Category Archives: Recipes

Spencer’s Smoothie

Vegan MoFo

SpencerMy dear canine companion, Spencer, has passed away. He lived a good, long 12 years and while he lived with my great aunt and was not technically mine, he holds a place deep in my heart. I lived with my great aunt for 9 months after I graduated college and I totally and completely fell in love with Spencer. A wily and beguiling cockapoo with a penchant for cuddling and being the center of attention, he quickly became the best part of my day. When I would come home from work he’d be waiting for me with hugs and kisses. He also loved the breakfast smoothies I would make. I would always pour some in his bowl for him. And in honor of him I’d like to post a smoothie recipe which I will always remember him by.

Green smoothie

Tropical Green Smoothie


Spencer’s Smoothie

Makes 1 serving


1/3 cup frozen mangoes

1/3 cup frozen peaches

1/2 a banana

1 cup kale

1 tablespoon flax meal

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 cup almond milk


Add the banana and kale into blender first, so there’s something soft for the blades to work on. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

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Sunday Fun Day Doughnuts

Vegan MoFo

I’m going to preface this post by admitting that I not big on watching sports. Not because I’m a woman, that cliché is misinformed, I know plenty of women who are fans of particular teams and sports. I, on the other hand, am not a huge spots fan because I was not raised watching sports; my parents thought cable would destroy our time as a family. So I developed other passions and ways of filling my time, like tap dancing, community theatre, singing, watching classic movies, and reading. While I’m not really involved with community theatre now and my tap dancing is relegated to my kitchen, I am still involved with most of my same interests as well as new ones, like wine, food, health, travel, and Doctor Who. Though I don’t know much about sports, I do understand it is an interest that a lot of people share and it is one way for people to unwind and share in a larger community, which is the basis for several of my interests as well. Part of the fun of watching Doctor Who is being entranced by the story and part of it is debating plot points with other fans, feeling connected with a larger group of people.

Now that I’ve explained my undeveloped interest in sports I can tell you that my friends and I planned this Sunday Fun Day where a big part is watching football and drinking mimosas. I did join in on the mimosas and a few minutes of football, but then I headed to the kitchen to do some baking. One of my friends joined me to bake some Pillsbury rolls, which, according to PETA’s website, are actually vegan. I set about whipping up some vegan doughnuts using the plain cake doughnut recipe from Babycakes’ cookbook, Babycakes Covers the Classics. I love both of my Babycakes cookbooks as well the bakery itself. All of the baked goods are phenomenal and their recipes are foolproof. Most of their recipes are gluten-free but I usually just use all-purpose flour instead of the gluten-free flours.

Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts

Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable posting Babycakes’ recipe here since I didn’t make any unique modifications, but you can click the linked cookbook title above and buy their book or Barnes and Noble usually carries it. I highly suggest doing so, they have so many fantastic recipes and I’ve never had a bad batch yet. You could soon be devouring fluffy snickerdoodles that taste a bit like heaven, or thin mints, or even a 6 layer chocolate cake with raspberry preserves. The good news is that I did come up with my own glaze recipe that I will share with you!

Chocolate Glaze

Makes 12 servings


2 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips

1 teaspoon maple syrup


If the coconut oil isn’t already melted add it and the chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl. You can use a double boiler but I just use the microwave in 30-second increments until both are melted. Once both the coconut oil and chocolate are melted, add the maple syrup and stir everything together. Dip doughnuts, or whatever baked good you like into the glaze and let sit.

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Cafe Brasil

Vegan MoFo

You know those select few restaurants where you fall head over heels for one dish? The food is amazing, so you feel an obligation to order something new every time you visit; however, you just can’t bring yourself to order anything other than your favorite dish. It makes me feel so boring, ordering the same exact thing every time, but it is so darn good I can’t help myself. That is how I feel about Cafe Brasil, an aptly named Brazilian eatery in Santa Cruz. It’s been about a year since I’ve eaten there and I still day-dream about their food.

I try to visit this place every time I’m in Santa Cruz and on the occasions where I don’t I leave with a longing. The dish that has captured my heart is the portobello breakfast. A marinated and grilled portobello with sautéed spinach and garlic with creamy polenta, tomato slices and bread. Back when I was first introduced to Cafe Brasil, I was not vegan and I would order this with a poached egg, but now for a dollar more I get savory sautéed tofu and veggies. Everything on the plate works in tandem to bring out every flavor you ever hope for in your breakfast. The meatiness of the portobello is met by the sharp tang of the spinach with a wave of buttery, herb-flavored polenta.

Polenta Breakfast

I am very big on textures in my food. I like to roll it around with my tongue to get a feel of the food before I eat it. For that reason I love to eat smoothies, high pulp orange juice, chocolate mousse, chia pudding, stew, curry, and, of course, polenta. Polenta is high on the list of textures I love and Cafe Brasil does not disappoint. They also have a fresh juice and smoothie bar, which does give me the opportunity to vary my order up a little bit. Using ingredients like guava, açai, acerola, coconut pulp, avocado, papaya, watermelon, passion fruit, pineapple, mango, and my personal favorite, cashew fruit they make a wide array of tropical juices and smoothies that will blow your mind. I didn’t know until I ate at Cafe Brasil that cashews grow on fruit that looks similar to an apple. Their fruit tastes light, faintly sweet, with a richness similar to that of the cashew itself. With no end to the drink variations I always feel satisfied in ordering something new each time so my order doesn’t seem so predictable.

Cashew Juice!

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Homemade Adventures: Almond Milk

Vegan MoFo

I’ve been making my own almond milk for quite awhile now and I like to tweak with it now and then. Since it has no preservatives it only lasts 4-5 days, but it’s well worth the effort because the flavor is unbeat by store bought varieties. A few weeks ago I thought I was short on almonds so I substituted some cashews instead and the result was amazing. The sweet nuttiness of the cashews mixed with the subtle refined flavors of the almonds was something I hadn’t expected. This is by fat my favorite almond milk combination yet.

I was astonished to find that cashews produce very little pulp so straining them was a breeze. Almonds on the other hand produce a lot more pulp so straining them is necessary. I highly recommend buying a nut milk bag if you want to make homemade almond milk; it’s much easier than using cheesecloth and not straining the milk at all results in a very clumpy milk that’s not satisfying at all.

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Returning To My Love of Rhubarb

I have a spotty history with rhubarb and this tart. I’ve been making this tart for a few years now and every time it comes out delicious and it disappears in a matter of minutes. The crust is nutty and warm paired with the sweet tartness of the filling. However, I was making this last spring for my great grandmother and in a fit of clumsiness half of the crostata fell on my foot while I was taking it out of oven. I had second degree burns that took months to heal. It’s taken over a year for me to face this dessert again. In the meantime, I bake with boots on.

Today is my mom’s birthday and she loves this dish. Today I am making it in honor of my mother who is so supportive of all my endeavors and who I consider my baking guru.

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Wine and Strawberries: A Lovely Frozen Dessert

Vegan MoFo

I first started getting into wine in college but I didn’t have a lot of money so I found myself buying up an inexpensive tasty young French wine called Beaujolais. It’s the reason I fell in love with wine.  And as I’ve broadened my viticultural horizons I still maintain a love for Beaujolais. Not all wine you drink has to be bold and oaky and somber and pricey, sometimes you want a fun, berry-forward wine to relax and dance around with.

Several villages in the Beaujolais region all grow gamay grapes to produce a light, fruity, unassuming wine. Located just south of the Burgundy region the differences in elevation and a warmer temperature called for a heartier, easier grape than Burgundy’s pinot. Ripening a few weeks earlier than grapes in other regions, Beaujolais crafted a new type of wine. First, there is the properly aged Beaujolais Cru which is mellow and balanced, which you can drink year round. Then there is Beaujolais Nouveau, which is entirely different and highly seasonal. Beaujolais Nouveau, fermented in just 6 to 8 weeks, created a huge following. I like to think of it as a party wine because it was initially created as a way to celebrate the end of the wine harvest in the fall but it quickly built up a huge following. Now, on the third Thursday of November there are huge parties celebrating its release.

While Beaujolais Nouveau is only drinkable for a couple months, I like to keep the party going in the summer using a nice Beaujolais Cru and some organic strawberries to create a granita which is to say a slightly alcoholic cross between sorbet and a snow cone. What more could you really ask for in a dessert?

Strawberry Beaujolais granitaI love to go berry picking in Somis at Underwood Family Farms. It’s not too far from my house, there’s no cover for picking, and they charge $1.99 per pound! It’s a total bargain seeing as buying a pint of organic strawberries costs about $3 at Whole Foods and up to $6 at the farmer’s market. They also have blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries during various summer months so I usually head home laden with 5 pounds of strawberries and 5 pounds of whatever other berry is ripe during my visit. I go picking every three weeks so my fridge and freezer are always full of perfectly ripe berries. What can I say? I’m obsessed with summer produce. If you’re even a quarter as obsessed as I am you will definitely love this recipe.

Sheet of almost frozen strawberry and wine mixture

Strawberry Beaujolais Granita

*Quick tip: When buying Beaujolais try to stay from the Louis Jadot and Georges Duboeuf brands. They are large-scale wine producers who buy up grapes from many villages within the Beaujolais region and mix them all together resulting in the unique qualities of the wine being muted.

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Makes 8 servings


1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 pounds (8 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1 cup Beaujolais wine


2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced


Stir water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. This makes your simple syrup. Set aside and let cool.

Place strawberries, Beaujolais, and syrup in a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in batches. Strain the strawberry puree through a sieve and into a 13x9x2-inch metal pan. Cover the pan and place in freezer for 1 hour.

Using a fork stir frozen mixture, mashing any solid parts then return to freezer. Scrape mixture with a fork every 30 minutes to form icy crystals.

Divide among glasses or bowls and add the fresh sliced strawberries. Voilà! A simple dessert with only 3 ingredients, 4 if you count the water.

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A Vegan Take on Jamie Oliver’s Grilled Mushroom Risotto

Vegan MoFo

I may not be an expert on risotto, every time I make it I imagine Gordon Ramsey yelling at me. The truth is that I’ve never had risotto made by a professional chef so I have nothing to compare mine against. That being said, the theory of slow cooking rice to sumptuous perfection is relatively easy: just follow the steps. Adding vegetable stock in increments ensures that the rice absorbs all of the flavor and it’s not hard to do; you just have to keep an eye on it all times.

I like to make this dish for omni friends because it signifies a special meal, lovingly made and it’s traditional feel keeps the focus on the food rather than our dietary choices. I made this for my boyfriend on Valentine’s day and I made it again earlier this summer when an old friend came to visit. The time I take to make this risotto is the care I put into my food, it makes it that much more enjoyable, especially when more often than not accompanied with a bottle of crisp white wine. This is a dish that begs for wine, wine is in the recipe, you’ve already opened a bottle so why not enjoy the pairing. The glass of wine calls for relaxation and conversation which are the main reasons I love this recipe.

Grilled mushrooms


I made my own version of Jamie Oliver’s mushroom risotto because the flavors and ingredients are flexible and the secret ingredient is a game changer for the usually heavy flavors of risotto, adding a lightness to it that you never knew was there. Hint: the secret ingredient is lemon juice.

Meaty grilled mushrooms

Grilled mushroom risotto

Grilled Mushroom Risotto

Makes 4-6 servings


6 1/2 cups vegetable stock (you can mix in some mushroom stock for a more earthy flavor)

1 handful dried porcini mushrooms

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely chopped

2 cups risotto rice

75 ml white wine (preferably pinot grigio, if you’re planning on drinking the rest of the bottle with dinner keep that in the fridge)

sea salt (optional to substitute with truffle salt)

pepper (preferably freshly ground)

4-5 cups wild mushrooms (try shiitake, oyster, and portobello), cleaned and sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons italian parsley, chopped

juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon vegan butter

Optional: 2 tablespoons vegan parmesan


Heat stock in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer. Keep covered when not using. Place the dried porcini in a bowl and pour just enough hot veggie stock to cover. A few minutes later when the mushrooms have softened, remove the mushrooms and give them a rough chop. Reserve the soaking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan on the lower end of medium heat and add the onion and celery. Cook the veggies  for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to keep them from browning. Turn heat up and add rice, stirring a few times. Stir in the white wine and keep stirring until the liquid has cooked into the rice. Strain the porcini soaking liquid through a sieve and add to the pan. Then add the porcini, a pinch of salt, and the first ladle of the hot stock. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock to the pan one at a time, slowly stirring and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. After about 30 minutes the rice should be soft but with a slight bite.

Take the risotto off the heat and season it to taste. Stir in the vegan butter and parmesan. The texture should be creamy, if needed add a bit more stock. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to relax for about 3 minutes.

Get a dry griddle or pan hot and grill the mushrooms. Then toss them in a bowl with the parsley, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Serve the risotto topped with a large spoonful of the grilled mushrooms and watch your guests melt with enjoyment. You can also finish with a drizzle of olive oil or even better, mushroom steeped olive oil or truffle oil.

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Zucchini Pesto Sandwich

Vegan MoFo

I thoroughly enjoy summer; it’s sunny all the time, you can jump in the pool any time of day, you get to wear cool sunglasses, and sandals, and dresses, you don’t need to think about whether you’ll need a sweater later. Most of all, I love the plethora of fresh produce. Going to the farmer’s market each week for me is like going to fashion week. I come home with bags full of precious treasure and turn them into edible art. And let me tell you, art that you get to eat is one of the best things in the world.

My big three foods of the summer are zucchini, tomatoes, and corn. The vivid colors and textures represent the abundance of the summer sun. Bursting with life, and so many possibilities. I can make a pasta sauce, tacos, salads, pizza, I could go on and on but my hands down favorite accompaniment to fresh summer veggies is pesto. Basil being a summer herb after all it fits in perfectly with my bounty of produce.

I tossed some of the pesto with roasted corn and  diced tomato for a nice side salad.

I tossed some of the pesto with roasted corn and diced tomato for a nice side salad.

I seriously love pesto, it makes anything better.  I could write a love poem to pesto. It’s bright green richness envelopes the senses and brings a magnanimity to every bite. I stopped adding cheese to my pesto years before I went vegan because the basil can stand on its own. It can dress up a dish in a single swish, but tonight, as the first day back at work after a long holiday weekend I’ve decided on a simple pesto sandwich. It’s a breeze to make and it doesn’t skimp on flavor. Let’s celebrate the end of summer with a sandwich so beautifully simple it might just make you cry, or reach for a glass of wine.

Zucchini pesto sandwich

If you end up with any leftover pesto you should definitely save it for some pesto pizza (one of my favorites) which I’ll post about sometime soon.

Zucchini Pesto Sandwich

*Quick tip: If the raw garlic taste from fresh cloves overwhelms you, you can always replace it with a couple teaspoons of crushed garlic or vegan garlic aioli.

Makes 2-4 servings


1 large bunch basil

3-4 garlic cloves

1/4 cup walnuts

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Sandwich Components:

4 slices of bread, preferably sliced fresh from a whole grain loaf

1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise (you should get 4 or 5 slices from one zucchini)

1 tomato, sliced widthwise (you should get about 4 slices from one tomato)


Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.

For the pesto, toss all ingredients in a blender. Blend, stirring as needed, until everything is incorporated.

Grease a baking sheet and slather both sides of each strip of zucchini and tomato with pesto. Toss into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Once the veggies have browed a bit remove the tray from the oven. Stack up your sandwich and try not say “yum,” I dare you.

Open face sandwich

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Mushroom Foraging: What a Trip

Despite the allusion in the title, no, I did not go foraging for magic mushrooms. Rather, I drove out to San Bernadino in search of fresh morels during the brief period which they are in season. Morels are not like your typical cap mushroom, instead of having an umbrella shape these are oval-shaped with a honeycomb-like upper portion consisting of a network of ridges with pits between them. These unique mushrooms have a delicate, meaty, nutty, and earthy flavor and are prized in the culinary world.

This was my very first mushroom foraging trip and what a thrill! Foraging is hard work, you have to know the conditions in which morels thrive, find areas that meet those conditions, look for tell-tale signs (e.g. shade, pine needles, snow plants), and continuously scan the ground around you. It’s also key to not overlook any morels in the midst of pine cones since they can look surprisingly similar at times.

The growing conditions of the snow plant match those of the morel. So when you see a bright red artichoke-looking plant you know that some delicious morels are not far off.

A large morel looks quite similar to a pinecone.

Despite hiking for hours in what seemed an aimless fashion the wonder and excitement in finding a patch of morels made the sweat and aching muscles all worth it. It takes a sharp eye to spot a fungus the color of the earth amidst the forest floor and each find feels like gold. We also found a few different types of mushrooms on our hike including one called a “hole in the ground,” which grows in a way similar to the truffle, albeit without the flavor. It starts under the surface and grows out and up to form a circle so that it’s hollow inside, quite literally a hole in the ground.

The first morels I found on the trip.

I noticed that the hole in the ground often grows in the same area as morels.

At the end of a 7 hour hike my friend and I had found almost 40 morels; which is not bad for first-timers. We returned to our camp and met up with the group of mycological society members who also had been out hiking that day. We traded stories, described the spots where we had found our morels, and displayed our treasure. It sounds a bit nerdy, but I love people who are enthusiastic about their food and hunting for mushrooms is definitely that; marrying science with field experience. I can’t wait to go foraging for chanterelles next!

Our camp at the lovely Alpine Meadows Retreat was lovely; while the cabins were pretty basic the chef tailored our meals to our event and even made my meals vegan and gluten free for me. Dinner was chalk full of mushrooms, even some of the ones we found on our hike. In a word, scrumptious. I definitely ate a bit more than my body required, but it tasted so delicious: mushroom risotto, sautéed mushrooms, and pasta with a mushroom ragout. It was heavenly.

In order not to waste all that effort I started cooking some of the morels as soon as I got home. I didn’t want to overpower them with anything so I just made a simple sauté with sliced morels, butter and garlic. Before you start in with the contradiction, I used Earth Balance butter substitute, which is vegan. The dish was clean and really brought out the earthy and delicate flavor of the morels. As a bonus, the ridges on the morels made the meal look like I was eating an octopus, which I found amusing.

Dinner at Alpine Meadows was delectable.

I love morels this much!

Morel Sauté

*The handy thing about soaking mushrooms is that not only does it clean the fungi but it infuses the water to make mushroom stock. After removing the morels you can strain the liquid through a cheesecloth (or a paper towel in a pinch) and you’re left with a mushroom stock you can use pretty much in any recipe that calls for water.

Makes 1-2 servings


2 large or 4-5 small fresh morels  (you can find them at Whole Foods)

1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter

3 garlic cloves, sliced or minced


Place the morels in a bowl of water so that they are fully submerged. These mushrooms have lots of little crevices in which dirt can get trapped so you want to swish them around in the water a bit and let soak for 20 minutes.

Place the morels on a cutting board and I recommend that you set aside the water for mushroom stock that you can use it at a later point in time* (see asterisk above for details). Then slice each morel in half lengthwise, take each half and thinly slice horizontally. If you mess up the slices it is perfectly fine, it all tastes the same in the end.

Add the Earth Balance to a pan over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and stir for one minute. Then add the morels and stir for 6-8 minutes until the mushrooms start to release their juices.

Plate and serve.

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Balela: Another Word For Simple Bean Salad

I always enjoy the cool flavors of Mediterranean food. So when Trader Joe’s came out with a tantalizing Balela salad I snapped it right up; however, when I glanced at the ingredient list the salad went back on the shelf. Garbanzo and black beans with herbs and spices, easy peasy. Most of the ingredients are staples in my pantry so I rushed home and threw together a lovely protein-rich salad.

Eat your heart out Trader Joes!

Mediterranean Bean Salad

Makes 2-4 servings


1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 can black beans, drained

3 carrots, shredded

1 1/2 tablespoons dill

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon no salt seasoning

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar


Toss all ingredients together and serve!

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