Black Bean and Beyond Meat Enchiladas

Saturday, July 29, 2017

My mom makes some really incredible chicken enchiladas.  I used to love them as a kid, and now that I don't eat meat, I have to find a way to make all of the foods from my childhood meat free.  While, these are decidedly different (I used red instead of green sauce, and make them more of a "beef" version) they still tasted so familiar and definitely something I'm going to be making more often.  This is also a really great dish to bring to a potluck, party, or any other gathering where people bring and eat food.  You can dial up the spicy level if you want, but just be careful that you don't set your hands on fire with serrano pepper juice like I did....that stuff hurts.

This dish is so easy and tastes like meat so just roll some tortillas around some meat-like stuff and chillllllll.


2 cans sliced olives
1 can green chilis
red enchilada sauce
3 garlic cloves, diced (once again, adjust this to your taste, I effing love garlic)
2 green onions, chopped
8 tortillas (I use a carb balanced brand)
1 can black beans
1 package Beyond Meat beefy crumbles (or your preferred brand, this is mine)
cayenne pepper
salt + pepper to taste
parsley (fresh or dried)
olive oil-1tbs

Heat up the olive oil in a pan and then add in the garlic.  Stir for just a minute then add in the Beyond Meat and cook until the "meat" browns (it will be frozen when you put it in).  Add in the black beans, green chilis, and olives (only one can, save the other for later). Stir and season with cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly coat a casserole dish with a thin layer of red enchilada sauce (this is so the tortillas don't stick to the bottom).  Remove your meat mix from heat when it's done and let cool for just a bit.  Begin rolling your tortillas with the mixture. I do this by laying a tortilla down in the sauce, putting a couple spoonfuls of the mixture inside and rolling it from one side to the other.  This will make sure that your open ends are facing down.  Continue with all 8 tortillas and top with the rest of the red sauce, the 2nd can of olives, and your green onions.

Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes.  You can also add cheese or cheese substitute on top if you prefer, but I left mine as is and it was sooooo satisfying.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about this right and and I might have to make it tonight again.

Let me know if you like it, and if you have any ideas or suggestions!!


Alex got busted eating the leftover meat mix....

Winter is Here: Game of Thrones Inspired Menu

Friday, July 21, 2017

Game of Thrones came back last that means my life will be consumed every Sunday from here until 8 weeks from now and also that I'm going to be lusting after Cersei's badass B wardrobe (see photo below).  Oh yeah, and I'll be cooking GOT inspired meals!

Damn girl...slay.

Premier night was pretty amazing, I must say.  My sister and I teamed up to make an amazing menu of GOT foods and they were all AMAZING. I'm going to post her recipes as soon as I get them from her (hurry up...).  But for now, here are mine.  I made a variation of the pot pie I posted previously, and mock-lamb meatballs which taste surprisingly lamby.  Without further ado...I bring you a fest fit for a Westorosi King or Queen.

Brienne of Tarth's Mock-Kidney Pie

3 medium carrots, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, halved
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
8 oz or so fingerling potatoes, sliced roughly
1 shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves (more if you're like me and insane and love garlic)

dry rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup sherry
splash of Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
1 tbsp vegan butter
splash of liquid smoke
Vegan puff pastry (I don't have patience to make it myself, so I get it at Whole Foods...I'm realistic)
1/4 cup of flour (added in slowly, you may not use all of it)

In a large pan, melt your butter and toss in the shallot, green onion and garlic.  Sauté until the shallot is transparent and then toss in the potatoes, then the carrots and celery.  These veggies will take the longest to cook, and also need to absorb a lot of the flavors.  When these flavors mingle a bit, add in the mushrooms. Add in your seasonings and herbs.  Simmer until the potatoes cook through (until you can slide a fork in easily).

Preheat your oven 400 degrees.  Bake one sheet of the puff pastry in your pie pan until golden brown (maybe like 20 minutes depending on the brand).  This will make a nice base for the pie (it'll be heavy!). When it's done, remove and cover with a cloth.

Once the potatoes have cooked through, add in the broth, sherry, worchestershire, and liquid smoke.  Simmer for a while, then whisk in your flour. Again, SLOWLY. I struggle with patience when thickening sauces.... Once the sauce is thickened, remove from the heat.  Pour this into your pie crust and top with the 2nd sheet of pastry dough.  Add whatever embellishment you want on top, or none, whatever, it's your pie!!

Bake another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and just made a pie that my sister thought about all day after we ate it.

Unsullied (mock lamb) Balls

Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage
splash of Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
splash of liquid smoke
olive oil
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 green onion, chopped
 onion powder
poultry herbs (marjoram, thyme, rosemary)
dry rubbed sage
garlic salt
mint jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sausage, worchestershire sauce, liquid smoke, green onion, olive oil and all spices (sans herbs) in a bowl.  Mix well with your hands and form into meatballs.  place them in a single layer in a roasting or baking dish.  Pour in the sherry and broth and stir so that it coats the meatballs.  Put the herbs on top of the meatballs and pop in the oven.  Bake for around 30 minutes until the meatballs are browned, stirring periodically.

Serve with mint jelly and I'm telling you, you'll feel bad because they taste like lamb but then you'll remember they are totally cruelty free and you'll be sooooo stoked.

Pentagram Pot Pie

Monday, July 10, 2017
I've been feeling a bit blue lately, and honestly the only thing keeping me sane right now is cooking.  I had a rough week and Alex was at band practice on Saturday night leaving me alone at home to my own devices (which can be scary...).  So before I left work, I decided I wanted to cook something new and decided to tackle something I have NEVER made before, even as a meat-eater - a pot pie.  I love savory pastries.  I love anything baked in a pie crust.  I love food that reminds me of old English and Irish pub-style food.  I imagine eating this with a cozy sweater on in October on a crisp day. It really sets the mood, and honestly the it filled my house with the most amazing aroma that lasted for hours.  This dish lifted my spirits, for sure.

I also tried another new thing - live Instagramming myself cooking.  I put on Dita Von Teese's Soundtrack for Seduction (SUPER RARE and out of print, Alex bought it for me and I love it), and decided to get in the mood.  I will be doing more live Instagram videos, with actual instruction, in the future.

The secret to this dish is the puff-pastry crust.  I'm lazy and baking is not my specialty, so I bought one from the freezer at whole foods.  It was honestly perfect and totally VEGAN. For this, I don't wrap the entire filling in dough, I lay a layer on the bottom and then one on the top.  The bottom layer absorbs all the juices and flavors and the top layer bakes up nice and crispy.  The idea of a pot pie seems so daunting and so involved, but it's really easy and the payoff is incredible.  This dish looks impressive and I'm going to be making a variation of this to take to my sister's house for the Game of Thrones premiere next weekend.


Puff-pastry dough

Cooking Sherry, about 3/4 cup
Olive oil, enough to coat pan
Vegetable stock, about 1 cup
Vegan Worcestershire sauce, about 2 tablespoons
Flour, added to thicken sauce

4 medium carrots
8 oz mushrooms
2 green onions
4 medium celery stalks
About 8 oz. teeny tiny potatoes (if you can't find the small ones I used, you can use fingerling potatoes cut into smaller pieces)

Sage (you can usually find a "poultry mix" that has all of these in it, especially during the holidays)
Salt and pepper to taste

This one starts off just like any other recipe really.  Heat your oil in a pan and toss in the shallots.  Next, drop in the green onion and potatoes.  The potatoes will need to cook through a bit before you add in the rest of the vegetables.  Next add the carrots, celery and mushrooms and let the flavors mingle for a bit.  Sprinkle in salt and pepper and add the herbs.  Once the potatoes have cooked a bit, add in your wet ingredients and let simmer for a few minutes.  Whisk in enough flour to thicken the sauce.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

The veggies will need to be fully cooked, because once you pop this in the oven, it only needs to brown for about 15-20 minutes.  Lay one sheet of pastry at the bottom of a lightly greased pie dish, and then add a circular sheet on top (cut the sheet to fit, as it will come in a rectangular sheet).  I added a little decoration of my own to the top....

Pop in the oven, and enjoy the smell that fills your whole home.  Don't overcook, this will brown up quickly.

Take out and let cool.  This will also fall apart a bit when you serve it, and that's fine.  It's all in the rustic nature of this dish.

I can't wait to make this for the holidays.

Graduating and "Hey, What's Wrong With You?"

Saturday, July 8, 2017
School starts back up in a couple months (less than that?!) and it will be my last semester of school EVER...unless I decide I want to try and go for a PhD.  Emphasis on "try" (shit's hard, yo).  I have been feeling...odd lately.

I have been a student for 6 years now.  I finished up my GE at a community college (I went to SFSU after high school but dropped out - stay in school kids).  Then I transferred to CSUF to get my BA in Art History with a minor in Anthropology.  I IMMEDIATELY went into my intensive 3 year MFA program and I have been basically going non stop ever since.  I have held down full time jobs, internship, teaching assistant positions...all while doing school work, writing a thesis, and curating two shows for my degree. It's amazing I'm still standing.  But I love every minute of it...and honestly, it's starting to sink in that it's almost over. Truth be told, I don't know who I am without being a student.  Academia has been my life and a huge part of my identity for the past 6 years, and I don't know what to do if I'm not reading, writing, and attending class. I love being a student.

I've also just made a bit move into a new place.  A nice condo in West Hollywood and I honestly feel like a dirt ball whenever I drive down my street.  It's way too nice of a neighborhood...the house half a block away belongs to a big movie producer.  I don't feel like I fit in.

I'm feeling the pressure of my age, and trying to find stability.  Everything I want to do seems really daunting and almost impossible.  And of course, to cope with stress I followed suit and chopped off all my hair (seriously, it's like 2 inches long) and really had to practice restraint not to shave it all.  I have been distracted and distant lately, and it really just boils down to uncertainty.  Being in your early 30's in America right now is a weird thing.  The political climate is turbulent, money and jobs are not what they used to be, and having an advanced degree makes no guarantees.

I feel like I'm not unique in how I feel.  I think a lot of people my age are struggling to find their place in the world and feel like they fit in.  I often times feel like I'm playing a role, or portraying a character. Especially at work.  In reality, I'm loud and outspoken and I feel most comfortable in jeans and a T-Shirt and it feels a little like pretend when I put on a jacket for work everyday.  Sara is in there...just screaming to get out, and I've probably suppressed a lot of her to make things work.

Anyway, that's where I am now.  I hope anyone else who is out there feeling this same thing knows that they aren't alone, and that we will most likely be fine and it'll pass.

I'll be here chugging along, cooking up weird shit and forcing my family to eat it and posting it online. Just like normal.


My Plant-Based Philosophy

Monday, July 3, 2017

 This post is my sole opinion, and my life philosophy.  I don't expect everyone to agree or abide by the lifestyle I have chosen for myself.  I do not judge anyone's dietary choices.

So, a lot of people are really curious about my transition to a meat-free diet and how someone who was as adamant about eating meat decided to just....stop.

In my house growing up, we ate meat.  We were pure meat eaters and we loved it.  I have eaten just about every animal there is, you name it.  And I liked it.  Because I'm not going to lie to you, meat tastes good.  But that's not the point.

I gave up meat for a variety of reasons.  One, because the factory farming industry is basically destroying the environment.  The amount of natural resources it takes to make a hamburger are alarming.  With the way the world is going now and the concern for our Earth, it only makes sense for me to do whatever I can to reduce the stress I put on the environment in any way that I can, and that makes sense for me.

Eating meat at one time in human history was a means for survival.  We had little other choice, so we raised and ate animals.  It's now 2017, and animals are no longer necessary to our survival.  We have options, and we have choices, and the ever popular evolution argument is no longer valid.  We are no longer slaves to our biology or our circumstances.  We can choose not to eat meat.

Also, when our ancestors raised and slaughtered their own animals, they really connected to what they were doing.  They were grateful for their livestock, and let them roam free and fed them well.  There were no antibiotics, there were no factories.  They needed those animals for survival, and they really appreciated the process of raising an animal and having that animal give their life for yours.  Now, we buy meat from grocery stores that have been pumped full of antibiotics and have undoubtedly lived horrible lives.  I don't think that's right.

I care about animals, and many people who eat meat care about animals as well.  However, I think our society has taught us to discriminate against certain animals.  Dogs and cats are friends, but cows and pigs are for eating.  I don't believe in this line of thinking.  I think that all animals are equals, and how they taste shouldn't matter.  I no longer feel that I can eat a meal knowing that a living creature had to die for me to enjoy it.  I changed my way of thinking.

I gave up meat for my health.  Not eating meat lowers your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and obesity.  Eating a well-rounded, plant based diet is better for your health and contrary to popular belief, it is not impossible to get protein or iron without animal products, and it's also not difficult.  I gave up meat a year ago and I honestly have never felt better....and I was a smoker for 10 years.  Giving up meat made a noticeable difference in my skin, hair, mood, and overall health.  My doctor was surprised.  Giving up smoking, while necessary and great for your health, didn't yield as noticeable results as giving up meat.  This should tell you something...

My philosophy about giving up meat extends to my cooking.  Adopting a plant based lifestyle should never feel like you're giving something up, or like you're being deprived.  So many cooks and cookbooks boast that their recipes can be made vegan or vegetarian if you "take something out."  This lifestyle is not about "taking things out," it's about changing the way you think. It's not about what you can't have, it's about what you CAN have and what you will have and how that is going to make you feel.

I have never once felt deprived of something from my former meat-eating life.  I've devoted my cooking to developing recipes that everyone can love, and to show people that it's not boring and not every vegan dish tastes like bland tofu.  You can have everything you had when you ate meat, it just takes a little creativity and I will do all of the work for you.

It's not about what you've given up.

Here are some helpful links if you're thinking of transitioning to a plant-based diet, and as always I'm always here to help!

Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
Vegan Society
Vegan Starter Kit

Sankthansaften Dinner

This has been a crazy week!!!
Alex and I moved to the BEST condo in West Hollywood and I'm really so excited about our new place.  The kitchen is fantastic and I can't wait to post more photos and start making videos for you guys!  I've had a great response with my cooking and it seems like a few of you are excited to see a youtube channel, which I will get up and running once everything settles down.

Literally the day before we started moving, I made Sankthansaften dinner for Alex and I.  Everyone knows I love holidays and themes, so when a holiday rolls around I usually go nuts with a menu.  I created a great Scandinavian inspired menu for this dinner, and we ate outside under the stars and it was perfect.

Sankthansaften is probably better known when compared with it's Swedish counterpart, Midsommer, or the Summer Solstice celebration.  On the 23rd of June every year, Norwegians everywhere stay up until the wee hours to celebrate the longer days.  And, if you're lucky,  you can even find out who you'll marry by walking in a circle three times around a rock in the ground with your bare feet.  A

Fire is a big part of the celebration, but living in a city we had to settle for candles and sparklers.  In Norway if you happen to be lucky enough to attend a big bonfire, bring a paper witch to toss in the fire (I don't do this one...for obvious reasons haha).

Anyway, on to the food!!
My menu consisted of:

Dill Roasted Potatoes
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
"Meatballs" with Creamy Dill Sauce
Rye Bread with Butter and Lingonberry Jam

Dill is one of my favorite herbs, and I'll put it on anything given the chance.  Dill makes two appearances in this meal- once with the dill roasted potatoes (honestly a staple in my house) and in the dill sauce for the meatballs. 

Dill Roasted Potatoes
Red Potatoes, quartered
Fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
White wine vinegar, about one teaspoon
Earth Balance vegan butter, about 2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Honestly, this is delicious and is super easy.  Just cut your potatoes in quarters and pop them in a roasting dish.  Add the butter evenly throughout the dish, and top with the vinegar.  Sprinkle the chopped dill on top and add salt and pepper.  Toss the potatoes with the liquid and herbs to evenly distribute.  Plop in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes or so.  And you're done!!

"Meatballs" with Creamy Dill Sauce
Gardein brand meatless meatballs
Cooking Sherry
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 green onions, chopped

Vegan sour cream, 1 tbsp.
Fresh dill, chopped
Cooking Sherry, about 1/2 cup
Salt and Pepper
Earth Balance vegan butter
Vegetable stock, about 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a pan, coat lightly with olive oil, and add garlic and green onions.  Before the garlic browns, toss in the meatballs and brown. Top with salt and pepper.  Pour in about a tablespoon of cooking sherry and let simmer for just a bit.  Transfer the meatballs to a roasting dish and pop in the over to let them finish cooking.  Browning them in a pan will give them a nice crisp outer layer and then letting them roast will soften the center.  Set aside the pan that the meatballs cooked in until you're ready to make the sauce, cover.
In the used pan, bring to low to medium heat and melt the butter.  Add in the sour cream, sherry and vegetable stock and simmer.  Sprinkle in the dill and salt and pepper.

Top the meatballs with the sauce, and serve with Lingonberry jam on the side.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Wild rice, prepared
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 lb mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/3 cup vegetable stock
Cabbage leaves
Earth Balance vegan butter, 1tbsp.
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Really bummed I don't have more pictures of this dish.  It was PHENOMENAL and was honestly the dish I had the least enthusiasm for. 
In a pan, melt your butter and add the shallot.  Once the shallot is transparent, add the prepared rice.  Add all the chopped veggies and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover.  In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.  Add in the cabbage leaves.  Let the leaves boil for a few minutes until limp and then add to a bowl of ice water.  Drain and lay on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once the rice mixture has cook fully (the vegetable stock should be cooked in the rice enough so the the mixture is moist but not wet) start spooning it into the cabbage leaves (usually about a tablespoon per leave) and place in an oiled roasting dish.  Drizzle some olive oil on top and salt and pepper and place in the oven.  Keep an eye on it, and leave it in for about 20 minutes.