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! 

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! 

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! 

Plant Based Kitchen-The Secret of the Kitchenista!

Ok, I’ve got to spill the beans about a company here in Denver, CO: Plant Based KitchenFounded by Chef Kelley Williamson, back in 2013, this gem has been offering cooking demonstrations all over the Denver Metro area. I have attended a few of them, at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and local companies in my town of Parker. I have tasted her yummy nummy foods, made from recipes that she’s created, and I usually can’t wait to get home and make them myself (note to reader: her tofu ricotta is outta this world good!). She also offers cooking classes, open to the public for a very low cost. Offered in a very intimate setting, in the kitchen of a local church, only 12 people can participate in a class at a time. These classes offer the chance to cook with Chef Kelley, and make her recipes, while eating, conversing and just enjoying the company of other food enthusiasts. Did I mention you get to eat yummy food while in these classes?? Teehee 😝 Chef Kelley specializes in plant based recipes, and partners with Jerry Casados, a plant based nutritionist that offers advice and education at her demos and classes.

This past weekend, I attended my first cooking class of Chef Kelley’s. The theme: Freezer Friendly Meals. Having never been to one of her classes, I didn’t know what to expect. I walked into the kitchen of the church, and I immediately had butterflies; the kitchen and set up were a dream!


12 of us were all gathered around the kitchen’s center chop block, met with our own knives and recipes.


And in the middle of the table, was a large bowl of berries and Chef Kelley’s coffee cake. It was gorgeous! And yes, we did get to eat it. Devour it, I mean 😋


With 5 recipes to make and only 2 1/2 hours to make them, the 12 of us divided into 5 groups of 2-3 people and each group made one recipe. My group made Good Morning Muffins, which were loaded with fresh cut apples and carrots, dates and chopped nuts…oh yum! 

our very large bowl of muffin batter!


We had to make enough food for everyone to taste it in the class, as well as enough to take home with us. So we quadrupled the recipes. Every recipe was vegan, plant based, salt and oil free. We all had a lot of fun navigating a kitchen we’ve never been in before, and making recipes that we had never made. We joked, asked a lot of questions about food, health and wellness with Jerry, and got to know one another a little bit. It was a really good time! 

With a 1/2 an hour left, we all sat down and enjoyed the food we created. We discussed our experiences making them, as well as complimenting one another on a job well done. We all had our faves of what was made of course (mine was the cowboy lasagne: layers of  beans, fresh veggies and cashew cream with a fresh garlic bite….drooolllll), but all in all every recipe was a hit. We all got to take leftovers home to share, or save for a midnight snack. 😝 I gave my muffins to my kiddos for an afternoon snack. They didn’t last long. 

cowboy lasagne, basil tetrazzini, apricot oatmeal bars, and oatmeal pancakes

I had never been to something like this before and was really glad that I went! If you’re ever in the mood to eat some good food, learn a few new recipes or try your cooking skills out with Chef Kelley, look up Plant Based Kitchen and attend a class. Chef Kelley does not disappoint!

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

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

Plant Based Pie Crust

Do you have any sugar free, gluten free or paleo dieters that you have to plan for in your life? Are dessert ideas sometimes hard to come by? Now, some people would argue that dessert is an unnecessary meal; that it just adds an unearthly amount of calories to the end of our meal and should be omitted for the sake of our own health and figures. Ya, I would not trust those people..😝 My mom had a magnet on our fridge growing up that said, “skinny cooks can’t be trusted”. Ya she may have been on to something there…

Now, I love all kinds of dessert, I normally won’t turn any down. But, doing dessert a plant based way, can be tricky. Usually, the go-to plant based dessert is a bowl of berries with a dollop of delicious sweet cashew cream on top of it or just by itself. Nothing wrong with that! As I drool typing this post…but what about….pie? Yes, pie. Can pie be created plant based? Well, the crust can! I’ve been making this crust for a couple of years now, and it is the simplest recipe I have in my recipe vault. It only has 2 ingredients! That’s it! Unless you want to add stuff to it, then, that’s your call. 

So come on…Let’s do this! 

Start with 1 cup of nuts and 12-15 dates. It’s best to soak your dates for up to 10 minutes to help soften them up. It helps them blend easier! 

Next, blend the nuts and dates until a ball begins to form. 


Place ball in to a 9 inch pie tin, and spread evenly. Fill it with you favorite pie! 

Variations: this pie crust is very versatile, and can be transformed in many ways to make your pie better! I like to add orange peel to it when making chocolate pie, because orange and chocolate go together beautifully! 

Add vanilla or almond extract to your fruit pies, or cinnamon and nutmeg to your pumpkin pie. Sky’s the limit. I hope you enjoy this recipe! 

Plant Based Pie Crust-Vegan, Gluten and Sugar Free 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nut of choice (pecans or walnuts work best for this recipe)
  • 12-15 dates, soaked for up to 10 minutes (mandatory if you don’t have a a decent, high power food processor

Make it! 

  • Add dates and nut of choice to your food processor. Blend until a ball of “dough” forms. 
  • Place ball in a 9 in pie tin, spread evenly. 
  • Place in fridge for about 30 minutes or so to set.
  • Add your filling and enjoy! 

Until Next Time…

Bon Appetit! 

Culinary Adventure: Bircher Muesli

The hubby and I had the pleasure of staying at the Four Seasons in Vail, CO this past month for his annual Director’s Retreat. I gotta tell you, I’ve never felt more fancy! This trip, I chose to lock myself in our hotel room, order room service and just relax. It definitely saved us some money compared to last time!

view from our hotel room


I had an amazing salad for dinner the first night, and as the room service server was picking up my dirty dishes, I inquired about the best thing on the menu to have for breakfast. Her face lit up as she was telling me about their Bircher Muesli. She said it was absolutely phenomenal and that I had to try it. So of course, I did!! And her recommendation was spot on, in fact, I think her enthusiasm was dialed back a bit for it! It was a fantastic, unbelievably good breakfast. 

Coupled with my French press coffee, I couldn’t have asked for a better meal. The best way I can describe it is that it was a bowl of cold oatmeal, more like an oatmeal soup, with almond milk, fresh fruit, yogurt and nuts. And the flavor was just out of this world good. It wasn’t too sweet, and it was so creamy.  Until that morning, I had never heard of Muesli before. 


Muesli is a breakfast and brunch dish based on raw rolled oats and other ingredients like grains, fresh or dried fruits, seeds and nuts, that may be mixed with cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, other plant milks or yogurt. 

There are so many different ways to eat Muesli. Bircher Muesli, aka Swiss oatmeal, is named after its creator, Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Brenner. He created it in the 20th century for his patients as a health supplement. The history behind how and why Bircher-Brenner created this food is fascinating. He believed that apples cured him of jaundice as a young man, and therefore was very vocal for trying to get more fruits and vegetables into his patient’s diets. 

I enjoyed the Bircher Muesli I had in Vail so much, that I immediately sought out in search for the perfect recipe to make at home. I found two that were very close to what I was looking for. The first recipe uses chocolate chips and mashed bananas and raspberries to their oats and almond milk. The second recipe, uses raw almonds, raisins, chopped apple and yogurt. I took elements of these two recipes to create my own….that’s not cheating is it?? 😝👩🏻‍🍳

Well, heeeeerrrrreeee we go! 


I like the method the first recipe uses, to begin by smashing your bananas and raspberries together in a bowl. 


Next, add your plant based milk and stir. 

Then, add your oats, sweetener and seeds. Stir to combine all of the ingredients well. Make sure your seeds are salt free! Cuz that wouldn’t taste good in the AM 😝

Cover and let it sit in your fridge over night. 

When I took the muesli out of the fridge the next morning, it looked amazing! The oats absorbed most of the milk, so I added a little bit more to give it a soup like consistency. Then I topped it with more raspberries, some blueberries, sliced apple, and a drizzle of honey. It was pretty close to what I had in Vail. It was creamy and not too sweet, although I did feel like it was too good to be oatmeal! I mean it’s hard to eat oatmeal that isn’t jam packed with brown sugar , am I right??!! I could taste the smashed bananas, they added just the right amount of sweetness to the muesli. The crunch from the apples, blueberries and seeds just completed my bite! Next time, I think I’ll add peanut butter and let it sit in the muesli overnight. I’m sure that would add just another dimension of flavor! 

Bircher Muesli 
Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups Organic quick oats
  • 3 cups almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup raspberries 
  • 2 over ripe bananas
  • 4 TBS maple syrup, honey or your fave liquid sweetener
  • 2 TBS chia seeds
  • Handful pumpkin seeds 
  • Handful sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • 1/2 chopped apples (Granny Smith work the best!)
  • Optional: 2-3 TBS peanut butter or any nut butter 
  • Optional: 1 cup dairy free vanilla yogurt

Make it! 

  • Start by adding the bananas and raspberries into a medium sized bowl and smash them together til all clumps are gone. 
  • Add your milk and stir. 
  • Then add your oats, sweetener, seeds, chia, yogurt and nut butter if your using it. Cover and allow to sit overnight in your fridge. 
  • Divide into bowls, mix in more milk if needed and top with blueberries and apple. Enjoy!! 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit!