melon-kale smoothie

Last month I did a cookbook swap, so I've so been busy making new (to me) recipes from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant and The New Vegetarian Epicure that I haven’t had much time for experimenting with original recipes in my kitchen. However, now that the Farmer’s Market is back in full swing, I have been loading up on so many beautiful, dark, leafy greens that it has been impossible not to get creative with different ways to incorporate these nutrient packed veggies into meals every day.
Greens are so versatile, but one of the easiest ways to get your daily fill is by blending them right up into a smoothie. There are so many great versions of nutritious green drinks, but this Melon-Kale Smoothie may just be my new favorite. The sweet honeydew and frozen green grapes combine for a sorbet-like taste and texture that almost makes you forget how much healthy goodness is packed into your glass. Dark, leafy greens not only contain chlorophyll - which can counteract toxins, cleanse your liver and intestines, build your immune system, increase oxygen flow throughout your body, and even help to prevent cancer – they are also chock-full of vitamin K – which can help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis - vitamin C – which boosts your immune system and has anti-aging effects - and vitamin A – which is essential for maintaining your vision and healthy skin. Cheers to your health!

Melon-Kale Smoothie

1 cup Russian Red Kale*, packed
¼ cup cold Water
1 cup Honeydew Melon, cubed
1 cup frozen Green Grapes
1 tsp Agave (optional)

Combine Kale and Water in a blender and puree until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients and blend to desired consistency.

Makes one big green smoothie filling enough for a meal, or 3 martini-sized smoothies if you want to serve this one up to your friends.

*Of course you can use your favorite greens here, but Russian Red Kale has a particularly sweet, mild flavor that works really well in this smoothie.


"cheesy" lasagna

No matter how many times I read Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz, watch a PETA video, Google factory farming, or dive into the ever growing resources on animal rights, health, and environmentalism, I still have this embarrassing and insatiable craving for cheese! In their book Vegan Freak, Bob & Jenna Torres attribute this common vegan feeling to the opiate-like casomorphins in cow's milk, which could actually make cheese addictive. Whatever the reason for my cravings, I can't let go of the hope to emulate the taste, texture, and meltiness of this little dairy devil.

So for my version of this classic Italian comfort food, the lasagna layers are loaded with Tofu "Ricotta," Vegan "Cheese," and a nutty pesto filling made with Vegan "Parmesan." To balance out the (non)dairy overload, this dish is also packed with nutrient and fiber-rich green veggies. Don't let those casomorphins get the best of you! The cheesiness of this lasagna will really hit the spot without bending your morals. "Cheesy" Lasagna

9 Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles
1 cup Vegan “Cheese” (I like Follow Your Heart Mozzarella)
handful Mushrooms**
1 Zucchini, sliced
2 generous handfuls of Spinach
1 crown Broccoli, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
**Any variety of mushrooms will work, but remember that plain old white button mushrooms are super rich in dietary fiber like chitin, which lowers cholesterol, and beta-glucan, which stimulates T-cell production and boosts your immune system. White buttons are also rich in protein and unsaturated fatty acids.

Pesto Filling

3 cups fresh Basil
4 cloves Garlic, minced
6 Tbsp Pine Nuts
4-6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 Tbsp Vegan Parmesan

Tofu “Ricotta”
14 oz Extra Firm Organic Tofu, crumbled*
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp dried Oregano
dash Sea Salt
dash freshly cracked Pepper
*You’ll want to lightly drain the tofu before you crumble it, but some moisture is necessary for the right consistency.

Set your oven rack in the position second from the top.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 9”x13” glass baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
Cook lasagna noodles for 10 minutes (or follow the directions on the package).
While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, you should have just the right amount of time to make the Tofu “Ricotta,” the Pesto Filling, and the vegetables.
Blend all ingredients for Tofu “Ricotta” until smooth.
Blend all ingredients for Pesto Filling.
Add additional olive oil if necessary, but be careful keep the pesto creamy, not oily.
Add a Tbsp of oil to a sauté pan and heat to medium.
Sauté mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli until broccoli turns bright green.
Add spinach and continue to cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until the spinach begins to wilt.
Remove vegetables from heat.
When lasagna noodles are done boiling, lay each noodle flat on a towel so they do not stick together.

Putting it All Together
Line the bottom of the oiled pan with 3 noodles.
Spread about ½ of the Tofu “Ricotta” over the noodles.
Top the tofu with about ½ of the Pesto Filling.
Layer half of the vegetables over the pesto.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup of “cheese” over the vegetables.
Top the 2nd layer with the last 3 noodles.
Spread the remaining tofu and pesto over the noodles.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup of “cheese” on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and continue to bake until “cheese” begins to turn golden brown.
Keep an eye on your dish so that the edges of the noodles do not get crispy. The noodles should stay moist for optimal yumminess.

Let the lasagna cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 9...or 2 with a healthy appetite for leftovers.


vegan calzones

Several years ago, before I became a vegan, I worked at a little Italian restaurant where every dish was packed with dairy. At the time, my favorite end of shift meal was always a cheesy, veggie filled calzone. Although I haven’t been back to this restaurant for years now, I still have occasional cravings for my old favorite. Once I discovered Rory Freeman and Kim Barnouin’s recipe for Tofu “Ricotta” from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, I finally had the perfect “cheesy” filling to create my own vegan version of calzones at home. By making just a few alterations to the Skinny Bitch recipe and adding my favorite vegetables, these Vegan Calzones turned out to taste so similar to the original; I could almost feel my old apron strings around my waist.

Vegan Calzones

16 oz frozen Bread Dough, thawed
shredded Vegan “Cheese” (I like Follow Your Heart Mozzarella)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Veggies of your choice

Tofu “Ricotta”
10 oz Extra Firm Organic Tofu, crumbled*
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried Oregano
dash Sea Salt
dash freshly cracked Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
*You’ll want to lightly drain the tofu before you crumble it, but some moisture is necessary. 10 oz should be about 3/4 of a package.
Blend all ingredients for Tofu Ricotta to a smooth consistency.

Divide bread dough into four equal parts.
Roll each ball of dough into a circle about 8” in diameter.
Spread ¼ of the Tofu Ricotta onto 1 half of each circle.
Load up your favorite vegetable toppings. We used portabella mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and artichokes.
Sprinkle a small handful of vegan “cheese” over the vegetables.
Fold the 2nd half of each dough circle over the toppings to create a half moon shape.
Seal the edges of the dough by carefully curling the bottom edge up over the top of the dough and pressing firmly.
Slice a few hash marks into the top of the dough on each calzone.
Lightly brush with olive oil.
Bake for 25 minutes until tops of calzones are golden brown.
Serve with your favorite marinara and fresh basil.

Serves 4.


mexican sushi

If, like most of us, you like to save money, know exactly what goes into the meal on your plate (and what doesn't), and enjoy the experience of food - eating in clearly reigns supreme. But there are always those certain foods that we think we can't make at home, so we head over to, say, the sushi bar and shell out $30+ for sushi rice and nori wrapped around a few non-organic vegetables that likely came in a bag shipped all the way from California. I hear a "but I love the way it tastes!" argument coming on. Isn't this the same way that some try to justify why they eat animals?
Veggie sushi is one of may favorite foods, but our nights out at the sushi bar weren't quite lining up with our ideals or common sense. So I finally bought a rolling mat and shocked myself with how easy it is to create fresh, organic sushi without ever stepping foot out of our front door. Now that the this traditional Japanese cuisine is in my hands, I decided to create a fusion of some of my favorite flavors and Mexican Sushi was born. The flavors are fresh, clean, and simple with just the right balance of oceany nori and lime infused salsa, avocado and rice. The recipe for the salsa filling will be more than enough for your rolls, so you'll have plenty to serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Mexican Sushi

1/2 cup white or brown Sushi Rice
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup cold Water
1/2 lime, juiced

Bring rice and water to a boil over high heat.
Stir once, cover, and reduce heat to low.
Let rice cook for 20 minutes.
Transfer rice into a shallow, glass bowl and combine with fresh lime juice.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Salsa Filling
2 large Roma Tomatoes, seeded & chopped
1/3 cup diced Red Onion
1/2 Habenero Pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/2 Lime, juiced
1/2 Avocado, sliced

Combine all ingredients except avocado.

Putting it All Together

sushi rolling mat
2-3 Organic Nori Sheets

Lay a single nori sheet on the rolling mat.
With wet hands, press sushi rice into a thin layer covering only the lower half of the nori.
Arrange a few scoops of salsa and a row of avocado slices in a line along the edge of the lower half of the nori, over the rice.
Using the rolling mat, carefully roll the nori over the rice and filling, squeezing tightly as you roll to keep a consistent shape.
Lightly wet the top half of the nori with water and continue to roll until the top edge meets the roll.
Carefully slice the roll into 1" slices.

You can skip the chopsticks this time, especially if you are eating your Mexican Sushi alongside chips and fresh salsa. Just use your hands to pop these little rolls right in your mouth. When you eat in, you follow your own rules. Enjoy!


spicy black bean and sweet potato sandwich

During cold and flu season, I try to do all I can to boost my body's immunity to avoid the sniffles. Of course, we all know that consuming high levels of vitamin C helps to fight winter weather bugs, but did you know that beta carotene also helps to enhance your immune system to protect against colds, the flu, and infections? Carrots are a great source of the compound, but when you're tired of crunching away at carrot sticks with your lunch every day, rest assured that there are lots of other yummy foods that provide the same kind of immunity boosting power. Both sweet potatoes and collard greens have a high amount of beta carotene, and they happen to make for a delicious sandwich when paired with antioxidant rich black beans.

Spicy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Sandwich

Black Bean Filling

1 can Black Beans, drained
handful Kalamata Olives
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Tahini
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne
1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Sweet Potatoes

1 Sweet Potato, peeled
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Slice potatoes into thin circles.
Arrange potato slices in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Lightly brush each slice with olive oil on both sides.
Sprinkle generously with cayenne.
Lightly sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
Carefully turn over each potato slice and sprinkle with more cayenne.
Return to oven.
Bake for an additional 5 minutes, watching carefully so that potatoes don't burn.

Collard Greens

Organic Collard Greens*, chopped, rough stems removed
Organic Soy Sauce**
Liquid Smoke
Organic Vegetable Broth
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Heat about a tsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add collards. (Remember that the collards will cook down to about 1/2 this size.)
Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning.
Add vegetable broth (just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet), a few dashes of soy sauce, and a generous amount of liquid smoke.
Stir to evenly coat the greens.
Continue to cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
If the greens soak up the liquid really quickly, just add more vegetable broth to prevent the greens from burning.

Putting it All Together

Serve sandwich style on sliced ciabatta, layering sweet potatoes over collards over a generous amount of black bean spread. The more black bean spread you use, the messier - and the more delicious! Your immune system and your taste buds will thank you :)

Yields 4 sandwiches.

*Because collard greens grow close to the ground, they tend to have high pesticide residue levels. Organic is better. Local organic is best.
**Several very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans, so be sure to use organic soy sauce.


citrus-chili glazed tofu & broccoli

The idea of frozen tofu has been floating around in my head for a while, since I've read so much about the magical flavor absorbing qualities (see Vegan Dad's Ultimate BBQ Tofu and Sweet and Hot Tofu, Fat Free Vegan's Tofu, Tempeh, and Butternut Squash in Slow-Cooked Peanut Mole, or The Voracious Vegan's post on Tofu Bacon), but I hadn't actually tried this little trick until tonight. Now I can't figure out why I had never tried this before! It is magical. Now that I'm armed with perfect sponge-like tofu, my spicy citrus-chili sauce finally has something to soak into.
Citrus-Chili Glazed Tofu & Broccoli

1/4 block of Organic Extra Firm Tofu, cubed, frozen, thawed, and pressed*
1 crown Broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 Shallot, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Sesame Oil

Citrus-Chili Sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp Chili Paste
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lime Juice
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed Orange Juice**
1 tsp Orange Pulp**
1 tsp Organic Orange Zest**
2 tsp Arrowroot Powder
2 tsp Agave Nectar
1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar

Combine all ingredients for Citrus-Chili Sauce in a small bowl.
Heat a bit of sesame oil in a wok over medium heat.
Add garlic and shallots and cook for about 1 minute.
Add tofu and stir fry until tofu begins to brown.
Add broccoli florets and stir fry until they turn bright green.
Add Citrus-Chili Sauce and stir to coat.
Continue to cook until sauce is heated through.
Serve over rice, or just eat it out of the wok with a spoon :)

Serves 2 if served over rice.

*Several very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans, so be sure to use organic tofu.
**Most pesticide residue is concentrated in the orange peel, so it is important to use only organic oranges when using orange zest. This is true for lemons and limes too.


not so lazy samoas

Here I am, over a month after the holidays, still on a cookie baking spree. Because "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" hasn't left my kitchen counter in weeks, I decided it was time to do something useful with all these cookies. I was inspired by a local vegan outreach group who prepares and serves a vegan meal to a different non-profit group each month. This month they chose the domestic violence shelter I work for, which was so exciting. All of the women who attended the support group where the food was served really enjoyed it, and I thought that the connection between healthy food, healthy bodies, and healthy minds created a really strong platform for empowering women to take control of their lives.

After following up with the vegan outreach group to participate next month, I figured that I could continue providing our support group participants with something yummy and cruelty free on a regular basis. This week I decided I would showcase some of my favorite vegan cookies - oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip (from "The Joy of Vegan Baking" ), and Samoas.

The flavor of the Lazy Samoas from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" is perfect, but I find myself missing that buttery crunch of shortbread that's hidden beneath the all of the coconut-caramel-chocolate goodness in the original girl scout version. Getting it right took a lot of experimenting, but finally I have reached vegan girl scout cookie perfection: gooey toasted coconut covering a buttery layer of shortbread coated in rich chocolate drizzles. This one will be sure to please even the toughest cookie connoisseur.

Not So Lazy Samoas

Shortbread* (layer 1)

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup Unbleached Pastry Flour
1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2+ Tbsp Orange Juice

Using a hand mixer, cream the coconut oil until light and creamy.
Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix for about a minute.
Mix in vanilla and sugar until well combined.
In a separate bowl combine flours, nutritional yeast and salt.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until a soft dough forms.
If dough is crumbly, add more orange juice 1 tsp at a time until the consistency is dough like.
Roll out the dough as thin as possible without tearing.
Using a 1 1/2" diameter round cookie cutter, cut into circles.
Re-roll the dough and cut into circles one or two more times.
Arrange dough circles on un-greased cookie sheets.

Gooey Coconut
(layer 2)

Follow the recipe for the batter for Lazy Samoas from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar." Substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for the 1 cup of all purpose flour.

Putting It All Together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake shortbread cookie dough for 4 minutes and remove from oven.
Top each shortbread with a spoonful of coconut mixture and flatten out to cover the shortbread.
Press a hole into the center of the coconut mixture using the handle of a spoon.
Bake for 8 more minutes.
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Cover a cutting board (or other flat mobile surface) with wax paper.
Once the cookies have cooled completely, transfer them to the wax paper.

Chocolate Drizzle (layer 3)

12 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Using the microwave on medium heat or a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
Dip each cookie into the chocolate to coat the bottom and return to the wax paper.
After all of the cookie bottoms are coated, transfer the remaining chocolate into a plastic bag.
Cut the very corner of the bag so that the chocolate will easily pour out in a small stream when the bag is squeezed.
Carefully drizzle the top of each cookie with several rows of chocolate.
Transfer the cutting board (with the cookies on top) to the refrigerator.
Chill the cookies for at least 30 minutes to firm up the chocolate.

Yields 3 dozen cookies.

*I adapted this recipe from the Buttery Shortbread Cookies in "Skinny Bitch In the Kitch."