In My Vegetarian Kitchen

Green Smoothie! (vegan)

I drink this smoothie for nearly every lunch when I’m home. Not only is it packed with nutritional powerhouses kale and spinach, it’s incredibly quick, so I can keep moving with my day. The other great thing about this smoothie is that it is very versatile, so you can make it just how you would like it!

1 cup soymilk or other milk alternative

1/2 cup water (I do this to save on calories. You can just do 1 1/2 total cups of your milk)

1/2 very ripe banana

3-4 cups kale (In the summer, I get my kale from the farmers market, and the vendor mixes her kale into these lovely bouquets. So, my kale is a mix of curly, lacinato, purple, and Portuguese. You can do just one kind, too.)

1/2 to 1 cup spinach

2 Tbsp cashew butter

Stevia to taste (I use 2 packets of organic stevia. Alternatively, you can use 1/2 tart apple.)

2-3 tsp matcha powder

Blend in blender until smooth.

There are loads of other additions you can use: chia seeds, rolled oats, raw cashews instead of cashew butter. Make it your own!

Green Pasta

Didn’t think you would ever dream of your 2, 4, and 6 year olds scarfing down their bitter greens? Think again! One magic word: Pesto!

Creating different varieties of pesto has to be one of my favorite foods to create. Not only is it super easy, quick, satisfying, and popular with the children, it is fun and a great way of sneaking in veggies. A basic pesto recipe consists of:

2 cups fresh basil

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup parmesan cheese

¼ cup good quality olive oil

garlic clove

salt and pepper

and grinding them into a paste in a food processor. The olive oil needs to be added slowly as the food processor is running.

This is, of course, very tasty, but I love to go off the beaten path and create my own. I call it “green pasta” for my kids, and they think it’s fun and delicious (little do they know they are scarfing down a highly nutritious green plant). You can use any sort of green veg you want: broccoli, baby kale, spinach, herbs, chard, radish, turnip, or carrot tops, etc. You can also throw in any kind of nut you want: roasted almonds, pine nuts, or a roasted nut medley. Just stick with the basic recipe and go from there. If you really want to be adventurous, you could probably even throw in a teensy, tiny bit of ground cayenne. I like to boil the more bitter greens for just a minute or two in the salted pasta water and remove them before you throw in the pasta. Just be sure to press out the extra water in the greens before tossing them into your food processor. If you want to make it vegan, I’ve had success simply eliminating the cheese altogether and adding a little nutritional yeast. Use the finished pasta water to thin out your pesto if necessary.

Of course, pasta isn’t the only dish you can use pesto on. It’s an excellent sandwich spread, dip for veggies, or tossed in soup, or used as a topper for roasted vegetables. Have fun and create!


Quick Protein-Packed Sauteed Greens

This recipe comes from a combination of a few recipes that I’ve seen over the years. It’s a super fast, incredibly nutritious lunch that gets you right back to your day. I love to prepare this on my “running days” (I run 2-3 miles every few days) because of the quickness and protein packed in it! If you have a cast iron skillet, definitely use it here! If you don’t have one, just use your favorite skillet.

1/2 cup almonds, coursely chopped

1-2 Tbs shelled pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1 Tbs olive oil

6-7 ounces of greens (spinach, kale, chard, radish, turnip, etc. or combination), rinsed but leave some water on leaves

salt

pepper

red pepper flakes, optional

fresh lemon juice

Heat your skillet then add the almonds. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the seeds and cranberries (or raisins). Toast these lightly then remove from pan. Add the olive oil and the greens carefully and top with salt, pepper, and flakes, if using. Cook, moving them constantly, until the greens are just 1-2 shades darker, but no more, probably 2-3 minutes, tops. Put the greens on your plate, top with a little fresh lemon juice and the nut mixture. If you are a feta cheese kind of person, you might like adding some feta at the end, as well. Enjoy!

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Two-Ingredient Cookies

These are amazing. So simple; so fast; so healthy; and my kids love them. What more could a girl ask for?! They think they are getting a fun treat (and they are), but there is no added sugar. Incredible!

A friend of mine sent me to http://www.theburlapbag.com for this recipe, and I’m so glad I tried them. Lauren from The Burlap Bag posted this recipe. She gets all the credit (plus some, if you ask me!).

2 medium-large ripe bananas

1 cup oats

Done. Wait, there’s actually more. You can add your own other toppings. I like to add:

1/4 – 1/3 cup raisins

2-3 Tbs almond flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Spoon out about 1 Tbs of mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and put in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-17 minutes (my cookies take 17 minutes). Transfer baked cookies to a cooling rack. So easy!

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(The left two rows of cookies were made with blueberries instead of raisins and cinnamon, just as an experiment. Still good!)

http://www.theburlapbag.com


Sautéed Kale Pesto Scramble

I had never thought of adding pesto to eggs, but, wow, does it work! It adds a nice richness and elegance to the eggs without adding too much time to an already quick meal. This would make an impressive Sunday Brunch served with toasted sourdough bread drizzled with oil and some fresh fruit.

1 Tbs Olive Oil

1 Bunch Kale, rinsed and roughly chopped

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

1/3 Cup Almonds

1 Clove Garlic

1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

6 Farm Fresh Eggs

1/4 cup Milk

6 Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, sliced thinly

In a skillet (cast iron, if you have it), heat the tablespoon of olive oil. Add the kale and sauté about 2 minutes, or until it turns a rich emerald green color. Remove from the heat. Add the almonds to the skillet and roast slightly, stirring frequently, 3-5 minutes. In your food processor, add the kale, roasted almonds, salt, pepper, and garlic. Process until everything is finely ground. Add the Parmesan and process again. While the processor is running, slowly add the olive oil.

Once the pesto is finished, beat the eggs and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Wipe out your skillet carefully. Return to the heat, add another tablespoon of olive oil and your egg mixture. Cook the eggs, stirring occasionally (not too often) until the eggs have fully cooked and are fluffy.

Place eggs onto 2 plates, top with a good heaping of pesto (1-2 Tbs) and top with the tomatoes.

Notes: You can stir in the pesto while your eggs are cooking. This is especially good when you are using leftover pesto from another recipe — you don’t have to worry about warming it up first. Also, the fresh cherry tomatoes are crucial. The freshness and bright acidity of the fresh tomatoes help to balance the richness of the eggs with pesto.

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As I was putting together the recipe for the Sautéed Kale Pesto Scramble and typing “Farm Fresh Eggs” into the ingredient list, I found myself thinking about the importance of buying eggs from a local farmer. You can actually meet the person who is supplying your eggs, ask them questions, and find how and why they raise their hens the way they do. (This can go for anything: local produce, meats, etc.) Are they using sustainable methods? Are their hens living in good and sanitary conditions? How are they treated? You can find a farmer with similar ideals to your own and support them directly. Not only are you putting money back into local economy, you are supporting ethical and (in most cases) sustainable farming. Another, and possibly less obvious, reason for the importance of buying from a local farmer is that the nutrition in the egg is usually far greater than that of a typical mass-produced grocery store egg. The rich, bright orange color of the yolk is evidence of the higher nutritional value in a farm-raised hen versus a factory hen, which typically has a pale yellow yolk. Finally, and quite importantly, many farmers don’t fully rinse the eggs they’ve collected. This helps to retain the protective barrier between the sterile inside of the egg and potential harmful bacteria that reside on the outside. Obviously, you should still cook or temper your eggs, but the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria is lower than that of factory hens where that layer is rinsed off completely and bleached.

I buy my eggs from Berry Goods Farm LLC in Morristown, Indiana (find her on Facebook!). Flax is one of the ingredients in her hen feed, so I know the yolk will be higher in Omega-3. She lets her hens graze fairly freely, though they do require the safety of a fence because of nearby dogs and coyotes. I love to visit and watch her hens mess around. Her hens’ eggs are incredibly rich, and I do enjoy cooking and baking with them. As much as I love dabbling in veganism, I find myself coming back and enjoying farm fresh eggs.


I’ve started experimenting with plantains recently. They are a starchy fruit related to the banana. They become wonderfully sweet when grilled and their natural sugars caramelized. (serves 1-2).

Morning Plantains with Almonds and Syrup

1 plantain (add more for more than 1-2 people)

1/3 cup chopped almonds, roasted

Maple syrup or Agave nectar to taste

Slice your plantains on the bias, about 1/4 inch thick. Grill or place in a skillet until slightly browned, about 2-4 minutes. Flip each slice and grill again until slightly browned. Place on a plate and top with the almonds and syrup. Yes, it’s really that easy!


I love summer! The warm months, the endless sunshine, and the bountiful produce at our local farmers market makes this one of my favorite times of the year. I’ve even started having conversations with some of the farmers to find out how they grow their produce and to learn about the differences in the varieties of vegetables they offer. The last few days I’ve come up with several pasta dishes using the super-fresh veggies from our local farms. The result has been amazing! The best part about this dish is that it can change as the variety at your local market changes.

Farmers Market Pasta

1 tbs olive oil

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 cups of your favorite summer vegetables cut approximately the same size: yellow summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers, green beans, corn, broccoli, tomatoes, kale or any green leafy vegetable (chopped), etc.

Salt and pepper

1-2 tbs olive oil for final drizzle

1-2 tbs torn fresh flat-leaf parsley

1-2 tbs chopped roasted cashews

1 cup of your favorite small pasta (small shells, mini penne, rotini, fusili, etc.)

Start boiling salted water for your pasta and add pasta. Cook according to package directions. In a cast iron skillet, or your favorite skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Cook until softened, then add the garlic and vegetables except for the tomatoes, if using, and kale, if using. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until slightly tender, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and kale. Cook and stir 2-3 more minutes until tomatoes are soft and kale is slightly darker and wilted. Place pasta in a pasta bowl and top with the cooked vegetables. Drizzle another 1-2 tbs of olive oil and add the parsley and cashews. Adjust salt and pepper and enjoy!

Farmers Market Pasta

The Exciting World of Tempeh!

Over the last couple of years I’ve been experimenting with tempeh, which is basically a cake of fermented soybeans. Sounds super yum, right?! Actually, when prepared well, it really can be quite good, and I’ll get to that in just a bit. What’s great about it, though, is that it is an excellent source of plant-based protein, and because the soybeans are fermented, they are more readily bio-available, meaning it’s easier to digest, and it contains a perfect form of vitamin K. When trying to increase the protein in my diet, I turned to tempeh and got to work on all the ways I could use it.

Here’s the key, though: it must be marinated to be best (in my opinion), just like tofu. A basic marinade I like for one block of tempeh is

1/4 cup organic (or at least non-gmo) tamari

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 squeeze of fresh lime

Freshly ground black pepper

Optional additions: smoked paprika, fresh herbs, minced shallots

Whisk this all together. You can cut your tempeh in a variety of ways — triangles, cubes, rectangles, or crumble it — but cut it first, then allow it to marinate for 20 minutes. Marinating is absolutely the key to tasty tempeh!

The great thing about this marinade is that you can adjust it to fit whatever dish you are preparing. For example, my family really likes taco night! So, I’ll throw cumin, cilantro, and chili powder in the marinade for a Mexican flair. When grilling it, I like to add a little olive oil to the mix to help prevent sticking, and I love to polish it off at the end  of grilling with some barbecue sauce. Experiment and play around, but mostly have fun!

(c) 2014 Donna M. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “In My Vegetarian Kitchen

  1. Ooh, been wanting to try pesto… Looking forward to trying out all different kinds of pesto now! Do you do much with it in/on eggs?

    1. You could probably use pesto any way you like to liven up any dish; it’s so full of flavor! I haven’t thought of putting it on eggs before, but I don’t see why not. Good thought, Emily! Try it, and let us know how it goes!

      By the way, I think any type of pesto would work on eggs, except for maybe a broccoli pesto. I don’t eat eggs very often now, but when I did I enjoyed putting herbs in my eggs all the time, so I’m sure an herb pesto or a more adventurous bitter greens pesto would be delicious!

      Thanks!

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