Recipes

02/16/15 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , , , , , , , ,

The Paleo Vegetarian

Whole30Ha! I got you there, didn’t I? That’s because there’s no such thing.

Except there will be for the next thirty days, because today is the first day of Whole30 for me. As many of you know, I’ve been a vegetarian for the last three years (I guess I would technically be a Pescatarian, since I did sometimes eat fish). It wasn’t as difficult a transition as you might expect. I was ready to eat healthier and also wanted to do my part to contribute to a sustainable way of life for the planet (modern cattle and poultry farming techniques wreak havoc on the planet in more ways than one and require WAY more land and water than an equivalent amount of plant food).

To be honest, I was surprised when my teenagers all decided to go vegetarian, too. But they did, and we all went veggie cold turkey. Immediately we all felt better, more energetic, CLEANER.

Until I didn’t.

About a year ago I started feeling sluggish and tired. After an initial weight loss, I actually started to gain weight, something I didn’t understand because I was eating SO CLEAN. Not just vegetarian, but very little sugar or processed food and tons of whole food, veggies, etc. I didn’t notice it right away. It was more that one day I realized I just didn’t FEEL WELL, and when I looked back, I realized I hadn’t felt my best for quite some time.

So I started reading about body chemistry and metabolism and all kinds of other science-y type things, and I came to the conclusion that I am probably insulin resistant. It doesn’t really surprise me. Some of my family members on one side have diabetes, and I’ve always felt a little shaky when I eat too many carbs or too much sugar. My hope that it would be enough to eat clean and include lots if plant protein just didn’t prove true.

In my reading, I came across the Whole30 program, which is a kind of hard-core, 30-day Paleo regimen designed to help you determine which foods don’t work with your body by first eliminating them, then slowly reintroducing them one at a time. The plan relies heavily on animal flesh and veggies (plus smaller amounts of healthy fats and fruit). After reading the book, the science made perfect sense to me, and I definitely recognized some of the symptoms of insulin resistance in the way I’d been feeling. One of the things I like most about the program is it’s reliance on how YOU feel eating certain foods. The first thirty days is the same for everyone (no sugar, alcohol, carbs, dairy, or legumes of any kind), but after that, it’s up to you to decide which of the restricted foods make you feel healthy and which don’t. This makes perfect sense to me. I know lots of vegans and vegetarians who are super fit and healthy and who FEEL GREAT. I also know lots of people on Paleo-type plans who are equally fit and healthy and who also FEEL GREAT. I think the human body is more mysterious than we are willing to admit. A one-size-fits-all nutritional plan just doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, I think it’s wiser to focus on eating whole foods (processed food and sugar isn’t good for anyone) and then pay attention to our body’s cues to determine what’s best for us.

Today is Day One of the program for me, and while eating meat feels strange, I’m excited to see if this way of eating makes me feel better. I’m a big believer in listening to my own instincts – physical and otherwise. I trust myself to know when something isn’t working for me or my body, so I’m putting faith in myself to recognize when I need to make a change. I’m keeping an open mind and will re-evaluate based on the way I feel at the end of thirty days. The Whole30 plan recommends eating humanely raised, pasture fed meat, and I’ll be doing my best to purchase meat from those kinds of sources.

I don’t AT ALL regret going vegetarian three years ago. In many ways, it’s prepared me for this kind of eating plan. I already eat very little sugar, have flirted with veganism and so don’t rely on dairy, and have already all but eliminated processed food  (trust me, when you stop eating it for awhile it doesn’t even taste good anymore). The biggest change will be giving up brown rice and legumes, because they have been a major part of my diet for the past three years. I’m hoping the novelty of meat will take the sting out, at least for the first week or so.

😉

Anyway, I wouldn’t even be mentioning this here except I know many of you follow my vegetarian recipes (oddly, my Vegetarian Stroganoff recipe is one of my highest-ranking posts) and I didn’t want to confuse you. If you found me while looking for vegetarian recipes, I hope you’ll stick around! I share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, whatever that may be for each of us, and I look forward to keeping you all posted about my progress.

<3

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10/14/14 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , , ,

Vegetarian Sausage and Biscuits

sausage_biscuitsIt’s been surprising to realize how little I miss from my meat-eating days. I’m going on three years being vegetarian, and the truth is, I rarely crave anything with meat these days. Part of that is because there are so many vegetarian substitutes for meat products, and we’re lucky enough to live in an era where most of them are really very good. The other part of it is that my taste buds have changed. I mostly crave “live” food (vegetables and fruit), and if I go too long eating a lot of pasta or bread or rice, it’s salads and fresh fruit that I really want.

That said, every now and then you hear the call of some forgotten food, often with associations of comfort or childhood. Sausage and biscuits has been on my list for the last few weeks, so I finally decided to try and make it veggie. And you know what? It rocked. Really, it was almost indistinguishable from the meat version. Even the kids said it was the best sausage gravy EVER. Plus it was super easy and took about twenty minutes.

Hope you enjoy it!

Biscuits and Vegetarian Sausage Gravy

14 oz. vegetarian sausage (I used Good Life’s non-GMO version in a tube)

4 cups vegetable broth (I made my own with 4 cups of water and 4 tsp of Better Than Bouillon vegetable paste)

4 tablespoons corn starch

1 cup Greek yogurt

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the vegetarian sausage in a little oil (I use grapeseed oil), breaking apart with a spatula or wooden spoon while it cooks. While the sausage is browning, whisk together the broth and corn starch.

Once the sausage is brown and a little crispy, add the broth and corn starch mixture. Whisk on and off for about two minutes or until the gravy is thickened.

Turn off heat and whisk in yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste (liberal pepper adds a nice Southern flavor to the gravy).

Pour over your favorite biscuits. Or rice. Or potatoes. Or basically anything.

Enjoy!

🙂

 

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10/30/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes , Uncategorized # , , , , , ,

Recipe of the Week – Vegan Sandwich Spreads

After a year-and-a-half as a vegetarian, I’ve mostly figured out how to substitute so we can enjoy derivatives of the things we loved as meat eaters. One of our staples, especially in the summer, is a giant veggie sandwich, usually with avocado, tomato, onion, olives, peppers or pickles, shredded lettuce, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and thick kosher salt and pepper. So much cleaner and more flavorful than a sandwich with mayo!

I first came across this spread in its lemon/Greek variation in a Martha Stewart recipe for Greek Sandwiches. It was so good that I immediately started concocting different ways to use it and mix it up. The result is the original (true to form, my version is a lot more half-assed in terms of measurements) plus a delicious cranberry walnut curry spread that’s AH-mazing with sliced apples, lettuce, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Both of these are super easy to make, loaded with good quality protein, and perfect as a spread on sandwiches or wraps (my daughter is the envy of her lunch table). You can also use them as a dip for crackers, pita chips, etc. They take all of five minutes to make. For real! Next I’m going to experiment with black or pinto beans with cilantro and mexican spices for a Southwestern flavored spread. measurements)

Vegan Greek Sandwich Spread

I large can of chickpeas (I think they’re 28 ounces?), drained and rinsed

About a cup of rinsed flat leaf parsley

Juice of one lemon

Drizzle of olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

This one’s easy! Drain and rinse the chickpeas and throw them into a food processer with everything else. Puree until almost smooth, adding additional olive oil if it seems to thick. And voila! This is enough to make sandwiched or wraps for a whole week for our household of five people.

Vegan Curried Cranberry Walnut Spread

1 large can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

About a half cup of walnuts

About a half cup of dried cranberries

About two tablespoons of curry powder (the sweet kind, not the hot kind)

Drizzle of grapeseed oil (you can use olive oil, too)

Salt to taste

In this version I put the dried cranberries and walnuts into the food processor first, blending until everything is chopped into small-ish chunks. Then add the chickpeas, a little olive oil, and the curry powder. Blend until mostly smooth, adding more oil if necessary to get a spreadable consistency. Add kosher salt and additional curry powder to taste and voila! You’re done.

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06/18/13 Recipe of the Week , Recipes , Uncategorized # , , ,

Recipe of the Week – Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo

Recipe of the Week – Vegan Fettuccine  Alfredo

This one’s mine! Because let’s face it; sometimes you just need some creamy, cheesy goodness. Which is fine… unless you’re vegan (or trying to be as much as possible, like us).

I came up with this one after testing nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute in another recipe. After some initial skepticism, I was pleasantly surprised by its cheesy, slightly-nutty Parmesan flavor and even more surprised by the whole new world of vegan dishes it opened up.

Plus, it’s super easy, fast, and requires very few ingredients.

 

Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo

Olive oil

5 cloves garlic

Fresh (chopped) or dried basil (to taste)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 package fettuccine noodles

Salt and pepper

Boil noodles according to package direction. While they are cooking, mince garlic.

Reserve four cups of pasta water, then drain noodles. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in pasta pan and saute garlic for one minute.

Reduce heat to simmer and add noodles to pan with yeast, basil and an additional 1/4 cup olive oil. Add a little of the reserved pasta water and stir until heated through and well blended. Keep adding reserved pasta water to get the dish to a “creamy” consistency. When you have it where you want it, season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Bon Apetite!

 

 

 

 

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04/09/13 Recipe of the Week , Recipes # ,

Recipe of the Week – White Bean, Spinich and Couscous Bake

Recipe of the Week – White Bean, Spinich and Couscous Bake

I can’t take credit for this one, guys! It came straight from Beard and Bonnet and is basically perfect as is. Beard and Bonnet specializes in gluten-free recipes, but one of the things I love most about their blog is that they usually include vegan options as well.

Other than adding a bit more salt, using quinoa instead of couscous (more protein!), and baking it altogether in one big casserole dish, I followed this recipe exactly. Next time, I think I’ll try omitting the Parmesan, just to make it vegan (you can also top with Parma per the recipe). I’m thinking it would be good with some bread crumbs on top instead, and I don’t think we’d miss the Parmesan. You could probably replace the couscous with rice, too, if that’s what you have on hand.

Following is the recipe, reprinted from Beard and Bonnet. And you should totally check out their website! They have some great recipes.

White Bean, Spinach, and Couscous Bake
Serves 5 as a main course

1 box of brown rice Couscous, prepared as directed or substitute quinoa (about 2 cups of any grain)
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained but juice reserved
1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced plus an additional 2-3 Tbsp. basil for garnish, chiffonade
1/3 cup pine nuts
5 cups baby spinach
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Trader Joe’s Creamy Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper or Parmesan, grated
*For the vegan option: Substitute Mozzarella Rice Shreds for the Creamy Toscano cheese and sprinkle the top of your dish with Parma!

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Gently saute the onion until tender about 4-5 minutes then add the minced garlic and saute 2-3 minutes more until softened and onions are translucent. Add the drained fire roasted tomatoes and crush any large chunks with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Add the white beans and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes or until beans are warmed through, stirring frequently. Just before the beans are cooked through add the fresh spinach and gently turn and toss so that it will start to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of the precooked couscous, reserved tomato juice, minced basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. Fold the bean and tomato mixture into the couscous mixture until combined then spread half of it into the bottom of a shallow baking dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the dish then top with the remaining couscous mixture. Cover the dish with foil and bake 15-25 minutes until warmed through and bubbly. At the very end of the cooking time uncover the baking dish and pop it under the broiler just to lightly brown the top, 1-2 minutes max.

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03/06/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , ,

Recipe of the Week – Quick Vegetarian Meals

Recipe of the Week – Quick Vegetarian Meals

Last week I gave you guys a list of pantry staples for vegetarians. Of course, after I posted it I thought of a million little things that I like to have in the pantry, but I forced myself not to edit the post because the idea of a “staple” is that it’s something you really must have, not an “extra.”

In that blog post, I promised you a list of quick, easy meals you can make with said staples, as well as the recipe for my own quick vegetable soup. But after writing down some of my favorite throw-together meals, I decided to hold off on the soup recipe. I’ll give it to you next week instead because there’s already a lot to work with here.

Here I go! Vegetarian meals you can make with pantry staples;

Saute veggies with olive oil and garlic, toss with pasta, and throw in some Parmesan (or not)

Toss pasta with canned or fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil

Think outside the traditionally-Italian pasta dish by mixing up the ingredients and spices, i.e. toss penne with corn, black beans and tomatoes and toss with olive oil, chili powder, and cumin for a Mexican-based dish. Toss linguini with peanut butter and a little chili oil or red pepper flakes for an Asian or Thai flavor (you can also use a little sesame or peanut oil).

Brown rice is overlooked as a base for meals, but it can be used much the same as pasta. In the colder months, you can saute it in olive oil or butter and then add stuff to it in the water for a kind of homemade Rice-a-Roni/healthier risotto. This works great with a little vegetable based Better Than Bouillon added to the water and some spices (use something that works with your ingredients, as with the pasta above) or even something like coconut milk, which will give it a more exotic flavor (I toss rice or quinoa cooked with coconut milk with pineapple and cilantro and it’s amazing).

In the hot summer months, cold rice can be tossed with virtually anything. Add flavor with rice vinegars, fruit-based vinegars, flavored olive oils, and spices or fresh herbs. In vegetarian cooking, especially, herbs and spices are king. A rice-based dish with curry powder will taste completely different than one with oregano or one with chili powder. Vary other ingredients accordingly.

Quinoa is a miracle ingredient for vegetarians. Packed with fiber and high in protein, you can use it almost interchangeably with rice. Use the above ideas with quinoa to mix up the texture and vitamin/mineral content of your meals or just to boost your intake of protein.

Eggs are another overlooked ingredient. You can make a quick easy frittata with the vegetables you have in your refrigerator. Just saute them a bit and pour beaten egg over the mixture in the pan. Use a rubber spatula to separate the egg from the edge of the pan every couple of minutes until the eggs mixture is almost set in the center. Sprinkle with cheese (any kind will do, goat cheese is a favorite in our house) and put under the broiler for a few minutes and voila! Perfect with a salad and it takes about 20 minutes to make. You can also add chunks of wheat bread to the veggie saute to boost the fiber content (this is a good way to use up the ends of a loaf of bread). As with the other dishes, vary ingredients and herbs and spices to mix up the flavor. A Mexican-based frittata is great with some warmed tortillas and a nice salad. Frittatas are a great way to use up odds and ends at the end of the week (or beginning of a new one). Almost anything works!

And speaking of tortillas, they come in handy! You can use the big ones as wrap holders by spreading them with hummus and layering anything and everything inside. Use goat cheese or feta with lettuce, olives, tomato, and pepperoncini for a Greek vibe. Mozzarella, basil, and roasted red peppers drizzled with a little olive oil are great if you want an Italian sandwich fix. And of course, they can still be used for burritos and tacos. I love the burritos from Chipotle Grill, but making them at home is so quick and easy, especially with leftover brown rice and canned black beans (I saute mine with minced onions). Slice up some avocado and/or make guacamole, add salsa, and you’re good to go. Small tortillas can be used for vegetarian tacos. It’s a little known secret that virtually anything seasoned with chili powder and cumin and placed in a taco shell will send “taco” messages to the brain. For example, a mixture of sauteed chopped zucchini, corn, and black beans with said seasonings are DELICIOUS as a taco. Even my teens don’t miss the meat AT ALL.

And as with frittatas, wraps are a good way to use leftovers. One night’s leftover rice dish can seem entirely different wrapped in a tortilla with hummus, salad dressing, salsa, etc.

Bread can be used to make panini or cold sandwiches. I make a great vegan sub with avocado, shredded lettuce, red onion, tomato, olives, pepperoncini, oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. We started out making them with cheese to replace meat, but honestly, I don’t miss the cheese with the avocado in there. Think outside the box with grilled sandwiches. Grilled cheese can be modified to include any kind of cheese and fruit like pears and apples, etc. Use mozzarella and layer with roasted red pepper and basil for an Italian panini or spread sun-dried tomato paste (not in staples but readily available) on bread and layer with thinly sliced veggies for a cold sandwich.

Soups are my go-to meal in the winter. I make at least one giant pot of soup every week and sometimes two or three. It makes for a comforting snack and is a cheap, nutritious between-meal boost for my busy, active teenagers. And you can make anything with vegetable based Better Than Bouillon. Saute veggies for vegetable soup. Throw in some leftover rice, corn, black beans, and tomatoes with chili peppers (or Rotel) and add some lime, chili powder, and cumin for a Mexican soup. Saute potatoes with leek and puree with beans to make my famous Potato Leek soup. Add elbow macaroni, two kinds of bean, canned tomatoes, and chopped fresh parsley for a vegetarian pasta fagioli.Serve with bread and/or a salad for a meal and store the rest in the refrigerator for snacks.

In the summer, salads take over for soup. We throw everything in them and vary the kind of vinegar for different flavors.You can make salads without lettuce, using rice or quinoa ad/or canned beans as the basis for a hot-weather salad that’s super nutritious AND tasty. No need to be fancy! Just throw in some other ingredients and toss with olive oil and/or flavored or rice vinegar.

There are tons of ways to mix up basic vegetarian staples for easy meals. Most of the meals above can be made in thirty minute or less. The soups, which take more like 45 minutes, allow for some simmer time, so you can do other things while its cooking. And one of the unexpected bonuses of vegetarian meals is that I don’t feel like I have to make side dishes. In the past, I’d have to add a grain and vegetable to meat to feel like my family was getting a well-rounded meal. But with vegetarian dishes, the meal itself is generally packed with nutrition, rendering side dishes almost obsolete. Nutrition-packed vegetarian dishes are also surprisingly filling. Because your body is getting what it needs in terms of vitamins and minerals – and because vegetarian meals are often packed with fiber – everyone needs a lot less food to feel satisfied. It’s an amazing phenomena!

The biggest thing it to have staples in your pantry and get cooking. It’s not hard once you’ve logged some time in the kitchen. Make it a goal to make one or two new recipes a week (Pinterest and Epicurious are my favorite sources for new recipes), and before you know it, you’ll find that being in the kitchen is second-nature. Then you’ll begin to get your own ideas, i.e. “You know what would probably be good? THIS with THAT!” Enlist the help of your spouse and kids, too. It is good for kids to learn to prepare healthful meals fro themselves, and time spent in the kitchen totally counts as quality time. At a loss for what to make at the last minute? Ask THEM to look in the pantry and refrigerator and see what they can come up with.

You might be surprised – in a GOOD way.

Plus, you can use the money save not eating out to do something fun!

 

 

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02/26/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , ,

The Vegetarian Pantry

The Vegetarian Pantry

I’ve been getting a ton of traffic on my vegetarian recipe posts, which makes me think there are a lot of people out there trying to cut back on meat (or cut it out entirely).

So in lieu of a recipe this week, I thought I’d give you some vegetarian pantry staples. Odds are, if you have most of these things in your pantry or refrigerator, you can make something healthy and vegetarian with a moment’s notice.

Bonus; it’s MUCH cheaper to eat vegetarian, even allowing for organic produce and other more expensive type items, which you don’t HAVE to buy.

This may seem like a lot, but once you’re stocked, you just have to replace an item here and there as you use it. Every week I might have to replace 3 to 5 non-perishables (tamari, vinegar, olive oil, etc.). Most of our grocery cart is fruit, veggies, and the rare dairy product or almond milk. Our family of five (Rebekah is away at college but I still supplement her dorm food a bit) spends $150-$200/week on groceries, and that includes paper products and almost entirely organic produce (and even organic rice, canned tomatoes, etc.). If you’d like to start making changes but want to avoid a big, giant stock up, just add a couple of these items to your regular list each week.

Here’s what I recommend;

Olive oil

Vinegars (I keep balsamic, red wine, apple cider, white wine, and raspberry)

Brown rice

Quinoa

Canned chickpeas (I also keep black beans, pintos, kidneys, and white beans as well as dried beans, although they take longer to cook)

Peanut butter and/or tahini

Jarred tomato sauce

Canned diced or whole tomatoes

Better Than Bouillon vegetable broth paste (in soup/broth section of store or natural foods section for organic)

Applesauce

Pasta and/or rice noodles

Greek yogurt

Goat cheese and/or feta cheese

Olives

Nuts and/or seeds (the ones we use most are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and peanuts)

Eggs

Tamari (natural soy sauce – don’t buy so called soy sauce. It’s just corn syrup) and Sriracha sauce

Wheat bread

Tortillas (corn or flour)

Herbs and spices (my go-tos are cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika, oregano, basil, tarragon, thyme, chili powder, and cumin)

Staple fruits and veggies (ours are apples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, mixed greens, avocado, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, celery, leeks, onion, garlic)

With these things you can make multiple (and amazing!) vegetarian soups, pastas, rice and quinoa-based dishes, wraps/burritos/tacos, main course salads, etc. Next week I’ll post some of my favorite quick vegetarian dinners, including a recipe for my much-loved, super fast and easy vegetable soup.

Happy cooking!

<3

 

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01/29/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # ,

Recipe of the Week – Apple Pancakes with Greek Yogurt

This is an easy one! I had two granny smith apples in the fruit drawer that needed to be used and I was looking for a special breakfast to have on Sunday. I whipped these up in no time. The Greek yogurt added just the right zing to the counter the sweetness of the pancakes, and the added protein is a bonus, especially for vegetarians.

Here’s what I did (and forgive my sometimes loose measurements – it’s how I do in the kitchen!);

1 regular pancake recipe (whatever you normally use, be it from a mix, from scratch, etc.)

1-2 apples (I used two, but I also triple batch my pancakes because I have a 16- and twenty-year-old guy in the house)

1 cup applesauce (ditto above, adjust for the amount of pancakes you’re making and/or the level of apple flavor you want)

Cinnamon (as much or as little as you like)

Chopped walnuts (optional)

Greek yogurt (optional)

Real maple syrup (PLEASE don’t use “pancake syrup”. It’s not maple syrup. It’s maple-flavored corn syrup and is SO BAD for you. Plus, there’s nothing like real maple syrup, even if it is more expensive.)

Get all your ingredients ready. This is important because the pancakes start to cook fast, and you won’t have time to cut the apple in-between.

Make your regular pancake batter according the instructions. Add applesauce and cinnamon and combine (don’t overmix or your pancakes will be flat). You can choose to add the walnuts to the mix or you can wait and put them out as a topping.

Ladle mixture onto griddle or into hot pan, sprinkling some of the diced apple on top of each pancake (I pressed them into the batter a little bit). Flip and complete as usual.

Top each pancake with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle walnuts on top (if you choose to use them and didn’t put them in the batter). Pour warm maple syrup over the yogurt and pancake.

All three of the kids who are home LOVED these. Kenneth kept saying, “I can’t believe how good those apple pancakes were.” The biggest testament? It’s the first time I’ve EVER eaten leftover pancakes as a snack.

Enjoy!

<3

 

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01/23/13 Recipes #

Recipe of the Week – Black Bean & Sweet Potato Flautas

I posted about this recipe from Peas and Crayons last week and had the chance to make it tonight.

In a word; AH-mazing!

It was a great vegetarian dinner that everyone loved. The only tweaks I made was omitting the cream cheese and spraying the corn tortillas with a bit more olive oil that was called for (I wanted them crispy). Next time, I think I’d also double the spices for flavor. Other than that, they were perfection.

And if you’re vegan, just omit the cheese and you’re good to go!

Check out the recipe (and more great ones from Peas and Crayons) here!

<3

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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