Total Pageviews

Monday, December 23, 2013

Vegan Johnny.....


I am so excited about this recipe. 

I used to make this casserole, Johnny Marzetti, all the time for my family, when the kids were was such a snap.  Brown ground beef, add in cream of mushroom soup, pasta and pasta sauce and it was a done deal.  Of course, since going vegan, this, and my other claim to fast food fame, tuna slop (tuna, cream of celery, rice and cheese), have been permanently archived.

This weekend, for some reason, I was thinking about ole Johnny and thought, wait a minute....I can figure this out.

I started with my favorite lentils, Trader Joe's cooked lentils.  I don't know how they cook them, but they are so good.

Then I made up some cream of mushroom soup.  After searching the web a bit, I settled upon two vegan versions and basically did a combo of the two.

In my version, I sauted about a half of an onion and one clove of garlic in some water.  I used one small box of baby bella mushrooms (chopped), and added those to the onion/garlic.  I soaked about 1/2 C of raw cashews for several hours, and processed those in the food processor with some coconut milk (I had leftover in the frig needing to be used).  As a thickener, I used a couple of tablespoons of flour and blended with some of the coconut milk along with some pepper, celtic salt (my new favorite seasoning) and a dash of onion powder.

Here is the blending of the soaked (and drained) cashews with the coconut milk going into the onion/garlic/mushroom mix that is sauteeing.

I added a bit more liquid after adding in the flour mixture.

Let heat for a few minutes to thicken up.

I lightly seasoned with some white pepper.

At this point, you could puree the mixture again and that would break up the mushroom chunks some, but I omitted that step.  I'm thinking I could boost the nutritional value of this dish and the mouth feel of the bottom layer by adding in some cannellini beans.  I'll play with that a bit.  More veggies could be added as well.

From here it is an easy conversion.

Mushroom mix blended into the lentils.  Pasta on top of the lentil/mushroom mix.  Whole-wheat penne in this case, but spaghetti would be nice too.

And pasta sauce on top of the pasta.

I like lots of oregano in mine.

Top with some ground raw cashews and a quick heat up and it is good to go.

 Both my husband and my (fairly finnicky) son pronounced this as GOOD! 

Fun stuff......already kicking around some ideas for resurrecting tuna slop.... :)

Sue, loving Johnny, in Ohio

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Wishes, On Cultivating Joy and Fudge, of course!

We are nearing the winter solstice and the holidays and it is always this time of year that I find myself taking stock on a deeper level; what is working in my life, what requires a major over-haul and what do I want to accomplish in the time that remains.

These are heady contemplations and are best pondered with chocolate!  I used to make fudge and many other decadent treats this time of year for my loved ones, but since embarking on a plant-based and mostly non-processed diet, have dropped most of that tradition.  I found a fudge recipe recently that I thought would be, while not perfectly healthy, a good choice.  More on that in a few paragraphs. (Scroll down for recipe if you wish to skip my musings).

I've spent a lot of this year working on my emotional fitness, having reached the point where I feel that my diet is pretty good and now solid enough to free me up for some of the tougher work.  I can tell I've made some definite progress; while shopping this year, not only have I managed to avoid getting sucked into the rat race of commercialism that bombards us spurring us on to buy more, more, more, I've also avoided that twinge of nostalgia, the ache and yearning in my heart that would sometimes come upon me while in a store often triggered when a particularly sentimental holiday song would play.  It's that sweet and sour combination of missing the days gone by, relatives who've passed on and the sense that one's own days are numbered.  It used to leave me positively crippled somewhere between housewares and tinker toys.  This year, I feel the beginnings of 'the twinge' and quickly replace it with thoughts of gratefulness for the HERE and the NOW and all that I have in my life.  PROGRESS!

I've learned that life isn't about PREVENTING the negative or painful from seeping in (although certainly we can do some work in this area) as much as it is about having a good arsenal at the ready to meet it when it does.  The strategies to just 'quit that' or 'don't let it bother you', I have found to be woefully inadequate.  One needs TOOLS to utilize, not the challenge of meeting a negative goal. 

Freed up from intense depression, I can now look around at the faces in the stores and see the strain and stress and worry and hurry and I wonder, where is the joy in the season?

Recently while in a Target store, I remarked to the cashier about how terribly crowded it was in there, was there a big sale on or something going on that I was unaware of?  She explained to me that we DO have fewer shopping days before Christmas this year. 


It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

I had no idea that in 2013 the calendar had been shortened!!!  Where did they take the days out?  April?  August?  November?  I thought the year went by fast!!!

(Now of course I figured out what she meant - Thanksgiving fell later this year and apparently, "most people" don't do their Xmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, but still...the absurdity of the statement really struck me.'s a panic, people!!!  Come on, you have FEWER days! Get out there and buy!)

No wonder we feel rushed, tugged and constantly under the crunch with these artificial shortages created to put more pressure on and impossible standards to reach finding 'the perfect gift' and so on.

It can be a challenge to remain joyful and in-the-moment.

But it is as simple as a decision to do so and to chart a different course.  Then, like a good sailor, make the corrections as the seas less sooner, to avoid doing more later.  Take a pause, take a breath, look for and find the joy in your own life.  (Hint:  it's not in Housewares or Electronics).

As happy as I am with my progress, I'll continue my emotional fitness work into the new year and recently was referred to a neuro-psychologist's work by a friend on a similar path.  You can get a taste of Dr. Rick Hanson's work here if you have 13 minutes to spare. He has a few books out that I'll be working with and hope to blog about in the future.

Now on to the chocolate.

I wanted to bake a few treats this year, send off some and also have some for the gift baskets I make.  Virtually Vegan Mama had an interesting fudge recipe using pistachios and pomegranate arils.  I decided to give it a try.   Here is the link to the recipe and VVM's beautiful photography.

Virtually Vegan Mama's Pomegranate Pistachio Fudge

The recipe goes together quickly.  I did a quick half-recipe making a few substitutions, not having coconut butter, and subbing coconut oil instead (which makes for a sloppier concoction best kept in the fridge) and also using walnuts in place of pistachios.  I plan to make the exact recipe after I have a chance to run to the store and find coconut butter and stock up on pistachios, which are impossible to keep around here  (darling husband's favorite snack).  I think that combo will be wonderful.

I did have pomegranate arils, frozen, and used some thawed and drained and they are wonderful in the fudge. 

I'm also thinking that the fudge part, the chocolate without the additions, would lend itself well to a  recipe for Buckeyes, so I may play with that and will post any successes later.


My holiday wish for you and yours is to connect with all that gives you joy, in whatever form it takes (even if it is electronic, :), and to have some time for peace in all the hecticness of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Sue, joyful, in Ohio