Broiled Asparagus Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

posted by Michele


Asparagus Salad
I’m back!
It’s been quite a while!
What have I been up to you ask? Busy, busy, busy!
First off our family made a big move from New Jersey to North Carolina several months back. We are really enjoying NC and are so happy with our decision to move! Since the move I’ve been homeschooling our two little ones. Homeschooling has kept me very busy but it’s been a wonderful experience for us! And last but not least, we are expecting baby #3 in September!
So yeah, we’ve been pretty busy!
But enough about me! Lets talk about food!
It’s the perfect time of the year to enjoy fresh asparagus and this salad is quick, easy, and delicious! We made it a meal with some crusty french bread served with Creamy Pesto Spread (recipe to come later this week!)
Broiled Asparagus Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
For dressing:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp agave
1 garlic clove
Couple pinches fine sea salt & pepper
For asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus (about 15 spears)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt & pepper
For salad:
Spring mix or lettuce of choice (I used one bagged spring mix for two large salads)
2 small-medium tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup raw almonds
Place all dressing ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. (I prefer the blended method, but if you don’t want to use a blender you can mix the ingredients in a small bowl, being sure to finely mince the garlic before adding it to the dressing.) Transfer dressing to refrigerator to chill while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Preheat broiler in oven. Trim ends of asparagus and place on a baking sheet. Toss with 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Broil asparagus for 5-6 minutes, tossing half way through. Asparagus should be crisp-tender and will continue cooking after being removed from the oven (don’t overcook!).
Meanwhile, assemble salad with spring mix, tomato slices and almonds. Top with broiled asparagus, drizzle dressing on top and serve!
Asparagus Salad
What My Kids Ate:
Not asparagus… :(
Nicolette: Pasta with Earth Balance butter, veggie meat balls, bread, and raw veggies (carrots & cucumber)
Aidan: Pasta with Earth Balance butter, veggie meat balls, bread, and raw veggies (carrots, cucumber, lettuce)

Chicago 13.1

posted by Michele

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I just wanted to share some pictures from my weekend in Chicago!
I was there to run the Chicago half marathon with my friend Cheryl and my sis-in-law Jeanette. It was a first for all of us, first time in The Windy City and first half marathon! We had a spectacular time, although we were a little sore during our site seeing on Sunday!
We saw some beautiful sites, ate some delicious food, and ran 13.1 miles! It was an amazing trip!

Review: Let Them Eat Vegan!

posted by Michele


I recently received a copy of Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton. Dreena is an amazing vegan cook and I have enjoyed recipes from all of her cookbooks over the past few years. As a bonus she is also a mom so most of her recipes are very kid friendly, which is important to me with two picky preschoolers to please! 

With 200 plant-powered recipes, Let Them Eat Vegan is filled with healthy delicious recipes that the whole family will love. The book includes descriptions of foods found in a plant-powered pantry, which is especially helpful if you're just starting out with a plant-based diet or if you haven't tried a particular ingredient before. There is also a handy icon on each recipe to show if it is wheat-free, gluten-free, and/or soy-free, plus handy cooking tips and serving suggestions throughout. And the recipes are fantastic!

I have to say I think Let Them Eat Vegan is Dreena's best cookbook to date. I absolutely LOVE it and I know I will be cooking from this book for years to come! I can just imagine myself as a little old lady baking some Berry Patch Brownies or Fresh Blueberry Oat Squares for my grandkids.... yeah I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a super cool grandma some day! But I still have many years to prefect my baking skills before then!

Some recipes I've tried so far have been the Spinach Cashew Pizza Cheese Spread which I used on a homemade pizza crust and topped with slices of tomato. It was excellent! The Whole-Grain Chia Pancakes with Warm Strawberry Sauce and the Chai Peanut Butter Ice Cream were both out of this world! I also really enjoyed the Citrus Tahini  and Raw-nch Dressings. But our favorite so far would have to be the Vegveeta Dip!

Dreena's Vegveeta Dip was an instant favorite at our house. I've seriously made it four or five times now and I've only had the cookbook for about a month! My omni hubby absolutely loves it and would probably eat it with every meal if I let him. I love it when he falls in love with vegan food! And even my kids enjoy dunking tortilla chips and veggies into this amazing cheez sauce!

I like to make it with taco seasoned lentil dip (I use this recipe but mash it a little more), salsa and some extras like black olives and jalopinos to make a huge delicious nacho plate! It is so good and has become me & my hubby's go-to movie night snack. There's nothing like a special night of being couch potatoes with a huge plate of junk food, only this junk food is actually pretty healthy! Which is especially awesome because it seriously tastes amazing! I don't know how Dreena comes up with these crazy delicious recipes but I'm so glad our family gets to enjoy them! Dreena you rock!

Don't believe me? Try it yourself! I guarantee you will be rushing out to buy Let Them Eat Vegan after a taste of Vegveeta Dip!

Warm “Vegveeta” Cheese Sauce

This warm ‘cheesy’ dip has a mild flavor that can be used to accompany many foods… and also combines very well with salsa to mimic the velveeta/salsa dip from years ago. I make this without nutritional yeast, but if you like it, feel free to add in the nooch!
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tbsp tahini (or 1/8 cup pine nuts)
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup + 1-3 tbsp plain unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp (little scant) paprika
1/8 – 1/4 tsp turmeric (for color)
1 tbsp neutral-flavored oil (optional)
Optional: 1 ½ -2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until very, very smooth (start with 1 cup + 1 tbsp milk). Transfer mixture to a small/medium saucepan, and heat over low/low-medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until mixture is starting to slowly bubble and thicken (stir frequently through heating). To thin sauce slightly, stir in another 1-2 tbsp of milk. Avoid thickening sauce over high heat (or increasing heat too quickly), since this sauce can scorch easily. Once sauce has thickened, transfer to a serving dish… and get dipping!
On my to-try list: Festive Chickpea Tart, Black-Bean Quinoa & sweet Potato Spicy Croquettes, Brazil Nut Pesto, Sugar-Free Cashew Glaze, and, well, everything else!

For more awesome recipes from Dreena Burton, check out her new website, Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Kitchen, and order your copy of Let Them Eat Vegan.

Warm "Vegveeta" Cheese Dip recipe from the book Let Them Eat Vegan! by Dreena Burton. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2012.

Avocado-Chocolate Mousse

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I've tried a few recipes for raw chocolate mousse or pudding using avocado, which you can find in cookbooks such as Crazy Sexy Diet & Blissful Bites. I LOVE both of these books and the mousse/pudding recipes are wonderful, but both use dates as the sweetener and I just can't seem to get them pureed smooth enough (I blame my food processor). Since I'm feeding this decedent dessert to preschoolers it is very important that the texture is absolutely perfect, otherwise they wont eat it. My daughter is especially picky with textures, if she finds one itty bitty piece of date in her mousse she's done (and crying).

So I've been experimenting with this avocado chocolate pudding idea and came up with a version that is perfectly smooth, chocolaty & sweet. My kids love it and have no idea that there is avocado in it! 

Avocado-Chocolate Mousse

2 Ripe avocados
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup brown rice syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

This comes out as a thick creamy mousse. If you'd like to thin it to more of a pudding texture add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. You can also adjust the amount of brown rice syrup to suit your taste. The pudding keeps well in an air tight container in the refrigerator for a couple days. Avocado-Chocolate Mousse is great served with berries. Or try graham crackers or animal cookies for the kids to dip in!


Every Day with Rachel Ray

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I was recently flipping through the April issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray. To be honest, I've never really been a Rachel Ray fan, but I was intrigued when I saw the cover which read "Special Green Issue". Turns out that the magazine is taking steps to become a little more eco-friendly. 

According to the magazine, they have always printed on recycled paper and starting this month they have reduced the page size slightly. It may not sound like much but it will save 1,472 trees, 100 tons of paper, and 500 gallons of fuel with every issue! That's pretty cool if you ask me!

Anyway, there were a few recipes that looked pretty good and would easily convert to vegan recipes. There are even a few vegetarian recipes in there! I chose to try a recipe for pasta with turkey and broccoli. I substituted mushrooms for the turkey and added sun dried tomatoes as well. I also lowered the amount of oil. It turned out really tasty!

Pasta with Mushrooms & Broccoli

3/4 lb pasta (which ever shape you prefer)
4 cups fresh broccoli florets, 
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste
Vegan Parm (optional)

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, steam broccoli until crisp tender then set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and saute until tender and golden, adding more oil if necessary, about 8 minutes. Stir in sun dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper and broccoli and continue cooking until heated through. Sprinkle in parsley and remove from heat. Toss vegetables with pasta and serve with vegan parm if desired.


Homemade Soft Pretzels

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I made these pretzels over the weekend and they were a huge hit. I modified this recipe from V-gasm using whole wheat pastry flower instead of all-purpose. I don't own a stand mixer so I mixed the dough by hand, which worked just fine for me. I also made it a little easier and quicker by making pretzel bites instead of trying to  form the dough into pretzel shapes. They came out really tasty and my kids loved them!

This recipe made three trays of pretzel bites. I did the first two with salt and the third I tried cinnamon sugar (1 Tbsp sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp cinnamon). They both came out really good!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (I used quick rise)
4 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp soy-free Earth Balance (or margarine), melted

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

Coarse sea salt, cinnamon sugar, or other topping for pretzels

Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand for a few minutes. Add flour and butter. Stir till well combined and kneed a few times to form a smooth dough. Transfer dough to a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover. I let my dough rise in a warm oven, preheated to the lowest temperature and then turned off. Just be sure it's not too hot or you'll end up cooking the dough! Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size. Using quick rise yeast my dough was ready in about 40 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (If you are using the oven to rise the dough be sure to remove it before preheating the oven!).

Bring 10 cups water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot, then turn heat down slightly to keep a gentle rolling boil.

Turn dough out on a clean, lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into smaller pieces and roll out into a long rope. Use a knife to cut the dough into bite sized pieces. 

Transfer pretzel bites to the boiling water (about 8-10 pieces at a time). Boil for approximately 30 seconds. Remove pretzels from water using a slotted spoon and transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet (I did not use parchment paper like the original recipe suggested, but I do recommend it since my pretzels did stick to the pan quite a bit). Repeat with remaining dough to fill the baking sheet. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse sea salt or other topping and bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then remove from pan & serve. Repeat with remaining dough.


Valentine's Day Treats

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Although I'm celebrating Valentine's Day without sugary treats this year since I'm in the middle of a raw food cleanse (really poor timing I know!), I still wanted to share some of my favorite sweet treats with you all in case you're in need of a special dessert recipe for tomorrow.

First off, check out this recipe I posted on Friday from Happy Go Lucky Vegan! So cute + no sugar = totally awesome dessert with no sugar crash! Thanks Jesse!

Last year I made these yummy Chubby Hubby Cookie Bars which were a huge hit with my hubby & kids.

I love chocolate & peanut butter! It's probably my favorite dessert combo. If you love it as much as I do, another awesome PB & Choc. dessert is Homemade Peanut Butter Cups!

If you're looking for something light & fruity, try some raw ice cream! I made this one a couple weeks ago and added a little extra fancy with the chocolate hearts. Just melt chocolate, pour it into a small ziplock & snip the corner. Then drizzle chocolate onto waxed paper in whatever shape you want! Once it's cooled, just peel off the waxed paper and voila! Fancy in a snap!

If you're looking for fancy and indulgent, try these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles from Chef Chloe! I saw this recipe on her site a couple weeks ago and made it for our game night. They were awesome and a whole plate of them were devoured in one evening! We seriously ate way too many, but it was totally worth it!

And if you love this recipe, I recommend pre-ordering Chef Chloe's book, Chloe's Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way. I just got my copy in the mail on Friday and I am in love! Everything in it looks fabulous! There are some awesome appetizers and desserts that are calling my name! I'm looking forward to cooking from this book at our next get-together and my husband has already started requesting some of the recipes for dinner this week!

And last but not least, here is what I made for my kids over the weekend. So simple and made them so happy! I just used a heart shaped candy mold, melted some semi-sweet chocolate and used a pretzel for the stick. I'm going to make more of these to send in to school for their Valentine's Day party tomorrow.

Hope you all have a extra sweet Valentine's Day!