Meatless Monday- Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Meatless Monday is upon us once again. Things have been crazy hectic around here over the past couple weeks, so I’ll make this short, but very sweet.

The other evening, I was so excited when Tim came home from work bearing three beautiful avocados a client had given him from her tree. (Okay, so  maybe there are some perks to living in South Florida.) For me, the hardest part of having avocados in the house is mustering up the patience to wait for them to attain the perfect level of ripeness. When that day finally came, I decided to make myself a little treat.

This recipe comes from NeeNooBug’s Nest, and it’s quickly  become one of my favorite desserts. It’s super fast and easy to whip up, and it’s absolutely delicious. Give it a try!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Avocado Chocolate Mousse3

Short on time, but craving a decadent dessert? Avocado and raw cacao play superstar rolls in this rich and creamy chocolate mousse. It’s also raw vegan and gluten free.

Makes approximately 1 cup (Yield will vary depending on the size of your avocado.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp agave syrup
  • 2-3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional add-ins:

  • shredded coconut
  • hemp seeds
  • chia seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • goji berries

To prepare:

  1. Add all ingredients to food processor or blender and mix until well combined.
  2. Chill before serving. (Or don’t. Either way, it’s delicious!)

Seriously, that’s it!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse2

Avocado Chocolate Mousse1

I topped my mousse with shredded coconut. Yum!

Dig in!

(Chocolate lovers rejoice!)

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Meatless Monday- Chickpea of the Sea

One of the greatest challenges I faced while transitioning to a plant-based diet was finding healthy, satisfying, and, of course, tasty, alternatives to the foods I had regularly consumed up until that point. Sure, this task may seem like a piece of {vegan} cake now, but the majority of that first year was spent eating heavily processed convenience foods that hid under fancy labels plastered with words like OrganicAll Natural, and No GMOs. I was suspended in a world of sodium-laden cans of soup, frozen entrées, packaged snacks, and far too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Oh, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good ol’ PB&J, I really do, but my meal plans were in desperate need of some variety. Plus, I needed to learn how to prepare some fast and easy menu options that were lower in sodium and less processed in comparison to the food-like substances that had infiltrated my diet.

I was overjoyed when I came across a recipe for a mock tuna salad of sorts – Chickpea of the Sea – on the blog Live.Learn.Love.Eat. Unlike many faux animal products, this one’s bulk is comprised of whole food ingredients, not soy protein isolates and other unpronounceable and equally scary sounds ingredients. Chickpea of the Sea makes an excellent sandwich filler, pita stuffer or spread for crackers or veggies. It’s now a regular in our kitchen.

(By the way, if it’s outstanding recipes comprised of whole-food ingredients you’re after, I very highly recommend the blog Live.Learn.Love.Eat‘s recipe page. The author is absolutely fantastic at creating wholesome family-friendly vegan dishes without the processed ingredients and refined sugars. Seriously, this blog has been my go-to since I stumbled upon it.)

I’ve been craving Chickpea of the Sea sandwiches and tomato soup for the past week. Considering we enjoyed these sandwiches while I was in labor, and Friday, July 18th, Miss P and I celebrated our Nine Months In/Nine Months Out milestone, it isn’t so strange that these delightful sandwiches have been on my mind.

Before heading to the kitchen to whip up a quick batch of Chickpea of the Sea, I decided to look through some pictures from Miss P’s Birth Day. I found two that Tim snapped of our wonderful Doula and me having lunch. Don’t let our carefree gestures fool you; these were taken during active labor. {Please excuse the blurriness, as I’m sure Tim was a bit distracted at the time.} 

Enjoying Chickpea of the Sea sandwiches with my wonderful Doula on Miss P’s Birth Day. (Actually, I should say the day BEFORE her Birth Day since she arrived after midnight!)

Riding out a surge, my sandwich on standby.

And there you have it: Lunch during labor. Be sure you don’t try this at home.

Chickpea of the Sea

Chickpea of the Sea6

Makes enough for 4-5 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (My favorite is Earth Balance MindfulMay0.)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons kelp powder
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 dill pickles, diced
  • Celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

To prepare:

  1. Mash the chickpeas in a large bowl. (I use a fork to do this, but feel free to utilize whatever fancy gadget you have on hand.)
  2. Add the mayonnaise, dijon, and kelp powder, and stir.
  3. Add the diced onion, celery and dill pickles, stir until well-combined.

Chickpea of the Sea3

Chickpea of the Sea4Chickpea of the Sea5

And there you have it; absolute perfection, and so quick and easy to prepare.

Enjoy!

Meatless Monday- Kale Slaw

I was introduced to the nutritional powerhouse that’s kale during my first MFA residency at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. It seemed that kale, or some variation of it, was featured at every dinner during my eight-day stay on campus – and, come to think of it, at every dinner over my next four residencies as well.

Ahhh, kale.

One of my favorite dishes from Goddard was a crisp and tangy kale slaw served alongside an equally delightful tempeh reuben. After scouring the Internet for the formula to recreate the mouthwatering green salad I noshed on in Vermont, I finally came across a recipe I was happy with on Almost Vegan Girl‘s blog (which I hope she won’t mind me sharing here.)

Here it is in all its glory:

Kale Slaw

Kale Slaw3

Move over, green cabbage: kale is the Super-Star here! Sweet and tangy merge with cool and crisp in this nutrient-dense vegan take traditional cole slaw. This is the absolute perfect summer salad- serve it as a starter, devour it as a snack, or make it a side dish at your next picnic. Any way you present it, it’s sure to be a hit! 

Makes a great big bowl!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed and very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

To prepare:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, orange juice, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine kale, onions, and carrots. Set aside.
  3. Peel and grate apple. Combine with 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice. (This will help prevent the apple from turning brown.)
  4. Add grated apple and lemon juice mixture to kale, onions, and carrots. Mix.
  5. Pour dressing over salad, and mix well.
  6. Refrigerate and let sit for a minimum of one hour: this will allow the kale to soften up a bit and the flavors to come together. (To maximize both flavor and texture, I like to prepare this salad a day in advance. Of course, it’s still delicious if you just can’t wait that long to eat it.)
Kale Slaw1

Time to mix it all up!

Pots and Pans1

These days, Miss P is continuously finding new ways to “help” Mama in the kitchen, which, of course, includes rummaging through the cabinets and tossing everything inside onto the floor because, you know, preparing a meal just doesn’t provide the same element of thrill when you aren’t sidestepping two travel mugs, four plastic containers, the lid to a copper-bottomed kettle, and a nine-month-old.

Pots and Pans2All obstacles and adventures aside, I’m grateful when the Universe aligns and allows me to spend an hour here or there in the kitchen preparing wholesome meals for my family.

Kale Slaw3

This salad is budget friendly, super healthy, easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious! It’s definitely become a staple in our house.

It’s

Super –

k a l e 

– ifragilisticexpialidocious!

um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay…

Kale Slaw4

Meatless Monday- Pasta e Fagioli

Italian food has always been one of my favorites. I mean, seriously, who can resist a heaping plate of capellini smothered in robust tomato sauce and drizzled with olive oil? My mouth waters just thinking about it.

When I first adopted a vegan lifestyle, I quickly realized that Italian restaurants were more or less off limits: chicken, mozzarella, beef, mozzarella, veal, mozzarella, pancetta, mozzarella, mozzarella with extra mozzarella… {Gahh.} These places can inevitably become a vegan’s worst nightmare, yet it took me a long time to come to terms with this. Now when I’m craving Italian fare, I’m able to whip up a satisfying (cruelty-free) meal at home.

Learning how to prepare food from scratch wasn’t an overnight process, but it was absolutely worth the effort, and, as a result of this knowledge, I’m now able to recreate many of my former favorite meals in much healthier ways. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of preparing your own meals is that you have complete control over what goes into them and, perhaps more importantly, what stays out of them. (It should only take a once-over of the exhaustive list of ingredients plastered on most packaged foods for it to become startlingly clear that these products might, in fact, pose serious health risks.)

Before Miss P’s arrival, I often spent the entire weekend prepping food, in mass quantities, for the week ahead. With an increasingly mobile nine-month-old and several new business ventures underway, devoting that kind of time to our meals is no longer an option. Even so, I refuse to revert to highly processed foods, so, lately, I’ve been experimenting with dishes that are quick and simple to prepare, and let’s not forget, budget-friendly, because, let’s face it, in this single-income household, buying a $22 bag of Camu powder to round-off our green smoothies isn’t always practical.

This Meatless Monday, I’d like to share the recipe for one of our new favorites: Pasta e Fagioli. It couldn’t be any easier to prepare, and there’s a good chance the ingredients are already hanging around your kitchen just waiting to be turned into something delicious. As an added bonus, this beans and pasta dish is serious comfort food. Pair it with a colorful garden salad and a fresh loaf of crusty bread and you have yourself a restaurant-style Italian meal. Might I add that it’s also equally delicious the next day- that is, if you actually have leftovers.

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli 8

Fresh Roma tomatoes, minced garlic, and Italian herbs cook down into a terrifically light sauce that pairs perfectly with hearty pasta (I like to use gluten free) and white beans. Top with a generous pour of white wine vinegar for a zing like no other. This is a fast, simple, and budget friendly – yet wholesome and satisfying dish. Perfect for summer!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
  • a few dashes of fresh black pepper
  • 2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, diced medium
  • 2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 lb small tube pasta (I used Ancient Harvest Gluten Free elbows)
  • 15 oz can white beans (no salt added), drained and washed

Optional:

  • fresh parsley, chopped (to garnish)
  • parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • a sprinkle of nutritional yeast
Pasta e Fagioli 1

Make this mouthwatering beans and pasta dish when Roma tomatoes are in season!

To prepare:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Warm olive oil in a second large pot over medium heat. Add garlic to the olive oil, and sauté until garlic becomes fragrant (about one minute). Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook until tomatoes are broken down and sauce has reduced and thickened (about 30 minutes). While you’re waiting for the tomatoes to break down, cook pasta according to package directions making sure it remains al dente. Drain pasta and set aside. When sauce is done, add two tbsp of white wine vinegar and stir. Add pasta and beans. (I like to use a wooden spoon and mix gently to keep my pasta intact.) Simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.

Pasta e Fagioli 2

Pasta e Fagioli 4

photo

Miss P likes to help in the kitchen by emptying everything out of the cabinets while I cook.

Pasta e Fagioli 3

Pasta e Fagioli 8

…so delicious that I actually ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

Meatless Monday Ciabatta Bread Veggie Pizza

This Meatless Monday, I’d like to share our typical Friday-night dinner – Ciabatta Bread Veggie Pizza – because, well, it’s one of our favorites. [In fact, it’s so good that sometimes we break down and make a second batch by mid-week.]

For us, Friday nights used to be a time to get dressed up and head to a local bar for drinks and a few hands of Texas hold ’em, but since Miss P’s arrival, that routine has been replaced with a new one: Our Friday evenings now entail a trip to the grocery store to stock up on necessities for the coming week, lots of playtime for Miss P and homemade vegan pizza for dinner.

[And if you’re currently thinking, “That sounds like a terribly dull way to spend a Friday night,” you’ve obviously never run errands with an infant in tow and you definitely haven’t attempted to prepare and consume longly stare at a meal until it’s ice cold in the company of said infant.]

This week was no exception! [And, in case you’re wondering, yes, the pizza is even delicious cold.]

Daddy & Miss P

Tim sporting Miss P! (I cannot believe how BIG she’s getting!)

Tim’s also sporting one of our handmade nursing necklaces – which Miss P absolutely loves – from our Etsy shop, The Tiny Acorn by J Lee. (We’d be honored if you’d drop by for a visit.)

Now, down to business: Tim’s been experimenting with vegan pizza for some time now, and he’s finally come up with a simple recipe we’re completely satisfied with. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ciabatta Bread Veggie Pizza:

veggie pizza6

Move over, Delivery. Seriously.

Ciabatta bread bakes to a satisfyingly toasty yet toothsome pizza crust, and provides a hearty foundation for robust tomato sauce and all of your favorite toppings! Keep yours simple or get as inventive as you’d like. This meal is so quick – and easy – to throw together, making it an excellent choice for Meatless Monday.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • oregano (to taste)
  • basil (to taste)
  • garlic powder (to taste)
  • 15 oz. jar pizza sauce (We like Organicville.)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (We use Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds. It’s dairy-free and melts wonderfully, but you can use any brand you’d like.) 
  • 1/2 cup (or desired amount) red bell pepper, diced*
  • 1/4 cup (or desired amount) red onion, diced*

* We kept it simple and used red bell pepper and red onion, but the fresh veggie combos are unlimited, so feel free to experiment!

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the loaf of ciabatta bread in half, then cut each half lengthwise so you have four pieces. Drizzle each piece with olive oil (we use about 1 tbsp per slice). Spread sauce evenly over each slice (we use about 1/2 cup per slice), then dust with oregano, basil, and garlic powder, to taste. Next, generously sprinkle shredded cheese over sauce (again, we use about 1/2 cup per slice). Now you’re ready for your veggies, or other toppings. Add as many as you like; have fun experimenting here! (One of these weeks I’m also going to try fresh basil and sliced Roma tomatoes, yum!)

veggie pizza1

Olive oil

veggie pizza2

& sauce,

veggie pizza4

“cheese” & veggies, oh my!

Bake pizza at 400 degrees until bread becomes nice and toasty and “cheese” melts, approximately 16 minutes. Due to differences in ovens, keep an eye on your pizzas; they can go from cooked to perfection to charred in a matter of minutes, trust us. 😉 This pizza was definitely cooked to perfection!

veggie pizza5

Behold! Vegan-cheesy goodness!

Much tastier than takeout and healthier as well!

Meatless Monday Simple Vegetable Broth

In the midst of throwing together my favorite chili one afternoon, I realized I’d forgotten a staple ingredient during our weekly trip to the grocery store: vegetable broth.

[The dread]

I’d just spent over an hour meticulously chopping and measuring, and I didn’t feel like making another trip to the store, so I decided to try my hand at making my own veggie broth for the very first time.

The broth was simple to make, and the result was delicious and extremely cost efficient. Not to mention, it didn’t have any of the “mystery” ingredients commonly found in store-bought versions. (What the heck is natural flavor anyway? Does anyone else ever wonder about this?) One of the most outstanding features of this broth is that there’s absolutely no added sodium. Zero.

In my first attempt, I used veggies we had on hand, but you could certainly create your own combination(s). I’ve since altered this recipe many times, including ingredients, such as potato peels, a corn cob, and mushrooms, just to name a few.

As a general rule, I choose vegetables/ingredients that compliment whatever I plan to use the finished broth for. (Example: I added the potato peels to a broth that would later be used for potato soup.) I also try to avoid adding vegetables that have overpowering flavors, such as asparagus and brussels sprouts as well as ingredients that cook down too much, like sweet potatoes and red lentils.

Go ahead, and give it a try!

Simple Vegetable Broth

vegetable broth

This is a terrific basic vegetable broth; it’s simple to prepare, cost efficient, there’s no added sodium, and it doesn’t contain any of the “mystery” ingredients often found in its processed counterparts. (Alter the ingredients as needed to compliment the recipe in which you plan to use the broth)

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, chopped (I like to leave the skin on.)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and chopped
  • handful of fresh parsley sprigs
  • 7 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed

To prepare:

Wash vegetables thoroughly, and very coarsely chop them. Toss all ingredients into a large pot with a few tablespoons of water, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for 7-10 minutes or until veggies begin to soften and brown. (Add water, a couple tablespoons at a time, as needed to keep the veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add two quarts of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Carefully strain the stock through a mesh strainer into another pot and discard what’s left of the solids. Viola! You’ve just made homemade veggie broth! Pat yourself on the back.

Broth will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or it can be frozen for several months. I usually double this recipe and freeze the broth in smaller portions so I have it on hand whenever I decide to make a batch of soup, which is often.

[Enjoy]

Meatless Monday Liquid Lunch

There was a time when, to me, “liquid lunch” meant cocktails at noon with my exuberant Uncle. Although these were enjoyable afternoons, those days are long gone, and, since then, the term has taken on quite a different meaning.

Allow me to introduce you to my power-packed friend, The Smoothie.

Smoothies have earned a starring-role in my diet for several reasons: They’re quick and easy to prepare, clean up and consume, and they travel exceptionally well. Most importantly, they allow me to supply my body with more of the vital nutrients it requires than I’d otherwise be able to fit in at most meals – a task than can feel daunting.

Oh, and did I mention they’re also delicious? They really are.

Smoothies

Call me a health nerd, but this picture makes me smile!

When Miss P was a newborn (before we mastered the whole babywearing thing), smoothies were often the only “meal” I had a chance to prepare until Tim got home from work- usually late in the evening.

As a brand new and exhausted nursing Mama, it was important for me -and Miss P- that I maintained a healthy diet, so when the stash of frozen meals my mom had prepared to get me through my first week home dwindled, I was grateful to have some stellar smoothie recipes in my arsenal.

Here’s one of my all-time favorites. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Dairy-Free Simple Banana Walnut Smoothie:

This rich and creamy smoothie is reminiscent of a decadent banana bread, but you can sip sans guilt; bananas serve as a source of steady energy, walnuts add protein and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and cinnamon has powerful anti-inflamitory properties. What a healthy – and delicious – way to start your day!

Banana Walnut Smoothie

Makes one [very] large serving

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe banana, frozen (Though you can use fresh, frozen makes a much creamier smoothie.)
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts, soaked (see note below)
  • 2 or 3 pitted medjool dates
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • Handful of ice cubes (optional)

Toss all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender, blend until smooth, and viola! You have yourself a light – yet surprisingly filling – nutrient dense meal or snack. (I like to sprinkle my finished-product with additional cinnamon because it looks snazzy, plus I just absolutely love the stuff.)

NOTE: Nuts contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which make them difficult to digest. Soaking your raw walnuts in filtered water overnight (or for at least 8 hours) will deactivate these properties making it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients you’re supplying it with.

Meatless Monday Taco Salad Supreme

Meatless Monday Taco Salad

A cruelty-free Cinco de Mayo smorgasbord!

This week’s Meatless Monday also happens to be Miss P’s first Cinco de Mayo! To keep things festive, we’ll be forgoing our beloved “Taco Tuesday” and feasting upon this mouth-watering taco salad with all the fixings a day early. Grab your sombrero and give it a try; this is one serious salad.

I’ll share how we do it, but please know this recipe is pretty much a free-for-all when it comes to ingredients and assembly.

Enjoy!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 a small red onion, diced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1 can pitted black olives
  • 15 oz. can black beans or pinto beans
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 package Mexican style veggie crumbles, equal to 1 lb. of ground beef (Lightlife Smart Ground is our favorite.)
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream (We like Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet.)
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa of your choice
  • tortilla chips of your choice

Optional Ingredients:

  • shredded cheese
  • refried beans
  • lime wedges
  • jalapeños
  • cilantro
  • hot sauce
  • scallions

(Really, the possibilities are endless.)

To prepare:

  • Keeping each item separate, shred lettuce, seed and dice tomatoes, dice red onion, and cut lime into wedges. Drain and slice olives. Set aside.
  • Drain and rinse beans; beans may be warmed over low heat in a sauce pan or served cold.
  • Prepare corn and veggie crumbles according to package directions.
  • When everything else is ready, slice the avocado. (This should be your last step, as avocados begin to turn brown quickly once exposed to air.)
  • Assemble salads on separate plates: We like to start with the veggie crumbles, beans, and corn, then add fresh ingredients. Finally, squeeze a couple of lime wedges over your salad, and top with a dollop of sour cream and some salsa.
  • Serve with a side of tortilla chips.

Note: I like to put each item in a separate container (containers with lids work best), and line them up along the countertop or tabletop. This makes assembling salads and storing/retrieving leftovers fast and easy.

Nom nom nom!

Nom nom nom!

Happy Cinco de Mayo from The Excellent Adventures of Miss P!

Meatless Monday Zucchini “Spaghetti” w/Creamy Avocado Pesto

Zucchini spaghetti3

Ripe avocado lends a perfect base for the robustness of fresh basil and garlic to fuse with the nuttiness of nutritional yeast and tahini. A little fresh lemon juice adds a zing to this savory modified pesto. Serve it a-top a bed of spiralized zucchini for a raw vegan and gluten free twist on the Italian classic.

This dish is surprisingly satisfying, plus it takes mere minutes to whip up. Sure to be a (cruelty-free) summertime hit!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium zucchinis
  • 2 ripe avocados (halved, and pitted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • juice from 1 small lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Optional ingredients

  • grape tomatoes
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • fresh basil, torn
  • fresh parsley, chopped

To prepare

Wash and peel zucchinis. I use a spiralizer to transform my zucchini into spaghetti-like strands, but you can certainly julienne the zucchini by hand. Once your zucchini is spiralized, place it in a large bowl and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

Zucchini Spaghetti1

My favorite part of preparing this meal!

Zucchini spaghetti2

This picture shows four medium zucchinis spiralized.

To make the Creamy Avocado Pesto, simply toss the flesh from both avocados and all remaining ingredients into your food processor or high speed blender (I use my Vitamix), and blend until smooth.

Next, empty the sauce into the bowl of zucchini, and mix until zucchini’s evenly coated. (I find that a wooden spoon does well with this job.)

Garnish with chopped or sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley or torn fresh basil (because, seriously, can you ever really have enough fresh basil? No. No you can’t).

Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

A garden salad drizzled with olive oil and apple cider vinegar makes a tasty compliment to this meal.

Zucchini Spaghetti w:Alfredo Pesto

Now that’s what I call un-cooking!

 [Wipes drool from keyboard]

Meatless Monday Ultimate Black Bean and Veggie Soup

I was introduced to the concept of Meatless Monday in 2011, during my first graduate residency at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. If you’re unfamiliar with the term – as I was at the time – Meatless Monday is a global movement that seeks to promote greater health and environmental sustainability by simply choosing to forgo meat on Mondays.

I was initially intrigued by the campaign, but by the time I returned home from residency and plunged into my first semester of graduate work, it was long forgotten. After all, I was already submerged in the vegan lifestyle, which meant all my days were meatless.

I’ve been noticing some references to Meatless Monday over the past few months, primarily via social media, but I don’t see them as often as I’d like to. I thoroughly support the vision behind the movement, but I realize that if you typically consume meat at each meal, the idea of removing it, even just for one day, can seem a bit implausible. After all, what will you eat? I mean, who wants to nosh on carrot sticks and lettuce all day? That sounds terrible. Plus, you’ll be ravenous by the time Tuesday rolls around, right?

Eh, not so much.

I’ve been bouncing back-and-forth between a vegan and vegetarian diet for years now, and as zany as the idea may seem to a carnivore, it’s totally possible, dare I even say easy to put together delicious and satisfying meals sans meat.

MM food

Top: Rolled oats w/fresh strawberries, almond milk & sliced almonds; Berry smoothie; Choco-Banana “Ice Cream” (made from blended bananas, coconut milk & raw cacao powder) Bottom: Peanut butter & jam on whole grain bread w/apple wedges; Red lentils, quinoa, green beans & yam

In an effort to raise awareness, and to promote the myriad of health and environmental benefits that are a direct result of cutting down on meat consumption, The Excellent Adventures of Miss P will feature a recipe and/or an applicable lifestyle piece each Monday.

We welcome you to share your favorite meat-free recipe(s) with us at: excellentadventuresofmissp@gmail.com. We may even feature some of these recipes on the blog (with your permission, of course).

This week, I’d like to talk about the nutritional benefits of homemade soups and stews; both are a staple in our home for many reasons. I’ve always loved soup, but it wasn’t until I stopped stocking up on sodium and preservative laden cans of it and started making it myself – with pure unprocessed ingredients –  that it became a health food.

Most soups and stews are easy to make, and recipes tend to be forgiving of substitutions and additions, meaning you probably already have everything you need to prepare a big pot without making a trip to the store. Soups and stews also provide an excellent opportunity to sneak in a plethora of nutrient-dense foods to ensure you’re getting the most out of your meal. (Think loads of filling fiber, plentiful protein and an array of vitamins and minerals just to name a few.) As a side note, I use organic ingredients whenever possible, and I try to avoid adding canned foods as said cans are usually lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA). Although many sources have cited BPA as safe in small amounts, I tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to chemicals my family will be ingesting.

I make soup every week, so there’s always a fresh batch hanging out in our refrigerator ready be ladled into a sauce pan and reheated. I also like to keep an assortment of these soups in the freezer along with staple-ingredients, such as broth and beans, to drastically reduce the likelihood of having to reach for a can.

For our first Meatless Monday post, I’d like to share the recipe for one of my absolute favorite black bean soups. I love black beans; they’re loaded with iron (20% of your daily intake per 1-cup serving), fiber and protein, and they’re extremely versatile. Plus, they taste terrific.

I hope you’ll give this soup a try!

The Ultimate Black Bean and Veggie Soup:

Black Bean Soup

This recipe is a modified version of the Zesty Black Bean Soup from Whole Foods Market’s website; my version omits some of the prepackaged ingredients and adds a couple superstars to the mix. 

This soup is nutrient dense and fast and simple to make. The spice-blend of cinnamon and cumin lends an unexpected and exotic flair. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil
  • 5 medium-sized carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) fine sea salt
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 celery stalk, finely sliced
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups black beans (I prefer fresh, but you can certainly use 2 15 oz. cans, no-salt-added, drained and rinsed.)
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
  • fresh cilantro, chopped

Optional Ingredients:

  • additional cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • nutritional yeast
  • cheese
  • hot sauce
  • quinoa
  • rice
  • tortillas

To prepare:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, bay leaf and salt and cook until carrots are just tender, about 7 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Add cumin, cinnamon, beans, corn, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tomatoes reduce (about 20 minutes). Stir in cilantro. Serve.

Note: This soup keeps well in the refrigerator; it also freezes well!

This soup can be served with additional cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce, sour cream… the possibilities are endless. Add cooked rice or quinoa to transform your bowl of soup into a hearty meal.

chopped veggies

Mmmm! All those colorful fresh-chopped veggies make me want to drool on my keyboard. Also- I prefer making my own broth, but I was a bit short on time this week.

Black Bean Soup

MM soup

Black bean soup w/super grain blend (red & white quinoa, buckwheat & millet) & fresh cilantro. Delish!

Have a Marvelous Meatless Monday!