Healthy Cravings Recap for April

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This month’s Healthy Cravings was one of my favorites. Two teams faced off in a Top Chef/Chopped style cooking challenge that was judged by Holistic Healthy and Fitness Coach, Danny Collier. You can read a recent interview here.

We didn’t have a lot of time so as Danny began speaking to the rest of the crowd and sharing his story the two teams got their first peek at the ingredients they could choose from. There were several types of cooked and canned beans, grains, fresh and frozen veggies, fruit and spices.

HC April (10)HC April (9)

HC April (8)

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The were given 20 minutes to prepare and entrée and either a dessert or a salad. Both teams went over time but check out what they created.

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The winning dish was this Jerk Veggie creation served over quinoa. It was delicious.

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Second place went to this asparagus salad served alongside black beans, faux cheese sauce and guacamole trio served with brown rice tortillas with a banana-date dessert. Here is a closer look at that salad, it had mixed greens, quinoa, and an assortment of veggies.

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I couldn’t have my guests doing all the cooking so I made a couple of Shepherd’s Pies and my highly sought after gluten-free brownies.

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brownie 2

Given the same ingredients what would you have made for the contest? I would have made Mexican food! I know big surprise!

Healthy Cravings Recap for March

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Recently I hosted my monthly Healthy Cravings group. I often get questions about this group so I thought I’d address the most common. This is a local group hosted at my home in Mesa, Arizona. Many people are curious about what we eat and I thought an in home demonstration would be the best way to address questions but also show how good our food is. I hosted my first food demo last summer, planning to have more when ladies from my church asked if I would be interested in holding them as part of our Women’s Ministries. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Our Women’s Ministries groups include a book club, a jewelry making group, and a crafting group to name a few.

Most of the women who come are from my church but several are friends I’ve known outside of church, and now some are local ladies who I’ve connected with through this blog. Each month has a different food theme, March was Breakfast. There are women who come who are not plant-based but want to eat healthy, others have allergies which I accommodate, and some have successfully transitioned to plant-based eating.

The purpose of the group is to be a support system and information center for ladies interested in plant-based living. Of course having a smorgasbord available doesn’t hurt things. I often tell people it is a bit like preparing Thanksgiving every month. There is a recommended donation of $5 but it is not required. I never want money to stand in the way of someone coming.

Oatmeal Bar

Last month I served breakfast including an oatmeal and quinoa bar that featured diced strawberries, fresh blueberries, chia seeds, walnuts, raisins, and dried cranberries. Baked Sweet Potatoes, Breakfast Tacos, Savory Breakfast Muffins with a side of salsa, Blueberry Muffins and Banana Bread were also available. My friend Steffi made some incredible chocolate muffins too!

HC March breakfast tacos

HC March blueberry muffins

HC March savory muffins

The next Healthy Cravings will be meeting next week. We are having a Top Chef/Chopped Style contest with celebrity judge Danny Collier! Danny is a Plant Based Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer, Speaker, and Model. I’ll have an interview coming up with him in the next few weeks. In the mean time you can follow him on Facebook.

Do you belong to any local plant-based groups? They can be a great resource for local support. To find one in your area check Meet Up or just google “plant-based groups” in your area.

Healthy Cravings February Recap: A 5 Course Italian Meal

I almost forgot to share all of the deliciousness that happened at the last Healthy Cravings.

I admit that I was a little nervous, I didn’t know if everyone would like their favorite Italian comfort foods adapted into healthy plant-based versions. I didn’t want to create recipes that were merely “less toxic” than the originals, I wanted them to be truly nourishing. I’ve shared most of the recipes previously and I have a few more I’ll share in the coming weeks.

I want to mention that almost everything was gluten-free. I have several gluten-free ladies who typically attend but if gluten isn’t an issue for you whole grain noodles could easily be substituted. Also I forgot to take pictures of everything before we ate but I got a few leftover shots.

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We started the evening with Bruschetta. Half was served on toasted French Baguette and the other half on gluten-free crackers.

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Next was soup and salad. This is my new favorite salad by the way! I used a variety of lettuces and greens, pepperoncini’s , olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and red onion. I don’t even need a dressing with this, but I served a homemade oil-free dressing that everyone loved. Can you believe I can’t find the recipe? It’s true, I remember what’s in it but not the amounts so I’ll make it again today and post it soon.

Minestrone Soup

I served Minestrone Soup that was glorious, it may have been the favorite of the evening. I’ve always gotten good reviews from it. I bought new Italian seasoning and I have to say it has a bit more “kick” than my previous seasoning. I may have used less had I known it’s potency.

HC Feb 005Before

HC Feb 007After

Everyone LOVED the Lasagna! One friend wasn’t able to attend that night but has since made it for her family and they really enjoyed it. Initially she was skeptical and is a self-proclaimed snob when it comes to Italian food but she was pleasantly surprised and plans to add it to her meal rotation.

Mac & Faux Cheese

This isn’t your typical Mac & Faux Cheese. Yes it is still carbalicious but I’m not afraid of carbs. It has potatoes and cauliflower that add veggies and creaminess without the dairy or oil you would typically get in Mac & Cheese. I added a little too much potato the night of Healthy Cravings and it really muted the cheesiness of the nutritional yeast, I should have added more but I didn’t. The reviewers didn’t love this dish as much as the lasagna. My 2 year old couldn’t get enough. Most of the attenders are still eating dairy and haven’t completely transitioned to a plant-based diet. As I warn in the recipe this is better for dairy-free people. If you are used to eating dairy or boxed Mac & Cheese this will not tantalize your taste buds the same way. If you are plant-based I think you will like it, feel free to dress it up or add other vegetables.

alfredoI didn’t serve this with peas or mushrooms at Healthy Cravings but you get the idea.

We also had Happy Herbivore’s Fettuccine Alfredo. I have made this numerous times and it has always been fantastic. Until the night of Healthy Cravings. I couldn’t find the kind of tofu I normally use so I tried a different brand and it was a bust. I’m sure it scared everyone away from vegan alfredo. We don’t normally use tofu or soy, maybe a few times a year but this alfredo is (usually) worth it. Maybe that is a good lesson, you can’t let one bad experience scare you away from something.

We finished off the evening by enjoying coffee and dessert. I have to thank my Dad for giving me a Keurig for Christmas, everyone loved the coffee, especially trying the So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer in original and French Vanilla. They also loved the gluten-free Biscotti I made. It wasn’t as crisp as traditional biscotti but the flavor was great. I plan to give it another go and share the recipe soon.

Now you can imagine you were here with us! Next months food theme is Breakfast! I’ll also pay a little more attention to breakfast on the blog for the month of March.

Plant-Based Lasagna (Gluten-Free)

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If you’ve recently switched to a plant-based diet you may be under the impression that there are some foods you’ll never be able to eat again. I’m going to let you off the hook, you can enjoy many of the comfort foods you have always loved with a few modifications.

This recipe does take some work, like any lasagna recipe there are many steps involved, most of the work is done by a food processor. The good news is many can be prepared ahead of time. I even build the lasagna a few hours before company arrives then put it in the oven 30 minutes before dinner time.

A layered view

A layered view

Lasagna (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

Ingredients (by step)

Step 1

  • 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1/4 c nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Step 2

  • 4 c tightly packed spinach or other greens
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 c or handful of mushrooms

Remaining Ingredients

  • Large jar pasta sauce
  • 1 package gluten-free no-boil lasagna noodles
  • eggplant, peeled and diced (optional, I used 1/2 an eggplant)
  • mushrooms, diced (optional)

Do

  1. Add all the ingredients for step one to a food processor, puree then set aside until ready to build lasagna.
  2. Add all the ingredients for step two to a food processor, puree, then set aside until ready to build lasagna.
  3. Building the Lasagna. Layer ingredients in a large casserole dish, I used a 9×15 dish. I used the following order:1 1/2 cup red sauce, noodles, white sauce, greens, mushrooms, eggplant then finish with red sauce. Repeat layers until you run out of ingredients. Mine had 2 layers of white sauce and 2 layers of greens with 1 layer of veggies (mushrooms and eggplant). I had three layers of red sauce.
  4. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for 20-30 minutes.

Serve

This lasagna is company worthy. I’ve served it to large groups on two occasions and everyone seemed to like it. I don’t think you miss the meat or cheese from traditional lasagna. It also reheats well and keeps for several days in the fridge. It’s easily customizable. It pairs well with a large Italian salad, my salad included olives, artichoke hearts, peppers, red onions, and greens.

For a faux parmesan try whizzing 1 cup of cashews and 1/2 cup nutritional yeast in a high-powered blender and sprinkling it on top of the lasagna.

Do you miss Lasagna since going plant-based? Give this recipe a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. What comfort food do you miss the most?

Healthy Cravings Recap: Are You Ready for the Super Bowl

I don’t watch football but I don’t mind attending a Super Bowl Party, especially if there is good food. Since my idea of good food varies greatly from that of the average person this months Healthy Cravings focused on Super Bowl and party food.

Most of the recipes I’ve been posting lately were recipes presented at Healthy Cravings. Almost all of the recipes were given rave reviews.

Nachos

We started with  Nacho Bar! A friend let me borrow here Crockpot Trio which contained Quinoa-Lentil Tacos, Unfried Beans, and Faux Cheese Sauce. I also had salsa, guacamole, black olives, jalapenos and of course tortilla chips.

I also had the typical veggie tray with Somer’s Vegan Ranch Dressing. Everyone liked it, I used rice milk instead of soy and it didn’t get as thick. Somer told me the soy milk is better so you should try it that way instead.

CHICKpea salad

We also had the CHICKpea salad in lettuce wraps. One of the ladies who attended had just told her husband that she did not like chickpeas; her mind was changed once she tasted these.

I made a gluten-free chocolate cake for dessert but I’m still tweaking the recipe. Hopefully I’ll be sharing it soon.

Another popular item was deviled potatoes that are posted at Happy Herbivore; they were really easy too. I wanted to make Buffalo Cauliflower but as time got short they were cut from the line up. Two friends helped out by bringing a few things. We had Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms using this walnut-pesto recipe from Veggies In My Freezer; another friend brought a pea dip and some delicious energy balls. I don’t have the links for those unfortunately but they were good.

We had great conversation and watched some clips from the Forks Over Knives Extended Interviews. One of the ladies who started coming to Healthy Cravings in September and switched to a plant-based diet in October shared how she has lost over 40 pounds. She is eating healthier and so is her daughter.

Not everyone who comes is eating plant-based but many are trying to eat healthier or just get more ideas and add variety to their diets.

What are you favorite party or Super Bowl Foods? I think the Nacho Bar was my favorite!

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