nothing vegan about it…

  
Eating healthy is good. Eating a plant based diet of fruits, vegetables, and legumes is even better. And then, there’s chicken pot pie. There’s nothing vegan about it, but it sure is delicious. And that’s ok. With me at least, but, whatever floats your boat. All things in moderation right?

For me, food is love. I’ve found, as I grow older and expand my culinary prowess, I have an inexplicable urge to feed people. It brings me joy and comfort to see someone else enjoy something that I worked hard to create, to hear an irrepressible “mmm” escape from their lips, and to know that they feel loved by me because I have fed them. At least that’s the experience I hope for. Especially when it’s something warm and deliciously comforting. Sometimes people are just hungry, and that’s ok too. I guess…

This humble pot pie full of simple ingredients and lots of calories is the epitome of comfort food, in my opinion. And sometimes when somebody you love is hurting, there’s nothing to can do but feed them, because food is love.

Beauty & The Butcher’s Chicken Pot Pie 

 

Ingredients

  • 2-3 chicken cutlets dice
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 red potatoes diced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • Dash of minced garlic
  • 1 box store bought pie crust
  • Salt, pepper, & pinch of sage

Preheat oven to 375. Season chicken with s&p. Sauté garlic & chicken in olive oil until no longer pink. Add vegetables and sauté for a minute or two. Add cream of chicken and sage then let simmer for ten minutes. Prepare pie plate by lining with one roll of crust. Spoon mixture into dish and cover with remaining roll of dough making sure it’s securely attached to the bottom crust and sealed. Pinch pastry along the sides to firmly seal and crimp with a fork if you’re fancy. Pour a few tablespoons of milk into a cup and brush top of pie and all along crust with milk, this will give you a lovely honey colored crust! Bake until golden brown & enjoy!!!

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vegan fiesta!!!

  
So yesterday I shared with you the story of the Sanibel Sprout and the delicious meal I had prepared by the chef & owner, Nikki. She told me that she is a firm believer in seasoning. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, I’ve always said I feel that anything can taste good as long as it is prepared and seasoned well. 

(Some people prefer a little too much seasoning, and salt my food right in front of me…eye roll…no comment…)

Nikki’s taco salad with walnut “taco meat” was so very flavorful that when you took a bite you tasted cumin, chili powder, and sea salt, not walnuts. It actually tasted like ground taco meat. But lighter and more heart healthy. But the cashew “queso” topping? That really blew my mind, I had no clue how it even existed and I decided I had to try making it for myself. I did a little research and experimenting and came up with my own concoctions for both. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures as I went along, sorry, but trust me it’s really easy. But there are pictures of the finished product! 

First, the taco meat.

Ingredients

  • 2 C whole walnuts (if you only have chopped on hand that’s OK just don’t pulse them as much in the food processor so that they don’t get too fine…like Brad Pitt)
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder (all spices are to taste; you may want a little more or a little less…as I tasted I felt it couldn’t get enough cumin so I kept adding until the flavor was just right)
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tb olive oil (I omitted this when making it for friends who are not eating any kind of oils, I just put a little water in instead, but I do think the oil is helpful in binding the mixture together and enhancing the flavor.)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until it’s the consistency of ground meat.

Taste test, and add more spices if you’d like.

This is totally optional but I think totally a must to a) feel like you’re eating taco mea and b) completely fool your butcher husband…Heat mixture in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Your house will smell like you’re having a fiesta!  

  
 
I love a colorful salad so I out all sorts of toppings out; black olives, red & yellow bell peppers, fresh diced tomatoes, shoestring carrots, seasoned kidney beans, sunflower seeds, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and, my personal favorite, big hunks of avocado!But the real star of the dish and the perfect finishing touch? The cashew queso! Which, by the way, also doubles as a dressing for the salad which was especially nice for our non oil eating amigos. I’m really getting into this fiesta thing now! 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours, drained, and rinsed.
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast…(I had to go to the health food store to find this…it smells awful and I don’t know why it was necessary but it just was. Note to self: do more research on nutritional yeast and follow up with blog post about said ingredient) 
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth and queso like. Make sure to scrape down the sides and that it’s really blended all the way through, you don’t want any little cashew chunks.  This makes about 2 cups and the queso sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 You could just spoon the sauce over your salad but where’s  the fun in that?! Or….you could put sauce into a ziplock bag, snip the tip, and artfully pipe over your salad for a beautiful finish to the meal. There was plenty of queso left over too, so we took some of those beautiful organic blue corn tortilla chips and dipped them right in there. Take that nacho cheese!  

The butcher and I aren’t quite ready to go completely meatless or dairy free yet, but we are definitely cutting back and making better choices. This dish is so delicious it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice! Taco salad for all!

   

Vegan Paradise 

As you know, I spent a lovely week with my mother in law on Sanibel Island recently. It was a much needed relaxing break. On Wednesday we went for massages, body treatments, and a little oxygen bar treatment at the Sanibel Day Spa. It was divine.  

After such a grueling (ha!) morning of pampering and detoxifying treatments, we wanted something light and healthy to fill our bellies. Since Yelp never lets me down when looking for local restaurants, off to Yelp I went, and came across a little vegan cafe, called the Sanibel Sprout. It had great reviews and the menu sounded fantastic. Five minutes later we were there.  

 I can never walk into any health food store without instantly thinking of my mother in law, even though this time she happened to be standing right next to me. The combined aromas of vitamins, essential oils, and patchouli fill the air and remind me of her. This was no different. We were instantly greeted by the most adorable little British woman with platinum hair, a hot pink shirt, and a warm smile.

After perusing the shop section of the store, filled with books, supplements, candles, and a plethora of all natural products, we wandered over to the cafe portion, oohing and ahhing over the vegan cheesecakes, mini vegan key lime pies, vitamin elixirs, and other goodies in the prepared food case. We grabbed a few vitamin elixirs (Ok Mom grabbed one, I’m still new with all this stuff) and took a seat to look at the menu. 

     
   
Mom decided on the vegan lasagna made with brown rice noodles, tomato sauce, and cashew cheese. I, because I’m special, ordered something that wasn’t on the menu but listed on the specials board behind the counter. It was a vegan taco salad. Sounds like an oxymoron right? Wrong! The “taco meat” is actually made with seasoned walnuts and the “cheese” is cashew queso. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost

    
 It was delicious, filling, and if I hadn’t known, I would’ve thought I was eating ground beef. Seriously. In fact, I even found out later from the chef that recently a woman who had picked up a taco salad to go, had called later completely irate that there was meat in her vegan salad! There was no greater complement than that! We had to talk to the owner. I walked over to the aforementioned sweetheart who had welcomed us and found out her name was Edith. I gabbed to her a bit about how much I loved my food and asked her who owned this amazing little spot.

“I do. With my daughter, Nikki. She’s the chef” she said as she motioned toward a young woman working furiously behind the counter blending, chopping, and moving back and forth with grace and know how.

 I told Edith that I had a blog and would love to do a little write up about the Sanibel Sprout so perhaps I could ask her a few questions and take a photo of her. She kindly obliged but said she first had to check her lipstick. She was so adorable I couldn’t help but snap a photo of her as she did so. 

 Once she was fully primped, she positioned herself on a stool in front of the juice bar and smoothie station, took her glasses off, and smiled. 

“Is this alright?” she asked.

“Perfect” I said.

Edith is 89 years old and becoming a vegan literally saved her life. 

Three years ago she was diagnosed with stage one leukemia. Her daughter and natural chef, Nikki, moved from Miami to Sanibel to help her mother change her diet and hopefully prolong her life. Although Edith had been a vegetarian for many years, she was not as enthusiastic about going completely vegan. 

“If I have to give up chocolate and milk, I’d rather just die.” she candidly recanted. 

But Nikki assured her that she would never be hungry and that every day she would be showered with deliciously filling breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. And that she did. She never went hungry and was fully convinced. It has now become her lifestyle.

Edith’s sister, still living in England, was also diagnosed with leukemia. Sadly, she passed away soon after. The difference in their diets was undeniable and the results spoke for themselves. Three years later, Edith’s leukemia is still at stage one and, to the amazement of her doctors, has not moved or grown whatsoever. 

There may not yet be a cure for cancer out there, but a plant based diet, living on what God created, certainly seems to be effective in prevention and even treatment of disease. 

I could have sat and chatted with those two all day, but the beach was calling. I look forward to going back on our next visit, Edith will be 90 by then, and probably better than ever. 

As soon as I got home, I had to try to recreate Nikki’s delicious taco salad. Stay tuned tomorrow for the recipe! 

  

 
 

Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul

IMG_1299.JPGFood is love. At least that’s what I believe. I’ve found, as I grow older and expand my culinary prowess, I have an inexplicable urge to feed people. It brings me joy and comfort to see someone else enjoy something that I worked hard to create, to hear an irrepressible “mmm” escape from their lips, and to know that they feel loved by me because I have fed them. At least that’s the experience I hope for. Sometimes people are just hungry, and that’s ok too. I guess…
Anyway, one of the greatest expressions of the “food is love” process is that of making a meal for someone who is unable to make one for themself. One such occasion is the reason I made this chicken pot pie, the epitome of comfort food, in my opinion. {recipe at the end}

IMG_1300.JPGA dear friend of ours was in the hospital a few weeks ago for a surgery that although not necessarily routine, we all assumed would be successful. Unfortunately there were several complications with the surgery and for a time everyone, including the doctors, weren’t sure he was going to make it. Feelings of sadness and helplessness weighed heavily upon us as well as thoughts like “what was our last conversation”, “can his wife handle much more this year?”, and “what can we do?”
Obviously since neither of us went to medical school and a well butchered rack of lamb or a batch of cookies (that’s pretty much where our skill sets end) would do him any good, other than pray, there was nothing we could do.
However, to our relief and delight, he pulled through and was released recently from the hospital with a long road to recovery ahead of him. And now, there was something I could do, I could feed him. And feed him I did, because food is love.

Beauty&The Butcher’s Chicken Pot Pie

2-3 chicken cutlets diced
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
2 red potatoes diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
Dash of minced garlic
1 box store bought pie crust
Salt, pepper, & pinch of sage

Preheat oven to 375. Season chicken with s&p. Sauté garlic & chicken in olive oil until no longer pink. Add vegetables and sauté for a minute or two. Add cream of chicken and sage then let simmer for ten minutes. Prepare pie plate by lining with one roll of crust. Spoon mixture into dish and cover with remaining roll of dough making sure it’s securely attached to the bottom crust and sealed. Pinch pastry along the sides to firmly seal and crimp with a fork if you’re fancy. Pour a few tablespoons of milk into a cup and brush top of pie and all along crust with milk, this will give you a lovely honey colored crust! Bake until golden brown & enjoy!!!

*for another variation of this recipe with a few differences check out this post