Spring Pasta Salad

Today really felt like SPRING! So amazing outside!!!!! While we were playing outside I got the idea to make a pasta salad! It just felt right, so seasonal and perfect! LOVE!
I normally make things on a large scale but this was just for my kids’ lunch and husbands’ dinner 😉 So if you want to make this bigger, double or triple the recipe! This salad will taste great right away but also will get more tastier as the flavors get to mingle in the fridge! Yum!

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Spring Pasta Salad

1/2 a box of pasta (1/2 pound) elbow or other
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 cup bell peppers, diced
1/2 a cucumber, diced
1/2 a can of black olives, quartered
1/2 a can of chickpeas
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/8-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8-1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste

1. Bring water to boil and cook pasta according to the pox.
2. While pasta is cooking prep and chop all the veggies and place in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and give a good stir.
3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and cool for a few minutes. Then add to the bowl and stir to incorporate.
4. Chill further and enjoy!

And here it is as lunch for my littles 🙂 Fun!!!

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Polenta Squares with Sun-Dried Tomato and Walnut Tapenade

I love Gena’s site and have always been happy with how her recipes come out! We love Polenta in our house, so not surprising when I saw this one I had to try! I am such a sucker for appetizers too, they really are always the best part of any meal or party! I made these for several gathering and parties and they were always a hit. Enjoy!!!

You can prepare the polenta up to 2 days in advance, and the tapenade up to 3 days. On the day of your party, simply broil the polenta squares and top them with the tapenade. The polenta can also be used as a base for many different seasonings. Try & play around 🙂

Just a couple of past polenta dishes and I am sure many more to come: Creamy Polenta with Barbecue Seitan SauceVegan Creamy Polenta with Sausage and PeppersMushroom and Kale PolentaPolenta & Shallot SquaresPolenta with Nectarine-Blackberry SalsaPolenta with Black Beans, Pan-Fried Tofu & Roasted Coconut Tomato SauceSlow Cooked Corn Polenta and Chiles and Polenta Vegetable Casserole.

Polenta Squares with

Polenta Squares with Sun-Dried Tomato and Walnut Tapenade
Recipe from http://www.choosingraw.com 
Serves 22 (recipe can easily be halved)

Polenta Party Squares

6 cups vegetable broth (low sodium if possible)
2 cups polenta (yellow cornmeal)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 batch sun-dried tomato and walnut tapenade

Bring the polenta, salt, and broth to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer. Using a long wooden spoon, continually stir the polenta until it has thickened (approximately 25-30 minutes). When the mixture is very thick and is pulling away from the sides of the pot, stir in the pepper and thyme.
Oil a 15.25 x 10.25 baking sheet (or line with parchment paper). Spread the polenta mixture evenly over the sheet with an inverted knife. It should be about as thick as the edge of the pan itself. Allow it to cool, and then transfer to the fridge for a few hours.
Preheat your broiler. Cut the polenta into squares (you should get about 22). Return them to a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Place under a broiler for 8 minutes, or until they’re lightly toasted. You can alternately bake them at 375 for twenty-five minutes or so. Top each square with a tablespoon of tapenade, and serve.

Sun-dried Tomato and Walnut Tapenade

3/4 cups sun-dried tomatoes (not oil soaked)
2 cups water
2/3 cups walnuts
2 small cloves garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Boil the water and pour it over the tomatoes. Allow them to soften for 20 minutes. Discard most of the water (keep a half cup in case you need to thin the tapenade).
Grind the walnuts in a food processor fitted with the S blade until they’re finely ground. Add the tomatoes and garlic, and pulse to combine. Add the lemon, sea salt, pepper, and rosemary.
Run the motor of the food processor and drizzle in the oil in a thin stream. If the mixture is still very thick, drizzle in some of the soak water from the tomatoes until it reaches the desired consistency. You’re aiming for the consistency of regular tapenade, or a thick pesto.

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Eggplant Caponata over Pasta

I always love a bright and vibrant caponata as part of a anti-pasto platter. I figured why not cook one up and use it as a sweet sauce for pasta instead of just a dip. It came out super lovely! I also added garbanzo beans to make it a more substantial and complete meal.

You could also just serve this as a dip with pita wedges or chips.

Eggplant Caponata over Pasta

1 lb angel hair pasta, cooked
1/4 cup golden raisins
1-2 large eggplant, stem removed, and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of canola oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tomatoes, diced and seeded
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons capers
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

  1. Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.
  2. Pour the canola oil into a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the eggplant cubes and cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into the skillet. Add shallots and cook until soft, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 45 seconds. Then add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the eggplant back to the skillet and the garbanzo beans. Add the vinegar, raisins, and capers, stir cooking for 2 minutes to cook down the vinegar. Turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the parsley. Let it cool slightly before serving over pasta.

Before adding the garbanzo beans

Iron for Vegans & Kale and Lentil Soup!

We all know that Iron is super important in our diets. Iron transports oxygen to the blood, regulates the metabolism, provides energy and stamina, and supports other important functions. Besides hearing “how do you get your protein?” vegans and vegetarians also hear a lot of “where does your iron come from?” I thought this was important topic to cover especially now as I am not only cooking for my husband and me but also my two kiddos 🙂

“Some might expect that since the vegan diet contains a form of iron that is not that well absorbed (non-heme), vegans might be prone to developing iron deficiency anemia. However, surveys of vegans have found that iron deficiency anemia is no more common among vegetarians than among the general population although vegans tend to have lower iron stores.

The reason for the satisfactory iron status of many vegans may be that commonly eaten foods are high in iron. In fact, if the amount of iron in these foods is expressed as milligrams of iron per 100 calories, many foods eaten by vegans are superior to animal-derived foods. For example, you would have to eat more than 1700 calories of sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron as found in 100 calories of spinach.

Another reason for the satisfactory iron status of vegans is that vegan diets are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C acts to markedly increase absorption of non-heme iron. Adding a vitamin C source to a meal increases non-heme iron absorption up to six-fold which makes the absorption of non-heme iron as good or better than that of heme iron” (http://www.vrg.org)

We can eat iron rich foods with vitamin C foods which can increase absorption, ex. rice & beans, hummus & lemon juice, falafel with tomatoes and cucumber, and beans, grains and seeds combined with fruits and veggies. There are also plenty of natural combinations;  leafy greens, broccoli, bok choy and tomato sauce have both iron & vitamin C!

Here is a list of great non-animal sources of Iron.

  • black beans, kidney beans, chick peas, pinto beans, lentils, soy beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas
  • blackstrap molasses
  • tempeh
  • quinoa
  • spinach, turnip greens, swiss chard, kale
  • tofu
  • watermelon, cantaloupe
  • enriched pasta and breads
  • green beans, beets, broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, peas
  • whole grains; millet, bulgur, oatmeal
  • prunes, raisins, apricots
  • peanut butter, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, other seeds and nuts
  • potatoes that contain the skin
  • tahini
  • veggie burgers & hot dogs

Also:

Don’t drink coffee or tea or eat calcium supplements with iron rich meals.

Cook with a cast iron skillet, especially Vitamin C heavy foods!

Once you get into the swing of eating a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet, iron is not really a concern at all:)

Here is an iron-rich delicious meal!

 Kale & Lentil Soup

Thankfully my kiddos LOVE lentils as much as we do. It has been SUUUPER chilly this winter so that makes me think soup to warm us all up. I made a super tasty soup and added kale which not only increased the iron & nutritious content but also gave such a great bite & texture to the soup. I used a crock-pot, which I have always loved, but really understand now that it can be a busy mama’s best friend!! Since then we have also revisited the Crock-Pot Oatmeal. Just as good as we remembered!

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  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2-3 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 14 ½ ounce can of diced tomatoes

Super simple 🙂 Put all of the above ingredients in the slow cooker. Set it on low 8 hours or high 4 hours, if you need it cooked quicker.

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When done I like to use my immersion blender and blend it up about half way, this way there is still some good pieces but the soup gets thicker.

Next add and let cook for just 10-15 minutes longer.
3-4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3-4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped

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Serve and enjoy! Even better the next day!

Fresh Bruschetta with Tomato, Basil and Red Onion

Love SUMMER!!! Fresh farm fresh veggies, picnics, vegan BBQs, pot-lucks and lots of family and friends FUN!

There is something so special about heading over to the farmers market and picking out the best and brightest fresh-picked veggies. Tomatoes are especially the best find since there is nothing like fresh summer tomatoes! Here is a perfect recipe for enjoying those fresh, juicy summer tomatoes. Yum!!

Fresh Bruschetta with Tomato, Basil and Red Onion

  • loaf of fresh bread, sliced (we used olive bread)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or the best freshest looking tomatoes you see)
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of basil, chopped
  • Coarse salt
  1. Rub sliced bread with garlic and olive oil.
  2. Combine tomatoes, onion and basil in a bowl. Add extra olive and salt to taste.
  3. Spoon onto sliced bread and enjoy!

Make it a party and add a fresh Salad, Guac & Chips and fresh summer corn! Even just the thought of fresh summer corn has me ready for the next party! The best!

Thai Root Veggie Curry with Coconut Milk

I love curries! Since winter is ending (yeah!!!!) I wanted to get one last yummy root veggie dish on the table and this turned out amazing! I also love a big one pot meal, especially if I already have cooked rice in the fridge already like I did this night! Perfection!

Thai Root Veggie Curry with Coconut Milk
Serves 4

2 cups rice, cooked and set aside
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 turnips, trimmed and cubed
3 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth, or more as needed
1 teaspoon red or yellow Thai curry paste, or more to taste
1 cup low-fat coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and set over medium-high heat. Add ginger, onions and salt and cook 4 to 5 minutes until the onions softens. Reduce the heat to low and add the butternut squash, turnips, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini and simmer.
  2. In a separate saucepan over medium heat, whisk the hot broth with the curry paste until the paste dissolves. Pour the broth over the vegetables to cover them; simmer over medium heat, covered , for 20 to 25 minutes,until veggies are tender.
  3. In the empty broth saucepan boil coconut milk until it reduces in volume by half. The pour over the vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lime juice and serve over rice with lime wedges.

Vegan Pizza with homemade dough

Who doesn’t appreciate a good slice, especially here in NYC where pizza is so very important and such a point of contention – even for vegans! Our favorite place to order from is Viva Herbal Pizzeria where we can get spelt or gluten-free crusts with daiya and even vegan sausage as toppings (our personal fave combo!) Pala Pizza also has great vegan options and that brick-fired pizza taste, yum!

Sometimes it is easy to buy dough and tomato sauce quickly whip up a pie at home, but if you are interested in making your own dough, here is a great recipe! My mom made the dough and I added the homemade sauce (thanks mom!!).  It was really very very good!

Check out here for some of my other fun pizza nights 🙂 Flatbread Pizza with hummus, green olives, cherry tomatoes and za’atar (this is a raw one and Well Worth the effort!), Raw Eggplant Pizzas and the quick at home whipped up kind with purchased dough.

Vegan Pizza with Homemade Dough & Daiya Cheese

Pizza Dough Recipe

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast (1 packet of dry yeast)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees (if using a pizza stone – place in the oven to get hot and heat for an hour)
  2. Mix together the warm water, sugar and yeast. Put aside to get foamy. If it does not foam then the yeast is not good – redo this step.
  3. In a separate bowl mix all of the other ingredients. Add in the yeast mixture and mix well until dough forms a ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough – Use the palm of your hand and keep pressing in and folding it over and repeating for about 5 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 – one pound balls. Place these dough balls into containers and cover the container with anything that will keep the air out. Set the dough to rise in a warm spot for at least 45 minutes. (you can freeze any unused dough after rising*)
  5. Prepare your topping. Stretch out the dough and aim for it to be even thickness all around. Top your pizza and place in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes. Let it rest. Add any herbs to your pizza afterwards.

*If using frozen dough – allow dough to defrost in fridge 12 hours

  • Either use a jar of Marinara Sauce or make your own

Basic Sauce Recipe

  • 28 ounce pureed tomatoes
  • sugar to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 3-6 finely grated fresh peeled garlic cloves

Mix all the ingredients together.

Topping Suggestions:

  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Fresh or Roasted Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Corn
  • Peppers
  • Olives
  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Grilled/Fried/Baked Eggplant
  • Grilled Zucchini
  • Roasted Red Pepper
  • Capers
  • Saute Spinach
  • Pesto Sauce
  • Artichokes
  • Soy Pepperoni or Soy Sausage or Tofu/tempeh
  • Daiya Vegan Cheese or other vegan cheese
  • Herbs

Unbaked Pizza

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