blue blog

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Veggie Lasagna

Ahhh, the comfort food of Lasagna.  I remember my mother making it when I was a child.  She always baked it in what I would call a small glass casserole dish.  Funny, now that I think about it, I would recognize it today as a glass bread pan; I always thought it was just THE lasagna pan, ha!  How times have changed since then! Commonly, families bake this Italian goodness in the biggest pan they can find.  Covered with layers and layers of cheese, this oozy dish...nothing screams comfort more than Lasagna!  

Since I've been a "veg" my search for the tastiest recipes have been a priority.  I dislike having the same old thing, day after day, and quickly get bored with food.  Rennie could eat the same thing, everyday, 365 days a year and be content, especially sandwiches of any kind.  Not me baby! I like variety and a lot of it.  So, my search continues on a daily basis, looking at cooking blogs, searching through pins on Pinterest, and even cookbooks that I borrow from our local library.  Some recipes make me want to throw up in my mouth just be reading their ingredients, ick!  But, for the most part I am finding great recipes to try.

One recipe that caught my eye was the "Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna" from The Engine 2 Diet book by Rip Esselstyn.  He encourages his readers and fellow "veggers" (that is my term, not his) to cook and eat as clean as possible, eliminating all animal based products, as well as, oils.  He developed this recipe for the fire engine company he works with.  I think it should have been called, "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" recipe - good Lord, there is an abundance of veggies in it and it took me a while to cut, chop, mix, saute', and put this recipe together!  The picture below was taken prior to baking it.
I have included the original recipe but please keep in mind that this recipe serves 10-12.  I cut everything in half and it filled a 9x13 casserole dish to the rim.  Because it is just the two of us, we ate off of it for at least four days!  It is definitely a keeper for sure, however, I would only make it once every two or three months.

1 onion, chopped
1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 head broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 package Silken Lite tofu (This was my first time using tofu - it replaced cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, and surprisingly could not tell the difference)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 jars pasta sauce (preferably sauce without a lot of high fructose corn syrup and added oil) (I did use two jars in my paired down recipe)
2 boxes whole grain lasagna noodles (*He did not pre-cook his, however, I did)
16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (I baked them in the oven ahead of time so they could cool well before I begin assembling the recipe)
6 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup raw cashews, ground (I added about 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast to the cashew mixture for a cheesy taste)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Saute' the onion and garlic on high heat for 3 minutes in a wok or nonstick pan.  Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and the mushrooms give up their liquid.  Remove them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon.  Reserve the mushroom liquid in the pan.  Saute' the broccoli and carrots for 5 minutes and add to the mushroom bowl.  Drain the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels.  Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the vegetable bowl.  Add spices to the vegetable bowl and combine.  

To Assemble:
Cover the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole with a layer of sauce.  Add a layer of noodles.  Cover the noodles with sauce.  This way the noodles cook in the oven, saving time and energy (*See my note above about the noodles).  Spread the vegetable mixture over the sauced noodles.  Cover with a layer of noodles, and another dressing of sauce.  Add the spinach to the second layer of sauced noodles.  Cover the spinach with the mashed sweet potatoes.  Add another layer of sauce, the final layer of noodles, and the last topping of sauce.  Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced roma tomatoes.  

Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews, and return to the oven for 15 minutes.  Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.  

In the meantime, I will continue my hunt for new delicious recipes and I promise I will share them with you when I try them.

Until next time... ~Pamela

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Signs of Spring

My second favorite season is spring (fall being my favorite).  There is something about how the birds begin to sing, the air is crisp and clean - with the occasional pollen blast in Florida - the sun is shinning but not too hot, lawns begin to look green again, and there is an abundance of flowers.  I have always been attracted to spring flowers!
The beauty of God's creation and the magnificent colors He gives flowers amazes me.  I would have to say that my attraction to the beauty and colors of flowers could be compared to a brand new box of 64 Crayola Crayons.  I know this may sound a bit strange, but I still enjoy coloring (especially with my grandchildren), and have so much fun opening a fresh new box of those waxy sticks of colors.  I usually keep several packs of crayons stashed away for when the grandchildren are here so we can create art and craft projects together. They must have new packs - I dislike dull crayons!  As a child I would anxiously await to receive a new box of 48 or 64 crayons each Christmas - and they must be the Crayola brand - no other brand will do!  As a matter of fact, I have two new boxes of 64 Crayolas set aside for an art project that I pinned on Pinterest! One day I WILL get around to completing that project!
Proof, that I actually have two boxes!!
The Farmers' Market today was set up like a garden - so beautiful! I had to share some photos with you.  Even though I do not know all the names of these beauties, I'm sure the gardeners in my life do! While some of my friends are still knee deep in snow, here in Florida, spring has sprung!  I just wish the spring-like temperatures would stay longer - soon we'll be battling the heat of summer, ick!

Until next time... ~Pamela

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Precious Cocoa

Just a quick post to highlight one of my doggies, Cocoa.  She's such a good little girl, especially when we bathe her.  She stands so still and quiet, even though her eyes are telling us that she is not enjoying it that much.  Once her bath is over, she loves being wrapped up in a towel and held.  As she shivers in my arms I try to console her while trying to keep her warm.  After she is all dry and warm, I wrap the towel around her head - just because she is so stinkin' cute!  She looks at us as if to say, "Please Sir, I am cold and hungry and need shelter". 
Oh the things we do to and for our animals!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cosmic Cashew Kale and Chickpeas with Confetti Quinoa

I wanted to share a very different type of recipe that I prepared tonight for dinner.  Kale in general has not been my "woo hoo" type of veggie that I would want a ton of except in a juiced drink.  Sometimes it can taste a bit strong for my taste buds, but this recipe really made me like it.  

I wanted to share it just in case you would like to try it.  I did make it with the Confetti Quinoa (which I love) and it was a great combination!  As a matter of fact - she has a ton of great recipes and I want to try them all!

You can find the recipe HERE at the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

Cosmic Cashew Kale and Chickpeas with Confetti Quinoa

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amazing What Five Weeks Will Do is amazing what five weeks will do - or any length of time for that matter.  Five weeks ago I began a new journey to a meat free lifestyle.  Since then, I have watched several videos, read numerous articles, and have a new stack of books to read about a vegetarian/vegan way of life.  I do not miss meat...and I never thought I would say that, EVER! I am however, enjoying a new way of eating a plant based diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes.

This past week I had a regular checkup with my wonderful physician (whom I love dearly).  I shared with her what I have been doing and asked her opinion on it.  She was extremely encouraging and gave me additional tips on what I could do to improve my health faster.  She was also very happy with my blood pressure numbers, which were almost in the perfect range, and said that these were results from the changes I have made - quick changes I might add.  Hopefully soon (I'm hoping by September or sooner) I will be off all my medications and down at least 50lbs. or more.  Miracles do exist!

Two of the videos I have watched (both are available on Netflix) are "Forks Over Knives" and "Tired, Sick, and Nearly Dead".  I strongly encourage you to watch these - no, I'm not trying to make you a vegetarian or vegan - I think they are incredibly informational and encouraging.  I had NO clue what I had been doing to my body over the past 20 years.  You can also get news feeds from these on Facebook and be connected to wonderful web sites and blogs that have great recipes to add to your collection. You can read more about them, HERE and HERE.

Speaking of recipes, I have been pinning away so many wonderful recipes on Pinterst.  Many of them called for  something I had never heard of - Nutritional Yeast.  Nutritional Yeast??? What in the world is that??  So...with the plethora of information that the Internet provides, I researched it.  Wow, I would have never thought this would be so healthy plus tasty.  "Nutritional Yeast is Yellow in color and with a nutty cheesy flavor, nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that is a favorite among many vegans because of its unique flavor and is similar to cheese when added to foods." 

"Sprinkle some on hot popcorn or garlic bread, or add a generous spoonful to a stir fry or pasta sauce. Nutritional yeast is also the only reliable food source of vitamin B12, so if you're vegan, it's a good idea to add some to your food regularly. Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk foods or supplement section of your health food store (I found mine at Whole Foods in the bulk section). You can look for either nutritional yeast flakes or powder, but be sure you don't get brewer's yeast by mistake, as its quite similar in appearance." 

I purchased a small amount the other day just to try it.  I really does smell like Romano cheese.  I sprinkled some on the top of some baked tomatoes and it was really good. I'm a fan of that!

Today, Rennie and I are off to the Farmers' Market - our favorite place to shop on Saturday.  I will be making a vegetable lasagna this weekend as well as homemade black bean burgers.  I will hopefully be able to get some good photos of the creations and post them later along with the recipes.  

I pray you have a wonderful and safe weekend.  For those still experiencing arctic weather - stay warm.  For those of us in the deep south, get out there and get some sunshine and boost that vitamin D!

Until next time... ~Pamela

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pappy's Patch

What a beautiful day to go to pick fresh strawberries! The weather was perfect and there was a slight breeze blowing as Rennie and I headed to Oviedo to Pappy's Patch U-Pick Strawberries.  Cars lined the fence that seemed to stretch out a mile or so (but really did not), and families were happily searching rows and rows of strawberries hoping to find the perfect one to pick.  Everyone, including myself, were carrying their cameras or cell phones to capture the memorable event.  You could see smiling faces all around - I love that!

There is nothing better than fresh picked fruit! I have fond memories of my grandmother's back yard and garden that was abundant with everything fresh.  She had a huge Granny Smith apple tree (that I was always shimmimg up and sit in the branches when I was in trouble and running from her), four other red apple trees, several peach trees, wild plum trees, a pecan tree, and each summer a strawberry patch that was next to her garden.  I would take a small bowl of water to the patch, plop myself down on the ground, pick strawberries off the plants, wash them off in the bowl, and eat them immediately.  Oh so delicious!

With our box in hand, Rennie and I were searching for our finds.  Of course Rennie had to taste a few just to make sure they were worthy of picking, and of course, they were.  We had a blast!  Of course my mind was running through numerous recipes that would be the perfect way to enjoy them.  Strawberry cobbler was my first choice and strawberry muffins or bread came in a close second.  

As we stood in the long line to pay for them, we conversed with people around us.  Some drove from miles and miles away, another lady in front of us was talking about growing up in England and going to a strawberry patch when she was young, a cute couple in back of us were newly married and had never picked a strawberry from a patch until today, and actually it was our first time going to a patch together.  Ahhhh, new adventures together even after 32 years of marriage - what could be better??

Once home, I searched my "pins" on Pinterest and found the cobbler recipe that I had pinned earlier in the day.  Rennie ground fresh wheat for me and after dinner, I made the cobbler and topped the bubbly goodness with whipped cream.  I have to was delicious!  Today...strawberry bread or muffins.  

I have included the recipe for the cobbler and hope you enjoy it even if you have to purchase your fresh strawberries from a market or grocery store!
Mama's Strawberry Cobbler (from


  • 1 cup self rising flour (I used my freshly ground wheat flour and added 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt to make the "self rising" part)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ t. cinnamon
  • 2 cups sweetened strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 stick margarine or butter (I used butter)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt stick of margarine or butter in a 2 to 2.5 quart oven proof casserole dish while you mix up the batter.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together. Stir in milk until smooth. Pour over melted margarine.
  3. Pour batter over margarine/butter. Do not stir!
  4. Pour strawberries into center of batter. Do not stir!
  5. Note: This is a little something that I do extra. You can do it or not. I always sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the batter and strawberries before I put it in the oven. It just makes it look like my grandmothers cobbler because that was her finishing touch.
  6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until you can insert a knife into the center and peep into the cobbler. The batter should be cakey and not soupy. How is that for technical terms?

Until next time... ~Pamela