CPK Quinoa-Arugula Salad, Ladybug Style!

My husband and I love eating at CPK, otherwise known as California Pizza Kitchen.  I especially like eating there since they are very accomodating of my special requests.  I can get a veggie pizza that is plant based with out cheese and they don’t flinch.  The chef even came out to meet me once so he could connect a face with the pizza! My husband likes the variety of ‘lighter’ options they offer, and serving sizes aren’t out of this world.  He recently has fallen in love with their Qunioa (keen-wah) Arugula salad.  I like it too, but of course I don’t get the oily dressing and have them bring limes instead.  I do think the quinoa is cooked with a little bit of oil though.  At one of our recent visits, he suggested that this salad would be easy for me to recreate; we would just have to find a recipe for the Champagne  vinaigrette.  After finding some great looking arugula at our local famers market, I decided to try the recipe tonight.

There are several websites that offer the recipe knockoff, including the dressing.  I used two different websites to make my dinner, and excluded the salmon and cheese that one website offered.  I also made a no oil version of the dressing for myself.  The basic salad recipe comes from Gluten Free Glutons (https://gfgluttons.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/recipe-rip-off-quinoa-and-arugula-salad) and the dressing recipe comes from InfinATE Appetite (http://infinateappetite.com/2012/11/22/champagne-vinaigrette).  Since I didn’t add any oil to my dressing, I added some ground flax seeds to thicken it up.  My husband absolutely LOVED the meal. He declared it even better than CPK’s version.  I did do one thing different that he recommended and that was to add some sliced grapefruit to the salad (kind of hard to do when grapefruit isn’t really in season, but thanks to Whole Foods for having them!).  It took the salad to another level!

Here’s the recipe and the dressing, omit the oil if you want a truly plant strong dressing.  One thing I did was I used super thin baby asparagus, and used a LOT of it.  I also used tri colored quinoa which added a nice touch. I didn’t measure, so you’ll have to figure that part out on your own, depending how many you are serving.  I would love to serve this for a lunch or dinner for guests.  We’ll definiately be enjoying this yummy salad often this summer!

Quinoa-Arugula Salad, Ladybug Style

Salad Ingredients:


asparagus, cut into one inch pieces

sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (I soak mine in hot water, I don’t use the ones packed in oil).

pine nuts

red onion, thinly sliced

*optional-grapefruit, cut into thin sections


1/4 cup Champaigne Vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1/4 cup olive oil (if using)

1 Tbs stone ground dijon mustard (with the mustard seeds in it)

1/2 shallot, minced

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tbs (or less) honey or agave

ground flax seeds if not using oil (maybe 1-2 tsp)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender and set aside.
  2. Cook quinoa according to directions, set aside to cool (I cooked mine earlier in the day so it was very cool).
  3. Steam asparagus 3-5 minutes until just tender.  Rinse in an ice bath to stop the cooking and cool it down.
  4. Toast pinenuts, but be careful not to burn them, set asside to cool.
  5. Assemble salad:  Arugula on the bottom, generoulsy sprinkle the cooked asparagus over the arugula, add some of the sundried tomatoes.  Top with a generous helping of quinoa.  Spread the onions around the edges of the salad, top with more asparagus, sundried tomatoes and pine nutes.  Add the grapefruit if using.
  6. Drizzle dressing over the top, serve with a good crusty bread.




Project 333-A Lesson in Letting Go

This past weekend was a lesson in learning to let go and embrace the minimalist lifestyle my husband I set out to do so many years ago.  I’m getting tired of the clutter in our house; the clutter of projects not finished (mostly by my husband).  This clutter takes up a lot of my thinking, and makes it difficult for me to focus on important things in my life like eating well and working out, not to mention personal and professional development. So this weekend (I had 3 days off since I took Friday off) I decided to do something about it.  I put the finishing touches on our bedroom including a light on my husband’s nightstand (it got comandeered for some other room in the house).  I even bought another 3 bamboo shoots for the dresser.  I now feel like I have my sanctuary that I’ve needed for so long. 

Something else I did this weekend was to start working on the 333 Project-Simple is the New Black…which is a minimalist aproach to dressing (http://theproject333.com/about).  The goal is to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.  For some of you this may be easy, if you are fortunate enough to not own a lot of clothes (and yes, I mean fortunate).  For me, it is a very hard concept to embrace.   You see, I love clothes.  I think I’m probably addicted to shopping, something I learned from my mother. I learned at an early age to love shopping and clothing from my mother.  Looking good was always important to her, and she passed that on to me.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a lot of clothes in my closet.  Every season I try to go through and toss what I don’t wear, or doesnt’ fit, but there always seems to be a lot still left in my closet.  I also tend to agonize over what to wear most mornings, often leaving piles of clothes on the bed to be delt with later (although I have gotten better over the years!). I can’t pick out my clothes the night before as I never know what mood I will be in when I get dressed! 

I can’t remember where or how I stumbled across this website, but I’ve had it open in my browser on my iPad for some time now…letting it all sink in.  Armed with a large trash bag and some music, I decided to start cleaning out my closet on Saturday.  I had NO idea how theraputic this would feel.  While there are some pieces that I am having a hard time letting go of, others I had no problem tossing into the bag to be donated.  There are some simple rules to follow, and one of them is you can box things up if you’re not quite sure if you are ready to part with it…so I did a little bit of that today.  The result…66 pieces of clothing in my closet currently!  I have no idea where I started, but I have 1.5 BIG garbage bags full of clothes.  I even went through pajamas and underwear (although they don’t count as part of the 33).  What I found amazing was the jewelry…this counts in your 33 (I didn’t even include that in my 66!!!). I had been keeping a lot of stuff that was my moms, things I had gotten her, that I never wear, but kept for nostalga sake.  Well…it was time to let it go. Don’t get me wrong, I still have heirloom pieces that were hers, but not the day to day casual stuff I never wore, but managed to let clutter up my jewelry box for the past 6.5 years.  I had no idea how good it feels to have less ‘stuff’.   I’m still a little apprehensive about letting go of the next 33 pieces, so we’ll see how soon that stuff goes; it may not happen for another 3 months.  One thing I’ve started thinking about is how to dress with less.  I mean really, do I need 5 white camisoles/tank tops??? 5 of them???? Probably not.  What happens if I want to wear one that I’ve already worn?  1-I take it out of the dirty clothes hamper and wear it again (not likely).  2-I wear something else!!! I feel like it’s going to open up my mind, and FREE my mind so I don’t have to feel bogged down by all this stuff!  

You can apply this broad concept in other areas of the home as well.  Next up is my kitchen…I’m not even sure why I have 5 (yes 5) Pyrex Lasagna baking dishes (4 of them are blue).  I think I bought them one Christmas when I was up to my eyeballs in holiday baking. I don’t consider myself a horder by any means, but I do accumulate a lot of stuff sometimes (because I like to shop)…this will help me not only lighten up my wardrobe, but also change my purchasing habits.  If you’re looking to de-clutter and simply your life a bit, check out the website…it may give you good ideas.

 My Bedroom Sanctuary 

Part of my lightened up closet (yes, I do colorize my clothes!!!)  
 I still have a ways to go, but this is a HUGE improvement. 

Panzanella-Plant Strong Bread Salad and Vegan Bacon

Yes…I said vegan bacon.  I know my bacon loving friends are shaking their heads in disgust…but don’t knock it until you try it! Before I started my plant based journey, I used to make a killer bread salad during the summer.  This recipe took advantage of ripe summer tomatoes, fresh basil and bacon.  I can’t even remember where I found the recipe as I looked for it today and can’t find anything resembling it on the internet. Some versions of bread salad have red onion or cucumbers in them, but I keep mine simple.  Bread, tomatoes, white beans, ‘bacon’ and balsamic vinegar with minced garlic for the dressing. You could add oil for some richness, but I don’t think it really needs it.

Now for the ‘bacon’.  I’d seen this recipe some time ago and it caught my attention as it was made with coconut flakes (unsweetened); I decided to give it a try for this recipe. I found bulk coconut flakes at Whole Foods, but you can find them in packages also…just BE SURE TO USE UNSWEETENED!  I used a combination of two recipes (the base recipe comes from Vegweb, and I added another touch of smoked paprika from Beard and Bonnet). Both recipes use the same ingredients, they just vary slightly in the measurements, and the baking temp/time.  If you google Coconut Bacon, you’ll find their websites.  The ‘sauce’ is a mixture of tamari (low sodium, gluten free soy sauce), liquid smoke, maple syrup and a little water. I added a touch of smoked paprika also.  You mix this in a shallow pan with the coconut flakes (which really don’t taste very coconutty as there is no sugar added to them) until they absorb the liquid.  I baked them at 325 for 15 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, then baked another 4 minutes.  You have to watch them in the end as they can burn. OMG…I couldn’t stop eating them after they cooled (I’m not sure I even waited for them to cool to be honest!).  They contain ALL aspects of the pleasure trap-salt, sugar and fat, but they are VERY yummy.  The coconut adds a great texture and needed amount of fat.  They did get a little soggy in the salad, but would be great on many dishes, including salads.

I minced up a LOT of garlic and add it to balsamic vinegar and shake it to blend…it makes a VERY spicy dressing.  Hubby added some oil to his, and a touch of parmesan cheese.  I ate mine as it was made…it’s very yummy!  The best part about this recipe is you can adjust the quantity of ingredients based on how many people you are serving.  I’ve also made this with cooled, whole wheat pasta instead of the bread, it works just as well.

Ladybug’s Panzanella with Vegan Bacon


Tomatoes (I used two large, and 5 cocktail tomatoes), cut into 1 inch sized pieces (or quartered if using cocktail tomatoes)

Whole grain baguette (got mini sized baguettes at Whole Foods, and used 1 1/2 mini loaves) cut into 1 inch sized pieces, slightly toasted in oven to crisp it up (you can use day old bread too)

Half a can of white kidney beans (Canellini) 

2 good sized cloves of garlic, minced on a microplane (zester)

Balsamic vinegar (maybe 1/2 cup or a touch less)

Lots of fresh basil

Vegan Bacon


  1. Mix garlic and vinegar in a small container, set aside.
  2. Place bread, beans, tomatoes in a bowl and add dressing. Toss gently to coat the bread, you may need to add a big more balsamic as the bread will soak up all the liquid.
  3. Tear fresh basil into the salad and toss gently again.
  4. Add the vegan bacon if using, tossing one final time.
  5. Serve in big pasta bowls and garnish with fresh basil.

Here’s a photo of the vegan bacon out of the oven..it really looks like bacon bits!


Here’s the salad, plated up…YUM-O


A 4 Day Holiday Weekend of Great Recipes and the Arlington Stampede

I had the rare occasion of having four days off for the 4th of July weekend.  I will say it was a very busy and productive weekend.  I took back the master bedroom after a remodel of 3+ years ago left it in disarray.  It finally looks like the sanctuary it was intended to be. What made my weekend even better was all the awesome food I cooked over the weekend.  

It started with my potato taco salad bowl for dinner Thursday night.  I think I’ve blogged about it before…it’s very easy to make and you can put whatever veggies you want in it to make it work for you.  I roasted the potatoes this time which gave it an added crunch.  Friday we went out for pizza which was very enjoyable since we were able to eat outside at one of our favorite places.  Hubby even shared a no cheese pizza with me!

Our 4th of July dinner was probably one of the best meals I’ve made.  I decided to try Fat Free Vegan’s Veggie dog recipe instead of the usual veggie burgers.  But I put a different twist on it and made them into good size brats.  In the end, they kind of look like a good polish from Chicago!  The recipe is pretty easy to follow and does have vital wheat gluten in it (sorry my celiac friends, I’m not sure what you would sub for that)…and you steam them for 45 minutes before actually heating them.  That enables the gluten to really bind with the ingredients.  I doubled the batch and had plenty of ‘dough’ for 8 good size brats.  (here’s the link for the recipe:   http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2014/07/homemade-veggie-dogs.html).  I had some whole wheat buns that we tried, but they were pretty dry, so we ate them without the bread.  Hubby really enjoyed them.  They will make great leftovers.  They really do look and taste like ‘dogs’.  The seasonings are very good.  I will some day try this again to adjust the seasoning to mimick italian sausage.  These would be great sliced up on pizza or in a marinara sauce.

Sunday was a triply  great day.  I completed my 2nd 5K.  I had intentions of jogging most of it, but it was VERY humid and warmer than I like, so I walked more than I jogged (my lungs just can’t handle high humidity). The best part is I finished EXACTLY at the same time I did at the 5K I did in April.  At least I didn’t get slower! I finished near the end of my age/gender bracket, but that’s ok…it gives me something to work on.  I need to continue to work on my C25K program so I CAN jog for 30 minutes!!!

I also went to the pool for a few hours today.  It was so nice to just relax in the sun, and dip into the water when I got warm.  This weekend we were fortunate to finally enjoy some wonderfully warm summer weather in the Chicago area!

Sunday dinner was amazing.  I decided to try the Starry Night Vertical Lasagna from My Beef With Meat, by Rip Esselstyn. It’s a great twist on traditional lasagna and is VERY yummy.  I did make a couple of modifications though.  I used the Ricotta recipe from Happy Herbivore as I love the seasonings and flavor of it.  I also used my spinach basil pesto instead of the kale pesto recipe.  I’ve made it once and can’t say I’m a big fan.  I enjoyed the recipe since you get to play with food (I LOVE playing with my food!!!).  I also used Engine 2 Tomato Basil Marinara for the sauce which was great to have on hand.  My Hubby ABSOLUTELY LOVED it!  It’s VERY yummy and we’ve now got wonderful left overs for the week.  I would love to make this for company sometime.  It’s very pretty and oh so yummy!

Here are some photos of my meals and accomplishments.  I hope you had a great 4th of July!

Potato Taco Salad Bowl


My Sanctuary!  

 Yummy Veggie ‘Brats’

 Arlington Stampede-5K, time 43:35

 The assembling of the dinner: 
 Starry Night Vertical Lasagna!