Merry Christmas!

I’d like to start by wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!  I hope you have had an enjoyable holiday season and had a great day today, whatever you chose to do.  Christmas is usually pretty laid back for my husband and I, since we celebrate with his kids after New Years (usually based on busy schedules).  I miss seeing the grandkids open presents on Christmas day, but we have lots of presents for them to open when we will celebrate together.  Since losing my parents 5 and 6 years ago, Christmas has been different.  We have to create new traditions to replace those lost.  This holiday season has been a little challenging due to the finishing up of the house remodel and my husband’s crazy work hours.  We finally put up our tree on Christmas eve. It’s a beautiful 9 foot tall slim Carolina Pine (pre-lit of course).  This year we discovered several rows of lights were out, so off my hubby went to Ace Hardware in search of that ‘gun’ that fixes bulbs.  It’s amazing how well it works!  One of our holiday traditions is to go to Christmas eve mass then go somewhere nice for dinner.  This Christmas has also been a little challenging since I came down with flu/cold like symptoms the day before Christmas eve.  I spent most of Christmas eve in bed.  So we ditched the tradition for this year. I can’t say I’m feeling that much better today,  but I made the most of Christmas day.

I made some buckwheat blueberry/banana pancakes for breakfast (thanks to Oh She Glows:…they are a yummy plant based treat for any occasion.  I spent most of the morning working on my hand painted Christmas ornaments for the grandkids.  You would think I’d work on these EARLIER in the year so they could actually hang them on their tree…maybe I’ll get that organized this year and get them done this summer!  After a long nap, I got started on my yummy veggie lasagna.  Roasting the mushrooms, onions and squash takes more time than I remember!

We had a wonderful dinner of veggie lasagna, salad and bread.  My hubby had the wonderful idea to add some kalamata olives on the side…it was a wonderful finish to the meal.  For dessert we are having my homemade lemon squares-the plant strong version.  This is a recipe my mom and I used to make every Christmas, but they have a lot of butter and eggs in them, so this year I tried to make them without eggs, and used egg replacer (EnerG egg replacer).  I used smart balance in place of the butter.  I think it worked well.  The reason I say think, is I accidentally turned off the oven when I put them in to bake.  So I heated up the oven and started them baking again.  They seemed to be ok!  Sometimes I worry about myself and my cooking abilities!!!!

It’s time to go relax with a glass of wine and listen to some nice Christmas music.  Merry Christmas!



Plant Based Baking

One thing I’ve discovered on my plant-based journey is that plant strong baking is challenging, especially for a novice gourmet cook like me.  I’m picky when it comes to baked goods.  I want them to taste just like the original recipe.  I know that baked goods need a certain amount of liquid/fat to keep them moist, but I’m would like to not use any oil based fats like Earth Balance in my baked goods.  Today I decided to experiment with the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookie recipe.  I used whole wheat pastry flour and unbleached flour instead of bleached white flour (1 cup of WW pastry flour and 1 1/4 cup of unbleached flour).  I decided to use cashew butter in place of butter.  I only had about 3/4 cup of cashew butter left, so I substituted some cooked pureed kobucha squash.  I used EnerG Egg replacer instead of eggs and I used Enjoy Life Dairy free Dark Chocolate chips instead of regular Nestle Chocolate chips.  I also used organic cane sugar instead of white sugar and used a little less of each type of sugar than the original recipe recommended.  The dough was a bit tough and sticky to work with, but they baked up nicely.  Actually, they taste really good.  My husband really likes them too, and he’s a very pickey cookie eater! The cashew butter adds just a hint of nuttiness, but it’s very mild.  Cashew butter is a little hard to work with so I’m not sure I’ll sub it in every recipe (it’s also rather expensive), but I definitely will make these again.

Here’s my recipe version:

Kirsten’s plant strong version of  the Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies
Estimated Times: Preparation – 15 min | Cooking – 9 min | Cooling Time – 15 min cooling | Yields – 30 soft and chewy cookies

1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry flour

1 1/4 cup unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cashew butter (add pureed squash if you don’t have enough cashew butter)
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
equivalent of 2 eggs (3 tsp EnerG egg replacer + 4 TBS water)
1 package of Enjoy life Dark Chocolate Chips
1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
3.  Beat cashew butter (and squash if using) organic sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
4.  Add egg replacer, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5.  Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded
teaspoon onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
6.  BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes;
remove to wire racks to cool completely.

If you make these, let me know what you think!

How Do You Eat Spaghetti?

I like to twirl mine with a spoon.  I learned that many, MANY years ago from my mom and dad.  Mom’s spaghetti and meat sauce was a treat every time we had it.  I loved twirling my noodles on my spoon, then eating all the leftover sauce after all the noodles were gone. I’ve never outgrown twirling my noodles on a spoon.  My husband likes to cut up his noodles, which is a more practical way to eat them, but in my opinion, not as much fun!

Tonight I made a yummy comfort meal for us.  I found a vegetarian veggie ‘meatball’ recipe a few years ago that I’ve tweaked along the way.  The recipe comes from the Cookin Canuck:  She uses egg which I do not, but flax meal mixed with water is an easy substitute.  I made a few other modifications which you’ll see and I think they are tasty.  The ‘meat’ balls tend to fall apart in sauce, so I put mine in at the last few minutes before I’m ready to serve them.   They make for a very filling dish.  I of course had fun twirling my spaghetti noodles with this dish!

Cannellini Bean Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Tomato
Yield: Serves 4
Adapted from the kitchen of Cookin Canuck.
1 1⁄2 cans (15 oz. each) Bush’s Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed (or half can black or
kidney beans)
1 roasted red bell pepper (2 halves), roughly chopped
1⁄2 medium yellow onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 1⁄2 tsp dried oregano
Crushed fennel
Tomato powder (tsp or so)* optional
Paprika (dash)
1 tbs flx/3tbs water
Nutritional yeast (1/4 cup or less)
1 to 1 1/2 cups ground oat flour (grind oats in the food processor until finely ground)
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt or less
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups marinara sauce (your favorite kind)
Vegan Parmesan cheese for grating
Cooked spaghetti
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine beans and roasted red peppers. Pulse until
chopped, but not smoothly pureed.
3. Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl and stir in grated onion, garlic, parsley,
oregano, flaxmeal/water combo, ground oats, spices salt and pepper until well combined.
4. Using a rounded 2 tablespoon portion of the bean mixture, form “meatballs” by rolling
between the palms of your hands. Place the “meatballs” on the prepared baking sheet,
spacing evenly.  I place mine in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  I also coated them in a light coating of seasoned breadcrumbs before baking.

5. Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and have developed a light golden brown  coating, 25-30

6. In a large saucepan, heat you favorite marinara sauce over medium heat until simmering.
Add “meatballs” and stir to coat. Simmer until the sauce thicken

s slightly, stirring
occasionally, less than 5 minutes.
7. Serve over spaghetti and top with vegan parmesan cheese.

My Marinara Sauce:


1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 head of garlic minced (this takes the most time)

crushed red peppers

dried basil to taste

1/4 cup chianti or other dark red wine

veggie broth


1.  Saute garlic and red pepper flakes  over low heat until garlic starts to get soft and fragrant, be careful not to burn the garlic.

2.  Add the tomatoes and stir until blended.  Cover and cook over low heat about an hour.  I add the red wine about 30 minutes in and use a potato masher to mash up the tomatoes a bit.

3. Add the basil near the end of cooking.

Vegan Parmesan “cheese”

This is not my recipe, but it’s a very common recipe out there.

Grind equal parts of nutritional yeast and cashews in a coffee/spice grinder until well blended.  Store in refrigerator.

Here’s a photo of dinner: