Day nine of vegan recipe challenge: a good kind of crunch

Not that post-beach, swish out your mouth ten times crunch.


Not that post-dental “polish” that you still find repulsive after 20+ years of enduring.


This is the kind of crunch you want – and may need – in your life. Did I mention that it involves cashews?

cashewThank you for being Ambitious, Monique!

Today’s vegan recipe comes from the kitchen that pushes itself to new limits. Perhaps you would call it the Ambitious Kitchen..or wait, that’s its name. Blogger Monique has dozens of delicious, quality vegan recipes (plus many are gluten-free, etc., etc.) for you to add to your cooking repertoire. This is one of my favorites because: 1) I’m a sucker for cashews; and 2) I’m a big fan of eating from bowls (sorry plates).

So, I share with you a nutrient-packed salad with the nice amount of roasted crunch to satisfy your salt and sweet tooth(s?) Teeth? Whatever.  From The Ambitious Kitchen:

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
Serves 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes

  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1-2 cups shredded red cabbage, depending on how much crunch you like
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup diced green onions
  • ½ cup cashew halves or peanuts
  • Optional: 1 cup edamame or chickpeas
  • Fresh lime, for a bit of tang

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup all natural peanut butter [Krema is one of my favorite peanut butters if you prefer to purchase]
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce, gluten-free if desired
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use agave if vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Water to thin, if necessary
  1. To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.
  2. To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey/agave to a medium microwave safe bowl; heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.
  3. Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.
  4. Next fold in red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges if desired.

How do you get your crunch satisfaction?

Day eight of vegan recipe challege: slow cooker to the rescue!

It’s chilly season. Therefore, it is chili season.

Chili is one of the most generic terms for a common food. Over the years, it has evolved from the ground meat slop to a bouquet of colors, textures, and aromas (sadly, still likely causing the same aromatic side effects of its historical brethren.)

I am all about chili in the slow cooker, especially during the week. Knock on wood, I haven’t run into a chili recipe that has absolutely fallen flat. I’ll share a few during this vegan recipe challenge, starting off today with a slightly adapted recipe from My Whole Food Life. You can always swap in dried beans that have been soaked (as the original recipe called for), but if you short on time, go for the canned.

3 bean chiliOriginal recipe & photo from My Whole Food Life

Amazing 3 Bean Sweet Potato Chili
Serves 6 to 8

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes or 7 cups diced tomatoes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup corn (organic, preferred) – fresh or frozen
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
3/4 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put all ingredients in slow cooker. Turn on low for 8 to 10 hours or high 4 to 6 (depends on your slow cooker’s settings). A minimum of low hours on a medium low temperature should be perfect.

What does a vegan top chili with?

Vegan sour cream (Tofutti is my go-to)
Corn chips (as delicious as Fritos are, I try to find non-GMO corn chips OR use organic tortilla chips)
Vegan cheese
Green onion
Incredible guacamole from my friend Michelle

Day seven of vegan recipe challenge: me-so hangry

Channeling 2 Live Crew is the only way to kick off this banging dish.

It’s another gem from the Oh She Glows cookbook, and as I’ve written about previously, if you haven’t meet miso yet, you are missing out.

What is miso?

Miso is a paste made from fermenting soybeans with salt, a fungus, and sometimes other special ingredients (barely!). Yum, right?

Yes, yum is the correct answer. As you strive to achieve ooji breath in yoga, you want to aim for umami, your sixth sense. (Read fun earlier blog post here).

Not only will miso ping your taste buds in ways you only thought cheese and other foods could, it will bring you to a whole new level of existence, man. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but this enlightened miso power bowl will leave you full and feeling energized.

I also wanted to address two questions that may come up in cooking:

1) Where do I find miso? Stories like Whole Foods and Earth Fare have a wide selection of miso. It’s not always cheap (ranging from $5 to $8) but it lasts over many dishes. You can also find miso (there’s white, yellow, purple, brown, etc.) at Asian markets and even at Trader Joe’s

2) Is there a substitute for maple syrup? Always. I don’t typically keep maple syrup in the house. I’m a big fan of agave nectar, and there is even a maple-infused agave nectar that I like to buy. I buy this at Kroger. You can also use honey too. Eating honey can be contentious issue for vegans, as it is an animal-derived product. I do choose to eat honey, but I’ll let you make that decision for yourself.

Enlightened_Miso_BowlPhoto credit via Angela Liddon

Enlightened Miso Power Bowl
Serves 2
Prep time: 20 minutes; Cook time: 28 to 30 minutes
gluten-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free option

1 sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil, melted
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked quinoa

To Assemble:
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 medium carrot, julienned
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1.4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon hemp seeds (optional)
1/2 cup sprouts (optional)

For Orange-Maple Miso Dressing:
3 tablespoons light miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup

1) Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

2) While the oven is heating up, make the Orange Maple Miso Dressing: In a mini or regular food process, combined the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, tahini, orange juice, water, and maple syrup and process until well combined.

2) Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or invest in these amazing silicone baking liners!). Place the sweet potato rounds on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle them with the oil, rubbing it on both sides to coat. Sprinkle the sweet potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then flip the potatoes and roast fr 8 to 10 minutes more, until tender and lightly browned.

3) While the sweet potatoes are roasting, cook the quinoa following the directions on the package

4) To assemble, divide the cooked quinoa evenly between 2 plates or bowl and season it with salt and pepper (Katie note: I NEVER divide the quinoa evenly because there is too much for two dinners. I put about 1/2 – 3/4 cup in our bowls and then save the rest). Top with the roasted sweet potato rounds, the edamame, carrots, green onion, cilantro, and, if using, the same seeds, hemp seeds, and sprouts. rizzle with Orange-Maple Miso Dressing and enjoy!

Isa Does It (yes, she does) & day one of vegan recipe challenge

My friend Laura gave me one of the greatest gifts possible this year:


Hands down – vegan/nonvegan – one of the best cookbooks out there. This may be a premature post, but I like to think that after batting 10 for 10 from a random assortment of recipes, it’s a winner.

I plugged a movement cleverly named Veganuary on Facebook this week. The motivation behind this campaign is simple: take the pledge to try vegan this January (aka in 8 days). Why? A whole host of reasons:

  • Honor the lives of other creatures (aka animals)
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Reduce your cholesterol
  • Seek out new foods to entice your palatte
  • Support sustainable agriculture
  • Reduce air and water pollution
  • Lose weight
  • and more!

A few friends mentioned that they would try it – even for a few days. And I say:

heck to the yes!

Even adopting a plant-based lifestyle for three days can have positive impact. It’s not about doing a 180 of your life overnight. That’s not practical or likely to stick. Instead, I encourage people to start small. Swap out your milk to a non-dairy alternative. Pick up vegetables at the local farmer’s market.

And, when you need help, ask a vegan friend for some recipes. So, this brings me back to Isa.

I (ahem) am going to make an effort to post a recipe each day from now until the end of January that I have: 1) made; and 2) enjoyed. One of the challenges of any cooking experience is (especially from those tantalizing Pinterest recipes) – what if it’s terrible? And there are some bland, boring, duds out there on the Internet (and no, I’m not talking about

So, first up for today:

Smoky Incan Stew 2

Smoky Incan Stew (serves 6 to 8)
total time: 45 minutes – active time: 20 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped chipotles in adobo sauce, seeded
3/4 cup quinoa (red quinoa looks prettiest)
4 cups vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper
1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1.5 cups corn kernels (preferably fresh but frozen is okay)
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and juice reserved, tomatoes crushed into pieces (see note)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (1.5 cups)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped

Pre-heat a 4-quart pot over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onion in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chipotles, quinoa, broth, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Let boil for 7 minutes, until the quinoa is almost ready.

Lower the heat to a simmer and add the sweet potatoes. Cover the pot and simmer for about 12 minutes. the sweet potatoes should be tender and the quinoa fully cooked. Add the corn, tomatoes, black beans, and cilantro, and simmer for about 7 minutes, just until everything is heated through. It tastes best if you let it sit for a few minutes before serving, allowing the flavors to marry. You may need to add some of the reserved tomato juice to thin it out to your liking. Serve hot.


  • The recipe calls for a can of whole tomatoes, but only the tomatoes are used at first. The juice in the can may be used to thicken the stew, or maybe you want to make a Bloody Mary or something? For prepping the tomatoes, you can just crush them with your hands. I do this right over the pot when it comes time to add them. Just grab one out of the can and squeeze between your fingers. It’s messy fun! Fresh tomatoes may be subbed, but add them along with the quinoa so that they have time to break down. About 1.5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes ought to do it.
  • One more ting: Touching hot peppers can really burn you, so handle them briefly and carefully, and wash your hands with soapy water immediately after. You can even wear rubber gloves if you want to be extra careful.
  • What to do with those extra chipotles? You can store them in a plastic bag in the fridge and use within a week, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be using chipotles twice in one week. What I like to do is store them in plastic and freeze.

Nom nom nom. Enjoy!

Smoky Incan Stew_1


Frugal Food Preparation: What’s in the Freezer?

Last week, Aaron and I tried to engage in some food frugality post-Richmond vacation and played the: “What can we make from the pantry, fridge and freezer?” game. I still did require SOME fresh food but minimal: bananas, snow peas, apples discounted veggies, and Amy’s lunches for Aaron’s work. Outside of those few items, it was time to engage culinary creativity.

One meal I threw together was a simple marinated tempeh (fridge) stir-fry with snow peas (purchased), peas (freezer), okra (freezer) tossed over pasta (pantry). This was (I’m almost embarrassed to admit this) the first time I had marinated the tempeh, and boy, did that shake it up! A simple marinade of tamari, sesame oil, black pepper, and white wine vinegar.



For dinner another night, we went spicy – ole! This dish was infused with red pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper. This was an almost glorified freezer meal: broccoli, peas, okra thrown together with diced tomatoes and chickpeas, all plopped on some wonderful brown rice. It brought the sweat…and coughing fits.


Not photographed, but better believe there was a taco night or two mixed in there. Our Costco-supply of black beans, chickpeas, and corn tortillas always prove to be a lifeline for quick, delicious meals on those nights when cooking/dicing/prepping is just not likely to happen. My friend Michelle wrote a great blog post on how to create tasty weekly meals by stocking up on key staples to have in your pantry, freezer, and fridge, especially for vegan cooks.

Some of my go-tos to help in all dishes, but especially on the cheap, are:

1) Nutritional yeast (I could eat this on everything)

2) Dried beans (black, chickpeas, navy)

3) Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts – Costco, baby!)

4) Dried herbs and spices (in particular: cumin, basil, thyme, parsley, chili powder)

5) Grains, such as quinoa, bulgur, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice

6) Other proteins: tempeh, tofu

7) Frozen veggies, especially Edamame and stiry-fry blends

8) Toasted sesame oil

9) Hummus (i know, I know. We should make this at home. But Sabra…Sabra just knows what’s up!)

10) A good balsamic vinegar (we are fortunate to have Blue Sky Oil & Vinegar not too far from our house, which has an incredibly array of vinegars and oils – you can even taste them!)

What sort of ingredients are your must haves?

A Robin Robertson Fueled Week

While shortened work weeks typically drag out in long-winded fashioned, this past week flew by at racehorse speed. I did work the morning of MLK Day – perhaps this threw my psyche off just enough to make my inner workings believe it was a full week? Perhaps. Or, it may be more that I have more than enough to manage, develop, and review than humanly possible.

In the food world this week, I realized this morning our menu was brought exclusively by vegan cookbook author Robin Robertson after the newest purchase – One-Dish Vegan – arrived as a late Christmas present to me from…me (well, really generous gift cards. But, who can resist a new cookbook?!)


The first three recipes are from One Dish Vegan. Out of the dishes, I would vote the Vegetable Lo Mein was the most outstanding, especially as leftovers the following day as the delicious, flavorful sauce soaked deeper into the vegetables and noodles.


I also added an entire block of tofu rather than just 8 ounces the recipe called for (TOFU MONSTER!) and since we have housed a supply of pasta for more than six months, I used what we had on hand: consider it an Italian spin on Lo Mein.

The Vegetable Etouffee was the second favorite, but alas! I never succeeded in the search for file powder to give the dish its authentic gumbo flavor. Regardless, the rue (I used soy flour) and spices made it taste as close to Cajun as possible. Aaron suggested that when I make this in the future (noted: he liked it enough for it to be repeated!), to try adding another protein to “make it a bit chunkier” – he coined Vegetable Etofu – brilliant.



You won’t find pictures of dish three: the Lemony Quinoa with Spinach and Chickpeas. Overall, it turned out: meh. The lemon flavor was lost in the dish (did I put in too much spinach?) and it just never popped for me.

But these:


These Super Nachos ended the week on a High C note (not the artificial, flavorful drink of our childhoods – thinking more along the line of Soprano-esque pitch). The pinto bean spread on the bottom will now become a taco filling staple in the Todd household. So, so simple and utterly satisfying. It seemed like the perfect meal to eat before venturing to DPAC to see Once – nothing says romantic musical than vegan nachos…or something like that.

One additional food-related highlight for this post: a new take on a breakfast smoothie that I am wild about:


That is my morning powerhouse trio of liquid splendor: coffee, smoothie, and water, brought to you by two of my favorite North Carolina organizations: WUNC and the Durham YMCA. Fusion! Now, my recipe is below, but it can be tweaked/edited for your palate pleasure and dietary needs. Cheers!

Breakfast Power Smoothie

1 banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 tablespoon chia seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin purree

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons powdered peanut butter (I use PB2)

1 cup ice