Cauliflower Mushroom Gratin


A gratin is a dish that is baked with a breadcrumb topping. This deliciousness could be a vegan main dish or a side dish with pasta to round out the meal.  I use Earth Balance as a butter substitute whenever I am cooking vegan.  No one in my family can tell the difference. I also recommend the Better than Bullion brand of broth bases.  They taste homemade!

  • Olive oil- about 1/4 cup divided
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz. sliced Crimini mushrooms
  • 1 head of cauliflower, core removed, florets separated
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 C. vegetable broth
  • 1/4 C. melted Earth Balance (or more olive oil)
  • 3/4 C. breadcrumbs
  • 1 T. Nutritional Yeast, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron or other large ovenproof skillet. Add the shallots and mushrooms.  Sautee for a few minutes or until the mushrooms start to turn golden brown. Add the cauliflower florets and sprinkle some salt and pepper over it.  Drizzle a little more oil over the top. Stir and cook until the cauliflower is coated with the oil and is beginning to soften, about three minutes.  Pour the broth over the veggies and remove the skillet from heat.  Combine the melted Earth Balance with the breadcrumbs with a fork to make a crumbly mixture- if it’s too wet, add a bit more breadcrumbs – too dry, add a bit of olive oil.  If you have nutritional yeast, you can add a tablespoon to the mixture to give it a parmesan-like flavor. Distribute the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the veggies and drizzle the top with a bit more olive oil. Put the whole skillet in the oven and bake about 20 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly, most of the liquid is absorbed, and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Check to be sure the cauliflower is tender.  If you need to put it in for longer, you may want to tent it with foil to avoid over-browning the top.


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Stovetop Turkey Chili


Slow cookers and pressure cookers are amazing! I love mine and use them often. One thing they can lack is the texture and flavor you get from cooking something on the stove without a lid.  Slow cookers and pressure cookers generate a lot of liquid inside the pot and since they are sealed during the cooking process, there is no where for that liquid to go.  They are great for a lot of things, but if I want a deep, rich, concentrated flavor, I need to have control over the lid.

Yes, I could leave the lid off the slow cooker if I wanted to, but I use my slow cooker for the single reason that I can turn it on and leave it unattended, or even leave the house. If I can’t “Set it and forget it” then I’m not using it!

A slowly simmered soup, stew, or braise on the stove without a lid will yield a much more concentrated flavor through the evaporation of liquid, and the broth will be thicker and have more body to it. You can over-concentrate though, so be careful not to simmer too long! 40 to 60 minutes is perfect. Serves 6

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 3 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. fennel seeds, crushed, pounded with a pestle, or ground
  • 1 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (tastier if you can find dark meat, but not necessary)
  • 2  15oz. cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of black beans- do not drain
  • 1 can of kidney beans- do not drain
  • 1 can of pinto beans- do not drain
  • avocado, sour cream, cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil.  Cook about three minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  The spices will start to stick to the bottom of the pot and release their fragrance and oils.  After about two minutes of stirring, add the ground turkey.  Cook, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom for about two minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink. Add one can of the tomatoes and stir to combine.  Get all the browned bits off the bottom. Simmer for about five minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the remaining can of tomatoes and all of the beans with their juices. Simmer for about 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the chili is bubbling too rapidly, reduce the heat to low. Taste for seasoning.  Serve with sliced avocado, sour cream, and cheddar cheese!







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Easy Pea and Potato Samosas


I call them easy because I used store-bought puff pastry sheets.  You don’t even have to roll it out! Did you know that oil-based puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farms is vegan? Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that contains a variety of aromatic spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger.  If you can’t find it, you can go for an Indian yellow curry powder. These will take a while to make, there are several steps, but none of them are difficult.  You can do this in stages- bake the potatoes and put the puff pastry into the fridge to thaw the night before to make the assembly go faster. Be sure to pick up a good jar of chutney to serve with these flaky beauties. Makes 12 samosas.

  • 4-5 medium-sized yellow potatoes
  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/4 C. melted butter, Earth Balance, or olive oil
  • 1 t. sumac
  • 1 t. Ras El Hanout, or curry powder
  • 1/2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 C. peas, thawed.

First, bake or microwave the potatoes until tender. Cool until you can handle them. Cut in half and scoop out the cooked potato into a large mixing bowl. Mash the potatoes with a fork and stir in the melted butter and spices.  The mixture can be a bit lumpy.  Gently stir in peas.

Cut each of the thawed puff pastry sheets into 6 squares. Have a little bowl of water ready.  Scoop out about 1/4 C. of the potato mixture onto each puff pastry square. Wet your finger in the bowl of water and draw a line of water around the edges of one square.  Take one corner of the puff pastry and pull it a little- it stretches!  Stretch it up and over the filling and seal the corner with a pinch.


Use your wet finger to smooth out the filling so that you can get a good seal on the edges.  Finally, crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Place the samosas on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until ready to bake, or at least 30 minutes. They need to be very cold before baking so the pastry doesn’t melt into a puddle.

To bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the frozen samosas right into the oven. Bake about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature with chutney for dipping.



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Rice Salad with Roasted Grapes


Rice salad is an old idea, but for some reason it’s taken me a long time to embrace it.  I’m so glad I have!  It’s the perfect side dish to go with pretty much any entrée. The premise: toss cooked and cooled rice with vinaigrette and some herbs and serve at room temperature.  As with a green salad, the flavor and texture combinations are endless.  This one in particular gets a rich sweetness from roasted grapes and a nutty crunch from toasted almonds.

  • 2 C. long grain rice such as basmati
  • 4 C. water
  • 2 C. red grapes
  • 1/4 C. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 C. slivered, blanched almonds
  • 1 large lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 C. loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 C. loosely packed fresh parsley leaves

Rinse the rice under cold water and place in a pot with the 4 C. of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and let the rice steam, covered for about ten minutes.  When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl to cool.

While the rice is cooking, roast the grapes and toast the almonds.  Place the grapes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 t. of the olive oil.  Roast at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they are just beginning to split and bubble. Remove from the oven and toss them in with the rice to cool. Toast the almonds in a dry pan on the stove or on a clean rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for about five minutes.  Watch them carefully- they will go from brown to black in a matter of seconds.  Remove them from the heat when they are just beginning to become a rich golden brown. Once you’ve toasted almonds a few times you get to know when they are done by the smell of them!

To assemble the dish, combine the cooled rice, grapes, almonds, and herbs in a large bowl.  Toss gently, you don’t want the rice to clump. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice over the rice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss well to combine.  You can garnish with a few extra herbs on top. Serve at room temperature.






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Tikka Masala Chickpeas with Spicy Green Rice


I love the spice combinations and creamy sauces of Indian cooking. This delicious vegan dish is fragrant with coriander and cumin and gets a rich creamy texture from the addition of coconut milk. The green rice is a revelation! I’m excited to try lots of different variations to this one in the future.

For the rice:

  • 6 green onions, white parts only
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice

Put all the ingredients, except the rice in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Rinse the rice with cold water and place into a saucepan.  Stir in the green mixture and add another 1 1/2 C. water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.  Stir, and remove from heat. Leave the rice covered and allow to steam for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, rinse out your blender to make the tikka masala.

For the chickpeas:

  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large shallot, quaterted
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • t. ground turmeric
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 can plain tomato sauce
  • cans (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • cup full fat coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 diced avocado

Puree the ginger, garlic, and shallot with the water until smooth. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Scrape the ginger puree into the heated oil and stir to cook until the mixture starts to brown, about three minutes.  Quickly add the spices and stir for one minute more. Pour in the tomato sauce, the chickpeas, and the coconut milk.  Be sure to scrape up all the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about thirty minutes. Season to taste. Serve over the rice with a garnish of cilantro and avocado.




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Instant Pot Secret-Veggie-Packed Turkey Bolognese


My family loves pasta.  My youngest son doesn’t like “things” in the sauce.  By “things” I mean all the flavorful additions that a good tomato sauce needs, like onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs.  He doesn’t want bits of onions or herbs, he wants it to be smooth and red, and God forbid there should be a chunk of tomato! I could argue with him about it, but I know that as he gets older his tastes will change, as almost everyone’s taste does.  In the meantime I pack all the veggies into my sauce that I want by pureeing them in my smoothie maker! Mom: 1, Kid: 0.  In your face Kid!

In the summertime I try to set aside a few days to prep a large quantity of freezer meals to get us though the fall and winter.  I aim for one meal a week that I don’t need to cook- just throw something in the oven or the slow cooker. It really helps on those days with late football practices, or after-school meetings.  Now that it’s January, my freezer meal stockpile is rapidly dwindling!  In an effort to restock- I give you Instant Pot Turkey Bolognese.  You can do this on the stove in about two hours, or in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. This recipe makes enough for three meals for a family of four (Just serve it over cooked pasta.  Did you notice I didn’t say zoodles?  That’s because they are yucky).  I’ll store one in the fridge for this week and the other two can go into the freezer for later!

  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large stalks of celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 lbs. ground turkey (or beef, pork, or chicken)
  • 3, 15 oz. cans of plain tomato sauce- I like Hunts Sauce because it’s not sweet.
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 t. dried oregano

If your family doesn’t mind the “things” in the sauce then you can just dice up the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, and throw them into the Instant Pot.  Otherwise, cut the carrots, celery, and onion into chunks, the garlic cloves can go in to whole, and puree them all until smooth in a blender with a splash of water to get things moving.  I don’t have a fancy blender, I have a Ninja.  One awesome feature that I use almost daily is the smoothie cup.  Somehow the smoothie cup gets things way smoother than the regular blender pitcher. To quote my 5th grade students: IDKY. When I use it for this though, I need to puree the veggies in two batches since the cup is smaller than the blender pitcher.

Add the ground meat to the Instant Pot along with the pureed veggies, the cans of sauce, the salt and pepper, and the herbs. Stir to combine and lock the lid.  Don’t forget to close the vent.  I cooked this on high pressure for 35 minutes. Once it’s cooled it can be ladled into storage containers.  This sauce will keep in the fridge for about three days and in the freezer for about three months.  Just reheat it in the microwave, or gently on the stove top, and serve it over cooked pasta or creamy polenta.






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Peppermint Oreo Truffles


So easy, these are not really even a recipe, more of a method.  You can mix and match Oreo flavors with your favorite spices and extracts. Done in 20 minutes, start to finish!

  • 1 package of regular Oreos
  • 1 brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 t. mint extract
  • 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
  • a few candy canes for garnish

Pulse the cookies in the food processor until they are coarse crumbs.  Mix in the cream cheese and extract until you see no more white streaks and a dough forms.  It may be a bit sticky, that’s ok.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and set on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Freeze for about ten minutes while you melt the chocolate and smash the candy canes.  Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second increments, stirring in between to prevent scorching. A fondue pot or chafing dish is a great way to keep the chocolate melty while you are working, but if you don’t have one, that’s ok- you just might have to stick it back in the microwave if the chocolate starts to thicken up on you. Dip each Oreo ball in melted chocolate to coat, and sprinkle with some crushed candy canes. Set them back on the parchment-lined baking sheet to set up. Store these in the fridge for up to a week.  They also freeze well. These taste best at room temperature.

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