Archive | January, 2012

28 Days

30 Jan

My boyfriend is coming to Rhode Island!

Please meet Rip Esselstyn – firefighter, triathlete, and author of The Engine 2 Diet.

Handsome, right?

As it turns out Rip and Whole Foods are BFFs – as a result, the Rhode Island Whole Foods are sponsoring an Engine 2 Challenge where individuals will commit to the Engine 2 Diet for 28 days. The Engine 2 Diet book encourages individuals to transition to a whole foods, plant-based diet (based on scientific evidence) in order to reduce/reverse common medical conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.

Individuals who take the challenge will get to meet Rip at the end of  28 days!

If you have perused my blog you know that The Engine 2 Diet book is what helped me commit to transitioning to a diet free of animal products. I was able to transition into vegetarianism very easily with no slip ups, however, veganism has been more difficult for three reasons

Dunkin Donuts - Egg & Cheese Sandwich


Pizza Hut - Stuffed Crust Pizza


 My hope is that by participating in this challenge I can ditch the cheese and eggs for good…. and get Rip to autograph my Engine 2 book 😉

Last week Whole Foods held an introductory session which answered the questions WHAT IN THE WORLD IS E2? and WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?                                                         

* the answers to these questions below comes courtesy of Whole Foods

Engine 2 is a plan of action for following – and sticking to – a heart-healthy, mind-healthy, body-healthy and taste-bud tempting PlantStrong lifestyle, created by (my boyfriend) Rip Esselstyn.
Individuals following Engine 2 adopt a whole food, nutrient-dense, PlantStrong way of eating and experience a vast variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. In addition to its cardiovascular benefits, Engine 2 can control glucose levels, reduce cholesterol, help maintain normal weight, and increase overall energy and well-being. 
  • Week One: No dairy, refined sugar or processed foods
  • Week Two: no meat, chicken, eggs, or fish while you continue no dairy, refined sugar or processed foods
  • Week Three: no extracted oils. You’re now a firefighter!
  • Week Four: keep up another week of this PlantStrong Diet!


  • Week One: Jump right in to the 100% plant-based way of life and enjoy healthy whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables and beans.

    E2 Mealtoaf & Mashed Potatoes

Doesn’t that look good? I found this picture on the Engine 2 facebook page.

Clearly this diet/challenge is not about deprivation, it’s about eating to live rather than living to eat, it’s about living with the healthiest body possible, and for me it’s about breaking up with cheese and eggs.

Throughout the 28 days (which begins February 1st) I will be sure to share updates about my experience and will post some interesting tidbits contained in The Engine 2 Diet.

I hope that you’ll consider joining me in this challenge. In the meantime…

~ Healthy & Happy Eating




Tastes Like Chicken

29 Jan

Let’s just clear something up… vegan “meat” is weird. What the hell is tempeh? Why would anyone voluntarily eat tofu? And seitan…. I don’t even know how to pronounce that.

Seitan (pronounced say-tan not to be confused with Satan) is affectionately known as Wheat Meat. Whoever thought naming something “wheat meat” would sell products should go work at Whole Foods where they label their Chickpeas as Garbanzo Beans.

I suggest that all of the 18-35 year old vegetarians and vegans get together and rename all of the nasty sounding health food we eat. Nobody wants to eat something called Cheez or Chickn – right away you know you are eating something that isn’t quite the same as the original product. Novices also don’t want to eat Tempeh or Seitan at the very least because they can’t pronounce it.

Let me give you an example – would you rather drink something called Red Bush Tea or Rooibus Tea? They are the same thing but rooibus just sounds delightful whereas red bush sounds… less delightful.

But I digress, let’s get back to the world of fake meats. Frankly I have not enjoyed very many tofu, tempeh, or seitan meals and I’m not interested in eating the faux meat crumbles or faux chicken that you can get at the supermarket because they are processed foods and if you looked at the amount of sodium in those items you’d probably have a heart attack.

220 mg sodium per serving and over 20 ingredients

330 mg sodium per serving and over 30 ingredients

Now I’m not saying don’t eat these products  (I enjoy a smart dog every now and again) I’m told that they are good transitional foods for people who struggle giving up meat cold turkey. What I’m saying is be mindful of what you are eating, just because it’s vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Likewise, everything you get at a vegetarian or vegan restaurant may not be healthy. Last week, while out to eat, the waitress recommended we order Chipotle Seitan… it was AWESOME! It tasted like the bright red, BBQ pork that you get at a Chinese restaurant. I have no idea how it’s made but based on the texture and flavor I would guess that was fried and had a fair amount of sweetener in the sauce. Certainly not something you should dine on regularly.

I’ve tried pre-packages seitan before and thought it was awful. So awful in fact I had no intention of ever trying it again. The only way I can describe it is like eating a sponge… only worse. For some reason, the restuarant seitan didn’t taste spongy at all. I wondered if it was because their seitan was homemade. I had to find out for myself so I decided to pony up and make some from scratch.

Overall the experience was good – it was easy to make and tasted pretty good, but I won’t lie to you, I felt like I was a mad scientist working the elasticky dough that was supposed to turn into a meat-like product.

Bottom line, if you are going to try making seitan from scratch you might want to give this recipe a try – it was quick, easy, flavorful, and I licked my plate clean.

Chicken-Style Seitan (adapted from Happy Herbivore Cookbook)

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

1-1/2 tsp No-Chicken Broth Powder*

1/2 cup warm water

2 cups No-Chicken Broth*

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1-1/2 tsp Poultry Seasoning Mix *

1 tsp granulate onion powder

salt and pepper, to taste

*see below for recipe

  • In a mixing bowl, combine vital wheat gluten, no-chicken broth powder, and water, stirring until a dough forms.
  • Turn dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 1 minute, then set aside.
  • Combine no-chicken broth with nutritional yeast and seasonings in a pot, stirring to incorporate.
  • Return to dough and cut into strips, breasts, or any other shape, being mindful that it will more than double in size during cooking.
  • Bring broth to a boil and add dough.
  • Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Save any excess liquid left in the pot.
  • Preheat oven to 350F and grease a cookie sheet.
  • Once dough is finished cooking on the stove, bake for 20-30 minutes (flip halfway), until a golden skin has formed.
  • To make a gravy, add up to 1 cup of non-dairy milk to the leftover cooking liquid then heat over medium heat, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Note: you can find vital wheat gluten residing in the flour section of the grocery store.

No-Chicken Broth Powder (adapted from Happy Herbivore Cookbook)

2/3 cup nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp onion powder

1/2 Tbsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp sage

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp parsley

  • Combine all ingredients together and grind into a fine powder.

* To make no-chicken broth for the seitan recipe above mix together 2 Tbsp of the no-chicken broth powder with 2 cups of warm water.

Note: I keep a coffee grinder on hand just for grinding spices and flax seeds.

Poultry Seasoning Mix (adapted from Happy Herbivore Cookbook)

1 Tbsp dried rosemary

1 Tbsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp sage

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp dried parsley

  • Combine all ingredients together and grind into a fine powder.


And there you have it, a meal that looks good enough to be served at a Bob Evans Restaurant.

Chicken-Style Seitan w/ Gravy served with Maple Roasted Carrots, Caulipots, and Steamed Green Beans.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

Weekly Menu January 28

28 Jan

Last week’s menu when out the window completely. The only thing I cooked was Black Bean Enchiladas with Mole Sauce. We had some unplanned celebrating that made it necessary to dine out rather than eat in. To begin we decide to enjoy my birthday dinner a week early, then we had to celebrate Jordan passing the ServSafe exam with flying colors, and there was one night where we had to celebrate laziness and order takeout. So here I am with a fridge full of food that needs to be cooked up so I will be using last weeks menu to get us through this week plus a few additions.

  • Tofu Scramble with Homefries
  • Chicken Fried Seitan with Maple Roasted Carrots, Caulipots, Gravy, and Green Beans
  • Vegetable Korma
  • Veggie Pot Pie Stew
  • Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
  • Farfalle with Beans & Cabbage and a side of Kasha

Tofu Scramble with Homefries

You Say Garbanzo Bean I Say Chickpea

25 Jan

… well, you probably say chickpea too. I wonder why the marketing geniuses that can legumes haven’t caught on.

Have you ever noticed that every time you go to Whole Foods to buy a can of beans they are out of whatever it is that you are looking for? Literally EVERY TIME. Two weeks ago I needed black-eyed peas, they were out of stock. Last week I needed black beans and they were out of stock. This week I need chickpeas and I bet they will be out of stock. What gives Whole Foods? Get it together! And while you are at it please stock frozen asparagus – I just can’t believe that they were out of stock too! For the love of Isa Chandra Moskowitz!

Goodness! That is not the rant that I intended to make. I was prepared to have an in-depth conversation with myself about why one item would be called both a bean and a pea and then go on to ponder what they heck a garbanzo is anyhow. Fortunately (for you) I don’t have time for all of that, so let’s move on.

I don’t care much for chickpeas so when I found a recipe for Chickpea Piccata I thought to myself, how can I make a vegetarian piccata without chickpeas? I decided to replace the chickpeas with cauliflower.

I don’t have much experience cooking without a recipe so this was an interesting endeavor. My plan was to slice the cauliflower, dredge it in panko, and bake it – I thought that would replicate a pan-fried chicken cutlet. Then I would just combine the cauliflower with my favorite piccata sauce.

Cauliflower Steak

As it turns out my plan went to hell in a hand basket when I forgot to slice the cauliflower and instead broke apart the florets. For some reason I remembered to dredge it in panko which was a huge disaster and required me to rinse off the breadcrumbs and regroup. The bottom line is –  although the recipe did not go as intended, it was tasty enough to share with you.

Cauliflower Piccata

1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces

1/3 cup lemon juice

½ cup vegetable stock

¼ cup capers

1 Tbsp cornstarch


Salt & Pepper to taste

Steam cauliflower. Heat lemon juice and stock in a skillet.

Mix cornstarch with a little bit of the sauce until dissolved. Add to the skillet and stir to combine.

Add cauliflower, capers, salt and pepper to taste.

Heat until sauce thickens.  Top with parsley and serve hot.

Now isn’t that the easiest recipe you’ve ever seen? If you are not partial to the tang of lemon start off with ¼ cup and see how you like it. You can easily adjust the seasoning based on your preferences or any kitchen mishaps that may happen.

A blog entry with chickpea in the title wouldn’t be complete without at least one chickpea recipe. This is far and away my favorite way to eat the humble chickpea… teriyaki style.

The recipe comes from The Happy Herbivore cookbook and makes a great dinner, snack, or even breakfast.

Hawaiian Teriyaki Chickpeas (adapted from The Happy Herbivore)

15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

¼ cup teriyaki sauce

2 cups cooked brown rice

½ can diced pineapple, drained

1 mango, diced

½ red onion, minced

Handful cilantro, chopped

½ lime, juiced

Salt to taste

Combine chickpeas and teriyaki sauce and allow to marinate for 5 minutes. Place chickpeas in a skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has absorbed (~ 10 minutes)

Combine pineapple, mango, red onion, lime juice, and salt to create a salsa.

Serve chickpeas over rice then top with salsa.

That’s all there is to it.

Chickpeas are one of the easiest things you can cook. You can top them with a sauce, bake them in the oven with some seasoning, mash them into a dip, or even puree them and make yummy brownies.

What is your favorite way to eat a chickpea? Be sure to share the recipe because I plan on stock piling cans of chickpeas the next time I am at the grocery store just so I can be well prepared for future culinary endeavors when I’m sure Whole Foods will be out of stock of the key ingredient.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

A Clif Bar By Any Other Name

23 Jan


Clif Bars, Lara Bars, Raw Revolution, Kind Bars… you get the idea.

I spend a lot of time online looking for homemade energy bar recipes and try to create a batch every week. They are just soooooo good I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes. These are great as a mid-day snack and they can satisfy a sweet tooth.

While the recipes posted below are nearly identical to the ones posted on their respective websites you should feel free to swap out ingredients based on what is in your pantry.

No Bake Blueberry Granola Bars (The Joy of Clean Eating)

½ cup almonds, sliced

1 ½ cup raw cashews, chopped

1 cup dried blueberries

1 ½ cup rolled oats

1 ½ cup brown rice puff cereal

1 cup brown rice syrup

¼ cup date sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

Toast almonds and cashews in a skillet. Combine toasted nuts, oats,cereal and blueberries.

In a small saucepan heat syrup, sugar, and vanilla over medium-high heat, stir constantly. Simmer 2-3 minutes until the syrup thickens.

Pour syrup over nuts & oats and stir until combined.

Transfer mixture into a foil lined 9 x 13 baking dish and pat down mixture until it’s compact. Cool to room temperature and cut into bars.

* I like to reduce the amount of sweetener and freeze the bars.

Last Minute Protein Energy Bars (Oh She Glows)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup brown rice crisp cereal

¼ – ½ cup protein powder

½ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½ cup brown rice syrup

½ cup sunflower seed butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, melted

In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl mix together brown rice syrup and sunflower seed butter. Heat in microwave for 45 seconds then stir in vanilla.

Pour syrup mixture over dry ingredients and combine.

Press into a pan until compact. Melt chocolate in microwave and spread over the top of the bars.

Freeze for 10 minutes then cut into bars.

Store in refrigerator or freezer.

* I don’t use protein powder on a regular basis so I bought one package of Raw Protein and tossed it all in. I also forgot to microwave the syrup mixture and the bars came out just fine.

Chocolate Brownie Larabars (Running Upward)

2 cups chopped pitted dates

2 cups raw cashews

½ cup raw almonds

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch sea salt

½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 Tbsp vanilla extract

2-3 Tbsp water

Place dates, nuts, cocoa and salt in a food processor and pulse to a coarse crumb. Add in coconut and pulse twice more.

Add vanilla and 2T water and process. Add more water if needed to achieve moist dough.

Press the mixture into a pan until very compact.

Chill 20-30 minutes then cut into bars.

* I like to roll dough into balls and freeze.

I hope you like these recipes as much as I do. I would recommend that you keep the portion sizes small given the amount of nuts and sweetener in the recipes, nothing is worse than gaining weight by eating healthy foods.

If you have a favorite energy bar recipe please share, I would love to try out some new recipes.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

Disclaimer: photos and recipes are not Wheatgrass & Sassafras originals. Please click on the links throughout this post to see where these materials originated.

Weekly Menu Jan 21

21 Jan

Goodness, it’s been almost a week since I’ve posted anything. We recently got a new puppy which has made it nearly impossible to find time to blog. Fortunately everyone is sleeping right now, allowing me a few minutes to add this week’s menu.

This week will be dining on

  • Tofu Scramble with Homefries
  • Maple Roasted Carrots, Caulipots w/ Gravy, and Roasted Asparagus
  • Vegetable Korma
  • Veggie Pot Pie Stew
  • Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
  • Black Bean Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Stay tuned for some posts about the deliciousness that has been coming out of my kitchen lately.

In the meantime please enjoy this picture of our new boy Gus.


16 Jan

By now I trust that you’ve made the Quinoa & Black Bean Chili.

You haven’t?! Well what are you waiting for?

There can only be three possible reasons for not making this recipe yet:

A. You don’t know what quinoa is let alone how to pronounce it or locate it in the grocery store.

B. You’ve had quinoa before and didn’t like it.

C. You haven’t gone grocery shopping for the week.

If you have selected C then I forgive you. If you’ve selected A or B let’s clear the air so we can start talking about more quinoa recipes.

So What The Heck Is Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a pseudo-grain. What’s a pseudo-grain? I have no idea, you’ll have to google that on your own. If you find out the answer please share with your friends, you’ll look very smart… my gift to you. Anyhow, quinoa gets a lot of hype because it is a complete protein and touted as a super food. For your purposes you should treat quinoa like any grain you have in your pantry, with one exception – you only need to cook it for 15-20 minutes (not 45-60 minutes like brown rice).  Frankly, it’s delicious and great for weeknight meals.

But I’ve Tried Quinoa Before And I Don’t Like It

My rule is that you should try something at least three times before writing it off completely. Perhaps you cooked quinoa in water without any salt, pepper, vegetables, or other seasonings. Well no wonder you didn’t like it, that sounds awful. Perhaps your girlfriend/boyfriend cooked it for you, chances are they were trying the recipe for the first time and needed some practice.  Clearly, I have no idea why you don’t like it, but I think you should give it another chance.

Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way let’s talk about how you can use up any leftover quinoa you may have after trying the chili.

This is by far one of my top ten favorite recipes. It is so amazing that I often bring leftovers to a friend of mine who has no interest in giving up meat. She loves it!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers (adapted from Vegetarian Times)

1/2 onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 Tbsp cumin

1 garlic clove, minced

5 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

15 oz canned diced tomato, drained (reserve liquid)

15 oz canned black beans, rinsed & drained

1/4+ 1/8  cup quinoa

1 cup water

1 large carrot, grated

2 large red bell peppers, halved with ribs and seeds removed

Preheat oven 350F. Pour reserved tomato liquid into the bottom of a baking dish.

Saute onion and celery in water until soft.

Add cumin and garlic, saute 30 seconds.

Add spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, approx. 5 minutes.

Stir in beans, quinoa, carrots, and water.

Cover pot, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture and place in baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour.

Mmmm! I wish I made a double batch, I could really go for a stuffed pepper right now.

Quinoa and black beans were a match made in savory heaven, but I bet you are wondering if quinoa is good for breakfast. Yup!

Quinoa Berry Breakfast (adapted from Oh She Glows recipe)

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup water

1 bag of frozen mixed berries, defrosted (approx. 3 cups)

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

pinch kosher salt

1/2 cup silvered almonds

1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

2 Tbsp chia seeds

1 Tbsp cocoa nibs

Cook quinoa in water in a small saucepan for 15-20 minutes.

Whisk together maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside.

Place quinoa in a bowl and fluff with a fork. Add in berries then top with dressing and mix.

Add almonds, coconut, chia seeds, and cocoa nibs. Combine thoroughly.

Serve as is or chilled.

This is a great post workout meal and will keep your belly satisfied until lunch time. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason to give it a try I’d like to encourage you to customize this recipe to meet your own tastes or nutritional needs.

Well I hope that you will feel confident to go out into the world and start cooking with quinoa.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

*If you already love quinoa like I do please share your favorite recipes, I am always looking for new ways to utilize this protein powerhouse.