Pulling the Wool

OK, I didn’t really pull the wool over Omnivore’s eyes, but I also didn’t make a big deal about the fact that both the chilled soup and the lemon bars I made yesterday were vegan. I was looking through a list of summer recipes and found the soup recipe, so I decided to brave the grocery store to get what I needed and made it for dinner. I also figured I would surprise Omnivore (who, yes, is a giant brownie fan, but is also a big lemon fan–if you get a lemon wedge with your water in a restaurant, she always wants it) with lemon bars, which I had a hunch she had never had (and I was right, she hadn’t). I actually made the lemon bars first, and let them cool a few hours, then cut them prior to starting the soup. So Omnivore got to try one lemon bar (which she said were her new #1, ranking above all brownies) before dinner.

The soup recipe is minus animal products, minus troublesome fiber, minus lactose, and minus overheating your kitchen in the mid-summer. I think it’s relatively minus a lot of smartpoints, but that depends on how big of an avocado you use, since the only things with smartpoints in it are the avocado, oil, and coconut milk.

Chilled Green Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil (the original recipe says you can use butter, too, but that de-veganizes it, so I used olive oil)

2/3 cup chopped onion (the original recipe says you could use shallot; I used about 1/2 the onion in the photo)

pinch of sea salt (the original recipe says you could use kosher salt, too, I had sea salt available)

1 3/4 cup water (not pictured; the original recipe says you could go up to 2 cups to make a thinner soup, or you could also use broth)

~12 oz frozen green peas (the original recipe says you could also use fresh; it also says exactly 12 oz, but my scale decided to break as I was weighing the peas, so I had to estimate, based on the fact that I had 2, 9-oz packages, so I used about 1 1/3 packages)

1/3 cup canned or jarred artichoke hearts (I chopped them each in half to make them easier to measure)

1 avocado

1 garlic clove, pressed through the press

3-4 fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup light coconut milk (the original recipe says Greek yogurt [de-veganizes it] or coconut milk, I decided to go with light, since I figured there was enough fat from the avocado)

ground black pepper (the original recipe says 1/4 tsp; I just ground some in)

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (the original recipe says red pepper flakes)

soup ingredients

Heat a saucepan (not a saute or frying pan!) over medium heat and add the oil. Once it’s heated up, add the onions, and saute about 5 minutes, until the onions are fragrant. Add the sea salt and water to the pan, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and artichokes and cook about 2-3 minutes, or until the peas are tender (frankly, I was in a hurry, so I didn’t even check for tenderness).

Tackle your avocado: cut it in half, and twist the two halves apart. Cut the half without the pit in half again, and peel the peel off. Do the same for the half with the pit, but also twist the pit off of the quarter that kept it.

Put the onion, pea, artichoke, and water mixture into a blender (great time to have a VitaMix!), add the avocado quarters, garlic, basil, coconut milk, black pepper, and Aleppo pepper, and blend until smooth. Pour into a small or medium serving bowl and add salt and pepper to taste (or forget, like I did, and people can add it to their individual servings). Cover, and put in the refrigerator to chill. The original recipe says to chill for 30 minutes. I chilled it for about 75, while I did virtual yoga, and it still wasn’t completely cold, so I’d say at least 90 minutes to be sure it’s cold (because the small amount of leftovers were actually much better today, after being thoroughly cold). I would recommend a quick stir after taking it out of the fridge, because the top starts to brown a little, and just underneath that is a brilliant green.

There are a bunch of optional toppings that the original recipe suggests. You can go check them out if that’s something that interests you. We just had the soup with store-bought sourdough bread, and it was very tasty that way.


I decided to look for a vegan lemon bar recipe on chocolatecoveredkatie.com, but when you search for “lemon bars,” you get: this recipe, which is not what I was thinking of. But I did some more searching on the site and eventually found the recipe I used. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber.

Vegan Lemon Bars


1 cup all-purpose flour (Katie says you can also use whole wheat pastry flour)

6 Tbsp powdered sugar (Katie says you can also use sugar-free powdered sugar; I should also point out that you never know for sure if powdered sugar is totally vegan, because they often whiten it with bone char, so if that matters to you, seek out vegan powdered sugar, or google how to make it yourself, which isn’t hard)

3/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut oil (Katie says virgin coconut oil, but I don’t know how to tell if my coconut oil is a virgin or not)


1/2 Tbsp cornstarch (Katie says you can also use arrowroot powder)

6 Tbsp lemon juice

6 Tbsp powdered sugar (Katie says 1/4 cup powdered sugar + 1/16 tsp uncut stevia, or sub in 2 Tbsp powdered sugar for the stevia, which is what I did)

1 cup silken tofu (Katie specified MoriNu brand, but I used Nasoya, because that’s what my local grocery store had; I found it useful to scoop this out with a spoon and smoosh it into my measuring cup, since there’s really no other way to measure a cup of it)

1 Tbsp Penzey’s lemon peel (Katie calls for optionally zest of one lemon)

(Katie says you can optionally add yellow food coloring or turmeric to make it yellow, but why?)

lemon bars ingredients

Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray an 8″ x 8″ square pan liberally with cooking spray. I used a Corningware pan, but you could probably use metal. Using a food processor, combine the crust ingredients (pulse a few times, then run it, stop it, scrape down the sides, run again, stop, scrape, etc.). It will end up looking like a kind of crumbly sand. Pour that into your prepared pan, and place some waxed paper on top, to make it easy to press it into the pan with your hands. Bake for 10 minutes. It will emerge slightly brown and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Don’t turn the oven off.

Meanwhile, pull out the VitaMix (or another favorite blender) and put in the filling ingredients, in the appropriate order. For the VitaMix, that order is: lemon juice, tofu, powdered sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel. Blend until it’s smooth, and pour evenly on top of the hot crust, which will have recently emerged from the oven. Bake for 26 minutes. When it comes out, it should look brown on the edges and a little jiggly (like a cheesecake), but not sloppy. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then cover lightly (I used waxed paper, but Katie says not to cover it, but I didn’t want the lemon bars to taste like refrigerator) and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the filling set. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. I actually did this and decided it was a bit too loose still, so I put it in to chill longer, covered in foil, before I let Omnivore have the first one.

lemon bars

All three of us had a lemon bar (or in hubby’s and Omnivore’s case, two lemon bars) for dessert after our soup. They were a hit! Hubby even liked them, and he’s not a big fan of sour–and these are quite sour-lemony. I would say these are some of the best lemon bars I’ve ever had.

lemon bar

Regular Brownies

As hard as hubby and I have been trying to stick to a largely plant-based diet, adopting a 14-year-old omnivore a few weeks ago has made it challenging. When asked what she would like for us to have in the house for breakfast, her answer was “eggs and bacon.” So we bought eggs and bacon, and taught her how to make them. She’s recently given up on the bacon, and just eats 3-4 eggs for breakfast now, but still, those are hardly plants. We’ve managed to sneak some faux meat past her, which is a relief, and we’ve had a few dinners where we have had to explain that you don’t need to eat meat at every meal, in fact, that’s not healthy. Eventually she’ll come around, I’m guessing, if we continue to gently express our preferences, rather than shoving them down her throat.

One thing she loves though? Brownies. Anytime there’s a brownie option for a treat, that’s what she gets. So, since I’m off on parental leave, I thought making brownies together would be a good bonding opportunity. I looked up a standard brownie recipe in Joy of Cooking, which is called “Brownies Cockaigne,” which, according to Wikipedia, is “a land of plenty in medieval myth, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life does not exist.” But they also say that this is a classic recipe, and since I already had eggs in the house for Omnivore, I figured, what the heck.

Today we made the brownies for the second time this week. Before heading to the grocery store to stock up on more eggs and chocolate to make this second batch, I asked Omnivore if she wanted to make the same recipe again, and she said yes, so that’s why I decided to share it. Today we added chocolate chips instead of the pecans the original recipe calls for (neither hubby nor Omnivore likes nuts in their brownies), and they’re at least as good as the first attempt, which just left out the pecans without replacing them with anything. Frankly, this recipe isn’t minus very much. It’s minus nuts, minus lactose, and minus meat (but a brownie with meat–ewwww!!). It can be minus high smartpoints if you cut them small enough. Maybe one day I can get her to branch out a little and we can find a vegan brownie recipe she’s willing to try.

Standard Brownies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (could you do this with margarine? very possibly)

4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate (the original just says chocolate, but I’ve baked enough in my life to know that you need to use the unsweetened kind since you add so much sugar)

4 eggs at room temperature (could you do this with an egg substitute? very possibly)

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

optional: 1 cup chocolate chips or pecan meats

brownie ingredients

Brownies Main Ingredients

chocolate chips

Optional (but delicious) chocolate chips

If you have a double-boiler, get it out. If not, you can use a pot with an inch or two of water, plus a glass bowl on top. Get the water simmering on the stove, and put the bowl on top, add in the butter and the chocolate (broken up–I broke mine into the squares that it comes in), and stir until it’s all melted together. Omnivore took on this task.

double boiler

Melting the butter and chocolate together.

Once it’s all melted together, set it aside to cool. We have yet to figure out the best method for this. Today we tried first putting the bowl on a trivet that had slats and little feet, so there would be air circulation underneath, and Omnivore kept stirring to try to cool down the chocolate. Then we got another bowl, filled it with ice, and put the bowl of chocolate on top, and she stirred more, to distribute the coolness. So, whatever works for you, just don’t let it harden, or you’ll have to remelt it. Meanwhile, sift the flour, and set aside. Also, preheat your oven to 350F.

Drag out your trusty mixer (I used my KitchenAid) and break all the eggs into its bowl. Add in the salt, and start mixing with the whisk attachment, until it’s light-colored and fluffy/foamy. Slowly add in the sugar and vanilla as you continue to mix. Once that’s all well mixed together, turn off your mixer, and add all your cooled chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not the mixer), stir until it’s streaky, but not a uniform color. Then add the flour and mix by hand again until basically incorporated, but not fully mixed (this isn’t a cake, so no need to beat the heck out of it), then add in the chocolate chips or pecans (or nothing) and mix fully. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ pan (I used glass, but metal probably works, too), and smooth it out. Put in the oven for 24-30 minutes (the original recipe says about 25, but we’ve consistently needed more time than that), until a toothpick comes out mostly clean (don’t stick it in a chocolate chip!). Let cool, then cut into the size you want. Or let your 14-year-old cut the brownies, and end up with multiple sizes. The original recipe says this makes 30. Earlier this week I think we made about 16, today it was 24. By the way, if you’re strange and therefore like cakey brownies instead of fudgy ones, use a smaller pan (like 9×9), according to Joy of Cooking.

one brownie

You can scoop them out of the pan and wrap them individually in foil, according to the original recipe (which is also how we stored the first batch, and what I did today to preserve this batch). They should last 3-4 days that way, assuming they don’t all get eaten first.

wrapped brownies

Pile of wrapped brownies.

Pandemic Pancakes

We have some radish kimchi from Number 1 Sons that has been sitting in our fridge for a few weeks (mainly because it’s too spicy to eat on its own), so as it sours, we were looking for something to do with it. I figured we should mix it with starch in some way, to help tame it, and hubby suggested Korean pancakes. He was thinking about the scallion ones that you get in Korean restaurants or that you can make at home using the mix. We didn’t have any mix, but I googled a recipe for the pancakes, and found that we could use cake flour (which we also didn’t have), or a substitute for cake flour (listed at the end of the recipe). The math on making cake flour substitute was stressing me out (1 cup of cake flour = 3/4 cup AP flour + 2 Tbsp cornstarch–which is less than a cup total, if you think about it; alternatively, 3 3/4 oz cake flour = 3 3/8 oz AP flour + 5/8 oz cornstarch–which is more than 3 3/4 oz if you think about it). So hubby made a deal that if I made a full “cup” recipe of “cake flour” he would make the pancakes. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber.

Koreanish Kimchi-Scallion Pancakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup + 2Tbsp cake flour, in place of the AP flour and cornstarch)

2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp sea salt (not pictured)

Cold water (not pictured)

4-6 oz faux chicken (the original recipe calls for 4 oz shrimp)

1 bunch scallions, halved and shredded (the original recipe doesn’t shred them, but hubby said this is what they did in his family growing up)

~1/3 cup radish kimchi (hubby didn’t measure precisely) (the original recipe doesn’t include kimchi)

pancake ingredients

Add the flour and cornstarch to a sifter, and sift together about 3 times. Add the salt and mix. Using a whisk, whisk in enough cold water to make a very thin batter–thinner than you think it should be (you’re looking for close to a 1:1 ratio). Saute the faux chicken and set aside. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Using about half the ingredients: Add the scallions, then little blobs of the kimchi throughout the pan, then the faux chicken, scattered throughout the pan. Drizzle the batter over top, and cook until it seems done, then flip and cook until that side seems done. Gingerly slide it out onto a plate and cut into squares. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients. The original recipe includes a dipping sauce, which we didn’t bother to make, we just dipped it in soy sauce. It tasted good (and pretty authentic), but fell apart way too easily. Next time, we’ll probably just buy the mix.



What’s the point of being cooped up to encourage social distancing if you don’t experiment with some fusion cuisine? A few years ago, we subscribed to Purple Carrot, a vegan version of meal kits–you get all the ingredients for multiple meals in a box weekly, along with recipe cards. A lot of the meals were pretty forgettable, so we forgot them, and eventually canceled our subscription. But there was one meal that overall was forgettable, but introduced us to arepas, and I went out and bought masa harina just to be able to make them again, which I did once or twice back then. Recently I was thinking about arepas again (no idea why), and I mentioned them to hubby, but he didn’t remember them. Yet, he gamely went along with the plan to make a batch and eat them with unusual toppings, creating an interesting culinary fusion.

According to Wikipedia, arepas are part of the national cuisines of Colombia and Venezuela. Meanwhile, everyone knows that kimchi is Korean. So, what if we combined them? Fusion! But what about protein? Bring in the USA, where we proudly specialize in faux meat products. Thus, the newest homemade fusion dish was born. This dish is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber. If it’s not actually blue zone, it’s darn close.

Arepas with Chi-Kan* and Kimchi

*This is my brother-in-law’s word for faux chicken. It’s pronounced like its opposite should be chi-can’t.

1 cup + 2 Tbsp masa harina

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp vegan butter/margarine/etc.

2 tsp sugar (the original calls for 1 Tbsp, but my notes from when I made it originally say it was too sweet, so I cut it down, and this is a good amount; the original also specifies Turbinado sugar, but I used regular sugar)

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup hot tap water (not pictured)

1 package Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (or other chi-kan nuggets–the first time I made this I used Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n, but threw out the sauce)

Kimchi to taste (I used Number 1 Sons Snow Miso kimchi; hubby combined some snow miso and some radish kimchi–not pictured)

arepas kimchi ingredients

Preheat your oven and get started on cooking your chi-kan according to the package directions. Then start on the arepas. Combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. I find it helps to mix all the dry ingredients first, then put in the vegan butter, then the hot water, then mix. Once it’s all uniform, divide it into 8 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball (about golf ball sized). Heat a skillet over medium heat, and put about 1 Tbsp olive oil in it to heat up. Flatten each ball, and place as many as can fit in the skillet (I got four in). Cook about 5 minutes on that side, until brown and solidified, then flip, and add another 1 Tbsp  olive oil to cook the other side (about 3-5 minutes, also until brown. Repeat until you finish cooking all the arepas.


Once your chi-kan is done, you’re ready to serve! Put your desired number of arepas on a plate, and add 2 pieces of chi-kan on top of each:

step 2

Add the kimchi on top, and enjoy!

my food

my way, or hubby’s way:

hubby food

Cooking Minus Social Contact

Ah yes, social distancing and quarantining to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, my job requires me to sometimes still go in, but blissfully, I had Sunday and Monday off, so Monday I did some cooking (hubby has been doing most of the cooking, or we order food, or we make very simple things like a bowl of rice with various veggies on top). I made dinner and dessert on Monday, actually. For dinner we had spaghetti with pea shoots, and for dessert, banana muffins. The spaghetti with pea shoots is based on a recipe for pasta with pea shoots that hubby found in the New York Times. It is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber. It’s almost blue zone (but I’m not sure that regular pasta fits into the blue zone).

Spaghetti with Pea Shoots

2 1/2 oz. fresh pea shoots (the original calls for 2 oz.; we actually had way more that than, from our delivery from Number 1 Sons a few days ago–like so many food places right now, they’re trying to stay afloat through creative delivery strategies, for Number 1 Sons, that includes offering all of their wonderful fermented stuff along with some fresh veggies from a partner farm), cut into bite-sized pieces if they’re long (ours were)

1 large clove garlic

1-2 pinches salt

3 Tbsp olive oil (the original says you could also use butter, but I wanted to try to keep it as vegan as possible)

1/2 lb. spaghetti, broken in half (the original calls for farfalle, which, in hindsight, would have worked better; if not farfalle, then use some other more blocky, rather than long and stringy, pasta)

4 oz. sliced mushrooms (the original calls for cremini, but we had pre-sliced button mushrooms in the fridge)

1 oz. Beyond Meat crumbles (the original calls for prosciutto, chopped)

to garnish: freshly ground black pepper; grated cheese (if you’re not super strict about the veganness–we used pre-grated pecorino)

pasta ingredients

Somehow, I completely forgot to put the spaghetti in the picture, so I let it have a selfie:


Press the garlic through a press, then put it on a cutting board, sprinkle with a little salt, and mash and mix with the flat of a knife blade until you have a nice paste. Then add that to a little bowl with the olive oil, mix, and set aside.

Meanwhile, start the water for the pasta, and get it cooking (per package directions) as soon as you can.

Measure out 2 Tbsp of the now garlic-infused oil (I wasn’t able to get any actual pieces of garlic in with what I measured, but the oil sure smelled garlicky!) into a very large skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, and cook until they’re wilted (per the original recipe) or starting to brown (my experience). Stir in the beyond meat, and cook until it all seems to come together and the beyond meat is warmed through. Take it off the heat, but leave it in the skillet.

Once the pasta has finished cooking and you’ve drained it, add it to the skillet, and put the skillet back on the heat. Add the pea shoots and the remaining garlic oil (including all the bits of garlic), and stir (I ended up using tongs because it was spaghetti, but with a more blocky pasta, you could probably use whatever you were using to saute the mushrooms and beyond meat) until it’s all well combined and the pea shoots are a bit wilted.

The original recipe did not say that the cheese was optional, and told you to add it at this point. What we did was add some to our own plates, along with as much pepper as we wanted.

pasta with pea shoots

It was not bad as a meal, but I wouldn’t recommend it warmed up, as I had it the next day for lunch.

The banana muffins turned out much better. They’re minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber. And if not truly blue zone, they’re at least blue zone-adjacent. They’re actually originally vegan, from one of my favorite vegan dessert blogs, Chocolate Covered Katie. I think I’ve mentioned before that whenever we have bananas and they start turning brown, hubby says, “banana bread!” Of course, he doesn’t actually make it, he just hopes I get the hint. Well, my pal Katie didn’t have any banana bread recipes I could make without going to the store, but she does have a banana muffin recipe that works quite nicely with what I had around the house already.

Banana Muffins

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium bananas)

2 Tbsp plain, unsweetened almond milk (the original recipe calls for “milk of choice” and I chose what I had in the fridge)

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp cider vinegar (the original recipe says you could also use white vinegar, but I save that for cleaning)

3 Tbsp canola oil (the original recipe says you could also use nut butter or more banana, and I initially thought I would have enough banana to do it without oil, which is why I took this picture of the ingredients)

muffin ingredients whole bananas

but after I mashed the bananas, I realized I had exactly 1 cup, so I had to include oil, which is why there’s mashed up bananas and oil in the picture below.

1 cup all-purpose flour (the original says you could also use spelt or oat flour)

3/8 tsp salt (the original says 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp, but I used to teach basic math, so I can add fractions)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup sugar

optional: 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I didn’t add it, because hubby isn’t a big cinnamon fan, and honestly, I didn’t miss it, even though I’m a giant cinnamon fan)

muffin ingredients post-mush

Put all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and whisk well. Set aside. Get a different, larger bowl, and add all the wet ingredients, and whisk together. Let that sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep your muffin tin and preheat your oven to 350F.

Once your wet ingredients have hung out for 10 minutes, add the dry, and mix until just combined (the “muffin method”). Divide evenly within the muffin holes (Katie says it makes 10; I easily made 12), then bake about 20 minutes until the muffins have domed and a toothpick inserted into the center of a random muffin (or a few) comes out mostly clean. Let cool. Like, seriously. I set them out for a few hours until hubby came home from work (you can cover with a dish towel if it helps you not focus on them, or if you’re leaving them out overnight). Once they’re super cool and set, you’ll be able to peel the papers off very easily. These are very tasty, and still tasty the next day and the next (I finished them off on day 3 for lunch, with peanut butter).


banana muffin

Bowled Over

A few days ago, in looking for a good recipe for dinner, I came across this one. One of the things I really liked about it is that we already had all of the ingredients for the sauce. After visiting 3 grocery stores over the last few days (technically 4, if you count hubby’s stop at Whole Foods today, where he literally walked in, saw how long the lines were, and walked back out), I figured we had as many of the non-sauce ingredients as we were likely to get, so we might as well make it. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber. It also fits in the blue zone.

“Sushi” Bowl

1 bok choy, chopped into about 1″ pieces (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup spinach, tatsoi, mizuna, bok choy, or a mixture, but hubby can’t eat most of those–he’s OK with chopped, cooked bok choy)

~1/2 cup shelled, cooked edamame (I used frozen that I thawed in the microwave)

~10 oz. cooked  brown rice, cooled (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but Trader Joe’s sells these boxes of super-convenient bags of frozen cooked brown rice which are 10 oz. each, and you just nuke for 3 minutes to thaw)

1/4 – 1/3 cup shredded carrot (the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup, but I got a little grater-happy and ended up with a very heaping 1/4 cup that was probably closer to 1/3 cup)

1 small avocado, sliced (the original calls for 1/2 avocado, but we have very small avocados)

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

(the original recipe also calls for 1 Tbsp dried nori flakes and a drizzle of umeboshi plum vinegar, but I could find neither of those–I figured they were sort of garnishes/accessories, so you can try the recipe with them if you can find them, but they’re by no means integral)



1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (the original recipe doesn’t specify smooth, but I don’t think it would work with chunky)

1 Tbsp miso (I used red, since that’s what I had; the original recipe doesn’t specify)

1 tsp finely minced fresh ginger (the original recipe says grated, but I don’t own a microplane)

1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press (the original recipe says minced)

1 tsp lemon juice (the original recipe says you could also use apple cider vinegar)

1/2 cup water (not shown in the picture)

sauce ingredients

To make the sauce: put all the ingredients in a blender (I used my trusty Vitamix) and blend until they’re all blended. I even managed to get them sort of frothy, but I don’t think that’s completely necessary:


(I apologize to anyone with trypophobia.)

To assemble the bowl: saute the bok choy until it’s wilted (the original recipe has you eating it raw, but that doesn’t work for hubby), then put it at the bottom of two bowls (the original recipe says it makes 1-2 servings, and had we used the small amount of rice it calls for, I think it would have been 1 serving, but we made it work for 2 people by using the whole bag of Trader Joe’s rice). On top of that, add the rice, then the edamame, then the carrots on one side and the avocado on the other. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the whole thing (and if you find nori and the plum vinegar, this is also when you would add those). Then divide the sauce between the two bowls–this is the one thing that there’s a lot of. I found it easiest just to pour out of the blender.


This turned out to be better than either of us was expecting, as well as more filling.

Tab, Ulie!

I was thinking about all the leftover parsley in the fridge from the massive bunch I had to buy to make the walnut pesto. I was also thinking about the mint leftover from making tofu pho (you put it on top as a garnish), and then spent a few days trying to remember the word “tabbouleh” (I ended up giving up and googling a list of Middle Eastern food, and looked down the list–aha!!). So I made tabbouleh Saturday night, using this recipe, basically. This is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber (I’m thinking chopped parsley works OK for hubby). It also technically fits into blue zone, which is cool. And hubby liked it so much that he suggested we make it part of the regular rotation.


1/2 cup bulgur (I used red, because that’s what the store had)

1 cup diced cucumber (the original said it would take 1 small-to-medium, but I used 3 mini)

1 cup diced tomato (the original said it would take 1 large, but I used 5 campari)

1 tsp sea salt, divided (the original called for fine sea salt, all I had was coarse, and that worked fine)

3 cups parsley, chopped (the original calls for 3 medium bunches of curly parsley and in some of the comments on the original recipe, it becomes clear that that turns into 3 cups; I had all that Italian parsley, so I used it)

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint (the original says it’s optional, but why leave it out when I have a lot of mint in the fridge?)

1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion (this ended up being just under 2 green onions, so I just put in all of the two)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp lemon juice (the original says 3-4 Tbsp, but I know hubby is not a huge fan of sour, so I stuck to 3. I also used bottled, because why mangle a lemon when the bottled stuff is already in my fridge?)

1 garlic clove (the original says medium, I’d say the one I used would qualify as large), pressed through a garlic press (the original says you could also mince it)


Like my high-tech herb storage system? I learned a while back from someone on a cooking show that the best way to keep herbs fresh in the refrigerator is to wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel, and put that in a plastic bag. I labeled the bags to make it more obvious what was what.

Anyway, follow the package directions to get the bulgur ready to eat (this bag actually came with two sets of directions, one was the general directions and one was for making tabbouleh; since the one for making tabbouleh involved letting the bulgur soak for an hour, rather than boil for 12 minutes, I opted for the general directions). Set aside to cool while you deal with everything else. Put the cucumber and tomato in a bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, stir, and let sit at least 10 minutes to help drain off excess liquid. Chop the parsley, mint, and onions, and put them all in a large bowl. Strain the liquid from the tomato/cucumber mixture and add that to the bowl. Add the cooled bulgur to the bowl. Stir it all together. In a smaller bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together, then pour over the salad in the big bowl and mix it all together. You’re done!


Nutty Pesto

A few days ago hubby was working late, so I figured I should tackle dinner. I flipped through The Blue Zones Kitchen and came across a recipe I figured I could make in a reasonable amount of time: spaghetti with walnut pesto. It struck me as somewhat similar to another pesto I make from time to time: pesto alla trappanese (which I realize I’ve never blogged about) that is based on almonds. This walnut pesto is far simpler, and approached in what I think of as an unusual way when it comes to pesto, because you actually cook the sauce. This recipe is totally blue zone, it’s minus animal products (unless you decide to put on the optional cheese, which we did), minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber. It’s far from low fat or low carb or anything like that.

Pesto alla Noce*

*Noce=walnut in Italian

3/4 cup walnuts

1 lb. spaghetti (the original recipe says you can also use linguine; hubby was shocked to see that I had purchased actual spaghetti for the recipe, rather than some other shape, since I tend to prefer other shapes of pasta)

enough water to cook the spaghetti in (the original recipe calls for 6 quarts–I didn’t measure, just filled up our big pasta pot)

2 large cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (the original recipe says to chop finely; sorry, I forgot to put them in the picture)

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (I waaaay overbought on this, which I blame on my local grocery store–my only option was a giant bunch)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (sorry, I forgot to put this in the picture)

Grated pecorino or parmesan (optional), for serving (the original recipe indicates Pecorino specifically, and 1 cup specifically)

The original recipe also calls for 2 Tbsp salt, but doesn’t actually say what to do with it, so I didn’t use it, and it didn’t seem to be lacking salt.


Boil the pasta according to the package directions, then right before you strain the noodles, scoop out about a cup of cooking water. Meanwhile, pull out your trusty food processor, put in the walnuts, and pulse until you have them crumbled (you don’t want to end up with walnut butter, which, though delicious, is not the goal here).

Get out your largest saute pan and put in the olive oil, parsley, walnut crumbs, and garlic, and cook over low heat. The original recipe says until the garlic is soft, 8-9 minutes, but with the garlic being in such small pieces, and so much other stuff in the pan, I just cooked and stirred until it all looked really well mixed, and the pasta was done, which at that point was just a few minutes.

Put the pasta in the saute pan, and toss in whatever manner is your favorite (tongs are good for this, so is a strong hubby not afraid of flipping things in saute pans ala chefs). Add a little cooking water if the sauce needs any thinning as you’re tossing (I think we added a tablespoon or two).

Serve, with cheese sprinkled on top, if desired.



Hubby and I have become enamored of the “blue zone diet,” in an effort to be overall healthier (we both have family histories of cardiovascular problems). In addition to what’s in the actual cookbook, we’ve been finding other recipes that incorporate the same foods and principles. For instance, Wednesday night we made (I mixed up, he fried) blueberry corn pancakes that he had found online. Honestly, we didn’t really change the recipe, just served them with maple syrup, instead of the fruit syrup the recipe calls for, oh, and he fried them in cooking spray (the original recipe doesn’t really specify what to use in the pan). But, just for the heck of it, I’m going to repeat the recipe here, anyway. This recipe is minus animal products, minus troublesome fiber, and minus lactose.

Blueberry Corn Pancakes

1 cup finely ground cornmeal (I just used the cornmeal I could find at the store, it doesn’t say how fine or coarse the grind is on the container)

1/2 cup spelt flour (this was hard to find! But we did eventually get it at Yes! Organic Market)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp cinnamon

pinch of sea salt

1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (the original calls for unsweetened plant-based milk, and this is what we had in the fridge)

1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1+ cup blueberries (the original recipe calls for 1 cup, but we had bought a 6 oz container that came out to a little more than a cup, I would say a heaping cup, basically; the original recipe also notes a preference for small, frozen berries, but I apparently didn’t read that when I made the shopping list)

Argh!! I remember taking a picture of the ingredients, and now it’s not in my phone!! So, you’ll just have to imagine them.

Put all the dry ingredients (cornmeal, spelt, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) in a medium bowl and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients (everything else except the blueberries) and whisk that all just until it comes together. Our batter was very thin. Fold in the blueberries, and let the batter sit for at least 5 minutes (I think hubby let it sit closer to 10-12, but the original recipe just says 5). Heat your pan and spray it with spray, then use a 1/4 cup measure to measure out a few pancakes. Cook them the way you always cook pancakes (wait for them to get bubbly on the top and a bit dry on the edges, then flip and cook until done). This recipe made 12 pancakes (enough for dinner Wednesday night and breakfast Thursday morning for both of us).




It’s Thanksgiving today, so in order to accommodate hubby’s lactose issues, I made a lactose-free pumpkin pie, but I didn’t want to do the same thing I’d done before, using silken tofu. I googled, and found four different vegan pumpkin pie recipes that used coconut milk (this one, this one, this one, and this one), and combined them and came up with my own. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, and minus troublesome fiber.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

vegan pie crust for a 9″ pie (I was originally going to make my own crust, and use butter, but I didn’t have enough flour, so I ran to the store down the street and bought a ready-made one, but not the kind in a tin, and not the kind with lard–turns out they used vegetable oil, I guess that’s what made it “European-style”)

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 can (13.5 oz) full-fat (yes, it has to be full-fat, all the recipes emphasized that) coconut milk

1/4 cup cornstarch

2/3 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown)

1 tsp vanilla

3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

pie ingredients

Look at the package that your pie crust came in, and figure out what temperature it bakes at, then preheat the oven to that temperature. Put the crust in a 9″ pie pan, line it with parchment paper, fill the parchment paper with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice (I used rice, since that’s what I had). Bake (technically, “blind bake”) the crust for 15 minutes. Pull it out of the oven, remove the parchment paper and weight, and set the crust aside to cool. If your oven is not already at 350F, change it to that.

Meanwhile, get out your blender, put all the filling ingredients in it, blend them all up until it’s uniform, then carefully pour into the baked crust and smooth out the top. Place the pie in the oven and bake 40-50 minutes, until the edges of the filling seem dry and the middle is just barely wobbly. I only baked for 45 minutes, and the middle turned out to be a little soft when I cut into it.

Cool a while before serving (but no need to refrigerate if you’ll serve it within a few hours). Serve with fake whipped cream or fake ice cream (we did the whipped cream). It was quite well-received by all those who like pumpkin pie.


Note (added a few days after Thanksgiving): It turns out that full-fat coconut milk can have a laxative effect, so if that’s something you’re worried about, use the tofu-based recipe I posted a few years ago.