Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rigatoni with Fresh and Light Pasta Sauce

This is a great sauce on a hot summer day when you don't want something heavy, but you still want a lot of flavor. As you can see by the picture below, my ratio of sauce to pasta is about 2:1. I could really eat most sauce as a meal by itself, I think. There is proof of a noodle, however, down at the bottom of the bowl under the broccoli. Hope you enjoy this dish!

Rigatoni with Fresh and Light Pasta Sauce

1 lb. bag of rigatoni
1 Tbs. canola oil
2 pkgs. Morning Star Meal Starters Chik'n Strips, halved
3 cups of veggies - we used:
Broccoli spears
Zucchini cut on the diagonal
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder


Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Chik'n Strips and cook for a few minutes until they begin to brown, about five minutes or so. Add the veggies (broccoli and zucchini) and cook until crisp but fork tender, about eight more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until heated through, about five more minutes. Serve over the pasta. Simple but good. Feeds five hungry vegans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Birthday Bonanza and Devil's Food Cake with Super Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting

My oldest and youngest blessings, SR and JK, have their birthdays just six days apart. SR turned thirteen, and JK turned four, so we had a long Saturday with two birthday parties. Also, I always make a special dessert and a kid-picked dinner for their actual birthdays. I've included a recipe for one of the desserts below.

This was SR's birthday dinner pick: make-your-own-burritos and homemade fries.

SR requested a four-layer birthday cake - two vanilla layers, two strawberry layers and chocolate frosting.

I apparently sliced my layers a little unevenly. I also added fresh strawberries with each layer. Cake is served with soy strawberry ice cream.

This is JK's Batmobile cake that I made for his party.

I used a toothpick and a lipstick brush for the detail work.

These are SR's cookies 'n' cream cupcakes for her party. We love the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World; we've made these often. Some have chocolate cream cookies, and some have vanilla.

Here's a close-up of those cupcakes!

This is the post-parties birthday dinner courtesy of Papa Murphy's Pizza. GR likes hers with artichoke hearts, olives and mushrooms. SR likes her with olives and pineapple. G and I had the gourmet veggie, and JK ate off of all three. Red pepper flakes and vegan Parmesan cheese are the toppings in the background.

This is JK's birthday dinner: Tofu with ketchup on the side, rice, and artichoke hearts. I thought it appropriate to show the dinner on his plate.

This is JK's birthday cake: Devil's Food with Super Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting.

Here's a slice of that yummy cake. I made so much frosting that I actually could have stuffed the middle with more of it.

I thought this would be a great picture to add this post. This is GR, who about a month ago made a "Parents' Cake" - that what she called it. She is my budding baker. She pulled out my Hershey's Chocolate Cookbook and made the Chocolatetown Special Cake with the Quick Chocolate Frosting and veganized it all by herself! She was disappointed that it cracked when taken out of the pan, but I assured her cracked cake tastes just as good as uncracked cake, and it did! I'm very proud of her.

Happy Birthday, SR and JK!

Devil's Food Cake with Super Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting


3 squares Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate
2 and 1/2 cups cake flour
1 and 3/4 cups vegan sugar
1 and 3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 and 1/3 cups soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. Egg Replacer
4 Tbs. water


1 - 8 oz. pkg. of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 Tbs. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch of salt
5 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Chocolate Sprinkles


For the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two round cake pans with Pam. Put about a tablespoon or so of regular flour in each pan and shake it around, coating the pan. Shake off the excess flour, and set pans aside. Melt the chocolate squares in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring every twenty seconds or so. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: cake flour through salt. Add the remaining ingredients to the flour mixture and beat for three to five minutes, slowly working your way to the highest speed. The end result will look amazingly like frosting and taste unbelievable. GR asked, "Why does this taste so good?!" Spread half in each cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on cooling racks.

For the frosting: In a medium bowl on slow speed beat the all the ingredients except the powdered sugar. Add the sugar a cup at a time, finishing with the half cup, and continue beating at medium low speed. Beat for at least two minutes; my beaters get a little overworked with this thick frosting, but if yours can do it okay, go for it. This makes ample frosting to frost a two-layer cake. Make sure you put a nice, thick layer of frosting in the middle. Sprinkle the top liberally with chocolate sprinkles!

This is a yummy, moist cake that feeds five hungry vegans for a couple of days.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: POM Juice

A little while ago, POM Juice sent me a box of sample pomegranate juices to try. What I liked right away about this company is that there was no expectation of a review. They just wanted me to try their product, and if I liked it, to post some recipes using it. Well, a homeschooling family on one income does not turn its nose up at free food! So, we were all very excited when our package came. I wasn't sure how pomegranate juice would be accepted by the children, since the last time we had it was a few years ago, and I think the flavor was just too strong for them. However, time and free juice changes perceptions, so please see the pictures with a review below.

We all liked the cute little bottles the juice came in. We received eight, and they are one cup each.

So, the big test would be the actual undiluted flavor of the juice. I was very surprised to see that my girls took to it. I think the small jars appealed to them just as much as the flavor did. Little JK was not impressed with the flavor. It was still strong for me, but I kept my mouth shut because I was just so happy to see my girls drink it down. G didn't have a juice; he just waited for the recipes.

Here are some POM-apple-flax muffins that I threw together. The recipe is nothing to write home about because the muffins came out chewy, but I don't think that can be attributed to the juice. As a matter of fact, the juice didn't have a real flavor impact on the muffins. We just all knew it was in there, so we felt healthy eating them.

Here is a POM smoothie that I made up in the blender: POM juice, a banana, a cup of frozen blueberries, soy protein powder, and ice. This was delish!

All in all, POM was a success in our home. With my children, I've come to realize that I can get them to eat things that they otherwise wouldn't have tried, if I put the food in a "cute" package somehow or presentation. I think the same was for POM. If I buy POM, I'm going to invest in these bottles. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking I should have saved them to refill - rats!

Anyways, good for your health and good for your taste buds, POM passes here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Baked Monster Zucchini

We are growing zucchini for the first time this year in our garden. I've heard stories about mass quantities of zukes and how big they get. But, I figured people just weren't harvesting them, and that's how they got overgrown. Oh, how wrong I was! We will go out one day and see a tiny zuke, and think, okay in a couple of days it'll be ready to harvest. But then the zucchini fairy comes while we're all asleep and sprinkles special tnt powder on it to make it explode into a giant zuke the very next day! We've seen this time and again, so watch out for that sneaky fairy. So, one day we got this especially humongous zucchini, a monster if you will, that actually hung down to the ground. I thought it would be put to good use by baking it. I came up with my very own recipe, and I'm very proud of it, I might say! For the stuffing and for the cheesy sauce, I tried to think of good flavors, and I think it came out good enough to share with you. Now, I must confess, my children are regular kids, vegan or not, and they were not too thrilled with seeing a giant stuffed zucchini on the table as their dinner. However, they did like the stuffing and the sauce, so I got a passing grade there. One thing about super big zukes is their skin has toughened. I might recommend peeling your monster zucchini after washing it, and that might make for a more tender dish. Anyways, enjoy the pics and the recipe below!

Baked Monster Zucchini

JK, 3 y.o., trying to hang on to the monster zucchini in the garden. It was very heavy for him, but my super hero managed to do it for Mommy.

What the scooped out zucchini looks like. These are on a cookie sheet and completely take up all the room!

The stuffing smashed in the hollows and topped with the cheesy sauce.

With the red sauce right before being popped into the oven.

A hearty slice of Baked Monster Zucchini with some more cheesy sauce drizzled on top, with a simple pasta dish on the side with olive oil, garlic and parsley. Mm-mmm.

Baked Monster Zucchini

1 super large, monster zucchini
Olive oil spray

Tofu Stuffing:

3 pkgs. extra firm tofu, frozen the night before and completely thawed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. dried basil
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbs. garlic powder

Cheesy Sauce:

2 and 1/2 cups of water
2 Tbs. corn starch
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
1/8 cup of soy sauce
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder

1 28oz. jar of Classico Spicy Red Pepper Sauce


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and trim the zucchini. Slice down the middle lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, being careful to leave the zucchini flesh in place on either end. This will serve as a barrier for the stuffing mixture. Lightly spray a large cookie sheet with olive oil and place the zucchini halves on it.

For the stuffing: Take the tofu out of their packages and press with your hands all the water out of them. This will be fairly easy to do once they're thawed. It doesn't matter if you squeeze them, since they will be mashed anyways. Place in a medium bowl with the rest of the stuffing ingredients and mash with a potato masher until thoroughly mixed. Take a spoon and fill the zucchini halves with the stuffing. All three packages will fit into one large zuke. I had to take my fingers and really mash it in, but it all fit, and you'll appreciate all that good stuffing.

For the cheesy sauce: In a medium pot, whisk together the water and corn starch. Turn heat onto medium and add the rest of the cheesy ingredients. Whisk frequently, until sauce comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and whisk constantly for two minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Drizzle half of the cheesy sauce over the zukes, and leave the other half for the table.

Pour the jar of Classico sauce over the zucchini halves. Bake for one hour. The smells will ignite your taste buds! Let the zucchini rest on the stove for about five minutes. This will give you time to reheat the rest of the cheesy sauce. Transfer the Baked Monster Zucchini to a serving platter to make a nice presentation. Serve with a simple pasta dish. Feeds five hungry vegans for a few meals.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Soft Ginger Cookies and 4th of July, 2010 Part 2 with Pics

On my last post I mentioned that I made some delicious soft ginger cookies for dessert on the Fourth of July. These were so tasty and just light enough after a filling dinner to not let you feel painfully stuffed. They went along great with my mom's homemade soy strawberry ice cream. Some people's comments indicated that they think my parents are vegan, but actually they are just very supportive of me and my family's lifestyle. So, we are very blessed to have them in our lives and in family meals. Enjoy a couple of our family's holiday pictures and the recipe below.

Soft Ginger Cookies

Soft Ginger Cookies with my mom's homemade soy strawberry ice cream.

My parents, also known as Gamma or Grambo and Poppy, with 10 y.o. GR. Everything on the table was vegan except for my parents' burgers and mayonnaise.

Left to right: 12 y.o. SR, my husband, G, 3 y.o. JK, me 15 pounds lighter since I started my new food plan in May, and GR.

Soft Ginger Cookies


4 and 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 cups shortening
2 and 3/4 cups raw sugar, divided
1 Tbs. egg replacer
4 Tbs. water
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses


Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients (flour through salt). In a large bowl, cream together the shortening with two cups of the sugar on low with an electric mixer. Add the egg replacer, water and molasses, and beat on medium low until well mixed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix with a wooden spoon. Sometimes at the end of mixing, I just take my hands and do a sort of knead to make sure the dough is thoroughly mixed. Put the rest of the sugar (3/4 cup) into a shallow bowl. Take heaping tablespoons of the cookie dough and shape into rough balls. Roll the balls in the sugar, trying to get some around each ball as much as possible. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet an inch apart and bake for 14 minutes. Place cookie sheet on cooling rack for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a large aluminum foil or wax paper sheet. Makes about 4 and 1/2 dozen warm and soft cookies that definitely feeds five hungry vegans and a couple of grandparents. Yum, yum.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kids Love It! Potato Salad

Here is my world famous (okay, my home famous) potato salad that is the absolute bestest, most favoritest, most gobbledededed up salad in our home by our children. Now, I have some other salads that come a close second, like my Tropical Seitan Pasta Salad, but this one takes the cake, er, kid-fork. I think why it goes over so well is its simplicity. The higher the number of ingredients in a dish, the higher the likelihood that my children will turn up their noses at it. Plus, I have one outright potato addict - thank you, S.R. Anyhow, I made this for the Fourth of July, and I will list our menu below. Also, just a tip from my mom - yes, I still get cooking tips from my mom: In the past when I drained the potatoes in a colander, they inevitably got mushy. And then they got even mushier when I added the ingredients and stirred together. Mushy potato salad really doesn't cut it, even when you're a kid who likes it. So, my mom suggested I put a lid on the pot, leaving a slight crack, like I do when I drain green beans or such. Then, just drain the water into the sink, leaving the potatoes in the pot. Once drained, let them completely cool on a cookie sheet. I tried this a couple of potato salads ago, and it worked perfectly, so I highly suggest that method. Also, the quantity of this recipe is enormous, but with my kids, it is gone in a couple of days, if it even survives the "taste testing." How come they never seem to know on the first or second or tenth taste, if the salad is right? Hmm. Anyways, onward with the menu and the show!

Fourth of July menu with my parents:

Chips and Salsa
Burgers with all the fixin's
Kids Love It! Potato Salad
Three Bean Salad from my mom
Pasta Salad from my mom
Relish tray from my mom


Soft Ginger Cookies (recipe on next post)
Homemade Strawberry Soy Ice Cream from my mom!

Kids Love It! Potato Salad with a pickle friend.

Boiled potatoes cooling on a cookie sheet.

Kids Love It! Potato Salad

8 lb. bag of russet potatoes (or approx. 15)
Water to cover
1 and 1/2 cup chopped baby dill pickles (quartered lengthwise and then chopped)
1 cup of McCormick's Bac'n Pieces, Chips style - UPDATE: I now use SmartBacon fried and chopped, instead, to avoid the artificial colors
2 and 1/2 cups of Vegenaise
1 and 1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. pepper


Peel the potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Put in a large pot with water enough to cover the potatoes at least an inch. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling for eight to ten minutes, or until the chunks are fork tender. Drain water out of pot into sink, carefully holding a lid about 90 percent in place. Be very careful not to get a steam or hot water burn. Spread the potatoes on a cookie sheet, and let cool completely. When the potatoes are cool, add them and the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Sometimes I will put everything in the boiling pot instead of a bowl to do my mixing, so I can be sure that nothing will fall out of the bowl. This also ensures that your serving bowl won't be super messy. Once all the ingredients are in the bowl/pot, gently stir them together. If you've got kids around, count your fingers if they were near the salad while the kids were taste-testing! Feeds five hungry vegans, plus a couple of grandparents.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Broken-Lasagna Casserole

About a year ago, I was at a discount store when I saw something unique, something I've never seen before in the way of pasta: a bag of purposely broken lasagna noodle pieces! I stared at that, amazed that the simple act of breaking those long noodles into chunks could inspire a new dish spinning through my head. Being strictly a budget-minded girl, though, I couldn't buy them that day - they didn't fit in that day's wad of cash. And then I never bought them, I don't know why. But, oh broken noodles, I've never forgotten you! So, I recently went out and bought a box of lasagna noodles and broke them up all by myself. It was fun being destructive like that. Thus, the Broken-Lasagna Casserole was born. He may not be the most handsome boy in the room, but he is sure is nice and smooth talkin'! See if you don't like him too.

Broken-Lasagna Casserole right out of the oven.

A chunk of him on my plate next to some steamed asparagus.

Broken-Lasagna Casserole


1 pkg. lasagna noodles, broken in chunks
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 pkg. Smart Ground, original
1 pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and diced small
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 green bell pepper, diced small
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 - 28oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 - 15oz. can tomato sauce
1 - 4.25 oz. can chopped olives
1 cup of frozen corn
1 - 6oz. can tomato paste
15-20 fresh basil leaves cut into thirds or halves, depending on their size (if extra small, leave whole)
1 - 10oz. pkg. Vegan Gourmet Monterey Jack cheese, finely grated, divided


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the broken noodles according to package directions. In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat. Saute the Smart Ground and tofu until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the seasonings, bell pepper and garlic and continue cooking for another five minutes, being careful not to burn. You can add a touch more oil or a little water, if the food starts to stick. Add the canned tomato products, olives and corn. Turn heat down to medium low and let simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the fresh basil. Add the noodles to the pot and stir. Set aside one cup of the cheese and thoroughly mix the rest in the pot. Pour the ingredients into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining one cup of cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn broiler on high, and broil for about five minutes to finish melting the cheese. Check to make sure the casserole doesn't burn. This was a fun variation to lasagna or an ordinary pasta dish. Everyone liked it - hope you do too. Feeds five hungry vegans for a couple of days.