Making a Recipe Your Own

I love following recipes when I want to try new dishes; but I also love adding my own tweaks to them if I feel it’s warranted.  Quite often when I make a recipe for the first time I follow it to a ‘T’, then I make adjustments in future renditions.  Tonight was different; I let my creative side come out!  I made a recipe from the Forks Over Knives App-Spaghetti with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and basil. In stead of cherry tomatoes I used a combination of mini San Marzano and small heirloom tomatoes.  I put a little fresh salted minced garlic on top of each tomato half.  Once the pasta and tomatoes were cooked, I added sundried tomatoes, capers, and some chopped spinach.  Then I added the required chickpeas and basil.  I LOVED the additions!  To be honest, I would not put chickpeas in the next rendition…maybe cannellini beans instead.  The little garlic roasted tomatoes were so very yummy.  My husband gave it a two thumbs up and definitely wants it put on the make again list.

So do be afraid to try different things when you make a new recipe. I find pasta is very forgiving and you really can’t go wrong with whatever you add.

Bon Appetite!

Refreshing Summer Salad-Happy Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. It’s a rather uneventful day now that my dad has passed away, but I still like to celebrate my husband’s fatherhood and remember the great memories I have of my father.  We were lucky to enjoy dinner with my husband’s oldest son and wife last night at a quaint Italian restaurant near us.  It was a great time with wonderful conversation and food.  I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day. 

In lieu of the rich food we had the previous night, I decided to make a tasty salad for dinner.  I made the Avocado and Chickpea salad from the Forks Over Knives App.  It’s super easy to make and this time I embellished it with tomatoes…what a difference that made.  This is a very versatile dish that could be placed on a bed of greens, or in an oil free tortilla.  I chose the salad option, and served some homemade lime and sea salt tortilla chips on the side.

I’m excited for the beginning of summer…so many good things are happening!

One of my favorite photos-my dad and me on my first birthday!

Stuffing Peppers with Plant Strong Goodness

A few weeks ago my hubby mentioned that stuffed peppers would be a good dish to have this winter. I made a mental note to buy some green peppers. As I’ve been trying to get better at staying on a budget for groceries, I’ve started using Peapod grocery delivery service again. It’s much easier for me to control my grocery spending when I see the total add up as I put things in my virtual shopping cart. I had forgotten I put green peppers in my cart and was pleasantly surprised when I unpacked 4 nice looking green peppers today. My short term memory isn’t always that good when I’ve got a lot going on!

I resurrected a stuffed pepper recipe that I made years ago with ground beef; but I don’t remember where I got it. I know it took me a while to find a recipe I liked, and I remember I liked this one. So I set out to make a whole food, plant strong version. I first made a simple tomato sauce with canned tomatoes, fresh shredded garlic, Italian seasoning and ground fennel. I blended it with my immersion blender, added some tomato powder to thicken then cooked it for about 20 minutes. I added some more tomato powder and it was done. A very easy way to make sauce!

While my brown rice was cooking, I made some of Happy Herbivore’s No Beef Broth and heated up about a cup of Engine 2 Ancient grain blend (found at Whole Foods). I blended the cooked rice, grain blend and some of the ‘broth’ to give it some good ‘meaty’ flavor. The stuffed pepper recipe has some good spices that are mixed with the rice and then I added a touch of the tomato sauce for more flavor. The peppers get blanched in hot water for a few minutes to help soften them for cooking. I had fun spooning the rice mixture into the peppers and topping with sauce. The final topping was a mixture of nutritional yeast (nooch) mixed with bread crumbs. I spooned some sauce around the peppers and baked for about 30 minutes. They turned out beautifully! I served a nice green salad and some crusty bread with it. The best part was that my husband loved them and said the meal reminded him of his childhood…stuffed peppers were a very comforting dish for him.
Here’s the recipe and some photos:

Stuffed peppers with Rice and Mixed Grains
Cook Time: 40 minutes… Recipe for stuffed peppers serves 4.

4 large green bell peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cup cooked rice
1 cup Engine 2 Ancient Grains Blend (heated in microwave for 3-5 minutes)
salt* optional
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
dash Vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs mixed with nutritional yeast
Tomato sauce
Happy Herbivore’s No Beef Broth


1. Wash peppers; remove stem ends, seeds, and white membranes.
2. Cook bell peppers in 1 cup of boiling lightly salted water for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain.
3. Mix rice and grain blend and about 1/3 of the no beef broth. Add paprika, celery seeds, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Add a little of the tomato sauce (1/3 cup maybe) to the rice mixture and mix gently until well blended.
5. Fill peppers with meat mixture and top each with tomato sauce then some of the bread crumb/nooch mixture.
6. Bake stuffed peppers at 350° for 30 minutes.

Stuffed with rice/grain blend:


Ready for the oven:




Dig in!


Plant Strong Potato Nachos

I had a long drive home tonight, and it’s these long drives that give me time to mentally create a yummy dinner recipe.  I made another batch of that yummy smoked paprika cheese sauce and have been wanting to make nachos with it.  Tonight was the night for plant strong nachos. You can adjust the recipe based on whatever you have on hand and what you like on your nachos.

I made the ‘chips’ out of some no oil corn tortillas that I cut into triangles, sprayed with a little lime juice and dusted with Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime Seasoning.  After baking the chips until crispy, I then build my nachos.  I’ve decided there aren’t many ‘rules’ to building nachos, but anything really fresh like lettuce or tomatoes should go on top of the cheese.  Tonight I put some diced cooked potato, black beans, defrosted roasted corn, defrosted pepper blend and red onions on top of the chips.  I then covered them in the gooey cheese sauce.  I topped it with chopped tomato and lettuce.  WOW…what a dish!  It was so yummy, creamy and crunchy…it was perfect.  You could add salsa, but I did not want that much heat.  Next time I’m going to try them with brown rice tortillas.  It was a very filling dish.

Measurements are approximate

Kirsten’s Plant Strong Potato Nachos


Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning, or any other spicy seasoning

lime juice (optional)

4 corn tortillas (or any whole grain, no oil added tortilla)

1 potato cooked, diced small

Black beans (drained and rinsed, I keep some in the freezer)

Defrosted roasted corn

Defrosted frozen pepper blend

Red onion, diced

tomato, diced

lettuce or greens, shredded or sliced thin

Smoked Paprika Cheese Sauce (  I made it without the agar this time, so I just had sauce. (warmed in microwave a bit)


1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the tortillas into various pie shaped wedges. Place on a cookie sheet (I actually place mine on a cooling rack on TOP of the cookie sheet), spray or sprinkle some lime juice on each piece (optional), dust with the Fiesta Lime Seasoning.  Bake for about 10 minutes until crispy.

2.  Place baked chips on a plate and sprinkle potato, beans, corn, pepper blend and red onions over the chips.

3.  Pour the warmed cheese sauce over the top of the chips and toppings, try to cover each chip with some of the sauce.

4.  Top with shredded lettuce and tomatoes and any other fresh toppings or salsa.

This is a messy dish, so have plenty of napkins on hand!


Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime Seasoning:


Baked Chips on the plate:


Add toppings and potato


Top with the yummy cheese sauce:


Finally, top with fresh toppings:



Lasagna-A True Comfort Food

My mom made an awesome lasagna when I was growing up.  I liked it so much it became my ‘birthday meal’ year after year – I never tired of it.  It was rather labor intensive, so she would only make it two or three times a year, but it was always made on my birthday!  I learned to make the recipe myself, which had 3 kinds of cheeses in it, and a homemade tomato sauce.  She opted not to use mozzarella, but used scarmoza cheese, which was a little firmer than mozzarella.  I would always be allowed one slice as a treat while the dish was being prepared.

Fast forward to February 2012.  I had just finished a 28 day challenge at Whole Foods and had read the Engine 2 Diet (by Rip Esselstyn) TWICE!  I was eager to try the recipes in the book.  After watching Rip make the Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna in The Kitchen Rescue, I had to make this comforting dish.  As with most lasagnas, this was just as labor intensive as others, but well worth it.  It uses no cheese or dairy products, but uses mashesd sweet potatoes for that creamy ‘cheesy’ texture.  My husband and I loved it.  I’ve made it several times since then.  While I enjoy the recipe, I was looking for a more traditional lasagna recipe that could be adapted to a plant strong diet.  This is where my creative juices kicked in.  I made several versions experimenting with different vegetables and items to replace the cheese.  One version was made with a white bean ‘ricotta’.  It was ok, but didn’t stand up during the cooking process and seemed rather ‘flat’.  I stumbled across a tofu ricotta from Happy Herbivore (  I LOVED it!  I roasted some hefty veggies and my veggie lasagna was born!  I’m not a huge fan of plain tofu, but I’ve discovered some very good uses for it including an awesome chocolate mousse type dessert!  It has a perfect texture, when mixed,  that resembles ricotta.

This is a perfect plant strong, hearty lasagna that freezes well.  My somewhat critical husband actually loves this recipe and gets excited when I tell him I’m making it.  As with most lasagnas, it’s rather labor intensive, but I use no boil noodles which helps a lot.


Kirsten’s Veggie Lasagna


– Muir Glen Portobello Marinara sauce (or any other no oil sauce)
– 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes, NoSalt added (I use Eden)
– Cooked Bulgar (optional)-Maybe a cup
– 1 1⁄2 tsp Italian seasoning
– No cook lasagna noodles (I had Barilla on hand) DON’T COOK THEM AHEAD OF  TIME!
– Sliced zucchini/yellow squash (used pre-sliced from Whole Foods)
– Mushrooms (I used about a pound, whole, but you could use pre-sliced)
– Happy Herbivore’s tofu ricotta (see her recipe)
– White cannellini beans…blended first (or you can blend up some cooked potatoes if you don’t have beans)-add this to the ‘ricotta’ recipe and mix well
– Frozen chopped spinach (I used a whole bag from Trader Joe’s)
– Nutritional yeast blended with sesame seeds (I used a 1 to 1 ratio and blend in my coffee
grinder) and added to bread crumbs
– 2 -3 Plum tomatoes, sliced thin

1. Heat oven to 425, place sliced squash and mushrooms on pan lined with parchment.
Roast for about 20 minutes until slightly browned. Remove from oven.

2. Heat sauce and canned tomatoes in large pot, add Italian seasoning and basil. Add cooked bulgar (about 1 cup or amount desired…this adds a bit of ground beef texture).
Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until heated through.

To assemble:
3. Place some sauce in bottom of 9×13 pan, then place 4-6 noodles on top of sauce. Place another layer of sauce over noodles, then layer mushrooms and squash on top, then layer some spinach on top. Spread some tofu ricotta on top, then place another layer of noodles on top and repeat, sauce, vegetables, spinach, ricotta, sauce. Place another layer of noodles on top, then finish with sauce. Place sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with nutritional yeast/sesame seed/crumb mixture.

4. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove foil last 5 minutes. Let rest 10-15 minutes.

5. Leftovers may be frozen.

I forgot to take pictures of the step by step assembly, but here are a few of the process:

Roasted Veggies
roasted veggies








Happy Herbivore Tofo Ricotta










Sauce with bulgar added










Tofu ricotta and spinach layer









Finished Lasagna










Ready to eat!