Easter 2016

Happy Easter!  I hope you and your family had a nice Easter.  Easter is a laid back holiday for my husband and I since my parents have passed away.  My day was spent cooking and getting meals ready for the week.  My husband watched a series about the Roosevelts which I found very interesting as well.  

I’ve had a taste for carrot cake for several weeks now, it’s all I can think about lately!  I think this is due to all the carrots I’ve received from my CSA…I have a LOT of carrots!  I found a great recipe from Hell Yeah It’s Vegan (http://hellyeahitsvegan.com/classic-vegan-carrot-cake/)  and a good cream cheese frosting recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie (http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2015/03/22/how-to-make-greek-yogurt-frosting/)  that worked well together.  I was excited to use Kite Hill cream cheese and yogurt for the frosting.  Kite Hill is a good brand as there are no added oil or other additives…very simple almond based ingredients.  I also made carrot cake muffins (cupcakes without frosting) for work…they are very yummy.  By the way…I STILL have a lot of carrots left…I sense more muffins in my future!

For dinner I ended up making a lighter version of a veggie paella I used to make.  I used a recipe from Bobby Flay (food network) as my base, but my true inspiration came from our local Spanish tapas restaurant called La Tasca.  I had a most delicious veggie paella there on New Year’s Eve and vowed to recreate it sometime.  It’s a much simpler recipe with less spices as it only  uses Saffron…and it’s dressed with lemon at the end. It may sound strange, but the lemon at the end gives it a very light taste.

Kirsten’s Veggie Paella


3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 medium onion, sliced thin

1 red & green pepper sliced thin

1 cup frozen peas (defrosted)

Asparagus (sliced on a 1 inch diagonal)

Artichoke heart quarters (I used about 3/4 cup frozen, cut in half)

1 1/4 cup medium grain rice (I used Calrose, but you could use any medium grain rice)

2 1/2 cups liquid (I used water flavored with veggie stock)-warmed

White wine

Saffron threads softened in warm water (I used about 1 tsp)

Lemon wedges/slices (for garnishing)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat up cast iron skillet (or oven proof dish) and add onions. Sauté over medium heat until they start to get some color.  Add the peppers and sauté until they start to soften then add the garlic and a little broth so it doesn’t burn. 
  3. Add the rice and saffron and stir to combine. Add a touch of white wine for flavor.   Add the broth and stir to blend well.  Bring to a slow boil.
  4. Remove from heat and carefully place in oven.  Cover with foil (or other cover) and bake for about 25-30 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.  
  5. Add the artichokes, peas and asparagus and blend gently.  Cover and bake for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and squeeze lemon over the dish, salt and pepper before serving.
  7. Serve with a good crusty bread and more lemon for flavor.  

Here’s a picture of the veggie paella:


Here’s the carrot cake:



How to Build a Bowl

 A friend of mine sent me a link this morning that was featured on The Healthy Librarian’s Facebook page (thank you Sharon!).  It turns out it’s a link  from The Full Helping blog; a vegan blog I’ve never heard of (there are sooo many out there).  She has a great blog about how to build a bowl, which is basically a big salad in a bowl.  But bowls are different…they typically have a base of greens, but then the veggies/proteins/carbs-starches are arranged around the bowl in an artistic manner.   The blog at The Full Helping does a wonderful job explaining a great way  to build the perfect bowl. 

This was such perfect timing for me.  I’ve been getting a little bored with my daily salads as they are always the same.  I make them on Sundays so I have them ready for the week.  Today I went off the grid so to speak and made 5 bowls (even though I’m only working 4 days this week).  AND…I did not make them all the same!  I created a ‘palette’ of food to choose from including cooked sweet potato, quinoa and rice (my starch); chopped onions and red meat radishes, shredded purple carrots, mushrooms,  steamed broccoli and sliced tomatoes for veggies; avocado, slivered almonds and cashews for my ‘fat’, and black, kidney and garbanzo beans for my protein.  Then, starting with mixed greens as the base, I created my bowls. It was quite fun making them all different.  I will have a nice surprise each day when I open my container.  They only hard part is that I used square/round containers, so the food doesn’t fit as well…but it will still taste good.  I also put sprinkled some different No Salt seasonings on each bowl as well.   I also made a very yummy creamy dressing using Engine 2 Roasted Red Pepper hummus and their regular hummus, mixed with some liquid from garbanzo beans and some lemon juice.  It is quite yummy and creamy.

I encourage you to check out this blog from The Full Helping (http://www.thefullhelping.com/how-to-create-a-perfect-vegan-lunch-bowl/).  It’s a great way to have some fun with your food, not to mention getting some good veggies in your body!

Here’s a photo of 3 of my bowls and dressing (I just love these little containers for dressing!).


Playing with Food

I always loved playing with playdough as a child.  It was so fun to roll it or smash it in to different shapes, then mush it all together and start over to create something new.  So it’s no surprise that I like to play with my food when I’m cooking.  I have several baking recipes that involve rolling and shaping, but now I have a savory dish that is quite fun if you like playing with food.  If you don’t like getting your hands messy when cooking, then this recipe isn’t for you! 

I found the ‘Sushi Ball’ recipe (from the Buddist Chef) on Facebook a while ago.  I saved the recipe to Evernote so I could make them at a later date.  Well, today was the day to make them.  I decided to make a veggie stir fry over buckwheat soba noodles for dinner, so I thought the sushi balls would be an appropriate side dish.  The recipe calls for Calrose medium grain rice.  I prayed to the rice gods that I could find it at Whole Foods and sure enough, I found an entire shelf of it! I’ve never cooked a medium grain sticky rice before, but it turned out pretty good (I tend to have patience issues when cooking rice!).  Adding rice vinegar and maple syrup to the rice when it is finished cooking helps it from becoming a giant chunk of stickiness.  

I used a small melon baller to make the avocado balls and soaked them in lime juice.   Getting your hands wet when working with the rice is a must, or you will become one with the rice and have to wash it all down the drain!  I will admit it’s a bit tricky to work with slimy avocado and sticky rice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually kind of fun!!  Sprinkling toasted sesame seeds over the tops of the balls adds a nice flair.  I suggest serving them with lime wedges, as they are somewhat bland by themselves; however, bland is not a bad thing as you don’t want them to take over the main dish.

My main dish was a veggie stirfry with a modified sauce from The Summer Soba recipe from My Beef With Meat (Rip Esselstyn).  I use this sauce as a base for my peanut sauce.  However, instead of using oily peanut butter, I used peanut powder this time!  I found this gem at Target of all places.  It’s peanuts ground into a fine powder.  The package recommends using it in smoothies, which I don’t consume, but I figured I could use it in other recipes.  Sure enough, it worked perfectly in my sauce.  The powder gave the sauce a nice light peanut flavor, without adding a lot of oiliness.  I added roasted marinated tofu to the dish which added some texture without weighing it down too much.

Here’s the link for the Sushi balls (thank you to the Buddist Chef for these morsels!)…they are quite yummy:  http://www.thebuddhistchef.com/recipe/sushi-balls/.

Here’s the Peanut butter powder:

Here’s Dinner:

Here’s the Sushi balls: 


Knockoff Recipes-California Quinoa Salad

When I eat out and find a recipe I like, I’m always happy when I can recreate it at home.  Sometimes I do this myself, sometimes someone else has already done it (the Internet is wonderful for finding these kinds of recipes).  This not only enables me to enjoy a yummy meal more frequently, but it also saves me a little money by not eating out so often.  Whole Foods has a fantastic plant based salad that I made my own version of today.  The California Quinoa Salad is full of wonderful good for you plants that when combined together, it makes for some great tastes and textures.  

My inspiration came from Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 chopped veggie blend.  I don’t know what 8 veggies are in it, but it’s crunchy and very tasty-I know it has carrots, green peppers and some cabbages in it.  You can usually find it near the lettuce section at your local Trader Joe’s. I added cooked tri color quinoa to that, some pineapple (didn’t have the mango that Whole Foods uses), but I had edamame and even added some unsweetened coconut and slivered almonds to it.  

The great thing about this salad is that you can’t really go wrong with it, just put in what you think will taste good and you’ve got a very yummy salad.  Here’s my recipe…feel free to adjust to your liking.

Knockoff California Quinoa Salad

Cooked quinoa (I started with one cup uncooked, so whatever that cooks up to)

Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 veggie blend (I used the whole container)

Edamame (I used about half a bag frozen, that I defrosted in water)

Diced red pepper

Diced cucumber

Diced pineapple

Unsweetened flaked coconut (maybe 1/3 cup)

Slivered blanched almonds (maybe 1/4 cup)


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Juice of two limes

Agave to taste


  1. Place all salad ingredients in a big container and stir gently to combine everything.
  2. Mix dressing and drizzle over the top.
  3. Serve over a bed of mixed greens.

*chef’s note:  you could add some red onion, but I decided not to since they have been giving my husband some troubles lately.