Tofu Scramble Tacos

(Rachel, the daughter)

Jared, Jackson and I went to the Texas State Veggie Fair this weekend. I’m a terrible blogger and didn’t take any pictures of my food. I blame my hungry toddler. We scoped out all the food trucks and booths and contemplated fresh squeezed juice or mac-n-cheese and a barbeque sandwich, but our eyes kept venturing to the long line behind the Corn Dogs and Fried Cinnamon Rolls. When in Rome, right? What’s a fair without fried food? I stood in the 20 minute line while Jared took Jackson to play on the playground.

Finally, I returned to my boys juggling two corn dogs, a fried cinnamon roll and a handcrafted root beer. We sat on the lawn and indulged. If you’re having trouble imagining how good it was, here’s Jackson’s face after his first bite of fried fair food.

“Fried food, where have you been all my life!?!”

I think this picture says it all. Yum.

That deep fried cinnamon roll was worth every glorious calorie, but as soon as I got home, I whipped up a big kale salad for dinner. My body felt like it was shutting down from all the grease, sugar, and processed fake-meat products I had consumed.  Sometimes you just have to give your body what it wants and then deal with the consequences.

For months after going vegan, I continued to crave eggs. I couldn’t get them off my mind. One night, after a wedding with nothing vegan on the menu, we went with some friends to a bar with a midnight breakfast burrito buffet. I was so hungry and finally caved and ate an egg and potato breakfast burrito. My stomach was in knots for two days, proving wrong the myth that if we are craving something our body must need it.

Lucky for me, I finally discovered a breakfast burrito that satisfied my craving for eggs without sacrificing my vegan diet or my stomach lining.  Tofu scramble looks and feels just like pale scrambled eggs and with a little seasoning tastes eerily similar. Jared has been nagging me to make this all week. It’s truly crave-worthy. If you’re curious about tofu or have had bad experiences with it before, try out tofu scramble.

Tofu Scramble Tacos make a hearty savory vegan breakfast or an easy weeknight dinner.

Tofu Scramble Tacos

Serves 4


2-4 T. Olive Oil
2 small red potatoes, diced (or any veggies of your your choice — onions, bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini…)
1 clove of garlic, minced or chopped
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/2 block of tofu
1 t. salt (divided)
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. onion powder
2 c. baby spinach
8 tortillas (I really like the new Artisan Corn & Whole Wheat Blend by Mission)
16 oz Black Beans
1 avocado, sliced or diced (optional garnish)
salsa (optional garnish)
cilantro (optional garnish)

I used potatoes, spinach, corn, and garlic, but you can easily modify this to whatever veggies or greens you have on hand — bell peppers, poblano peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, zucchini, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens would all be delicious.


Heat oil in a non-stick skillet, use enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Pan-fry potatoes (or any other veggies) with 1/2 t of salt on medium heat until they are tender, stirring often.  I covered the potatoes to help them cook quicker, other veggies may not need to be covered though. Bring heat down and add the garlic. Stir continuously to keep garlic from burning.

As soon as the garlic is translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan (just squish it up in your hands and break into little crumbles). Add smoked paprika, onion powder, pepper, and remaining salt. Return heat to medium and stir and cook for about five minutes. Add corn and cook until corn is heated through ( a few more minutes). Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted.

Tofu scramble has a texture really similar to scrambled eggs. With the right seasoning, you can hardly tell the difference.

Serve in tortillas with black beans, avocados, cilantro, and salsa.

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“Healing” Panang Curry 2 Ways — Traditional and Soup

Panang Curry Soup


Traditional Panang Curry with Shrimp

(Becky, the Mama.)

A sure-fire way to humble yourself is to announce: “I never (fill-in-the-blank)” publically.  (Or worse, “My child will never…..”)   And so when I declared, on Facebook that I almost never get sick, I should have known I was in for it.

For some unknown reason, for nearly a week, day after day, I  forgot to take my daily regime of immune-boosting supplements (fish oil, odorless garlic, probiotics, super green food powder) and woke up one morning feeling as though I was swallowing razor blades.

I went on the attack with liberal doses of all my regular supplements above  plus a couple of more exotic-sounding ones: olive leaf extract and astragalus.  By mid-afternoon my throat had calmed considerably and by nightfall it did not hurt at all.  (I did, however, get the standard stuffy head, runny nose bit – though, thankfully, without fever and it seems to be running its course fairly quickly.)

My husband was also out of town, so I had no choice but to practice good self-care and nourish my body as best I could, all by my lonesome.

In addition to honey-sweetened white tea (more nutrition-packed than green tea) laced with fresh grated ginger, and sips of Feel Good Blueberry Smoothie, I made two pots of healing soup.

First, I made a classic home-style chicken soup, a super quick and easy recipe I’ll share in coming weeks.  The other, is my new favorite “healing soup” – a Thai Panang Curry soup, rich with cancer-fighting and immune boosting antioxidants from the ginger and spices, cruciferous veggies, shitake mushrooms (which contain a compound called lentinan, shown to strengthen the immune system’s ability to fight infection and disease) and vitamin & mineral rich kale. Coconut milk, too, has healing properties.  It  contains lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids and capric acid, which have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

Afriend introduced me to my first good Thai Panang curry , when she bought us both take-out containers of it during a working writer’s lunch.  It was love at first bite.  It hit all the strong flavor notes I crave: spice from the curry and ginger, slightly sweet and creamy from the coconut milk, a touch of tang from fresh lime, and salty-savory-earthy from the mushrooms, veggies and broth.

It sounds so exotic, but I do not make complicated recipes, especially when I’m fighting a cold, so trust me – this is quick and easy. Feel free to substitute any veggies you have on hand, or enjoy, in this basic recipe.   I’ve included instructions for both tradition curry with rice and also the soup, in the recipe below.


Panang Curry with Shrimp

Panang Curry with Shrimp

“Healing” Panang Curry Soup

Serves 4


1 can coconut milk (I prefer whole fat as it makes a creamier soup).

1 ½ cups veggie broth (or chicken broth)  — use 3/4 c  if you prefer to make the thicker curry version

½ small jar Thai red curry (about 3 T – less if you prefer less spice) (This jar of curry is found in Asian section of most groceries now and is small, about the size of a baby food jar.)

1 t. fresh grated ginger (pinch of dried ginger if you don’t have fresh)

1 t. brown sugar

Soy sauce or sea salt  to taste

1 c. rainbow slaw (or broccoli slaw)

1 large clove garlic

1 T. olive or coconut oil

1 T. butter

2/3 c. sliced mushrooms (I used shitake)

1 c. loosely packed, torn kale

1 fresh chopped tomato

2 sliced green onions

Slice of lime

Cilantro (sprig or chopped) and/or basil for garnish

Protein of your choice:  grilled diced tofu, diced or shredded chicken; or cooked shrimp, 1/2  to 1 cup depending on preference.  I use a small amount of chicken in the soup — as I  like the veggies taking center stage in this soup.  You could also sprinkle in toasted peanuts for added protein.  For the curry and rice version I prefer shrimp, about 5 medium shrimp per person.)


Saute garlic with mushrooms, slaw and kale in oil and butter in a deep large skillet until just tender. Dump all the ingredients except the last three (green onions, lime, cilantro or fresh basil ) into a large skillet and simmer until veggies are tender but not mushy. Add chopped fresh tomato last, and stir to heat through.  Ladle veggies and broth into each bowl, then garnish with a sprig of cilantro or basil (or chop it up and sprinkle), some green onions, and a slice of lime to squeeze over and stir in right before eating.

Variation:  To make a more traditional curry instead of soup, use half the broth and put a scoop of jasmine rice in the middle of the bowl before garnishes.  Sauteed shrimp is beautiful, artfully arranged around the rice and on top of the curry.  You can use any veggies you like in place of slaw, mushrooms or kale.  Add slices of cooked sweet potato and pineapple for a creamy pineapple curry.  To add heat, use a few drop of siracha sauce or thai chili paste.

Panang Curry Soup




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Creamy Mushroom Soup and Topless Veggie Pot Pie (Two for One Recipe)

Three ingredients make the base for two comforting dishes.

(Rachel, the daughter)

Today was a gorgeous day, a two park kind of day.

Jackson and I started our morning with a walk to the little park in our neighborhood. He was happily throwing wood chips onto the slide when a man jogged past us. Jackson immediately took off, climbed out of the wood chip-filled playground pit and chased after the man, hollering “Da Da, Da Da.”

To my child’s credit, the man was bald like his daddy. He is close to the same age and height as his daddy with a similar build. The man was wearing nothing but a pair of royal blue athletic shorts almost identical to his daddy’s coaching shorts. In fact, the only tiny difference I could see between the jogger and his daddy was that the jogger’s bald head and broad shoulders were as black as a cup of coffee and his daddy is as white as a splash of cream.

I quickly grabbed Jackson and distracted him pointing to a fountain in the pond nearby. Thankfully, I don’t think the guy heard him. That could have been an awkward conversation. Um sorry, he thinks your his dad. Well, I mean, you look kind of like his dad. Not really. You’re bald and wear blue shorts that’s kind of it. Well, uh, have a nice run. I’ll see you at the paternity results hearing. Haha. Just kidding. <<Insert me laughing overly loud at my own bad joke.>>

We headed home for lunch and nap time, then met a friend at our city park. After a busted lip (Jackson’s) on the playground equipment, we meandered over to the volleyball pit, or in a 1-year old’s world, the biggest sandbox ever. Within minutes, Jackson dropped to his knees, held his hands up to the sky, then dropped them to the ground in an “I’m not worthy” bow. With his mouth wide-open, he took a big bite of sand, sat back up on his knees and smiled. Whoa-oa-oa-oa!! Excellent! Party Time! (Are Wayne’s World references out of style yet?)

Yes, today was a two park kind of day, a soak in the sun and giggle at my crazy kid kind of day. This weekend we had our first rainy cold front, though. It was a cuddle up and eat a bowl of warm soup kind of weekend. On Saturday, I sauteed up a whole bulb of garlic and a pound of mushrooms for a big batch of creamy potato soup. And on Sunday, I combined two of the coziest most comforting recipes, pot pie and shepherds pie, and made a topless veggie pot pie using the potato soup as the filling.

These two healthy recipes will warm you up without sacrificing your figure for those glorious two park days that pop up in between Texas cold fronts.

Creamy Garlic, Potato, and Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup


2 T. olive oil
6 c. sliced mushrooms
1 head of garlic (10-12 cloves), cloves peeled and gently smashed
8 small red potatoes, quartered
2 c. almond milk
2 c. mushroom or veggie broth or leftover potato water
s&p to taste


In a large pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are fork tender.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in a skillet, add mushrooms and stir occasionally until they soft and browned. Add garlic and a pinch of salt, saute until garlic is translucent. (Hint: Smash unpeeled garlic with the side of a wide chef’s knife to quickly pop off the peel and smash the clove simultaneously.)

Add garlic after mushrooms are browned and soft.

In a food processor, blend mushrooms and garlic (minus a few for garnish if desired), add potatoes and 1 cup of liquid. Blend again. Add remaining liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste (it may take up to a few teaspoons.) Blend until smooth. If needed, warm up on medium low in the pot the potatoes were cooking in.

Be sure to reserve 1 1/2 – 3 cups of soup for a pie or two!

Perfect for a rainy day

Topless Veggie Pot Pie

(using leftover Creamy Mushroom Soup)

3-4 servings (if you’re like me, you’ll wish you made two pies, so I suggest doubling the recipe)


1 9″ pie crust (I used Wholly Wholesome’s Organic Spelt Pie Crust which is vegan)
1 small onion
2 c. frozen mixed veggies (I used an organic corn, green bean, peas, and carrots blend)
1 1/2 c. creamy mushroom soup (see recipe above)
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 400.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil on  medium to medium high heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt, saute until soft. Add vegetables and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute five more minutes. Pour in mushroom soup and season with nutmeg. Cook for 5-10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Pour mixture into pie filling. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and cover pie crust edges with foil.

Cover the edges half way through cooking to prevent the crust from burning.

Cook for another 20 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

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Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant “Lasagne”

Lemony Pesto Ricotta

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I went on a wild cooking spree, working as I do,  at top speed,  to get several dishes prepared.  Then once the kitchen looked like it had been ransacked by a herd of  goats with ADD, I started in to clean it.  When I load the dishwasher, I know that my husband is pulled in two emotional directions.  On the one hand, he is glad that I’m the one loading it so he doesn’t have to.  On the other hand, he is nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, knowing that I will take a lot of creative license in my loading technique.  He is the one who first said, “Becky, you load a dishwasher just like a drunk monkey.”

In this case, a picture may be worth a paragraph of words:

Greg is my daughter’s stepdad, but in organization and cleanliness, you’d swear they were related by blood.  So, for fun, I sent the picture above to Rachel, and within minutes she sent me this side-by-side comparison:

People ask, “Do your dishes get clean when you load them this way?”  And I say, “Not all of them.  But, miraculously, about 90 percent of them DO!”  I can deal with the other 10 percent later, when I hurriedly run them through the dishwasher again.

Though the kitchen was a disaster for awhile, I did produce several mouth-watering dishes. (Some to be shared in later posts.)  The first dish I made was born from a love of the flavors in pesto, but discouragement with the pesto calories.  I wondered what it would taste like to fuse all the ingredients in classic pesto with ricotta cheese, cutting out the olive oil.  Part skim ricotta has a generous amount of protein while low in calories. I LOVED the results. Light, lemony and creamy with the crunch of walnuts, the zip of basil and garlic.  With the addition of a little Greek Yogurt it made a wonderful dip for veggies and topping for crostinis. (Small slices of French bread, toasted, usually with olive oil.)

Then I wondered how this “pesto ricotta” would taste with broiled  eggplant, in layers, with a marinara sauce?  I could have eaten the entire pan full of it, but my 22 year old nephew Jordan – who is living with us now, and had never had eggplant before in his life  – beat me to it!  He gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  It’s an easy, tender,  healthy  and vegetarian dish, loaded with flavor, that I will definitely be making again.  I bet the pesto ricotta would also be amazing on hot pasta with roasted veggies, maybe some sliced vegan or Italian sausage…..

Ricotta “Pesto”

16 oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese (Vegans can sub Tofutti or mashed drained, white beans.  If you use it to make the eggplant dish, mashed cooked white potatoes would also be great.)

Juice of one lemon, plus all of its zest

½ c. walnuts

Big handful of basil

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegans omit or sub with Vegan Parm cheese)

Salt and pepper to taste


Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until walnuts are chopped fine and rest of ingredients are well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ricotta Pesto Topping for Veggies and Crostini

Use the recipe above, but add 2 T. plain Greek yogurt.  Stir and serve with crisp veggies and crostinis

Ricotta Pesto Eggplant “Lasagne”


Recipe of Ricotta Pesto Above

2 Eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch rounds

Approximately ¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

3 cups marina, your favorite brand or homemade (I whirl 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in a blender with garlic, 1/4 onion, handfull of basil, dash red wine, 1 t. oregano, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 t. salt — simmer a few minutes and call it marinara.)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you like)


Heat oven to Broil.   Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil,  season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Broil about 4 inches from heat, keeping a close eye on the eggplant.  As soon as it begins to turn golden in places, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, carefully turn over the eggplant with a flat spatula, brush with more olive oil and salt and pepper.  Broil this side, too,  until slightly golden and eggplant is pliable and soft.  Take out of oven, let cool a bit.

Change oven temp to 350 degrees for baking.

Grease a square pan or round pan with a little olive oil.  Place one layer of eggplant in pan. (Using 1/3 of the eggplant slices.) Top with ½ the ricotta mixture.   Top with 1 cup marinara sauce.  Layer again with eggplant, ricotta,  and marinara in the same portions.  Top with layer of eggplant and final cup of marinara.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.   Bake for about 25 minutes until dish begins to bubble and Parm is golden brown.   Let sit for  10- 15 minutes before cutting in slices to serve.

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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Vegan & Regular Version)

(Becky, the Mama.)

About a year and a half ago my daughter Rachel was in town, pregnant, and craving Tomato Basil Soup. The trick was to find a place that served a vegan version so she could indulge but still avoid dairy or meat-based broth.  I think we drove to three restaurants before we finally found the place that served the soup she had in mind.  And yes, she and her unborn child were absolutely worth it. But I determined that day to come up with a creamy vegan version of Tomato Basil Soup that we could make at home.

I, too, adore Tomato Basil Soup, especially the thick creamy version served at La Madeleine’s, a favorite French chain restaurant in the Dallas area.  Alas, it is loaded with cream and butter and thus, with calories.  The problem with trying to  make any tomato-based soup with  milk instead of cream (to cut calories), is that  the acid in the tomatoes curdles the milk yielding a yucky mess you’ll  have to sigh heavily about, just before you put it down the disposal. (Ask me how I know this.)

So I experimented with a can of coconut milk in place of cream and butter.  Perfection.  You really can’t taste the coconut flavor at all; it fades to neutral when paired with the strong tastes of the ingredients in the rest of the recipe. Even if you use the full fat can of coconut milk, this soup only about a 100 calories a cup. But you will not believe it when you taste it!  On top of being delicious and easy, it is also vegan-friendly and nutritious.  Pretty much the Perfect Recipe to keep in your Go-To Classic Recipes  file.

I threw this soup together for a friend who dropped by unexpectedly for lunch one day, and she swore it was the best soup she’d ever tasted. Could not believe I whipped it up in just a few minutes.  Plus it was ready to serve by the time our grilled cheese sandwiches came off the stovetop.

P.S.  I hurriedly planted basil in a big pot on the porch this summer and it is still yielding oodles of leaves, which I used in this recipe.   Greg spent a full day, in June, putting together three Topsy Turvy upside down tomato plants (as “Seen on TV”),  put them on a fancy planter, then hooked them up to a complicated irrigation system.  God bless him, the tomato you see in this picture is the one and ONLY tomato we’ve harvested, picked yesterday. But it sure was a pretty one.

Easy, Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Vegan)

Yields about 10 cups of soup


1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (with basil, if you can find it)

1 c. very lightly packed fresh basil leaves (or a good generous hand full) — I sometimes use 2 T. of  jarred pesto instead of fresh basil if that is all I have on hand

¼ c. onion

2 garlic cloves

3 c. veggie broth (or chicken broth if you aren’t vegetarian and prefer this)

1 can coconut milk (Full fat version makes a creamier soup, but lite will also work. If desired, reserve a little for garnishing soup once it is in a bowl. You’ll find cans of coconut milk in the Asian section of almost all grocery stores now.)  Note: You can also make a the more traditional  soup by omitting coconut milk and add 1/2 cup of regular cream, at the very end of cooking the soup

1 ½  t. salt

1 T. sugar (or brown sugar or coconut sugar)

1 t. pepper


Put ½ the can of crushed tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Add basil leaves, onion and garlic.  Blend until basil leaves are still individual but tiny specks of green.

Pour this mixture into a soup pot.  Add the rest of the can of tomatoes, veggie broth, coconut milk, salt, pepper and sugar.  Stir and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.  Check to see if it needs more salt. Serve in bowls, and garnish if desired with a “squiggle” of reserved coconut cream.

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Chowder

Fresh Corn & Roasted Pablano Chowder

(Becky, the Mom.)

I just spent the past several days with my daughter Rachel, her husband Jared, and 14 month old grand-baby Jackson at their home in Texas.  As I think over all the fun things Rach and I  did together: an afternoon of writing on our upcoming book, mixing and mingling with great friends and fun family in the area — my favorite memories are of a couple of simple evenings.  Both my husband Greg and Rachel’s Jared had to work late, leaving just me, Rachel and Jackson to linger and visit, play and cook.

Jackson loves the kitchen.  Here he is using a banana to sampling my recipe for pumpkin pie dip. 

I love this new-fangled baby contraption that allows him to stand up at the counter and watch us cook.  Jackson is also a huge fan of appliances.  Particularly the “turning on and turning off” of them.  He stands and claps with appreciation whenever one of us turns on anything from the vacuum cleaner to the blender or electric toothbrush.

I had to say good-bye to this sweet Dumplin’ today as we headed back toward our home in Denver.   When I turned on the blow dryer  in the hotel bathroom,  I was saddened to have to do so without Jackson’s typical standing ovation.  One can quickly grow accustomed to the applause of a diapered toddler.  I miss him with every flick of a switch,  every push of a button that proceeds the whirl of some electronic coming to life.

Rachel let me create whatever vegan meal I wanted to cook out of her well-stocked fridge full of farm fresh veggies.  I spied a few ears of fresh corn, and some peppers (poblano and hatch chilis) and immediately thought that a Corn and Roasted Poblano Pepper Chowder might be tasty. It was delicious!  Creamy without the cream,  making it a low cal option as well.  (Almond milk only has 30 calories a cup!) We added some pan-fried vegan sausages (Field Roast brand)  to our soup to make it a one bowl meal and some kale to up the color and nutrition.  This is a vegan dish I would proudly serve to omnivores.  (Big thumbs up on the Field Roast grain-based apple sage sausages.  I preferred them to meat-based sausages.)

The best part of making this dish, of course, was that I got to use the food processor to the appreciation and applause of my diapered grandbaby.

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Chowder


2 large peppers, cut, seeded and broiled (skin side up) until blackened and blistered (I used one poblano and one hatch chili – use peppers of your choice.)

3 c. fresh cooked, grilled or boiled corn, cut off the cob

1 onion, chopped

2 minced garlic cloves

1 T. olive oil

1 T. Earth Balance butter

1 t. cumin

1 t. smoked paprika

1 t. Hungarian (or regular) paprika

3 cups almond milk

1 c. veggie broth

1 T. brown sugar

1 t. salt

½ t. pepper


Cook corn and once it is cool to touch, cut kernels it off the cob (4 large ears yielded about 3 cups for me).  Rub the knife along the cob to capture any “corn milk” juices that you can as well.  Dice the roasted peppers. Melt oil and butter in large deep skillet or soup pan. Saute onions and garlic, add spices, corn and peppers. Let simmer over medium high heat until hot and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add almond milk and veggie broth, salt and pepper and sugar. Simmer until hot and bubbly, stirring regularly.

Carefully ladle half of the soup mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Pour back into pan and stir into the waiting corn-pepper-spice mixture, until just re-heated.   Check to see if it needs more salt and adjust seasonings to your liking.

Option Add about a cup of diced kale to soup after you stir the blended portion into the other half, and cook until kale is just tender.  Slice and brown sausages (we like Field Roast brand vegan sausages)  in a little olive oil. Sprinkle atop the soup to make it a heartier one bowl meal.

 Omnivore Options:  Use dairy milk to replace almond milk and chicken broth to replace veggie broth if you prefer.  Drizzle with heavy cream or sour cream or Greek yogurt,  or sprinkle with cheese and crisp bacon.

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Buttery Tofu and Vegetables with Spicy Plum Sauce

Italian Prune Plums, just a small portion of my 3 pound Costco purchase.

I bought three pounds of fresh prunes.

I’ve never bought a single fresh prune, let alone three pounds of them.

What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking “What a deal, three pounds of prunes for only $7!”

At Costco, among the pallets of 50-pound bags of dog food and cases of toilet paper bigger than my bathroom, three pounds of prunes and $7 purchases seem like nothing … until the cashier tells me the total sum of all my “little” purchases and I try to find room in my crisper, already filled with a 10-pound bag of organic carrots, for the case of prunes.

Technically, I think they are plums, Italian Prune Plums. They taste and look a lot like plums,  just a little more tart. Jackson and I enjoyed snacking on them fresh out of the over-stuffed crisper drawer for awhile. I put them on a pizza, with caramalized onions, vegan applewood sausage, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, and grapes. Prune pizza, who knew it would taste like a little slice of sweet and savory heaven?

One night, I chopped them up and threw them in pot on the stove while I heated up some of another impulse Costco purchase, a huge box of spring rolls. Can you see I have a problem? Anyway, the prune plums reduced into this gorgeous sweet red sauce. With a dash of spicy chili paste, it made the perfect dip for a spring roll. Though I could eat egg rolls and pizza every night, I probably shouldn’t. So, I needed a recipe that would really make a dent in my prune inventory without putting unsightly dents on my thighs. Last night, I made the prune plum sauce again and served it with buttery roasted vegetables and tofu over brown rice. All the flavors were rich and deep and the colors were so beautiful.

I’m almost out of prunes now and I’m tempted to buy three more pounds.

All the ingredients people love to hate–prunes, brusel sprouts, tofu, and cabbage–in one glorious dish that proves those haters wrong.

Buttery Tofu and Vegetables with Spicy Plum Sauce

Serves 2


Buttery Tofu and Veggies

  • 2 slices of tofu, lightly pressed with paper towel to absorb extra water
  • 1 c. Cabbage sliced into thin long strips
  • 1 c. Carrots, cut into thin long strips
  • 1/2 c. Onions, sliced into thin long strips
  • 1 c. Brussel sprouts, sliced in half
  • 1 T. Earth Balance or prefered butter
  • 1 T. Olive Oil
  • 1 T. Braggs Amino Acid (or Low Sodium Soy Sauce)
  • 1 t. Agave + a extra drizzle for tofu
  • 1 t. Kosher Salt
  • 1 t. Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • sprinkle of dried parsley, optional for color

Spicy Prune Plum Sauce

  • 2 c. Italian prune plums (or any variety of plums), chopped into small chunks
  • 1 t. Chinese chili paste
  • 1 t. Agave
  • 1/4 t. salt

Serve with brown rice.


Buttery Veggies and Tofu

Coat veggies and tofu with sweet and salty buttery blend.

Preheat oven to 400. (My oven has a convection roast setting that works nicely for this, but you certainly don’t need it). Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and spread out sliced veggies and tofu.  Mix butter, oil, Bragg’s, agave, salt and pepper, and use a pastry brush to lightly coat the veggies and tofu. Drizzle tofu with a little extra agave and a pinch of parsley for color. Cook vegetables and tofu, stirring veggies after about 10 minutes. Roast until the carrots, onions, and cabbage are soft and the Brussel sprouts are golden brown, 20-30 minutes total.

Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in these veggies. These pretty multi-colored

Buttery, flaky, and moist tofu reminded me of baked fish.

Plum Sauce

Chop up plums into small dices.

Chop plums into small dices, heat on medium heat for five minutes, stirring often. Add agave, chili paste, and salt. Continue to cook and stir for about five more minutes or until the plums turn into a beautiful red chunky sauce. Delicious with a bite of buttery flaky tofu or with fried spring rolls.

Sweet and spicy, this plum sauce was the star of the plate.

Roasted Cabbage & Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Cabbage, Sausage and Honey Balsamic Glaze

(Becky, the Mama.)

Cooking or contemplating new recipes has always, for me, been the perfect Angst-Free Zone. I started copying and collecting recipes from my mother and grandmother when I was ten or eleven years old, painstakingly printing them by hand and tucking them into my $1.00 dime store metal recipe box. This activity was pure pleasure for me, an escape from summer boredom and a refuge from bad days at school.

With the election and crazy world events of late, there seems to be debates or conflict or pressure to “believe what I believe!” at every turn. The phone rings in the evenings with political calls; TV ads blare about Whose Fault Everything Is; and even Facebook, normally an Angst Free Zone for me, now feels like one of those awkward family conflicts that you happen to walk in on, and can’t wait to escape from.

So it was with a huge grin that I spied this little e-card on a friend’s Facebook page:

That’s me!  I’m just over here in my Angst-Free Kitchen Corner saying, “Hey! I made cabbage!”   Although,  I must say it was really, really great cabbage.  Sliced in thick steak-like slices and slathered with butter and seasoning.  Then served with grilled chicken-apple sausages and drizzled with a honey-balsamic reduction.

Every good hostess knows that the best way to break up an awkward family debate is to divert attention by cooking something that smells amazing, and looks so delicious that all conversation stops, as wordless lip-licking and tummy-rubbing take over.   This is one of those simple, delicious, comforting meals that could possibly bring about World Peace.   At least at your dining table.

Roasted Cabbage & Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze

Preheat oven to 375 degrees


1 head of cabbage

2 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

4 chicken-apple sausage links (I used Johnsonville. Of course you can use any kind of sausage links you like in this recipe. Or for vegans, try Rachel’s favorite vegan sausage: Smoked Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages)

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T. honey

Grill Seasoning or Salt & Pepper to taste


Slice cabbage in 3/4 inch pieces as shown below.

Put olive oil and butter on a large baking sheet, and place  in the oven for a minute until butter melts.  Using a pastry brush, mix the oil and butter together and spread evenly on pan.  Lay the cabbage pieces on the buttered-oiled pan, leaving space between each piece. Dip pastry brush into excess oil-butter surrounding the cabbage slices,  and brush the tops of the cabbage.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper or grill seasoning, lightly.  Put in oven to roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom turns dark brown in places.  With a wide spatula, turn over, and sprinkle this side with salt and pepper or grill seasoning as well. Return to oven for another 10 to 15 minutes or until as soft as you like it.

In a small saucepan, mix the vinegar,  honey and garlic together and stir over a low flame.  Cut sausages in half, lengthwise and brush the cut sides with some of the balsamic mixture.

Put on oiled grill pan, cut side down and grill until nice dark grill marks appear and sausage is sizzling hot. Turn over and heat the other side.

In the meantime allow the balsamic mixture to continue to simmer (at medium to medium high heat) until it is reduced by half, and syrupy.

Arrange the cabbage slices with two sausage halves on plate as shown in picture. Drizzle both cabbage and sausage,  prettily,  with about a tablespoon of balsamic reduction. Serve.  (I added a little side of chunky hash browns as well in photo below.)

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Rustic Sausage & Peppers Skillet (Vegan)

Sometimes the simplest meals are the best ones. I can tell this easy one skillet dish with classic flavors is going to be a family favorite.

The day I turned 17, I drove 20 miles out of my small town to look for a part-time job. That was how I chose to spend my birthday. I loved school and my friends, but I was eager to experience the world. The first place that was hiring was a restaurant called Johnny Carino’s Italian Kitchen, they’ve since shortened the name to Carino’s Italian.  The managers interviewed me that day and offered me a job on the spot. It was one of my proudest moments. I had gone out into the world and “made it.”

I took my hostessing job very seriously, organizing systems to make sure every waiter got the same amount of tables, the kitchen didn’t get slammed, and guests were greeted and seated promptly or quoted an accurate wait time. I loved it. The multi-tasking, the smell of roasted garlic drizzled with olive oil and herbs, Frank Sinatra crooning over the speakers, the dim light, the kind and the quirky guests, the power of controlling the flow of the restaurant. Waiters, be kind to your hostess, for she knows who the $20 tipper is, she knows his kids’ names and she knows you can impress him by greeting him with his glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Be good to her and she may seat him in your section and share the inside scoop with you. She also knows the $2 tippers. Be kind to your hostess, waiters, and she’ll be kind to you.

From my hostess stand, I could see the open kitchen where the chefs pulled pizza out of the brick oven and sent out scalding hot plates of baked lasagna. I remember the sound of the skillets sizzling and the trail of smoke that followed the food runner as they delivered the piping hot skillet filled with spaghetti, spicy marinara, sausage, onions and peppers to the hungry guests.

Almost twelve years after taking that job in the “big city,” here I am living 20 miles in a different direction from that same Italian restaurant, back in a small town, happy to no longer work in the “real world.” Funny how life works and time changes us.

I got the hankering for Carino’s classic skillet dish the other day and created a simple vegan version using Apple Sage Field Roast grain meat sausages (100% vegan, soy-free). I don’t use a lot of fake meat products because they are so processed and full of non-organic soy, but these sausages are different. I know what every ingredient is: filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, nonsulfered dried apples, yukon gold potatoes, yeast extract, onion powder, barley malt, garlic, hickory smoke, natural flavoring with torula yeast, sea salt, spices, sage. At least you know what’s in this sausage! Plus, it tastes delicious in this dish and packs 26 grams of protein per link. (I don’t have any ties to Field Roast, I just really like their product.)

Rustic Sausage & Peppers Skillet (Vegan)

Serves 2


  • 1/2 package of whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente (1-2 minutes less than recommended cooking time)
  • ~2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced in thin strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced in strips
  • 2 links of Smoked Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages, chopped into rounds
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced into thin “chips”
  • 2 cups of spicy pasta sauce (I used Emeril’s Kicked Up Tomato Sauce in a jar, my Arrabiata Sauce would be great too.)


Generously coat a large skillet (iron or stainless steel work better than a nonstick for this recipe) with olive oil and heat on medium heat. When warm, add onions and saute for a few minutes until they start to get soft. Add bell peppers and sausage and turn to almost med-high heat, stir every minute or so until the onions, bell peppers, and sausage are slightly charred. Turn off heat. Stir in garlic chips for a couple of minutes. Stir in al dente pasta and pasta sauce. You can turn heat back on to warm the sauce, but I didn’t need to. Serve immediately.

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Balsamic Blistery Potato Chips

I do believe that if my husband Greg were to choose foods that make up his “dream meal,” it would no doubt have Kettle potato chips on the plate.  I’m just not sure if they would be a side dish, or the main attraction.   I dare not leave him alone in the house with a bag of thick cut potato chips because he cannot stop until he’s eaten them all, and by this I mean turned the bag upside down, shaking any remains of potato and salt into his mouth. He loves them too much to have them readily available,  except for very special occasions.               

“When did you start loving potato chips so much?” I asked him.

He grinned and said, “When I was a kid, I’d ride my bike home from school and of course I’d be starving. Then I’d plop in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips and eat the whole bag while I watched three episodes of Star Trek in a row.”  He sighed,then added. “It was heaven.  My favorite ones were Bar-B-Q and I’d lick all the goody off the sides before eating them.  It was before my parents divorced, and I just remember it as a simple, happy time.”

My husband just gave a perfect example of “taste memory” – when something you eat triggers warm happy memories.   I was inspired to create some potato chips that Greg could savor and enjoy, that would give him those warm fuzzy “taste memories,” but would do his body more good than harm.  Last week I tried an experiment that turned out amazingly well.  Rather than baking sliced potato rounds, I broiled them on both sides until “blistery.” In a word:  fabulous.  They are a great cross between an oven fry and a chip.  Greg loves them!

The following recipe is just one version of my Blistery Potato Chips, made with a balsamic-pomegranate vinegar, but you can create 50 Shades of (Homemade) Lays (Potato Chips) with a little imagination, a couple of sliced potatoes, some olive oil and great variety of herbs or spices.  Let your imagination go wild.

Try them as a healthy snack for you or the kids, or a quick, easy, delicious side dish with any meal. We especially love them with Chili Lime Catfish and coleslaw. 

What are some foods that bring warm happy memories to your mind?

Blistery Balsamic Potato Chips

Heat Oven to Broil.

Serves 2-4 people (depending on size of potatoes and appetites)


2 Idaho potatoes, washed but not peeled, sliced thin (about ¼ inch)

¼ cup olive oil

2 T. balsamic vinegar (I used pomegranate balsamic)

Sea Salt (fresh ground if you have it on hand)

1 T. chopped green onions or chives (optional)

¼ c. catsup, BBQ sauce,  or Ranch dressing for dipping (optional)


Place sliced potatoes in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with vinegar. Using clean hands, toss them around until they begin to soak up some of the vinegar.  Add in the oil and do the same. 

Lay “chips” on a big cookie sheet, spread apart and not touching each other.  

Lightly sprinkle them with sea salt.  Broil about 4 inches from broiler on one side for 3 minutes or so,  or until golden brown in spots.  Remove try from oven and turn over all the chips, sprinkle this side with more salt and put back under the broiler until the tops are golden brown.  Remove from oven.  The bottom side of the potatoes will have by now “blistered” and turned an even prettier shade of brown.   Taste one as soon as they are cool to see if more salt may be needed.  Garnish with chopped green onions or chives if you like.  Serve with a side of Ranch Dressing, BBQ sauce or catsup if desired. 



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