3rd Birthday!!!! & Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad

My amazing & beautiful kiddos turned 3 this last week. Beyond hard to believe but so wonderful to watch them continue to grow and surprise us all the time! We had a fun birthday party to celebrate them 🙂 Just a few food & goodie bag pictures and a yummy Vegan, Gluten-free, Super low-fat pasta salad that we served. FUN!!! Love big celebrations of course!!

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Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad

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Coloring Books

Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad
Vegan – Gluten-free – Low-fat
Number of servings: 4
Recipe adapted from blog.fatfreevegan.com

1 cup basil, packed
1 can quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water)(I used 1/2 water, 1/2 marinated in oil)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tbsp. vegetable broth
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
salt, to taste
8 ounces whole wheat pasta, cooked (I used quinoa brown rice pasta)
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Place the basil, about half the artichokes, garlic, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth, and lemon juice in a food processor and process until it becomes a thick paste. Add salt to taste.
In a serving bowl, combine the cooked pasta with the pesto and mix well. Add the remaining artichoke hearts, the tomato, and the (optional pine nuts) and toss. Serve at room temperature.

 

Simple Carrot Soup

Last week we had a wonderful afternoon at Stone Barns. I guess winter keeps away most of the crowds so we basically had the place to ourselves. We got to feed the chickens (greens and lettuce!), see the sheep, ducks and beautiful greenhouses. Then we went to cafe and ate a great lunch! We had the Carrot Soup (every time I am there the soup is Vegan, so it might always be!) and my kids loved it! Picnics outdoors in the winter tends to scream Soup! haha

We wanted to recreate the yummy soup for dinner. On the Stone Barns site there was a recipe for Simple Carrot-Ginger Soup so I made this and adapted it just a bit 🙂 Just simple and delicious! I’m sure you can jazz it up with some herbs or coconut milk for creaminess but it was delicious as is.

Stay warm everyone!!!!! Soup will be perfect food for the storm!! 

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Simple Carrot Soup
Recipe adapted from stonebarnscenter.org

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2-1/2 pounds of carrots—peeled and sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
6 cups vegetable broth

Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large soup pot.
Over medium heat, add onion and garlic, and cook until tender (about 7 to 10 minutes.)
Add carrots and a dash of salt.
Cook for five minutes then add the broth.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until carrots are tender.
Purée. (I love to use the immersion blender in the pot, so no need for transferring hot soup!) 

Polenta Shepherds Pie

When the temperature drops we just want warm and cozy foods (yet I am always happy with a Kale Salad!).  This one was great and warmed us right up!

Michael has always apprecaited a good Shepherds Pie so I have made a few Veg variations on them over the years. This one was super good because of our shared love of polenta!

Polenta Shepherds Pi

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Polenta Shepherds Pie

Filling
1 lb veggie crumbles
1 onion, chopped
3 cups mushrooms, chopped
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups mushroom gravy – recipe below
cumin, salt & pepper, to taste

Polenta

1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup polenta
1 tablespoon Earth Balance
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley, oregano)
salt, to taste
havarti or parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Saute onion until translucent, then add veggie crumbles and mushrooms and cook 5 more minutes.
  2. Add frozen veggies and cook until thawed. Add cumin, salt & pepper and gravy.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
  4. Meanwhile begin polenta, bring almond milk, water, earth balance and herbs to a boil.
  5. Slowly whisk in the polenta and continue to stir until thick, a few minutes. Remove from heat. If adding cheese do so now, stirring till melted.
  6. Oil a casserole dish and pour filling mixture in.
  7. Top with polenta and smooth with a spatula.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 deg oven. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Mushroom Gravy

3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
1/4 cup earth balance
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tamari
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large skillet, melt the earth balance and add onion and mushrooms. Saute for just a minute or two over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and tamari. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat.
  3. Add spices, salt and pepper, stirring regularly for 8-10 minutes until gravy thickens.

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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 Sauce, Vegan Creamy Polenta with Sausage and Peppers, Mushroom and Kale Polenta, Polenta & Shallot Squares, Polenta with Nectarine-Blackberry Salsa, Polenta with Black Beans, Pan-Fried Tofu & Roasted Coconut Tomato Sauce, Slow 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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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!

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