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Taco Soup
I remember the first time I had tortilla soup. It was in an exhibition hall at the Texas State Fair. My family and I stopped to “watch” a vita mix demonstration (I say “watch” because really we were just waiting for the demonstration to be done so we could get a free sample). The man began by making fresh peanut butter with nothing put peanuts and salt. He then moved on to a simple tortilla soup. I seem to remember him throwing a plethora of veggies into the blender as well as some stock and taco seasoning before blending it all at such a high speed and for so long that it heated the soup up. Then he poured the resulting orange mixture into tiny paper cups and doled them out to the expectant crowd.

Reminiscing aside. . . I found myself craving that particular tortilla soup the other day. However, I don’t have a vita mix so I knew I wouldn’t be able to incorporate whole tomatoes and wedges of cabbage like the demonstrator at the fair. After searching for a while I stumbled upon a super simple tortilla soup recipe.

I chose this recipe because I like the idea of adding a smoky flavor to the soup by first charring the onions and jalapeno. I also thought the idea of thickening the soup with crumbled corn tortillas was unique and sounded delicious.

I was right. This soup is amazing. It tastes very similar to what I remember sampling at the Texas State Fair. It was also super simple to make (and there is no vita mix involved). I served our soup with quesadilla wedges that I layered with a little shredded cheddar cheese and some black beans. I highly recommend serving this soup with something to dip into it because it tastes a little like gourmet taco sauce (in a good way). A healthy way to kick a Taco Bell craving!

Creamy Tortilla Soup(Serves 2-3 large bowls or 4 small bowls)

•1 small white or yellow onion, cut into 6 wedges
•3 cloves of garlic (still in the paper)
•1 jalapeño
•olive oil
•salt & pepper
•1 can (14-oz.) fire roasted diced tomatoes
(or about 4-5 fresh roma tomatoes, roast them with the onions & peel skins)
•1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
•1/4 teaspoon dried cumin
•1/2 teaspoon ancho or chipotle chili powder
•1/2 teaspoon agave syrup (or a pinch of sugar)
•1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
•3 cups veggie or chicken broth
•3-4 corn tortillas*, chopped (plus one extra for crispy topping)
•juice of 1 lime

serve with your choice of:
•crispy tortilla strips (sliced from 1 tortilla, toss in olive oil & salt, bake 10 or so minutes)
•crumbled queso fresco (or feta)
•lime wedges, on the side
•more tortillas on the side (optional)
•avocado slices (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a large baking sheet, spread out the onion slices, the jalapeno (still whole), garlic cloves and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-30 minutes until the edges of the onions blacken, tossing them about halfway through. Remove the garlic after about 5 minutes, so it doesn’t burn. Remove the jalapeno when the skin is blackened and blistering.

Place the roasted jalapeno in a small glass bowl with plastic wrap over it (but not touching it). Let it cool for 15 minutes and carefully peel off the skin and remove the stem and seeds. (use utensils if you can, and don’t touch your eye afterward).

In a medium pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, add the onions, garlic (remove the paper), jalapeno, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, chile powder, a splash of agave or a pinch of sugar, and some salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes start to sizzle.

Add a splash of sherry vinegar and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the broth and chopped tortilla pieces and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer to a high speed blender and puree (I used an immersion blender and it worked just fine). Taste and adjust seasonings, adding in a squeeze of lime.

Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil and the suggested toppings.
Taco Soup 2<


Stuffed Shells 1

I will admit when I first read this recipe from Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows I was skeptical. I didn’t think that stuffed shells could possibly be palatable without even a smidgen of cheese. I decided to bookmark the recipe anyways because I am always looking for something new to try. I also loved the idea of making the “cheese” out of tofu which would add a ton of belly filling protein.

The recipe stayed in my bookmarks for months. Then. . .

My sister has a lot of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome which include food sensitivities to things such as dairy. Whenever  she experiences an increase in her reaction to certain food items I try to be careful about eliminating them from our meals. I thought this recipe would be a great way for her to get some extra protein and nutrients without the addition of excessive dairy.

Still, the tofu filling might be healthy but would it taste good?

The answer is yes.

These stuffed shells taste like the real deal. They are cheesy and rich with a nice kick and body from the fresh herbs, onion and celery.

No one will ever be the wiser.

In fact, I didn’t even tell my dad (and he still doesn’t know) what they were made of and he scarfed them down and declare them “really good.” I decided what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him 🙂 .

Jumbo Stuffed Shells (from Oh She Glows)

Yield: approx. 30 shells or 6 servings

  • 3.5 cups pasta sauce
  • 340 grams jumbo pasta shells (I used 30 shells or 2/3 of the box – but make  extra as some break)

Tofu Ricotta:

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 (14oz) package extra-firm or firm tofu, pressed
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3/4-1 tsp fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)


1. Rinse block of tofu and wrap with paper towels followed by 2-3 tea towels.  Place it on a cutting board or plate and add several heavy cookbooks on top.  Press tofu for about 20-25 minutes to drain out the water. Alternatively, you  can use a tofu press.

2. Grease a very large casserole dish. I used about 30 shells, but you’ll  need to cook more than that as some shells will break during the cooking  process. Cook shells in a pot of boiling water until al dente, about 8-11  minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Drain shells and set aside to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 400F. For the tofu ricotta: In a large skillet, sauté the  garlic and onion in the oil for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add in the chopped celery, basil, and parsley and sauté for another 5 minutes or  so. Feel free to throw in some spinach for extra greens.

4. For the tofu, you can either crumble it into the skillet with your hands  or you can give it a whirl in the food processor and then stir it into the  skillet. If you use the processor, the texture will be very creamy like ricotta  cheese and if you crumble it with your hands it will be more chunky/crumbly.  It’s up to you how you want to make it. I usually opt to crumble it by hand so I  don’t dirty the processor. Stir in the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, lemon,  and cayenne all to taste. Over medium heat, cook for about 8-10 minutes or until  most of the water cooks off.

5. Spoon about 1 cup of marinara sauce into the casserole dish and spread  around. Add about 2 tbsp of tofu ricotta into each stuffed shell and place  shells on top of marinara sauce. Cover shells with the remaining 2-2.5 cups  marinara sauce and any leftover tofu ricotta. You can add vegan cheese on top,  but I don’t bother. Cover dish with tin foil and poke several air holes. Bake at  400F for about 20 minutes or until heated throughout. Serve with a basic green  salad and garlic bread, if desired.

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Butternut Risotto

This recipe has been in my “to try” list for a very very long time. I love butternut squash. In fact, lately I have been buying them whole and instead of peeling and chopping them up I just bake the entire squash whole at 400 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes. When the squash is soft, all I have to do to peel off the skin and scoop out the seeds. So easy, and then I have squash to last me for the rest of the week. I use it in salads, quesadillas, soups, etc.

The method of cooking squash that I described above yields steamed squash with a more canned pumpkin like texture. However, this recipe requires that you roast the squash in the oven to achieve a much deeper flavor and some nice carmelization. Other ingredients are roasted with the squash including apples, onions,  fresh sage, etc. It tasted a little like Thanksgiving stuffing with squash instead of bread.

While all the ingredients roasted, you cook your risotto. Risotto has a notorious reputation as being hard to replicate at home. My best advice would be to pay attention! Risotto requires stirring and an eye for when to add more stock to get the right consistency. Otherwise, it is surprising simple to make and takes about the same amount of time to cook as a pot of brown rice.

Once the veggies are roasted you combine them with the warm silky risotto and top the whole mixture with slivered almonds, fresh sage and some warm cream.  It was perfection! I often critique my dishes as I eat them thinking that I should have added more of this or less of that but this dish needed no changes. Enjoy with a glass of white wine and a arugula-based side salad for a hearty and filling winter meal.

Cozy Harvest Risotto (serves 3-4 people) (slightly adapted from Healthy Happy Life)

1 cup arborio rice
3 cups of vegetable broth

Veggie mix:
1 small apple, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups butternut squash, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced (or use more squash)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
about 1 Tbsp of fresh mixed herbs: fresh thyme + chopped rosemary + chopped sage
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or safflower oil
salt + pepper to taste

1/3 cup sliced almonds
fresh sage
non-dairy (plain) creamer or milk (warmed – optional) (I used warm almond milk)


1. In a large saute or sauce pan, add the risotto rice and 1 cup of the broth. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil. When boiling, begin to stir the rice with a large spoon or spatula. Keep stirring casually until the liquid has absorbed. Add in the remaining amount of broth in splashes as you keep stirring – until all the rice has absorbed the liquid. Now do a taste test of the rice. It should be velvety and tender when ready, so if the inside still tastes al dente, add in a few more splashes of broth. Keep adding until the rice is as tender as you’d like it. I like my rice very soft, so I usually add in about 3 1/2 cups of broth.

2. While your rice is cooking, you can do your harvest mix. You can either roast all these ingredients in the over (400 degrees for about 20 minutes) – or you can saute them in 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Whichever method you use, just cook until tender and ready to eat.

3. When both your rice and harvest mix components are cooked, you will not combine them to serve. Per one serving: add 1 cup of the risotto to a saute pan, over medium heat. Add in the almonds and fold well. Add in one fresh sage leaf torn into pieces. Fold well. Lastly, gently fold in 1/2 cup of the harvest mix. Allow to warm a bit then transfer to serving plate. Top with another spoonful of harvest mix and some fresh sage and almonds to garnish! Pepper on top is nice too. Add a splash of warmed non-dairy milk or creamer over top if desired.

This dish is best served on a warmed shallow bowl.

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