Tag Archives: Recipes

Taco ranch pizza

This recipe is for the pizza that made me fall in love with Sim. It is from the days when he owned and operated a pizza place, and when heart shaped orders of breadsticks were a staple in my life. This is also my family’s favorite pizza, which was often delivered to their house in   Leavenworth. But the person who likely loves this pizza the most is my sister, Anna. As Anna and her husband prepare to move to Denmark, I want to share this recipe so that it never dies. I  imagine I’ll transport a pizza to them someday, chilled in my suitcase with ice packs and other goodies from the states, just as our grandparents did with Danish cheeses, chocolate, beer, and schnapps every year when they would visit from Denmark. Yes, my grandparents would haul beer across the world, Elephant beer to be exact. True alcoholics, some would say. True Danes, I say!

But back to the pizza. After becoming a vegetarian a few years ago, this was something I was heartbroken about giving up. This pizza needs the flavor and texture of taco meat. Thankfully I discovered Gimme Lean vegan ground “beef”. Same flavor and texture, but no fat, cholesterol, chemicals, hormones, or large carbon footprint. They also make a pre-seasoned taco version but it’s harder to find. So just add a little water and a packet of taco seasoning to the faux meat, simmer for 5-10 minutes, and voila! It tastes amazing and crumbles on pizza (or whatever) perfectly.

As for Sim’s special dough recipe, that I won’t divulge. But if you live near me, I will show you how to toss it! Pizza party, anyone!?

  • Ranch dressing
  • 1 can of vegetarian refried beans (or make your own)
  • 1 package Gimme Lean faux beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (an 80/10/10 blend of mozzarella/provolone/cheddar is ideal)
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup red onions, diced
  • ¼ cup jalapeños, sliced
  • ½  cup tomatoes, diced (can cook on pizza or add fresh after cooking)
  • Optional: 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • Optional: ½ cup black olives, sliced

Also: Can top with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, salsa, avocado slices, or chipotle sauce.

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • Toss dough and spread on pizza screen (screens cook better than pans). Don’t aim for a thick crust for this pizza; regular or thin crust will cook better with these toppings.
  • Warm refried beans and spread across pizza dough (cold/room temp. beans won’t spread well)
  • Pour ranch dressing over refried beans and spread until even
  • Sprinkle on most of cheese
  • Sprinkle on toppings
  • Sprinkle on last handful of cheese
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes. Every pizza and oven is different, and this is a tricky pie to cook all the way through because of the beans and ranch in the middle, plus the moist toppings (veggies emit more water when cooking than a solely meat pizza would). Monitor how pie looks on top but also lift edge of crust with pizza paddle to check the bottom of crust; it is ready when the very bottom is golden brown, in addition to the edges of crust on top.

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Lentil tacos

This week I discovered another recipe that also got the blessing of my guinea pig Sim. This picture is from the cookbook (I was planning on taking a picture of my own but the tacos didn’t last long enough on the plate). The recipe is from Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook by Kim Barnouin. This is a new cookbook, which is bigger and more thorough than the first, and nearly every recipe is new.

Lentils are high in protein, iron, fiber, and lots of other nutrients. But let’s face it, lentils are kind of boring. They are the food of law abiding, overly cautious citizens, like my mother, who have never received a parking ticket or been late paying a bill. But this recipe transforms lentils from frumpy librarians into Vegas showgirls. Seriously, it pimps them out.

I must warn you, though, that while the lentils *look* like pinto beans, they don’t taste like them. So the garlic, onion, and salt that is cooked with/added to the lentils is essential to the recipe.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 2 tbs. diced white onion (or more)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. tomato paste (or not, because who the hell has exactly 2 tbs. of this sitting around?)
  • Salt to taste


  • 2/3 cup diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbs. diced red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp. diced jalapeño pepper
  • 3 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Note: Diced mango is really good in the salsa
  • ½ cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • About 10 hard shell tacos or corn tortillas

Instructions: In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the lentils, white onion, and garlic. Return to a boil and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until soft, about 30-40 minutes. Drain any remaining water (either drain with a sieve so garlic doesn’t slip through or else don’t mince garlic to start with). Place half the lentils in a food processor and blend. Process olive oil and tomato paste into mixture, and add salt to taste. Pour the lentil mixture into a bowl and stir in the remaining lentils.

In a separate bowl, mix together the tomatoes, red onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime, and cilantro for the salsa. Add salt to taste.

Homemade tortillas: You can also make your own tortillas. Sim taught me how to do this last spring and it is SO fun and easy. And they really taste like restaurant style corn tortillas. I know, this *is* how tortillas are made. I have been inside of a tortilla factory, actually, in Mexico. But that’s another story. Just buy Masa Mix (super cheap), add water, rolls into balls, press by hand or use a rolling pin, and throw them in a pan for a couple minutes. But do remember to cover the balls with a wet paper towel so they don’t dry out as you go.

Nutritional information:
4 servings (Yeah right, more like 2)
330 calories
12 grams fat
1 gram saturated fat
O cholesterol
47 grams carbohydrates
11 grams fiber
13 grams protein

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Garden lasagne

A friend asked me for this recipe and I thought I might as well post it to the blog, since all I’ve been doing over the break is cooking and eating (though I *should* be reading).

If the fact that the recipe is vegetarian didn’t already deter you, learning it is also dairy-free likely will. I know, it is practically a cardinal sin to make dairy free italian food. But every year I resolve to try a handful of new recipes. And I need to drop a size so I can fit into my clothes (especially those I plan to wear in Tokyo!) Cutting out dairy products is a great way to shed pounds and increase intake of vegetables and beans/legumes. (No, I’m not talking about rapid weight loss like the Fatkins diet. Yes, I exercise too. And yes, I understand how to consume adequate amounts of iron, protein, calcium, Vitamin D, and the different types of B vitamins that are so vital to the body.) Besides, a 2009 Newsweek article pointed out that about 65% of Americans are lactose intolerant. This is consistent with data published in peer-reviewed medical journals (and of course varies with race). And since so many of my friends and family members maintain a dairy-free diet, I’m hoping this recipe will add to your collection or give you ideas (*and* that you’ll share your treasured recipes!?)

The recipe is taken from Garden Cuisine by Paul Wenner. I found this cookbook at the Salvation Army a couple of years ago for $4.99. It is a gem. I have a lot of vegetarian cookbooks that have received high marks from reviewers, but I think this is the best and ironically the least known. I’ve written about my love for Chef Paul before. He invented and launched the Garden Burger after owning a vegetarian restaurant in Portland, Oregon. He is meticulous about finding just the right flavor and texture. Even if you want to add cheese and meat to the recipes, they are still packed full of tasty whole grains, vegetables, beans, and legumes.

Tomato sauce

2 onions, chopped

12 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, grated

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

2 15 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce

2 tsp. each: Dried basil and oregano

1 tsp. each: Dried thyme, marjoram

½ tsp. black pepper

Optional: 1 tsp. fennel seeds

White sauce

1 onion, diced

1 potato, peeled and diced

½ pound firm tofu

2 tbs. tahini

1 ½ tbs. lemon juice

¾ tsp. salt


½ pound firm tofu

2 tbs. soy sauce (or Bragg’s liquid aminos, see notes)

1 tsp. garlic powder

10 oz. whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked

2 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Optional: ½ cup chopped fresh fennel

*I also added a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the crumbled tofu mixture (see notes).


Tomato sauce: Heat ½ cup of water in a large skillet/pot and add the onion, garlic, and carrot. Cook until water has evaporated and veggies begin to stick. Add ¼ cup of water and cook until veggies begin to stick again, then add another ¼ cup water and the mushrooms. Continue cooking until water has evaporated and mushrooms are brown. Stir in tomatoes and tomato sauce, basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, fennel seeds, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

White sauce: Combine onion and potato in a small pan with 1 ¼ cups of water. Cover and simmer until potato is tender, about 15 minutes, then pour entire mixture into blender. Add the tofu, tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Blend until completely smooth.

Filling: Crumble ½ pound of tofu and mix it with the soy sauce and garlic powder (and the nutritional yeast, if you decide to add it).

Assembling: Spread about 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a large basking dish (12 x 9 or 13 x 9). Cover with a layer of uncooked noodles, then with one of the packages of thawed spinach. Sprinkle with half the fennel, half the crumbled tofu filling, and third of the white sauce, and half of the tomato sauce. Repeat the layers. Set aside remaining white sauce (see notes).

Refrigerate at least 4 hours (to allow noodles to soften), then bake covered at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly (about 40-50 minutes) with the last 5-10 minutes uncovered.


1. Nutritional yeast is a flakey substance that is great for cooking. It has sort of a nutty or cheese-like flavor. It contains protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is especially high in vitamins B6 and B12, which makes it a favorite among vegetarians and vegans. And it’s cheap. It can be purchased in small amounts in the bulk foods section or in larger plastic containers.

2. Bragg’s liquid aminos: This looks and tastes like soy sauce (because it is also derived from soy), and costs about the same. It contains 16 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 types of amino acids.

3. The white sauce is going to taste weird, I know. But once cooked, my guinea pig (Sim) believed it was ricotta cheese until I informed him otherwise.

4. I had about a 1/3 cup of tomato sauce and about 2/3 cup of white sauce leftover. You can probably guard against this by using a 13 x 9 pan instead of a 12 x 9. The white sauce is supposed to be drizzled over the top when the lasagna is done, but there wasn’t room and I don’t think it needs it. The tomato sauce would be great to use with something else like a spaghetti sauce, but the leftover white sauce seems useless – sorry.

Nutritional information:

226 calories (12% from fat)

3 grams fat

36 grams carbohydrate

365 mg. sodium

13 grams protein

10 grams fiber

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Carrot ginger soup & veggie couscous salad

One of the things I’ve had little time to do this summer, and will have even less time to do starting in August, is cook.

Last week my mom and I made Carrot Ginger Soup and CousCous Veggie Salad from Paul Wenner’s “Garden Cuisine” cookbook. Wenner invented the Gardenburger (right here in the northwest too!), and I’ve completely fallen in love with his cookbook. I can’t say enough good things about Chef Paul – the introduction of his book is one of the most interesting and inspirational stories I’ve ever read. And his recipes create some of the most tantalizing and mouth watering food I’ve ever tasted.

This is certainly a lighter dish but I’ve enjoyed it in all 4 seasons of the year. The couscous salad has a delicious dressing that prevents it from tasting too plain or healthy. And when I make it at home, I wake up in the mornings to discover that Sim has raided the fridge at midnight to eat even more of it.

Carrot Ginger Soup

  • 3 cups sliced carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp. ginger, minced
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. coriander
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • ½ -1 tsp. salt
  • 2-3 cups milk (I think soy goes best with this, rather than rice, almond, hazelnut, hemp, etc)
  • 1 can (15 oz) of corn (of course you can add fresh corn instead, but Chef Paul knows we’re busy!)

Combine the carrots, onion, potato, garlic, and ginger with 2 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, them cover and cook until the carrots are tender (about 20 minutes). Transfer to a blender, add 2 cups of milk, and blend until completely smooth. Blend in the corn, pakrika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, black pepper, and salt. Add more milk if desired. Pour back into pan and heat gently, without boiling, until hot.

*Per serving: 107 calories (14% from fat), 2 grams fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein, 4 grams fiber.

CousCous Veggie Salad

  • 1 cup couscous (or gluten-free couscous)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup finely shredded red cabbage
  • ½ cup green peas, fresh or frozen (I substituted edamame because it’s what I had on hand)
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
  • 1 tsp. stone-ground mustard (I use Dijon)
  • 1 tsp. curry powder

Place the couscous in the bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir to mix, then cover and let stand until cooled. Fluff lightly with fork. Add the onion, bell pepper, carrot, cabbage, peas, and raisins or currants to the couscous. Combine the vinegars, sesame oil, soy sauce, mustard, and curry powder. Mix well. Pour over the salad and toss to mix.

*Per serving: 135 calories (6% from fat), 1 gram fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, 4 grams fiber.

Obviously this is stereotypical vegetarian or “chick” food (and is not as high in protein as some of my other recipes), so I’ll try to blog something heartier next time.

Until then, I’m listing my 3 favorite cookbooks:
“Garden Cuisine” by Paul Wenner
2) “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch” by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin
3) “How it all Vegan” by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer

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