The Food that Separates Us (and a new recipe!)


A handful of days ago, for MNF, my husband had a guys night for his brother’s birthday. One of my brother-in-law’s favorite foods is fish tacos, so that’s what I made for him! I am not sure I made the tacos as good as they are on the California coast like he’s used to having but I gave it my best shot. I mean, nothing can beat the freshness of fish caught that day and then eaten. And I know, fish tacos aren’t very “vegan” of me, but this meal was not about me. It was about my brother in law, and making something special for him, something that would make him feel loved on his birthday. That is always my goal when I invite people into my home for a meal or just a cup of coffee, that they don’t feel out-of-place, but they feel welcomed, and accepted for who they are.

As I was gutting my ripe avocados, I couldn’t help but reminisce over the first time I ever tried to make guacamole; oddly enough it was for when I had my brother and Dad over to watch the Broncos game. Ha! I remember using my tiny food processor to grind the avocados, but for some reason they weren’t coming out creamy. Instead, the avocados were grainy, and not blending together well. This was a result of my avocados not being ripe. “Avocados need to be ripe in order to make guacamole?” I thought to myself. “Um, oops?” I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen at that time in my life. I had just began my cooking journey, but all I remember wanting to do was impress my dad and brother so they would always want to watch the game at my house. I got better at making guacamole as years went on, and got better at making game food as well. I don’t think that my tiny 600 square foot condo ever became the fave place to watch the Broncos game, but I do know that a lot of memories were made there. Like watching the Colorado Rockies make it to the World Series, while fighting with my brother to switch the channel back to the Broncos game. Watching Peyton Manning and the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. Dozens of Broncos games, remembering my grandma with every bite of her green chili. Chips, home made salsa, quesadillas over flowing with sweetened black beans and cheese (the only game food I knew how to make for a loooong time). That’s the food that brought us together on game day. Isn’t that what food is supposed to do? Bring us together around the table (or a coffee table in a 600 square foot apartment)? Food is supposed to be something that brings us together, connect us, not tear us apart.

I truly believe God created food not to separate people, but to unite them; to share in the joy of the ones we love, while nourishing our physical bodies. So many special things happened in the Bible around food and around a table. And no, I don’t think that was an accident. Our tables are sacred places in our homes, our relational battlefields if you will. It’s where we share our good times and bad times with each other. It’s where we catch up with each other at the end of the day, and where we start our days (hopefully) in the morning. It’s where birthday parties happen and ball games are watched. It’s where careful planning happens for the next events to come. It’s where stories are told and where people who are broken come, to be listened to and to be heard, and to be fed. The table is where life happens. And if we are putting too much emphasis on what’s being served and whether we “should” be eating it or not, then we are missing the point of what’s happening around our table.

I read a book called “Bread and Wine: A love Letter to Life Around the Table” and if you haven’t read it, put it at the top of your must read list because it’s that good! It is a book that has really changed my perspective on life around my table, and how important it is to have intentional friendships. And the role food does play in our relationships, how it brings us together, and the memories that stick in our minds when we smell or taste certain foods. I want to have the mindset that the author has; her longing to have people around her table all of the time is a lot like mine. Her desire to serve others is a lot like mine, and her goal to always have a nummy menu is a lot like mine. But where her and I differ is, her being ok with any food at her table. Her acceptance of who she is and being confident in her own skin, and her sweetness and total dependence on God. God is always at her table, whether her table is a park bench in Paris, or on the floor of her living room, He is there. Whether it’s just her and her family around the table, or a crowd of 50 people, He is there. I want that. In fact, I long for that. I don’t always feel like God is at our table, but our sinful natures that have taken over, are.

Being mindful of what we are putting into our bodies is a good thing to do. We do need to take care of the bodies we’ve been given and there are foods we really should eat sparingly. Absolutely. I do give my husband “the look” every time he gives our kids a donut, but that’s just being a good mom right?? No? A nagging wife then??😊 But there is a time and a place for the healthy eating talks and encouragement. And if we aren’t careful, we can alienate those around us because of what we refuse to eat. There are so many different ways to eat in this country and so many different diet plans. How are we supposed to keep up with all of them? I think keeping the dialogue open to discuss eating habits and preferences is a good thing, but also having the ability to show grace and acceptance when eating at other people’s homes is also a very good thing to practice. And I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, as this is happening to me in my own life. I was asked/hired to cater the Christmas Banquet at our church this year and can I just say….I was so honored to be asked! But there was a little bit of tension between me and the coordinator. She mentioned more than once that meat needed to be served at the banquet. She did it so sweetly, trying not to be rude. And of course I didn’t think that she was. But I was worried that I was coming off as pushing my vegan agenda, because I just catered the women’s retreat last month and it was a vegan menu. I feared that I was in danger of alienating those relationships that I was trying to bloom. I wanted her to know that I was willing to cook any meal she wanted, no matter what it was. And that I will do it with a grateful, unconditional, non judgmental heart. Because all I really want to do is make her and the congregation happy, and I of course want them to enjoy the food that I make. I just love to serve others and show love to them by the food I fill their bellies with teehee! It is said that cooking is love made edible.

So where is all of this coming from? Well, I’ve been on the side where my food hasn’t been good enough for my guests to eat. It contained ingredients that “they just don’t eat”, and it hurts. It hurts to be so excited to have everyone you love over, you open up your home and your table, for them to just snub your food that took you all day to prepare. It got to the point where I no longer wanted to host get togethers because I couldn’t take the rejection or the judgments. And I’m still working through that. I’ve also been on the side of not eating what has been made for me at other people’s homes and have seen their faces of disappointment and hurt. It’s hard to be “that” person at someone’s home, or being the reason someone doesn’t make the food that they love because I don’t eat it. I restricted myself for so long, of the foods most people eat on a daily basis, that I needed to be partially hospitalized because I could no longer hide that I had an eating disorder. It took me a very long time to get back to the place where I wasn’t anxious about food, and where I was truly ok with the food set in front of me, even if it wasn’t what I would choose to eat at home. But, something happened to me the other night that made me realize what’s really important in this life, and it’s not the food that we eat.

While my hubby was watching the game with his brothers, I was watching the game with my Dad and his wife, at the Broncos Stadium. It was an away game for the Broncos, but my Dad and his wife were invited to a special event being held at the stadium, where we got to watch the game on the club level and enjoy free food and drink. It was a lot of fun to be there with my Dad. The food was not vegan friendly though. They had burgers, potato salad and cookies. They did have a vegetarian option for a burger, and it was pretty good. But I am pretty sure there was cheese in it. And I am pretty sure the potato salad was not made with a vegan mayo. So I could have chosen not to eat dinner, and be “that guy”, which I know a lot of people do, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do that. It’s also not a bad idea if you’re going to a social event like this one to eat before you go, but that’s something you need to decide for yourself. For me, my Dad and his wife were very excited for me to come with them, that if I chose not to eat what was provided at this event, I would have made them feel bad. And that’s the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t care about the food that night. What I cared about was being able to watch the game (yet another game!) with my dad. How I choose to eat at home is my decision, but out in the world, or at other people’s homes, it’s different, because people shouldn’t have to cater to me. If they want to, then their heart and hospitality is off the charts amazing. But I never expect it. Because I don’t go over to peoples homes hoping to stick to my agenda, just like I didn’t go to the game with my Dad to stick to my agenda. I go to see them and to spend time with them. And I don’t want to miss that because of food.

I have yet to mention what happened to me the other night, I am sorry I keep going on different thoughts, but they are related to this I promise. Ok here it is. That night with my Dad, I found out that he needs to have surgery, a bypass actually in his leg. He was in a lot of pain Monday night, and I guess he has been for a long time. I had no idea. I don’t see my Dad very often, and that makes me sad. Life is too busy and is going too fast. We live far from each other, well far enough we can’t just “pop in” and say hello. Those are all excuses really. I could make more of an effort to see my Dad, but I don’t. I need to though. I realized that night that my parents are human, and they aren’t going to be around forever. My dad’s health is actually going down hill. Nothing real serious, but he’s getting older and the nothing too serious can turn into serious pretty fast. I am worried about him and hoping this surgery will help him with his pain. I drove home from the stadium that night thinking about my dad, and my childhood with him. The memory that stood out and kept replaying in my head was him always twirling my sister and I to his crazy, hippie, 70’s rock n’ roll. I loved dancing with my Dad, and it always made me feel so special when we danced. Now I just feel silly dancing with my kids, but I know it makes them feel loved too.

I don’t want to miss out on any time I could be spending with my friends or family, all of the people that I love and who God has put in my life. I want all of them around my table or in my house as often as I can. I don’t want food or religion or politics to separate us. I just want to be me, and know that that’s enough for them. I want everyone to know that in my house, around my table, you are always welcome, no matter your diet choice, religious beliefs or political alliances. Everyone is welcome, no matter what.

Really Good (not grainy) Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 ripe avocados
  • 1 TBS avocado oil (olive oil works fine too)
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional Ingredients: 1/2 cup finely diced red onion, 1/2-1 whole seeded finely diced jalapeno.

Make It!

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well. Enjoy with chips! or a spoon 🙂

Until Next Time…

Bon Appetit!

  Chia Pudding, Iced Tea and Cold Strawberry Soup


Hey there! I know it has been almost 2 weeks since my last post and I apologize for that. My life has been non stop and crazy booked, I haven’t had time to sit, or even have a glass of wine. Some may not think that’s a bad thing 🤗 teehee. Between picking up extra shifts at work (oh I don’t know why!) and the everyday life of being Noah, Abagail and Liam’s mom, and Levi’s wife, I have been working on my admissions essay for a graduate program I am applying to. And it has had my brain all over the place! Trying to get my brain back into “school, paper writing and homework” mode has been taxing! But, also it just seems perfect. I always joke that if being a student was ever a profession, I’d be employee of the month every month. I love school. I love the organization that comes with it, the deadlines and creating papers that have my voice, thoughts and ideas all over them. I love making my brain work. Not that being a mom doesn’t make my brain work, believe me it does! But there’s something about learning that always leaves me wanting more, hungry and thirsty for whatever is out there in the world.

Speaking of being hungry and thirsty, and making my brain work, I had the privilege to provide the food for a women’s retreat at my church this past weekend. I cannot tell you how excited I was to be asked! The retreat fell between two shifts at work (and anyone who knows me knows that I work those lovely 12 hour shifts through the night at a hospital), so sleep was hard to come by this week, but that’s ok! I got to create a menu, put a schedule together on how to get all of the food made during the craziness that is my life! I was able to cook, chop, dice, stir, blend and bake, and write out name tags for the food and share what’s in it (do I sound like a nerd yet??). But most importantly, I got to share the kind of food that I love to cook the most, while (hopefully) blessing 30 women/moms on a day retreat. I’ve mentioned before that food brings us together, it allows for fellowship while nourishing and fueling us. It opens us up somehow, gives us comfort, and helps us feel connected with those sitting with us around the table. And I got to be there and witness the new friendships being planted or old ones being fed (figuratively and literally!). As I sat down for a meal with the ladies of my church, I was so thankful to be there, to be present with such amazing, wise, loving people. And the yummy noises were pretty cool too! It was such an honor to provide the food for this retreat.

The Menu

This was the first time I’ve catered an event or party that I made everything. And let me tell you, it felt so good to do that! Although, my kitchen looked like a bomb hit it…..sacrifices right? 😝 I was asked to make the morning break snacks and lunch. The snacks were easy to come up with: fruits and vegetables were the obvious choice. But I also wanted a special treat for the ladies, something that hits the spot but would also provide them with energy and not drag them down. That’s where chocolate chia pudding with coconut whipped cream comes in. Loaded with omega-3’s, it was the perfect treat to accompany the morning snack.


I had a lot of fun creating the lunch menu, and by fun I mean wracking my brain for the perfect lunch, trying recipe after recipe, searching for the perfect combination. And course, I wanted the menu to be plant based. I went back and forth on making casseroles, lasagne, or soups, food that is made in bulk and can easily feed a crowd. But, I settled on something a little more simple, something that wasn’t as complex as my multi ingredient cowboy lasagne. While reading through a delightful, easy mom recipe cookbook I recently downloaded onto my kindle, I saw a recipe for cold cucumber soup and it hit me: finger sandwiches, salads and soup. Not to mention chocolatey treats! Such a perfect pairing for a Saturday retreat lunch. Simple. Nummy. And not too heavy, like any casserole would have been. And the prep work for a menu like this, was manageable with my hectic week. I was super excited!

the craziness of organization

I made two different kinds of finger sandwiches: cucumber dill with a vegan mayonnaise. Who can go wrong with those!?? And carmelized onion with humus sandwiches. A couple of years ago, I had a tea party themed party for my daughter’s birthday, and I discovered these hummus sandwiches. They are so simple to make but so full of flavor! Everyone at the retreat loved them and were as astonished as I was that carmelized onions and hummus paired so well together. I made the sandwiches with Sprouts’ whole wheat bread. I also had a gluten-free option made with Canyon Bakehouse Bread. I like to know going in what food allergies people have, so I can make sure I have something that they can eat.

I made two huge, nummy salads: my shredded kale salad , and a lemon herb quinoa salad, made with 3 different kinds of herbs, white beans, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, quinoa and arugula with a lemon balsamic dressing. I looovvveeee that salad. It’s becoming my go to for parties and gatherings.

For the soup. Oh the soup. By far, my favorite thing that I made. I wrote a blog about Manna Restaurant and in that blog, I talked about a cold strawberry soup I tried there. I absolutely loved that soup, and the concept of it. So, I decided to make it! Made with creamy coconut milk, and a hint of orange juice and cinnamon, the soup was a perfect start (or middle or end!) to lunch. I had the soup waiting for the women at the table, served in individual portions, topped with a little orange zest.

I transported the soup to the church in a tea pitcher 😝

Now, for the chocolate. Every women’s retreat needs a plethora of chocolate, right? Or any Tuesday? 😂 I chose to make two vegan chocolate banana applesauce cakes, one with a fudgy date frosting. I love this cake because the ingredients are simple, and it’s clean: no oil, dairy or eggs.


For a gluten free option, I made rich chocolate brownie bites, coated with melted vegan dark chocolate. The secret to those bad boys? They are made with black beans 😋

I walked into the kitchen of the church Saturday morning, hauling in all of the food I prepped. It took me a couple of hours to put it all together, but I had so much fun doing it! The kitchen was quiet, and I was able to take my time. There was no need to rush. Against all odds, I pulled it off. And the women really enjoyed my food, saying that they really love food that makes them feel good and doesn’t bring them down or make them sleepy. To them, it was delicious! And I was able to make it without any animal products, refined sugar and oil (well, mayo excluded!). I will try to get those recipes up in the Vault recipes page soon.

Until next time….

Bon Appetit! 

My Journey into “At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen”

childhood: eating peaches outside in the summer


As a mom and growing Foodie, it’s hard to not reminisce about my childhood and the food I ate, the way my mom cooked, or the foods that just brought me pure joy when they were placed on the dinner table. Foods that still take me back to childhood when I taste or smell them. I didn’t grow up in a home where whole foods were the focus. I grew up with two working parents, and a mom that tried her hardest to put a quality meal on the table for dinner. But a lot of our food was made from a box, can or a package. And there was always meat on our plate. We would typically have cereal and orange juice for breakfast during the school week. And a sandwich, chips and cookies for lunch at school. That’s just the way it was in our house. The foods I remember growing up, the ones I have the most for fondest memories of, are foods that a vegan food blogger would never right about. My mom would make pulled beef and pickle sandwiches in the crockpot a lot, and served them on an onion bun. It was delicious, and I always put ketchup and Frank’s Red Hot on them. I considered that my mom’s signature meal. I remember when in elementary school, on Mondays my brother, sister and I would stay in the after school program, which means my mom would get Taco Bell on her way to pick us up. It was a luxury for us to eat out, so I made sure my order was perfect for me every time, and of course enough food to satisfy my longing for it. I also remember packing a 6 inch Spicy Italian subway sandwich with mayo, black pepper and jalapeño into a cooler and take it to Water World with me every summer. I can literally taste it as I am writing this. And I also remember getting greasy, crispy French fries and nacho cheese sauce at Water World as well. I couldn’t wait to have those. I also remember eating rice and red hot during my eating issues days, and Quizzno’s tuna subs dipped in their signature Italian dressing as a staple lunch during high school. I remember eating Chipotle for the very first time, my mom would bring 3 burritos home for dinner after work, and she would cut them in half and the four of us would split them. You know, back in the day when no one could ever eat a whole burrito! I remember my dad frying up potatoes in a pan, and grilling steak for dinner on Saturday nights. And I remember when my mom was on a “health” kick, we would eat grilled chicken with wing sauce (Frank’s Red Hot and butter), potatoes and garlic bread. Lastly, I remember my mom’s pancakes on Saturday morning, these thick, borderline undercooked pancakes she would fry in the leftover bacon grease from the bacon she cooked in the pan prior to making the pancakes. There was always a bacon flavored crisp on the outside of the pancakes. 

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. All this meat talk on a vegan blog. Well, I have been in love with this cookbook, as in can’t get enough of reading it and dissecting everything about it, love it. The author in the introduction describes her childhood as it relates to food, the memories of how her mom would cook, and her own food journey. Amy Chaplin, in her cookbook “At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen”, paints such a wonderful picture of how she came to know, love and appreciate food. 

Chaplin grew up in Australia with vegetarian parents, who lived off the land they lived on and they would cook everything that they ate. She writes ” My sister and I were involved in everything my parents did: keeping bees, brewing ginger beer, making tofu, molding the mud bricks to build the house, creating biodynamics preparations for the property, and grinding wheat into flour. We were also part of the process of planting, harvesting and cooking the foods that we ate; and inevitability composting our food scraps…Besides growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs on our land, my parents ordered bulk grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and olive oil, which sat in jars on a big old dresser in the kitchen. The image of those jars filled with wholesome ingredients has been central to inspiring me to create new recipes over these many years as a chef”. 

Those are such beautiful words! They inspire me so to give a life similar to that to my kids. Will my kids see me cooking their food in their memories as an adult, and how I would involve them in the creation of their food? Will they remember learning how to cook with me, teaching them to measure, chop, stir, fold or follow a recipe, and loving how I let them taste the food as we cooked? I hope so. I hope I can provide a love and appreciation of food to my kids. I truly do. And I hope my kids’ childhood food memories are different than mine. I wouldn’t give my childhood up for anything, but wish I knew about the importance of the food we choose to eat back then. And I wish I would have cooked more with my parents as a child, just to have those memories and knowledge!

Chaplin authored a cookbook chalked full of whole food recipes, including a pantry essential list and recipes from that list. 


Her attention to detail in everything she cooks is beautiful and genius. She is so careful with every ingredient she prepares and I am fascinated by her process. I wish I could pick her brain for an afternoon over tea and home made bread! 

I bought her cookbook about a year or so ago at the store Anthropologie, my home away from home, where I spend all of our money and drive my hubby crazy! Her book and her life just speak to my inner foodie, and I have been longing to cook thru her cookbook. Which is exactly what I intend to do, and I’m planning on sharing it with you. With over 150 recipes, I will cook each one, sharing a little bit of my experience with you, and a little bit of what I learn about Amy Chaplin thru it, whether from her cookbook or her food. I am hoping to cook at least one recipe a week, but life sometimes gets in the way and I may not always be able to do so. I will not, however, share her recipes, because those are hers and if you want them, buy the book! Seriously, buy the book. It’s awesome. She is not a pure vegan, but she’s pretty darn close. She shares a love for goat cheese like I do 🤗

I’ve made her chocolate cake, and learned about agar agar for the first time. I’ve learned so much from her already in the handful of recipes I have made in the year I’ve had the cookbook. I am so excited to FINALLY be doing this! I will be starting off with her pantry recipes😋

Thanks for going on this food journey with me! 

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

BBQ Tofu and mushroom Sandwiches

About 9 years ago, before kids were in the picture, Levi and I were in a season of life where I was trying to get healthy. Just getting out of treatment for an eating disorder and getting over c-diff, food had become so foreign and terrifying to me, and the list of foods I could eat without messing up my tummy was, well, short. But, Levi, the wonderful man that he is, searched for places he could take me out to, places with food that was clean and of course, no meat. We lived in downtown Denver at the time, and there is no shortage of places to eat that were organic and had meatless options. For my birthday that year, Levi found a place that had BBQ Tofu sandwiches, a small little place called Wolfe’s BBQ. I remember that place as if it were yesterday. It was in the Capital Hill neighborhood, right on Colfax Ave and Logan Street. It was definition “hole in the wall”, but a diamond in the rough. It was one of those places you’re afraid to try,  yet you walk in and see awards on the wall for voted Denver’s best BBQ 2003. Many Yelp reviewers dubbed Wolfe’s “the best BBQ tofu in Denver”, and “there’s more to this place than meets the eye”. You could smell the fragrance of smoky, sweet, home made BBQ sauce on the street, outside of the restaurant. You walk in to a maybe 500 square foot store, with a rather large menu hanging on the wall right above the open kitchen. And maybe, 10 tables occupied the establishment. We ate there, of course. And it was a place in need of serious redecorating, with red and white checkered picnic table clothes stapled onto the tables, and walls needing to be painted. With that said, it matched the culture of Colfax Avenue perfectly! 😝One man took our order, and brought us our food, while one other person was in the kitchen making orders. I had their BBQ tofu sandwich, and for a hole in the wall place, it was the best BBQ that wasn’t meat that I had ever had. It was smoky, spicy and messy! Everything a BBQ sandwich requires. Wolfe’s shut their doors in 2010, after 25 years. So sad to hear that! But, years later, I still crave a good BBQ sandwich. And that’s where these bad boys come in. Louis Wolfe, former owner of Wolfe’s BBQ, this sandwich is for you. 

All that goes in to these sandwiches is tofu, mushrooms, BBQ sauce, garlic, pepper and fresh sage. That’s it. And they are really easy to make. And if cooked right, with patience and enough sauce, you may not even miss the fact that these aren’t made of pork or beef. 

Start by sautéing your mushrooms first, be patient and let the water cook out of them. Salt and pepper to taste, and add the BBQ sauce at the end and let the mushrooms simmer a couple of minutes in the sauce. It’s important you don’t add the BBQ sauce too soon, as you will most likely need to drain the excess water out of the pan from the mushrooms and you don’t want to lose your sauce. Set the mushrooms aside when done cooking.

NOTE: this sandwich is NOT the time to use a store brand, cheap BBQ sauce. Splurge for the good kind! I like Rib Rack BBQ sauce, and I buy it at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. It’s loaded with flavor and doesn’t have any added “junk” in it. 

Next, open your extra firm tofu and press it as firm as you can between two paper towels. Try and get as much water out of the tofu as you can. I use extra firm tofu because personally, I don’t like a soft, mushy sandwich. Slice the tofu length wise and start browning it in the pan. Let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side.

After you have a good brown going on the tofu, start scrambling it with a spatula, trying to get the look and consistency of scrambled eggs. This would be the point where you may need to drain excess water out of the pan. After you drain your tofu, add your pressed garlic cloves, and let them make their way to the bottom of the pan so their aroma comes alive and your kitchen smells of garlic…and tofu. Wake that garlic up! But just for a few minutes, then add your BBQ sauce and let it simmer until the sauce thickens. 


Lastly, add your freshly chopped sage. Let it cook for a few minutes, and incorporate your mushrooms, then remove tofu from heat. 

Top a bun with a heaping spoon full of tofu  and mushrooms. The only difference between this sandwich and the one I had years ago at Wolfe’s BBQ, is I scrambled my tofu. Wolfe’s served his tofu length wise on the bun. Oh and he made his own BBQ sauce, but that’s neither here or there. Teehee. Enjoy this sandwich any night of the week. Bring it to your next BBQ potluck. You won’t even miss the meat! 

BBQ Tofu and Mushroom Sandwiches 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients: 

  • 2 -8 oz packages of button mushrooms
  • 1-2 jars quality BBQ sauce, depending on how much sauce you prefer 
  • 2 packages of extra firm tofu
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed 
  • 1-2 TBS fresh chopped sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Make it! 

  1. First sauté your mushrooms with a 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water if you don’t have broth. Be patient, let all of the water cook out of the mushrooms. Drain any excess water. Set aside when done. 
  2. Open up your tofu, and press it between two paper towels, pushing firmly to remove as much water from the tofu as possible. Slice length wise and cook over medium heat in large pan to brown, about five minutes on each side. 
  3. With a spatula, scramble your tofu, much like the consistency of scrambled eggs. Let the tofu cook a few minutes more to cook out as much water as possible. Drain any excess water.
  4. Add your pressed garlic cloves, letting garlic cook a few minutes to become aromatic. Then add your BBQ sauce and let the tofu simmer until the sauce becomes thick.
  5. Add your fresh chopped sage and cook only a few minutes more. Add mushrooms and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Serve on whole wheat buns. And with coleslaw…..enjoy! 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit! 

Joyfully Sweet and Savory Pecan “Meatballs”


Chef Thomas Keller, an American Chef who is known at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, says that when making a recipe, follow the instructions to a “t” the first time. The second time, write down the recipe in your own terms, adjusting to your taste, cutting out or adding steps according to what makes sense to you. The third time, Keller says to make the recipe without any recipe at all, just by memory and tastes and hands. And at that point, Keller says, “The recipe is yours”. That is what I have done with a recipe I received from someone at church. Over the summer, our church had these “dinner for 8” groups, where 8 potential strangers in the congregation would get together for dinner three times over the course of the summer. One of those meals, a lovely lady brought what she calls “Pecan Nutballs”. They were phenomenal! Meatball sized nutballs, cooked in an apricot BBQ sauce. They were smoky and a little sweet. So tasty! And they had the exact texture of a meatball. I immediately asked for the recipe. I am not totally sure if this is “her” recipe, though it was typed out for me, and had corrections in her handwriting. I could not wait to make these for my family and make them a weekly staple in the Friedly home. Looking over the recipe, though vegetarian, they weren’t vegan. As Tom Hanks says in “You’ve Got Mail” (which is arguably the best movie of all time), this recipe needed some “tweaking”. 

After making it to a “t” the first time, and tasting how they were meant to taste, I started “tweaking” the ingredients and proportions. By the third time of making these tasty bites, this recipe had become mine. 🤗

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients, these pecan balls are actually quite simple to make! First, combine all of your ball ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a “dough” has formed.

NOTE: The original recipe called for cheddar cheese and egg in the recipe. I used brown rice (instead of cheese) and flax egg for the eggs. If you would rather use egg and cheese, use the same measurements I did for their substitutions! 

Roll dough, a little larger than a tablespoon (I just guesstimated), into balls and place in a 9×13 Pyrex pan. 

Now, make your BBQ sauce. Add all of your sauce ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens . This step is important because it won’t thicken in the oven and you’ll end up with a thin sauce that doesn’t stick to your pecan balls.

NOTE: the original recipe called for 1/4 cup of oil in the sauce. I don’t mind using oil so much when I cook, but I kinda draw the line when the measurements add up to “cup” measures. You can use water if you like (if so, use 1/8 cup) or just add 2 TBS of oil, which is what I did. 

Once your sauce has thickened, pour over your pecan balls.

Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. 

Top with Sriracha sauce (this step is not optional!) Serve over brown rice or egg noodles or eat them by themselves! Either way, you won’t be able to eat just one 😜. My hubby snacked on these while cleaning up after dinner! He just kept popping these in his mouth. 

Pecan “Meatballs”

Makes approximately 24 balls

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup whole pecans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh chopped sage
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice 
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 TBS fresh chopped parsley
  • 3 flax eggs

Apricot BBQ Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 TBS oil of choice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBS brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 2TBS grated onion
  • 1/2 oregano 

Sriracha for topping

Make it! 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all pecan ball ingredients in a food processor and pulse til a dough forms.
  3. Roll TBS size (or slightly larger) portions into balls. Place in a 9×13 Pyrex pan. 
  4. Combine sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce thickens. 
  5. Pour sauce over pecan balls, cover and cook for 30 minutes. 
  6. Serve over rice or egg noodles. Or enjoy them by themselves! 

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

Red Lentil Pasta Salad 


Oh this last weekend was busy! Company, work, more company and a going away party for our former pastor and his family, as they are moving on to the next chapter in their lives: to be missionaries in Marseille, France. The party was held at our old church in Brighton, CO, and it made venturing back up there bittersweet. The church building looked amazing, and being there brought back a lot of memories. But seeing all of the people we used to go to church with, was worth the drive for sure. The dinner was a potluck, and I signed up to bring a salad. I was going to bring my go to kale salad, but as I got my kale out to make the salad 20 minutes before we had to leave, I noticed it was bad. And I had no other greens to make a full salad. Soooooo now what??? I looked in my pantry and found the perfect solution: I could make a pasta salad. But the only noodles I had that weren’t spaghetti noodles, were either red lentil noodles or black bean noodles from Trader Joe’s. I went with the red lentil noodles, and with a little creativity (and what some may call their kitchen sink) I through this bad boy together. I was very happy with the noodles, as they already had a slight peppery taste, perfect for a pasta salad. Yum!! 


Cook the red lentil pasta according to the instructions on the package and rinse with cold water to cool. Do not over cook. Then, add chopped cucumbers, radishes, carrot peels, one can sliced black olives, and chopped fresh cilantro and parsley. 

Mix up your salad dressing (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, lemon juice from one lemon and two garlic cloves, pressed). Add dressing to salad and toss to combine, making sure all of the noodles are covered with the dressing. Nothing worse than a dry noodle! 


After you toss your salad with the dressing, add your last ingredient. Your secret ingredient….baby arugula. Bam!!! Arugula just adds another dimension to this salad. With the noodles having a slight peppery taste, the arugula compliments this salad well, and really adds to the flavor of the fresh herbs hiding in the background of this salad. And the pucker tartness from the vinegar and lemon juice in the dressing, mixed with the noodles and crunch from the cucumber, really made this salad refreshing and flavorful. 


Red Lentil Pasta Salad- Gluten Free! 
Serves 6:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 bag red lentil pasta from Trader Joe’s 
  • 1-4 ounce can sliced black olives
  • 1 cucumber chopped
  • 4 radishes sliced 
  • 2 large carrots peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley 
  • 2 handfuls of baby arugula 

Dressing: 

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 TBS agave nectar
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed 

Make it!! 

  1. Cook the red lentil noodles according to the package. Do not over cook. Drain and rinse with cold water to chill noodles. Put noodles in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add olives, cucumber, radishes, carrots, chopped cilantro and parsley. 
  3. Mix dressing ingredients in a mason jar, then toss with salad well to combine.
  4. Add arugula to salad and toss . 
  5. Enjoy!!! 

Until next time…

Have a fabulous day! 

Vegan(ish) ☕️ Tea Party ☕️

I was going thru the archives of my other blog, www.beautifullyorganic.wordpress.com, and found this post from the beginning of last summer. I hosted a tea party for some very important ladies in my life. I just love having people over, although I’m not sure how much I’m going to host things going forward, as lives change, and people change, and it’s been difficult for me lately hosting people in my home. My heart and mind have been going through some battles over the past several months. But going through my thoughts and experiences from the past year or so, made me really appreciate where I’ve come, and what I have. So, please give this a read….there are some really great ideas in here if you’re hosting a tea party yourself! 

Afternoon Tea Party
Until Next Time….

Bon Appetit! 


BBQ Chickpea Quinoa 

Our church has been hosting some international business students the past couple of weeks, and some of the congregation have been helping in providing meals for them. I signed up to provide them with lunch after church on Sunday. And of course, given my passion to please everyone’s tummy, I couldn’t just bring them sandwiches. Nope. And I also wanted to show them that American food doesn’t have to be fried, salty and processed. So I put my thinking cap on and thru this bad boy salad together. And in the process, I created another recipe for my recipe vault….that can be viewed by anyone on the World Wide Web. Huh, I may need to think about changing the name….

SIDE NOTE: I also made this group my homemade no bake cookie balls check em out!

Any who, everyone knows that BBQ pairs well with all types of meat, but what about beans? And quinoa? You bet it does!! Paired with cilantro, avocado and scallions, you have a wonderful, fiber and protein packed salad that’s sure to keep you full, and of course make your tummy happy! Mmmhmmmm! I love this recipe: it’s simple, clean (especially if you want make your own BBQ sauce!) This salad works great as a potluck addition, or as a nice Sunday afternoon lunch. I hope you enjoy it! 

First, toss quinoa, corn, black beans, chickpeas, chopped cilantro, and scallions in a large bowl and toss well to combine. If you’re making this salad ahead of time (day before), and if you’re like me and you worry about ingredients spoiling too soon, hold off on adding your scallions until you serve the salad.





When ready to serve the salad, mix BBQ sauce into the entire salad or per serving, it’s up to you. I add it per serving if I’m eating it at home, but obviously at a potluck it may be a good idea to toss the salad with the BBQ sauce, unless you want to stand there while everyone goes thru the line and give instructions. That may be fun 😉. Top the salad with scallions (if made ahead of time), avocado and dairy free white cheddar cheese. 


BBQ Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 avocados 
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup fresh corn 
  • 4 scallions
  • 1-2 cups cooked chickpeas (amount to taste)
  • Your Fave BBQ sauce
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Optional: dairy free shredded white cheddar cheese for topping 

Make it! 

  1. In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients except BBQ sauce and avocado 
  2. When ready to serve salad, toss with BBQ or add sauce per serving. Top with avocado and dairy free cheese, if using. Eat up! 

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.

Until Next time….

Bon Appetit! 

No Bake Cookie Balls-Secretly Healthy! 


I came across a recipe from Happy Mothering about 4 years ago for no bake cookie balls. My life hasn’t been the same since! They are that good. I have come across other versions of cookie balls, disguised as energy bites, or no bake cookie heavens. But, I always come back to these. Whenever I need a quick, nutrient dense snack, dessert or potluck dish, I make these little bites of nutty, chocolatey goodness. I have used the idea from the recipe above to create my own. I hope you like it!

 

You will need almond butter, peanut butter, honey, ground flax seed, gluten free quick oats, and chocolate chips. Mix ingredients and any optional add-ins in a large bowl. Mix well, and make sure all oats are mixed. If dough is crumbling, add more honey or nut butter. Cover and chill in refrigerator for one hour. 

Remove from fridge and roll tablespoon sized portions into balls. Store cookies in an air tight m container in the fridge. And try not to eat them all at once!! Enjoy! 

No Bake Healthy Cookie Balls
Makes 16-20 balls

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups gluten free quick oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy
  • 1/2 cup almond butter, creamy
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed 
  • 3/4 cup raw honey (maple syrup will work if need it to be vegan)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (not optional!)
  • 2/3 cup Optional Add-ins: raisins, shredded unsweetened coconut

Make it! 

  1. Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl, make sure all of the oats are mixed in. If using maple syrup, you may need to adjust amount because of the difference in consistency. If mixture seems dry and crumbly, add more nut butter. Mixture should stick together. Cover and chill in the fridge for up to 1 hour. 
  2. Roll TBS sized portions of mix into balls. Store in an air tight container in the fridge. 

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

Simplifying Meal Time: 1 Month Meal Plan for the Busy Mom


Ok, so it’s the end of July. It’s hot, kids are starting to get bored, and moms are getting, well, anxious for school start. Which for us, is about 3 weeks away….so why not think about how to reorganize life when the little “monsters” go back to school?? Yes, we mom’s long for the days when the house is quiet again, and we have the “me time” we seem to have less of during those warm, summer days. But, with those quiet days, come the hectic evening schedules…sports, after school activities, youth group, band practices; all the coming and going from “thing to thing”. And the craziness leaves a lot of moms feeling unorganized around meal time, asking the age old question: “what’s for dinner?” I find that if I don’t plan ahead, have my meals planned out and ingredients bought, we are hitting Chipotle or Panera Bread for dinner, or even ordering pizza. And as yummy as those places are, it shouldn’t be our go to meal during our busy season. 

I am a list maker. I make lists for everything. I feel a huge accomplishment in my days when I can cross something off of a list. Lately, I have been making a to do list at the beginning of the week, listing all of my chores, food prep and meals I need to make for the week. I keep it on the counter right next to the coffee pot (the fuel to power my madness). And each day, I cross off a few items, and by the end of the week, my house is clean (well mostly, I’m not superwoman), my meals are made, food is prepped and a relaxing weekend awaits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life worked out so wonderfully? At the mercy of lists? 

Meal planning has been one of the legs I stand on in life. It’s helped me learn to just buy only the ingredients I need for those meals and not over spend….okay sometimes (most of the time) I indulge in some kind of chocolate, but that’s neither here nor there. One thing I have found is that, for me, the more simple my meals are, the more likely I am to make them on a regular basis. Rice and beans, for example, is a very simple thing to make, and have in my pantry on a regular basis. Something else that works well for my family, is making meals that I know my kids will eat. Why add the stress of making something for dinner you know your kids will push away and not eat? Now I’m not saying to make a week of chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and pizza for dinner, no sir! But if your kids like, oh spaghetti for example, make a point to keep a back stock of noodles and sauce in your arsenal of food, for those busy nights you need a 10 minute miracle dinner. Make life easy on you, while you are still keeping your kiddos fed with healthy, home cooked meals. 

summer meal plan


When planning out my meals for the week, I again, make a list! Also, I find what works for me is to plan out meals for the whole month. What?!! I bet you’re thinking I’m crazy, how can I plan out 30 meals ahead of time?? I mean, how much time do I have??? Well, not much, I promise you. But what if I told you I only plan out meals for one week, 7 days, and repeated those meals for the month?? It doesn’t sound so hard now, right? It almost sounds doable… Well, that is how I plan my meals, I figure out a week’s worth of easy, healthy and sometimes fun meals for dinner, and stick to it on a weekly basis for about a month or so, which is usually when we are all sick of them and we are forced to move on! 

Now, the only way that this type of meal planning works, is if you pick meals that are easy to make, and most importantly, meals that you enjoy. Dinner becomes very stressful real quick when you have hungry young, kids who refuse to eat what is on their plates. Too many nights have been spent in my house teaching kids to eat what’s on their plates. So I try and cook what I know they will eat, and go from there. Busy ,week night dinners are also not the time to make a 50 step, 20 Ingredient dinner. You will make it once, and cry because you had to cook it while juggling homework, kids arguing, bottom wiping and diaper changing. No way. Save those meals for when your husband is home and he can man the battle station while you cook with ease…and a glass of wine 😝. Busy weeknight meals should consist of 1-2 crockpot OR pressure cooker meals, you know that new contraption that can cook any meal in 3.5 seconds?? Teehee SIDE NOTE: about presssure cookers, who doesn’t think of the scene from Back to the Future II, when the future McFlys “hydrate” a pizza in their super machine in like 10 seconds… while cooking with their pressure cooker? I know I do, and chuckle. Bah! Ok, back to work… Next, your weekly meal plan should also include at least one maximum of 5 Ingredients meal, something simple, healthy and yummy. This is where rice and beans come in for us. Rice, beans, salsa, avocado and done! Next, utilize your leftovers! Intentionally make more food so the hubby can have lunch the next day or two at work, or plan a leftover night to devour what you’ve made throughout the week. That’s less cooking for you! Lastly, plan for one night a week eating out. Trust me, if you don’t plan to eat out, odds are that that’s all you’ll do because you’ll need that break. But if it’s planned, you have something to look forward to, and you know that break is coming. Ok, lets meal plan! 

                                                              One Month of Meals:

Breakfast and lunch are usually some variation of the same meals, everyday, 7 days a week. That way, I know exactly what to buy at the store, and know every morning what my kids are having for breakfast, and what I’m packing for school lunch. No frantic pantry search, just an easy morning (hopefully). Every now and then, I’ll pack something special in their school lunch, or buy muffins for breakfast (gasp!), but those times don’t happen often. 

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit and honey, and bowl of fresh fruit 

*weekends only: cereal with almond milk OR homemade pancakes. My kiddos like the pumpkin seed, flax and granola cereal from Nature Valley at Costco. And I buy Coaches Oats from Costco as well. I buy 2 bags at a time to keep my pantry stocked for a while.

  • Lunch: Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly/or honey, OR veggie sandwiches), veggies and fruit

                                                                Dinner:

I start my meal plan on Saturdays for a couple of reasons: I do my shopping on Fridays, and we get paid on Friday, so my grocery budget resets. It’s just easier for me to have meals start when the budget starts. 

  • Saturday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal *
  • Sunday: Pecan “Meatballs” with Sweet and Sour Sauce 
  • Monday: Rice and Beans
  • Tuesday : New Recipe Night!**
  • Wednesday: Rice and Beans
  • Thursday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal
  • Friday: Eat out!

*Freezer Meals, along with crockpot meals, should be a staple in any busy mom’s meal plan. They help relieve the stress of cooking, and are always a good option when you need that quick, go to healthy meal. I utilize frozen meals on nights I have to work. They work perfect for me when I’m tired or if the hubby is in charge of dinner. If you can, try and find meals that freeze and cook in your crockpot when you’re ready to use them. Here’s a good freezer meal resource. A lot of the meals that you already make on a regular basis; soups, pancakes, burgers, casseroles, even vegan “meatballs” can be made in advance and frozen for later use. I usually pick a meal or two I like to make, triple the recipe and make it for dinner one night, while freezing the other two portions. Or pick a weekend day and spend an hour or two prepping freezer meals. Whatever works best for you! Sure does help this busy mom to have freezer inventory!

**Tuesday night is the one night of the week that we don’t have anything going on; no sports, church, work, school activities and such. It’s the perfect night for me to try out a new recipe! And who knows, I may find a new family staple to add to the meal plan 😉 I don’t do this type of thing with every meal plan, but some days I need a change and to try something new. 

I stick my meal plan on the fridge, right next to my chores list and under my grocery list. 😝🤗 they should all really be together, don’t you think?? 


I hope this helps all of the busy moms out there, or at least gives you an idea of how to start meal planning. It is so worth it to have meals planned out for those busy times in life! 

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.

Until Next time….

Bon Appetit!