Today I’m sharing something a bit lighter than my last Covid-19 post. Covid can get a little heavy and there is no need to let the negativity of the novel virus to bring us down. In one of my recent posts on how to get happy, I shared how cooking was one of my joyful activities, cooking makes me happy at any given moment. I’m getting excited now thinking about the fresh salsa I’m going to make for our quesadillas this evening. Yum.
My hubby and I have been 85% plant based for three years and over the years I’ve been finding and preparing new plant-based/vegan/vegetarian recipes. Being plant based doesn’t mean you are eating salad every night. There are so many fantastic recipes available to try and enjoy. Recently I was introduced to Butler’s Soy Curls and now I’m obsessed with the Vegan Beef and Broccoli recipe. The link to the main recipe
This recipe is great for lunch or dinner. Once the prep is done, it is a quick meal to put together. Vegan beef and broccoli (a.k.a. Mongolian soy curls) is the perfect answer to your Chinese take-out cravings. Sweet and salty soy curls with tender broccoli and scallions with make you lick your plate clean. Thank you veganyumminess!
My hubby and I are moving closer to being 95% plant based. We have our own farm and having readily available fresh vegetables makes it easy to easy plant-based. We have so many recipes to try that we don’t miss those steak nights. Especially after the “beef” and broccoli recipe. You would never know it was not meat. We have been eating fish, but recently have made a decision to cut fish out of our diet as much as possible. This is a hard one for us because we are big sushi fans – I’m sure I’ll find a great plant based sushi roll to make. If you have any recipes please send them my way. I will defiantly try them out and write all about it. If you try the vegan beef and broccoli please let me know how you like it.
Thank you for being here with me today. Wishing you all a great day!
Each month I participate in Instagram writer challenges to engage with other writers, readers, followers, and with myself. Sometimes we all need a little nudge of inspiration and when I choose the challenge to commit to, I scan the list of prompts and watch for creativity to pipe up and say ‘oh, I like some or all of the questions/prompts, let’s do it!’ I have been following #writerfriendschallenge for two months, the hosts have a wide variety of prompts that engage me, spark creativity and help me dig a little deeper with my work in progress. I consider these favorable points of interest to help grow my writing craft.
On the first day of Spring the prompt was #quoteworthy – I am big fan of quotes, all types of quotes, especially writing quotes that motivate me to write more. I have a few favorites and the one I chose to share for this days writing prompt was from Stephen King.
“In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.’
The first time I read this I remember nodding my head in agreement. Yes, life is about getting happy, but more so, as a writer, it’s about sharing and enriching readers and my own life. I get it. I underlined these words, dog eared the page and now have a sticky tab for quick reference.
Writing is a solitary job but I am happy. I am very happy with my writing life. Yes, there are days I witness the ego trying to tell me I need more time to write, I should have written and published the three books I wanted to write, already. Why can’t I write faster? Why don’t I quit my job and devote myself to my passion? Why? Why? Why? The ego can be right down nasty. The truth is raw and it comes down to my choices. I am the only one who can write my books and I am the only one who is accountable for my actions. I can throw out the ‘oh, poor me, I have a full-time job and on-call 24/7, blah, blah, blah…’ But no one is listening. No one wants to hear the excuses. I know I don’t want to hear them again. So how do I get over it and get happy?
“the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed: prayer and meditation“
I pratice mindful/stillness meditation, where I focus on the breath and the stillness of the moment. I am silent. I sit and be still. It has taken years of practice and I am still learning. I find myself more content when I meditate on a regular basis. Like writing, meditation provides me with being in the moment, showing up as my true self, no hiding, just being here and now.
“Sometimes you have to let go to grow”. My own quote. As you may know, I am a fan of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. There is a chapter on recovering a sense of identity where she explains people in our lives who waste our time, poisonous playmates, and crazymakers. I don’t need to be associated with people who only want my attention to listening to their poor me stories. They want you to fix them but never take the advice and continue to suck your time away from what you need to be doing. I have walked away from friendships that were not good for me. I had to make a choice, my happiness, or their drama. I admit I may have played in a few people’s pools of self sabotage only for them to realize I was not helping them and they were the ones who walked away, but deep down my intention of not wanting them in my life and trying to be polite about it ended the way that was needed for me to walk away. It’s hard to break up with someone. But in the end it was about taking care of myself.
Surrounding myself with like minded people
It’s important to surround yourself with like minded people. Kindred spirits. Before moving to New Brunswick and months before the global pandemic, I lived in Victoria, BC and surrounded myself with writier friends. My tribe were people who loved writing as much as I do. We have a common theme to share in conversation. We have the same interests, fears, frustrations and joys. It is easy to talk with other writers. I may be happy with being by myself when writing, but I am very happy when I am able to sit with other writers, drinking coffee, sharing and listening about the writing process.
“When I’m not writing, I’m cooking” this is one of my tag lines as part of my creative life. I love to cook. Like writing, cooking brings me joy of preparing a meal for my hubby and I or friends and family. Cooking is being in the moment, you have to focus on chopping, mincing, preparing, mixing, and timing everything to enusre everything comes out as it should. Cooking grounds me. Writing grounds me to this very moment. I’m getting happy!
These are a few ways that help me with my happiness. I have days, as we all do, where the ego stomps on my happiness, but I am aware of these moments and I quickly pick up a pen and a notebook and write away the old behavior thoughts. As Ann Patchett said, I will write my way into another life. I love this image – I am writing my way to my true life, the creative life.
How are your getting happy? What works for you? I love hearing from you.
Ziti is smaller than rigatoni, but larger than mezzani. Ziti may have smooth sides, but the addition of the word rigati denotes lines or ridges on the pasta’s outer surface. Ziti is similar to penne, but often has ends cut in a straight line versus diagonally.
I heard about ziti when I was looking for a new pasta dish to make and I came across baked ziti. I have tried many recipes and recently I stumped on our new favorite way to make the traditional baked pasta dish. I haven’t changed one part of the recipe and I want to thank Feasting at Home for this great go-to recipe.
Baked Ziti with Mushrooms and Spinach (No Boil)
2 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, rough chopped
12–16 ounces mushrooms, sliced (or sub ground meat or sausage)
¼ teaspoon salt, pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3 ounces baby spinach, chopped ( about 2 great big handfuls) or use 1-2 cups frozen spinach
2 cups chicken stock or veggie broth
1 x 24-25 ounce jar marinara sauce- Trader joe’s organic brand is really tasty -see notes
8 ounces dry ziti or penne pasta, or similar
1 cup ricotta, or herbed tofu ricotta
¼–1/2 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan ( optional)
1/2– 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese ( sub vegan cheese)
garnish with fresh basil or Italian parsley and optional chili flakes.
What To Do
Preheat oven to 400 F
Heat oil over medium heat, add onion, garlic and mushrooms and season generously with salt and pepper, cooking and stirring until mushrooms get golden brown, about 10 minutes. Taste and make sure these are flavorful.
Add spinach and wilt, then add 2 cups of broth or stock, a jar of marinara sauce and the dry pasta ( about 2 ¾-3 cups dry). Stir, and bring to a simmer. Dot with the dollops of ricotta. Sprinkle with mozzarella and pecorino. Cover well and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and let the cheese get a little golden for a couple minutes. If there seems to be too much liquid left in the pan, simply simmer uncovered on the stove top for 1-2 minutes until it evaporates.
These beans are actually from the legume family that is closely related to black-eyed peas. Some of the common names include asparagus-bean and string-bean.
Health Benefits of Yard Long Beans
The pods contain large quantities of soluble and insoluble fibers. Since the entire green pod is eaten as in green beans, a sufficient amount of dietary fiber is obtained in the diet.
Fresh beans contain a good amount of vitamin-C. 100 g yard-long beans provide 31% of vitamin-C.
Yard long beans also provide average amounts of minerals such as iron, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium. The body uses manganese as a cofactor for the important antioxidant enzyme.
Quick Garlic Yard Long Bean Recipe
What You Need
2 cups of Yard Long Beanswashed and trimmed to 3″ lengths
What To Do
Heat up wok, add oil. When shimmering, add minced garlic. Fry just for a few seconds until fragrant. You want to make sure that you don’t wait too long before adding the garlic to the oil, otherwise the oil will be too hot and the garlic will burn. Crunchy burnt garlic is no good.
Add your long beans, fry in wok for 30 seconds, tossing the garlicky oil all over the beans.
Add water, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Cover the wok. Let the beans steam for 5 minutes on medium heat. Check to see if beans are almost tender, but not too soft. If not, re-cover and steam an additional 1 minute. Uncover, let the rest of the liquid evaporate, about an additional minute.
This dish is great on its own or served as a side dish – I like to serve this on the side with a lentil loaf and mashed cauliflower.
Let me know if you get a chance to make this dish, have you cooked yard long beans? Any favorite recipes? I love trying new recipes!
A few years ago I was trying to cut out the amount of pasta in our diet (I know why would one want to do that? Carbs my friends. It all comes down to carbs and I like beer so there is a carb dance around the house from time-to-time). I did some research and then took a recommendation from a friend to try out rice vermicelli noodles.
These noodles are thin and simply made from rice or mung bean or rice starch. It was a great alternative to the regular noodles we were using in our stir-frys.
Ginger-Sesame Veggie Vermicelli Noodle Stir-Fry
What you Need
100 g of dried rice noodles (cooked as directed)
1 carrot julienned thinly
1 cup of sugar snap peas (or snow peas will do nicely as well)
1/2 cup of julienned zucchini
1/2 cup of julienned red pepper
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
You can use your favorite veggies – sometimes we put cauliflower or broccoli.
¼ cup reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons quality peanut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 small lime, juiced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of sriracha
What to Do
Put all the sauce ingredients together in a mason jar and shake well together. Set aside.
Heat pan or wok on medium heat.
Add a teaspoon of olive oil and then add all veggies and saute for 5 minutes.
Fold in the rice noodles with veggies.
Add the sauce and mix well, make sure all the noodles and veggies are coated with the sauce.
Plate and garnish with cilantro
Let me know if you try out this recipe. Does it make in in the cookbook? Do you have a vermicelli recipe that we can try out? I love hearing from you.
Turmeric spice comes from the rhizome of a plant which is part of the family that includes ginger and galangal. It is best known for its bright yellow, indelible stain, but good turmeric also gives a rich, earthy flavor. It is the spice that gives curry dishes that vibrant yellow color.
A Few Health Benefits of Turmeric & Curcumin
Curcumin (compounds found in turmeric) is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.
Given that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory compound, it makes sense that it may help with arthritis.
There has been some research on turmeric and curcumin to assist with depression.
If curcumin can really help prevent heart disease, brain activity and Alzheimer’s, it would have obvious benefits for longevity.
We like to use turmeric in many of our meals. I like roasting veggies with turmeric and adding the veggies to a couscous salad.
Turmeric Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Zucchini
What you Need
1 large sweet potato sliced into 1-inch rounds and halved.
1 small zucchini sliced into 1-inch rounds.
4 tbsp of olive oil
Pink Himalayan salt
1 tbsp of ground dry turmeric
1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
What to Do
Pre-heat over at 400 degrees
line a baking sheet with tin foil
Toss sweet potatoes and zucchini with olive oil, spices, salt, and pepper. Make sure all the veggies are coated in oil, we don’t want them sticking to the pan.
Baked for 20 minutes, flipping the veggies halfway.
Serve on own or use for a side dish.
Do you use turmeric? How do you use it in your meals? I would love to try a new recipe. Thank you for being here with me today.
Adam and I recently added a new microgreen to our product list. Red Russian Kale. Before Covid-19 when we were selling at the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market, we had a few inquires about kale. We would share the benefits of the microgreens we were offering and everyone seemed to be happy with the alternative options. However, we wanted to try the micro kale for our own consumption to see if it was anything like its adult form. For me, full-grown kale is bitter to my taste buds and I would sometimes have a reaction such as a rash around my jawline when I consumed too much kale. Yes, you can eat too much kale, and the body rejects the high amount of Vitamin K. How I love our bodies and how they tell us a story of what is good and not so good for us.
Red Russian Kale microgreens have the nutritional punch of mature Kale but without the bitterness. They are mildly sweet and have a similar taste like mustard greens, only less spicy and nuttier. They are high in Vitamin A, C, and K, iron, and copper.
We have used the kale microgreens in many of our meals for over a month now. They are great as a garnish on top of tacos – the slight peppery taste gives the salsa another flavor.
I don’t have my own version of a recipe to offer at this time, but I found a few on-line and looking forward to trying out a few. The one that is on the menu board this week. Thank you Farm Fresh Feasts!
Red Russian Kale & Sausage Pasta
This recipe calls for a turkey sausage but I will substitute with a vegan chipotle sausage. As I reviewed this recipe, I know I will make some changes, for example, I won’t use heavy cream, I will use a like cream and add vegetable broth to half of the recommended portion.
What You Need
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Vegan sausage (we like the chipotle flavor, but you can use your favorite)
¾ cup spring onions, chopped white and tender green parts only
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic or 2-3 cloves fresh or roasted
1 quart crushed tomatoes, or a 28 ounce can of peeled tomatoes
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups chopped Red Russian kale (stems to the compost)
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 pound rotini pasta
grated cheese for serving
What to Do
Fill a pot with water and set it over high heat to come to a boil.
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, add oil, and cook sausage links until browned on all sides. Remove from skillet and slice into sausage coins, then set aside.
Add onion to the skillet and cook for 5-8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, tomatoes, seasonings and sausage coins, stir to combine.
Once the water is boiling, add the kale and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from boiling water (keep the water going and start the pasta) and add the kale to the skillet.
Stir the kale into the sausage-tomato mixture, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions.
When the sauce has finished simmering, remove from heat and stir in cream.
Add drained rotini to the skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Serve with grated cheese.
I am looking forward to trying this recipe. I will let you know how it goes. Have you tried Red Russian Kale microgreens? How do you use them? Any favourite recipes you can share? I love hearing from you.
Quesadilla is a Mexican dish, different from a taco, consisting of a tortilla that is filled primarily with cheese, and sometimes meats, beans, and spices, and then cooked on a griddle. Yum!
Adam and I have found a good recipe for vegetarian quesadilla’s. We modify it once and a while but it’s a staple of our monthly menu rotation.
Sweet Potato-Black Bean Quesadilla
What You Need:
1 large sweet potatoes cut into small cubes to cook easily.
4 Large tortilla wraps
1/2 cup of canned black beans
1/2 cup of canned corn niblets
8 mushrooms, sliced
2 cups of spinach
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons of olive oil
salt and pepper
hot sauce (your favourite)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
What To Do:
Place cubed sweet potatoes in a pot, cover with water and boil for 5 – 8 minutes.
Mash sweet potatoes with a pinch of chili, cayenne, basil, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Place olive oil in frying pan and sauteed mushrooms with salt and pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of basil. Set aside.
Place one tortilla wrap on the counter. Use 1/4 cup of the sweet potatoes mixture and spread on a tortilla.
Place several thinly slices of garlic over the sweet potatoes.
Sprinkle the black beans and corn on top of potatoes. Followed with mushrooms, spinach, and cheese.
Turn on a grill or heat up a large frying pan. Place the decorated tortilla onto the hot surface and place the second tortilla on top of cheese and press lightly. Flip after 5 minutes and cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, placed quesadilla on a cutting board and let sit for 2 – 3 minutes, then cut in quarters.
Serve with salsa and guacamole.
The beauty of this recipe is you can change out any of the ingredients. Sometimes we only use the sweet potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms, or take out the sweet potatoes and use spinach, mushrooms, corn, and cheese. It really is what your taste buds are looking for.
Let me know if you give this recipe a try. How do you prepare your quesadilla? I love to try new recipes!
A part of growth is trying new things. Food is one way to expand your experiences and knowledge. I tell stories. A lot of my stories are about my hotel life and about the events that revolve around food. Though I have mixed feelings about my family gatherings, I loved watching everyone gather around the table of pot-luck recipes shared every Sunday that brought us together. I was amazed that food could bring people closer. Food is intimate and I love when my friends and I get together to connect, eat good food and enjoy the moment.
Adam and I were living in Oyster River, BC on Vancouver Island when Adam was an assistant golf professional and I was a resort manager of a quaint 30 room meditation resort. Adam met many members at the golf coarse and one man became a friend, and he and his wife lived a short ten-minute walk from the resort where we lived on the property. That was part of my employment was a live-in manager. It was an experience that I will never forget, more on that in another blog.
The man, who we will call, Geroge and his wife, who we will call Alice, invited us for dinner. George was interested in Adam’s golf career. Alice was interested in my writing life. They were an older couple but that didn’t matter, Adam and I connected with older people more than people our own age. It was nice to spend time with a couple who were established and have gone through all the little things to build a loving relationship. They told us stories when they first meet, after they married, children, the whole nine yards. The conversation flowed as I watched them do a dance in the kitchen. They cooked together and it was cute. She finished his sentences and he poured her wine. I felt like I was in a romantic comedy movie. I sipped my wine and watched in awe.
The dinner they prepared was amazing. This was years before we even thought about our plant-based lifestyle. Lamb with roasted carrots and creamy garlic orzo. I usually shied away from pasta but this was not like any pasta I’ve experienced. It was more like rice and I love rice.
Creamy Garlic Parmesan Orzo
What you will need:
2 cups of dry orzo
2 tsp of olive oil
5 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of minced onion
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of half and half cream
1 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of chopped parsley for garnish
What to Do
In a large skillet add the olive oil, butter and cook for about 30 seconds until the butter melts. Stir in the onion and garlic and let it cook for about 2 minutes until the onion softens and the garlic becomes aromatic.
Add the orzo to the skillet and let it cook for about 2 minutes just in the oil so that it starts to toast lightly, this will give it a nutty flavor.
Season with salt and pepper then stir in the chicken broth and half and half. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a medium-low, cover with a lid and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley
How do you prepare orzo? Side dish or main? We like this dish as an accompanying with salmon or a grilled portabella mushroom. Lots of flavor and protein. A win-win for sure. Let me know if you try this out, I love hearing from you.
Who doesn’t like a good mac & cheese dish? Hands up.
I started to make mac and cheese from scratch over two years ago. I wasn’t a big pasta fan, well I should say, I do love pasta but I was in a mind frame where I thought pasta would make me gain weight. Eating pasta once a week or every other week is not going to do anything to my waste line. The ego had a hold on my body-self image and I gave into it for some time. It happens, we all go through it, but I wasn’t going to let the ego win, especially when it came to creamy mac and cheese nights with my hubby.
I have tried a lot of mac and cheese recipes and one day I stumbled upon a recipe online when I typed in ‘easy baked mac and cheese’ because my hubby reminded me the best part about the pasta dish was the top when you bake it a little longer and some of the noddles get crispy, but instead of the noodles getting hard, put a panko crust topping and some more cheese and voila! Heavenly baked mac and cheese.
I have modified the recipes I have worked with over the years to create a version that we both enjoy. As we try to be more plant-based/vegetarian I try to cut out as much dairy as possible, but when it comes to mac and cheese, you need to use real old/sharp cheddar cheese mixed with mozzarella and smoked gouda. I love cheese. Period. I found a way to cut down on the amount of milk used in the recipes, vegetable broth. I know it sounds odd, but it works and the flavor of the vegetable broth mixed with the cheese is a winning combination.
Marion Ann’s Version of Easy Baked Mac & Cheese
What you Need:
4 cups of Cavatappi noodles
1 1/2 cups of skim milk
1 cup of low sodium vegetable broth (because we will be putting salt in with the cheese sauce)
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of flour
2 cups of old cheddar cheese (leave 1/2 cup for topping)
1/2 cup of mozzarella
1/2 cup of smoked gouda or regular gouda
1 tsp of dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
smoked paprika (for both sauce and topping)
2/3 cup of panko crumbs
8 x 14 baking dish
What to Do:
Pre-heat over to 375 degrees Celus.
Cook noodles according to instructions. Drain but leave a tablespoon of pasta water in, add a tabelsp0on of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking to one another)
While noodles are cooking, make the cheese sauce.
Heat medium size pot on low heat, add butter and let melt slowly, you don’t want it to burn.
Add the flour and whisk until a paste forms.
Add the vegtable broth and milk and whisk quickly together.
Add the dijon mustard, salt and pepper (I use salt and pepper mills and usually do one or two cranks of the mill – possibly 1/4 of tsp of each)
Start adding the cheese and stir as you add the cheese – I usually do a handful at a time.
Continue to whisk until the cheese is melted and when you dip a spoon in the cheese sauce should be slowly dripping off the end of the spoon.
Combine cheese sauce with the noddles, mix together and pour into the baking dish.
Combine panko crumbs and 1/2 cup of cheese and sprinkle on top of the noodles. Sprinkle smoked paprika on top and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.
Do you make mac and cheese from scratch? What is one of your favorite receipes?