, I guess I'm taking in so many nutrients that it doesn't matter?

As for weight loss, I have lost about 5 pounds over two weeks.  I haven't even been working out this week being down with this flu bug so that is sort of crazy.  I don't lose weight like that, so that is weird.  I'm honestly cool with my curvy figure as-is at this point.  If it weren't for my BP, I'd leave it as-is.  My great grandma weighed many pounds over what I do now and was 4'11" (5 inches shorter) and lived to be 100.  But, I'm realizing now that she was lucky.  After my salt cheat day my BP went up to 160/100.  It's back down to normal now around 118/80.  I can't believe just how salt sensitive I am.  It's insane and scary and I'm hoping this new lifestyle might help fix that.  I make no promises to continue with this 100% after the challenge but for now, I'm happy, satisfied, and feeling good.


Healthier Vegan Brownies

I have a killer sweet tooth.  I could eat chocolate for every meal.  I envision heaven to be an everlasting cornucopia of chocolate.

I was so happy to find something that's delicious and chocolaty and still fits the new plan.  Like most of the new recipes I've been trying, it's a a Happy Herbivore one.  You can find the recipe here:


At first, I kinda didn't like the banana flavor but I have grown to love these.  Like, really love them!  As with any lifestyle change, it took some time for my taste-buds to come around.  But they have and wow, these are amazing!

I have two of these for breakfast sometimes with a side of fruit in lieu of a donut.

Nutrition Facts (1 serving = 1/9th of pan)
I used the extra 1/4 cup sugar in the form of xylitol and subbed maple syrup for the agave.
    Calories 150.6
  Total Fat 1.0 g
     Saturated Fat 0.3 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
     Monounsaturated Fat 0.2 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 6.5 mg
  Potassium 296.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 33.0 g
     Dietary Fiber 4.6 g
     Sugars 19.4 g
  Protein 3.4 g


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meatless Dinners: Low Fat Vegan Falafel with Fat Free Tzatziki Sauce

I did a bunch of research and looked at a million falafel recipes. I combined some recipes and made this baked version below. It was delicious and would be added onto our rotation even if not on the new low fat vegan plan. It feels very substantial and filling and the kids LOVED it! We loved the flavor of cilantro and garlic bursting through. (You can sub fresh parsley for cilantro if you aren't a fan.)

To make the Tzatziki sauce:
Throw the following ingredients in a food processor. Refrigerate for an hour. Done! This made way more than we needed.

Plain Soy Yogurt, 6 to 8 oz
1 Cucumber, peeled and seeded
Juice from 1/2 Lemon (just a spritz really)
Dill weed, fresh, 3 tbs.
Garlic, 1-2 cloves (the more you add, the more the bite)
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse out the food processor because you'll need it again!

For the Falafels:

Throw in the following except the flour into the food processor and thoroughly mix/process:

1 can of chickpeas or fava beans, drained
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour

Hand mix in flour. Make into 10 little patties. Cook in an oven safe skillet pan for two minutes per side (until browned on both sides). Transfer to preheated oven and bake for 5 more minutes. Stuff two patties in each half pocket. Makes 5 half pockets. (I made my pita sandwiches with 1 and 1/2 falafels per pocket.) You could easily make this into 8 little patties and use two per pocket just keep in mind it will alter the nutritional facts. I divided it this way because I have a family of 5 and I needed it to stretch.

You'll need:
1 package of whole wheat pita pockets (or 4 or 5 you made from scratch using this recipe)
lettuce, tomatoes or other preferred veggies.

I made a big plate of lettuce and tomatoes and let the kids pic what veggies they wanted in their pita pockets. I'm going to make a double recipe next time. The kids loved these and they would make great leftovers!

Nutritonal Information

Sauce (10 servings)
 Calories 34.8
 Total Fat 0.7 g
    Saturated Fat 0.1 g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
    Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
    Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 53.6 mg
  Potassium 61.9 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 5.8 g
     Dietary Fiber 0.5 g
     Sugars 3.0 g
  Protein 1.3 g

Falafel (10 servings - 1 cake each)
Calories 35.0
  Total Fat 0.7 g
     Saturated Fat 0.0 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
     Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 187.6 mg
  Potassium 106.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 6.1 g
     Dietary Fiber 1.5 g
     Sugars 0.3 g
  Protein 4.8 g

Cost Analysis:
1 can beans $1
1/2 onion $.50
garlic $.25
cilantro $.50
lettuce $.75
tomatoes $1
cucumber $.75
soy yogurt $1
incidental pantry staples (spices, etc.) $.50
whole wheat pita pockets $1.50
generic side vegetable to complete the meal $1.50
=$9.25/4 =$2.30 per serving


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Salt Sensitivity and Plant Based Diets

So I learned while watching a minute or two of The Revolution the other day that pregnancy is essentially a stress test on your heart.  If you had pre-eclampsia during pregnancy it's like failing a stress test.  It's a stress test I failed 3 times.  Yikes!

I believe the root cause of all of the blood pressure issue is salt sensitivity.  I've been reading more and more about plant based diets.  The reason why these diets are better for people like me is that a vegetarian diet means you have a higher potassium to sodium diet ratio.  Even at similar salt intake levels, plant based eaters tend to have less heart disease because they have all the potassium to counteract the sodium.  I've been doing my homework and I've read studies where people even of normal blood pressure who are salt sensitive are much more likely to die of heart disease.  So, even if I get I my blood pressure under control I'm more likely to be at risk for heart disease and I should always pay attention to my salt... always (as if my mother's premature death isn't enough reason to.)

I should also not go over the recommended 2,300 mg a day if not limit it to below 1,500.  That's a very hard thing to do these days, especially if you ever want to go out to eat.  We live in a salt filled world here in the U.S.A.  Everyone keeps telling me they don't put salt in anything, but only 10% of the average american's salt intake is from the table.  It comes from cheese, processed junk, restaurant food, bread, baked goods, canned foods, etc.   The average American eats 3,300 mg a day, well over the recommended allowance!

New Tricks to Cut Fat: Low Fat Vegan Biscuits

Every weekend at our house, we like to make a big batch of whole wheat, reduced-fat biscuits.  I had found a recipe I loved many years ago and they quickly became a weekend tradition.  I always made them with 100% whole wheat using no white flour at all but even lightened up, the biscuits contained a 1/2 stick of butter.  Those are a no-no with the new plan.

So I was delighted to find that with just a few modifications, they could easily be on the new plan.  I simply replaced the whole wheat flour with whole wheat pastry flour for lightness, replaced the stick of butter with a banana and switched the milk with almond milk.  That's it!  These are amazingly good and you will not miss the fat!

The only thing I haven't gotten a grip on yet is the sodium.  The only way I control this is by portion control.  Eat two and pile on the fruit and you'll be fine for sodium.  My family of 5 is large so I need a big pile of biscuits but you can easily halve this recipe.

Who knew you could replace a stick of butter with a banana and yield amazing biscuit results???  Seriously?!  This. is. awesome!!!

Yummy Biscuits!


Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, 2 cup
Baking Powder, 4 tsp
Baking Soda, 1 tsp
Salt, .5 tsp
Banana, fresh green unripe, 1 medium (must be cold, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes if you are short on time)
Almond Breeze Almond Milk, Original, 1 cup
additional whole wheat flour for rolling


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix all dry ingredients by pulsing in a food processor.  Add the whole banana to the food processor and mix until crumbs are formed.  Remove mixture and put into a bowl.  Add 1 cup of milk. The mixture will look a little wet.  That's OK.

Spray a 8" or 9" round NONSTICK cake pan sprayed very lightly with cooking spray.  (If you are strict against the absolutely no oil rule, parchment should work).

Put a couple tablespoons of whole wheat flour and spread onto a plate.  You can use any old flour for this.  Then, take a heaping tablespoon of the biscuit mixture and plop it onto the plate of flour.  Roll it into the flour and dust off excess.  It should be easy to handle at this point.  Place the biscuit into the oiled cake pan.  Continue to place the biscuits right next to each other and work your way around the pan until you fill it up and you have used all the biscuit mixture.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425.  Voila!  These were moist and delicious.  We did not miss the fat at all!

Serving Size: Makes 16 biscuits  Serve with fruit on top (and maybe a touch of jam/honey/maple syrup?)!

Note: Unripe bananas yield the least banana taste.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 16
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 66.4
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 282.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 1.6 g

Cost Analysis:
Flour $1
Incidentals: $1
Almond Milk $.50
Fruit, Honey and Jam $2
=$5.50/4 or $1.38 a serving


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Meatless Dinners: Sweet Potato, Spinach, & Black Bean Enchiladas

I found an interesting recipe for veggie enchiladas on Spark People but it wasn't quite Engine 2 tweaked.  Their sauce included salsa, sour cream and cheese and they used oil to fry the onions.  I was delighted to find how easy it was to convert this to Engine 2 standards.  I really liked what the spinach added to the dish!

16-17 6-inch corn tortillas
3 cups no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded sweet potatoes (a medium sweet potato should be enough)
4 cups fresh spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 T paprika
salt and pepper to taste
(you can go with two and half small cans of enchilada sauce or you can make it completely from scratch with your own favorite recipe or you can do it as I did below to cut the salt)
1 10 oz. can red enchilada sauce (without added oils)
1 can water from empty enchilada sauce can
1 10 oz. can tomato puree
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp chili powder (no salt added)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a skillet set over medium-high heat, saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup of water (add more water as necessary through cooking if it starts to stick). Cook for three minutes, then add spices and cook another two minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add sweet potatoes and black beans.  Stir to combine and cook a minute or two. Taste. (You can add a pinch of salt here. I didn't.)

Assemble sauce in a separate bowl and whisk.

Place about 1/2 cup of vegetables on half of each tortilla, then place in casserole dish and fold the top over. Place seam side down.  Cover with sauce.

Bake for 25 minutes covered. Mine made 17 rolls and I had to use two dishes for all of them.

This made enough for two meals for my family.  We'll heat up the leftovers sometime early next week!

Veggie Enchiladas

I do have to say, a life without cheese takes some flavor adjustment but we were happy.  Next time I think I'll add this "cheese" sauce to the top.  

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 17
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 125.9
Total Fat: 2.3 g
Cholesterol: 4.2 mg
Sodium: 175.1 mg
Total Carbs: 21.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.2 g
Protein: 6.2 g

Cost Analysis
corn tortillas $1.50
sweet potato $1
beans $1.60
spinach $1
onion $.50
garlic $.10
enchilada sauce $2
incidentals $1
Generic side vegetable $2 x 2 (having two nights) =$4
=$12.60/8 = $1.58 a serving


Meatless Dinners: Pepper Stir Fry

Orange, yellow and red peppers were on sale so I whipped up a yummy stirfry with tofu.   We served it with a side of broccoli under some brown rice.  Simple but good!