Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies

As moms we’ve all been there. Dishing up our kids’ plates for dinner, putting those bright green broccoli florets on their plates, only to watch them stay on the plate and not get touched during dinner. Even with the utmost bribery of ice cream, your kids will NOT eat anything green on their plate, looking at us like we must be joking.

I know, I know, kids aren’t supposed to like their veggies, and we as parents just want something in their bellies, even if it isn’t the best thing for them. But as moms, sometimes we need to be creative when it comes to getting our kids to eat foods that aren’t macaroni and cheese, as creative as we are when it comes to getting them to clean up their toys or brush their teeth. And the ultimate goal is that eventually our kids will love their veggies and choose them over cookies! Ok, whoa, let’s not go too far here….😝

Tip # 1: Make Vegetables the Only Food Option When Kids Are Hungry<<<<
The perfect time for this is while you’re making dinner, leave a bowl or plate full of veggies out on the counter and the kids will just gobble them up. Or grab them as their walking (running by). When it’s the only option available, it helps with temptation of other foods. And if they are truly hungry, they’ll eat them.

Tip #2: Make Eating Vegetables Fun! <<<<
It’s no coincidence that I’m writing this post while my kids devour a Costco sized bag of carrots by the handfuls….while eating them on the couch. I never let my kids eat on the couch, unless it’s their veggies (and popcorn on movie nights). There’s something freeing about leaving the table and eating on the couch. I also bring tubs of veggies in the car and let the kids hold them and play car games. Buying food portion plates with pictures on them is also fun for the kids and it teaches them what they should be eating the most of and the least. Let them dish up their plates and choose which veggies they want by the pictures on the plate.

Tip #3: Give Them the Option

One of the greatest things I’ve learned as a parent is that kids looovve to make their own decisions, all of the decisions actually. If it’s snack time, instead of just putting a plate of broccoli out in front of them and hope for the best, ask them what they would prefer, give them two options to choose from and let them make the decision, For example, ask them “should we have broccoli or carrots with our snack?” and letting them make the choice can actually excite them, like they are choosing their food. But be specific with your choices, don’t just say “what veggies do you want today”, as that leaves room for the age old “I don’t want vegetables moooooom!”. Be specific and let them choose.

Tip #4: When All Else Fails, Sneak Them In!

This is not really a tip, more like an affirmation that I, like so many other moms out there, live by. It’s so easy, and sometimes the only way to get veggies into my kids’ diet some days, as life does get crazy. Here are some ways I find that work for my kids. Smoothies-big one. Grab a couple giant handfuls of spinach and add them to fresh fruit, and bam, mega nutrients. Also, frozen purreed veggies (I freeze mine in ice cube trays so it’s easily accessible), works wonderful in sneaking them into pancake batters, sauces, soups, even smoothies. Last, if you have some limp kale, cook it slowly in your oven on a low heat and dry it out. Then process it into a super food powder and add it to pretty much any entree for some extra nutrients.

I hope these tips help you!

Until Next Time…

Bon Appetit

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Vegan Meatballs

I made the mistake of letting my kids try meatballs made with beef and now every time I make spaghetti they’re asking for the “non-healthy” meatballs. And I watch as their hopes and dreams vanish when I say “no honey, we’re having the ones with beans in them”. Hahaha! Yep I’m the mean Mom. The Mom that won’t let their kids have a sucker at 830 in the morning, the Mom that makes them wash their hands after school and after playing in the mud, and the Mom that makes them eat bean balls. Jealous?

Well here’s a new recipe I concocted after trying this recipe. Mine is very similar, just with a few tweaks. My youngest actually demolished his helping at dinner, while the older two sat quietly, eating their bean balls. In all seriousness though, these are fabulous if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to Meatballs for your weeknight dinner. Enjoy!

First, pulse 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds in the food processor until very fine.

Rinse and drain 1 (15 oz) can of white beans then mash beans until a nice paste forms. Set aside.

Next, sauté half of one red onion, until translucent, then add 3 cloves minced garlic and sauté just enough to wake the garlic up. Add onions and garlic to mashed beans along with spices and mix.

Finally, add oats, tomato paste and sunflower meal and mix well.

Roll approximately tablespoon sized mixture into balls and place on a parchment paper lined sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite spaghetti noodles and sauce! Maybe even with some cashew Parmesan crumble??? Yum!

Vegan Meatballs

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz can of white beans
  • 1 TBS olive oil for sauté
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBS fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 tsp liquid aminos
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make it!

  1. Pulse your sunflower seeds in a food processor til fine.
  2. Rinse and drain beans and mash with a fork in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in medium pan and sauté onions until soft. Add minced garlic and sauté for only a minute. Add onions and garlic to mashed beans as well as your spices and mix well.
  4. Add your sunflower meal, oats and tomato paste and mix until well combined.
  5. Roll out about 15 TBS sized balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Until next time…

Bon Appetit!

Do Not Miss the Ministry That is Happening Around Your Table

“True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person” ~Kathleen Norris

It comes as no surprise to anyone who has been reading my blog for a while that hospitality has become extremely important to me. The excitement I get when I have guests coming over for dinner is sometimes more than I can take. Planning the menu, the drinks, the “to-do” lists, yes lists. Dreaming about what I hope takes place during that meal; the conversations, the endless fellowship I romance in my head. The catching up with friends and family, the announcing of engagements and pregnancies, or new jobs. The everyday life that needs to be worked thru or pain and anguish that needs consoling and maybe some chocolate. And it all happens at our dining room table. I really love this article about a table being a place of brokenness and connection, written by Barry Jones. Among so many interesting and touching points the author makes, he starts his article with the struggle of having to get rid of his kitchen table, because of all of the memories and stories and heartaches that took place there. Have you ever shared in his struggle?

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Have you ever taken the time to notice how much of Jesus’ ministry happened around food? I think everyone, whether you’re Christian or not, can appreciate where I am about to go. Jesus fed thousands from one simple meal, and turned water into wine. Arguably the most important teaching Jesus had for his disciples happened over a meal, a feast. We come humbled before God, thanking Him over wine and bread, during the Lord’s supper. What is it about sharing a meal, about breaking bread with other people that is so sacred? Well, if you look at food being a gift, as well as the people we share it with, we find that the whole act of sharing a meal together is a gift as well; an experience given to us to allow for joy and pain with one another. All we need is a table, open hearts and a simple invitation: come and eat!

I have been reading the most lovely books on this particular subject, written by women who’s heart’s live for hospitality and fellowship. They have poured their lives out onto  pages, for crazy, stay at home moms like me to read, relate to and desire for. Books like “Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table”, and “Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table”. The desire I have for hosting people in my home, does not come from my upbringing, no sir. In fact, I am not sure where exactly it does come from, but I do know that God has instilled it in me. I want to spend this year opening up my home, opening up my table to everyone that walks thru my door. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be present with everyone that I love, and bless them with a warm meal in their bellies. I long for my home to be a place of comfort, familiarity for those who occupy it. A place everyone seems to want to gather!

God created the act of sharing a meal together as a time for offering, of ourselves to one another. A time to really lay it all out there, to be known and get to know others. It’s a time to truly fellowship, to show love and be loved. And finally, it’s a place to come and eat, to be fed physically and emotionally, by each other and by God. Don’t miss the ministry that’s happening around your dining room tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables, picnic tables. It’s a ministry that’s so important, so crucial to families and friends. It’s a sacred place in our homes that should be celebrated often. Now, go invite someone over for dinner.

Until Next time…

Bon Appetit!

Happy New Year from DOVF!

Mental Health is a funny thing. It’s something that’s very important to maintain, but is not the focus of a lot of people’s lives. And it is something that can be looked at as a problem “other people have”, but not me. Actually, a lot of people suffer from anxiety or depression and not even know it, they just push their feelings aside in hopes that they subside. People may cope with their anxiety by spending money, drinking or eating, instead of facing what really has them upset. It can be a vicious cycle, and before we know it, we can be in a very dark place not knowing how to get out.

I’ve taken the past two months off from almost every aspect of my life: work, blogging, even cleaning my house! I needed some time to focus on my mental health, as I have recently been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, depression and have been classified as a manic spender. I was actually surprised by that last one! Even though I know I tend to spend more money than I should. I have really begun to accept that depression and anxiety are something I am going to have to manage the rest of my life. But, it’s a new year and I have some decisions to make! Or not make, I guess 🙃 but I want this year to be different! I don’t want to be anxious about my life, and I want to live as minimally as I can. I don’t want the stress of a job or big life decisions to be the focus of my thinking. Most importantly, I want to spend time in my kitchen, cooking and getting back to the foods I love the most, sharing them with the people I love the most. I want to spend hours talking with friends and family, over wine and foods I cooked from scratch. Playing games and talking deeply about God. I want this year to be about intentional relationships. The verse I have on this blog is Ecc 8:15 “eat, drink and enjoy the life God gave you”. That is what I want to feel deeply this year, I want to purely enjoy my life this year. That’s not a bad New Years resolution right?? What is your New Years resolution? I would love to know!

I’m looking forward to a year of cooking, blogging, fellowship and being mindful. I’m hopeful for a good, restful year. Happy New Year to you!

Foodie Highlight of the 2017 Holiday Season:

Family Weekend in Glenwood Springs, CO. I think we may have found a new holiday tradition! It was such a refreshing experience, swimming outside in the middle of the mountains in super cold weather, surrounded by Christmas lights! But this wouldn’t be a food blog without talking about a new food experience. Recommend by the locals, we visited Slope and Hatch for lunch, a gourmet taco and hot dog restaurant. A super tiny venue that was packed from the time we arrived to the time we left. The food was amazingly tasty! They had a unique menu filled with different varieties of tacos and hot dogs, definitely not your usual boring meal. I had to try both of their plant based tacos: a falafel taco and their coconut curry tacos. Definitely a change from rice and bean tacos. My favorite was the falafel taco, as I just love tzatziki sauce and fresh herbs! The coconut curry tacos had amazing curry flavor, but combined in a tortilla made this taco super filling. But totally worth it 😋

Until next time…

Bon Appetit!

 

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! 

Manna Restaurant: Bringing God’s Bounty to the Table

Ok, I work in a hospital. And I loooovvveee my job. We are a level one trauma center, which means we get a lot of different, serious, life threatening traumas and I get to see a lot of stuff. Pretty awesome. And we also have the best neuro facility and team in the region. That’s kind of a big deal. Those are two things my hospital is known for. What we aren’t known for, however, is the food. Sure we have a decent salad bar in our cafe and Monday mac n’ cheese has become pretty legendary throughout the hospital staff. And we have a pretty tasty coffee shop with a wide variety of organic and plant based items to choose from. But that’s it. Hospitals are not known for their food, the exact opposite actually. Patients will ask family members to bring them outside food sometimes because there’s only so many times a person can have turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. And that hospital coffee….oh man. It’s a far cry from Starbucks, or even Foldgers. 😂 It’s just not something hospitals thrive to achieve to have; a good, tasty menu. There is one hospital however, in Castle Rock, CO that people actually go to because of its food. People who aren’t even patients go to this hospital on a daily basis just to eat there. Well, to eat at the restaurant inside of the hospital. Until recently, I had never heard of such a thing, a full service restaurant inside of a hospital. Inside of Airports, sure. Inside of Malls and sports arenas, absolutely. But inside of a hospital? That’s a new one. 

Castle Rock Adventist Hospital houses one of Colorado’s most unique restaurants, called Manna Restaurant. Founded by award winning chef, Chef Dan Skay and Johnson and Wales culinary grad, Chef Adam Freisem, Manna practices a farm to table mentality, using whatever is in season in Colorado. A quote from the restaurant’s website: “Reflecting Colorado’s growing season and featuring the best our region has to offer. We suppprt humane, sustainable and responsible farming practices, even from our own garden. For the simple fact-local food, raised and produced by people who care, is better”. Manna Restaurant partners with farmers, bakeries and coffee vendors throughout the state of Colorado, supporting local businesses and using what is produced in Colorado to operate their restaurant. Businesses like Busy Bee Honey FarmBest Buddies BakeryCoda CoffeeGrowers Organic, and Jumping Goat Dairy Farm, to name a few! 

The biblical history behind manna is that manna is the food that God provided the Israelites on their travels in the desert during the 40 year period following the Exodus. He provided just enough to eat each day, and a double portion was given to them on the Sabbath. Some refer to manna as a flaky, miraculous food. And the motto behind Manna Restaurant is that they are bringing God’s bounty to the table. Being that Castle Rock Adventist is a Christian, not for profit hospital, so is Manna Restaurant. Every tip that is given to the servers that work at Manna, is given to their wellness foundation, and they donate that money to a different charity every month. Being not for profit allows Manna to keep their menu prices low, and provide good, wholesome, whole food to hospital families and anyone else who wanders into their restaurant, because how many people say, “hey do you want to go to the hospital for dinner tonight?!”

The restaurant is striving to provide a healthy food option for not only the patients in the hospital, but for the community around them. A lot of hospitals work towards providing healthy food options for their patients, but still end up with a lot of processed foods on their menus, as well foods that have very little nutrients. Manna’s menu is full of nutrient-dense food options, something our bodies need to heal, and stay healthy. I commend them for what they are doing! 

Now, to the restaurant….

As you enter thru the main enterance of the hospital, the restaurant is on the left. The restaurant itself is a bit different: you walk into Manna Market, where there’s a small coffee shop, and their salad bar. 




The salad bar is unique in the fact that most of the items on the salad bar were homemade, including stuffed grape leaves 🤗.


There was also a plethora of healthy, organic “to-go” foods in Manna Market, from bottled smoothies, chips and salads, to sandwiches and their homemade wood fire pizza by the slice. 

To the left of the enterance is their dining room, which is seat yourself. And there’s also a handful of chairs at an open kitchen counter, where you can sit and eat, while watching the cooks in action. That’s where my husband and I chose to sit! 

Ok, now on to the food! I cannot tell you how unique Manna’s menu was! This menu, at first glance, has a fine dining quality to it. From sushi grade appetizers, to lamb burgers and carmelized plantines with avocado crema. Manna’s menu is unique and creative, offering food options made with ingredients from the earth, and from scratch. They even had homemade ketchup and mustard on the table! And, hands down, it was the most tasty ketchup and mustard I’ve ever had. And I used to liveon ketchup growing up.😉 

I started my Manna experience with a bowl of chilled strawberry and coconut soup. It was so creamy and sweet, with a touch of cinnamon. And the flavor of the strawberry reminded me so much of summertime. I bought two bowls to take home to feed to my kids for breakfast the next morning. It was sooooo good. 



Dinner options were out of this world. Wood fire pizzas, house made burgers, and more traditional meaty options like ribs, lamb and fish. I went for one of their burgers, The Forager. Made with Hazel Dell mushrooms, potatoes and wild rice, this burger is easily in my top 5 veggie burgers of all time. I had to “alter” the burger, because of what I saw came with the burger listed right above it on the menu. The burger was a lamb burger, topped with spicy blueberry relish and goat cheese. I add to have that relish on my mushroom and potato burger. And the chefs weren’t surprised in the least that I asked for it, they say it happens often. The blueberry relish was very flavorful, sweet with a little kick. The sweetness of it, and the tartness of the goat cheese, added another dimension of delish to my peppery, startchy, falling apart mess of a burger. I’ll say it again, one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. 



The bun to burger ratio was perfect , and I had to try their shoe string fries with their homemade ketchup and mustard. Who would have thought this tasty food would be in a hospital?? 


I was too full for dessert, but I got it anyway…🤗😋 I know, I know, you shouldn’t eat when you’re full,  it I was very curious about their pea cake dessert. Yes, you read it right, pea cake. And yes, it was indeed made from peas. And it was green!  It wasn’t too sweet, but did have a nice cake texture to it. If it doesn’t sound too hippie of me to say, the pea cake really had an earthy taste to it, not like other vegan cakes I’ve had. Served with candied pistachios and pea shoots in a bed of vanilla sauce, it really was the perfect end to my meal. I mean, who doesn’t make their cakes with peas?? 


If you’re in the area of Castle Rock and are in need of a good, wholesome meal, venture in to Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and give Manna Restaurant a try. You will be so happy you did! 

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! 

My Food Experience in Cincinnati, OH

pastries at coffee emporium

I have to say, trying to find a true vegan restaurant in Cincinnati was very, very tough. As in, there aren’t any, well downtown that is. And does someone who eats a vegan diet have to only eat at vegan restaurants? No, of course not. In fact, I know vegans who regular steak houses because they have amazing baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and salads. So regular in fact, that the owners and wait staff are on a first name basis with them. But, I write a vegan blog, and my whole purpose in traveling to other cities is to find those hidden gems in the cities I travel to, not the typical places that exist around the country; the Chipotle’s and Tokyo Joe’s if you will. We all know those establishments are great places to eat and have good options for those who eat vegetarian and vegan. But I want to find the places that are either hidden in the city or aren’t obvious choices for plant based food. 


So what did I find in Cincinnati? I learned that Graeter’s Ice Cream and LaRosa’s Pizza are pretty much city staples. And well, honestly, people here in Cincinnati love their meat! They are very serious about. So many award winning steak houses around the city, not to mention Cincinnati Chili (for those unfamiliar with what Cincinnati Chili is, as I was until a couple of months ago, it’s basically chili poured over spaghetti noodles. Make it a 3 way by adding diced onions and grated cheddar cheese). And there are quite a number of pig statues around in the restaurants as well, which I learned is to recall Cincinnati’s annual Flying Pig Marathon and the city’s’ nickname of “Porkopolis”. The city’s nickname dates back from the mid 19th century, when the Cincinnati meat packing industry led the country. There is an actual historical importance of the pig industry in this city. 


I know vegetable eaters probably don’t care much about that fact, but it is a big part of this city’s history and I felt like I needed to share it. We can’t ignore a part of history just because we don’t like or approve of it. However, healthier, plant based options and restaurants are creeping their way into the city of Cincinnati. 

Restaurants like Melt, which is dubbed a humble yet hip spot delivering health-oriented sandwiches, salads & entrees with a global bent, are making a statement with their food. Every local I asked about where to find vegan food pointed me to Melt. This is the place to go if you want that vegan Cincinnati Chili. They offer a fabulous black bean chili that they make in house-with chocolate and all! They also have an incredible vegan mac n’ cheese and offer alternative proteins like tempeh and seitan. Even though they serve meat and dairy cheeses as well, they are building a name for themselves as the “vegan’s place the eat” in downtown Cincinnati. With now 2 locations, find them on the north side of town or at their new location in the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). 

I ate at a restaurant called Kaze (pronounced Ka-zay), that was a Japanese Sushi Bar/gastro pub/beer garden, located in OTR. That type of restaurant is new to Cincinnati. But they had a fabulous roasted vegetable bowl with rice and miso butter. It was loaded with fresh veggies like red potato, mushrooms, broccoli , brussel sprouts, carrots, seaweed, radish, green beans and celery. It was to die for. And enormous, I couldn’t eat all of it. But I gave it my all that’s for sure. 😂They also had a few selections for vegetarian sushi. I had the kito roll, which was sweet potato, asparagus and avocado. And instead of using soy sauce and wasabi to eat it with, the chef provides a chimichuri sauce with this particular roll. So yummy!! I wish I would have ordered more….

If you’re looking for a light lunch with a more urban feel to it, check out the Coffee Emporium, a neat coffee shop located at the south side of OTR. Phenomenal coffee, ☕️ as they roast their own beans in house and have dozens of varieties. My brother in law would love this coffee shop! 


I had an iced coffee and the rich flavor it had was out of this world. It was very refreshing. They also have hummus pita sliders, pitas topped with hummus, sliced tomato and sliced green apple. I never would have thought to combine hummus and apple but it worked really well. Hats off to whoever has thought of that! 

My last night in Cincinnati, I ate at a place called Maplewood Kitchen and Bar. Located right by my hotel in the Central Business District, it was kind of an accident that I stumbled upon it. But happy that I did. Known for their extensive brunch menu, Maplewood Kitchen has a sit down restaurant feel to it, but you actually walk in, order your food then sit down. The bartender said that it just helps the whole place run smoother, especially mid week when all the business folk have to eat and get back to work after lunch in a timely manner. I sat at the bar however, where it can be full service if that’s what you desire. I am really enjoying sitting at the bar, because being a party of one it’s a less awkward place to sit and you can socialize with others around you if you want to, or not! There are no set rules. Plus, they keep the wine at the bar…..

The Maplewood Kitchen has a fabulous power bowl with quinoa and farro, avocado, tomatoes, beets, crunchy green beans, grilled corn on the cob, and arugula. For you vegetarians out there, they can add two poached eggs to it if you like. This bowl was crunchy, filling and satisfying. It had amazing flavor too, with a slight hint of pepper in every bite to give it some kick. 

I also ordered their wild mushroom toast with whipped goat cheese, but they were out of it. So I settled for their tomato toast. It was extremely creamy and tasty, especially with that tang of goat cheese mixed with the juice from the tomatoes. Num! Tomatoes are a good second to mushrooms.😝

There is a pizza place that I was trying to get to, but because of the holiday weekend it was closed multiple days. The Kitchen Factory, formally known as Northslice Pizza, serves traditional New York style pizza by the slice or whole pies. But they also have a vegan menu, offering vegan pizza, vegan meatballs and their own vegan mac n’ cheese. So if your ever in the mood for pizza and in the north side of town, give The Kitchen Factoy a try. They have late night hours with a late night menu as well. 

Check out my post for 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab for a mellow place to hang out for lunch or drinks at night! 

Walking around the city all weekend, shopping and eating food, total dream. I cannot believe this is my life! 

Until next time… 

Bon Appetit!