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Quick & Easy Meal #4: Lentil Bolognese; it's time to get your pasta on!

Posted on March 10, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

I love pasta! One of my favorite childhood memories is watching my Nonna rolling out long sheets of homemade pasta from her hand cranked pasta machine.  Over and over again, through and through, until the pasta got just the right thickness; cannelloni, raviolli, fettuccine, spaghetti-you name it, she made it. She would drape the long sheets of pasta over the back of a chair until she was ready to cut them and fill them. It was magical. Once the heaping bowl was placed in front of me, I would eat as much as I could in hopes that I would never forget the taste and smell of my Nonna's kitchen.  Luckily, every time I go home for a visit, there is undoubtebly, pasta waiting for me.

So, it's true that my every day pasta experiences aren't so romantic, but I still do love a good pasta dish.  There are about as many sauces you can put on pasta as the number of pasta varieties, but there is something so comforting about a thick, rich red sauce. I love using lentils as a meat substitute because they are hearty and so nutritious that once mixed with the other flavors, you don't even really know that you're missing the meat.  You can put this sauce on virtually any pasta shape; semolina or gluten free-it will still be delicious! I hope you enjoy it!


Lentil Bolognese

1 lb pasta of your choice; reg or g/f

3 garlic cloves; minced

1 small yellow onion; diced

1 tsp dried oregano

1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1-14 oz can brown lentils; drained & rinsed

salt & pepper

olive oil


Fill a large pasta pot with water and set to boil. Heat a dutch oven or medium size sauce pan on medium heat.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and add onions, along with a generous pinch of salt.  Saute the onions for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the oregano, tomatoes and another pinch of salt and stir.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Add the lentils and stir together.  Note: if you have any red wine on hand, feel free to add 2-3 tablespoons to the sauce at this point. It will add a nice depth and richness to the sauce and the alcohol will cook out.

Let the sauce simmer together for about 15-20 minutes. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a heavy handed dash of salt.  Remember, your pasta water should taste like the ocean-that's how it gives your pasta it's flavor! Cook your pasta according to package instructions.  Taste your sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Your sauce should have reduced down a little bit and may be a little thick. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to the sauce until you achieve the desired consistency. 

Once the pasta is done, use tongs to gently shake the pasta and put it directly into a pasta bowl-DO NOT RINSE YOUR PASTA, PEOPLE! You will wash away all of the beautiful starch and flavor that work into the sauce! Add the desired amount of sauce to the pasta and enjoy! Sprinkle with a little nutritional yeast or vegan parm!

Posted in 30 minutes of less, better choices, dinner time, easy dinners, easy meal prep, fat free, italian food, kid dinners, kid friendly, kid friendly meals, kid meals plant based, low fat, nutritious, plant based, quick healthy meals, quick meals, Recipe, vegan, vegan comfort food, whole food

Quick & Easy Meal #3: It's Chili Night...

Posted on March 06, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Let me tell you a little bit about this recipe.  A long time ago, about 8 years or so ago, my husband (who was then my boyfriend, soon to be fiance) decided he would make me a special Valentine's dinner.  Admittedly I was a little nervous because the only thing I'd ever seen him cook before was something he could put in the microwave.  But, he had a few tricks up his sleeve.  Apparently he was a master at one dish; chili.  And when you think of Valentine's day, don't you think of chili? Well, I didn't, at first...but, he made me the most delicious vegan chili I'd ever had; complete with rice and cornbread shaped life a heart.  And so, for the last 7 years, we have continued the tradition of a Vegan Chili Valentine's Day.  It's actually so sweet and I look forward to it every year.  Even our little boys get excited about it! And so, without further ado, here is my take on my hubby's chili. Enjoy!


Vegan Chili
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can white beans, drained & rinsed
1 14 oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 14 oz can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 packet chili seasoning (or use the recipe below*)
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/4 C vegan cheese, grated (optional)
vegan sour cream (optional)
avocado, diced (optional)
In a large dutch oven or pasta pot, warm up a drizzle of oil on medium heat.  Add the onions with a generous dash of salt.  Toss in oil and let cook for about 2-3 minutes or until translucent.  Add the garlic (with another pinch of salt) and toss.  Cook for another minute or so until fragrant.  Add the beans, crushed tomatoes and chili seasoning. Stir well and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes.  The chili will be quite thick, but If you like your chili a little more liquidy, add 1/4c-1/2 C water to loosen it up.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Top with green onions, sour cream, cheese and a slice of avocado.  Enjoy! 
P.S. If you like your chili a little sweeter, you can add 2-3 tablespoons of any of the following that you have on hand: maple syrup, agave, ketchup or cane sugar.
*Homemade Chili Seasoning
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp corriander

Posted in 30 minutes or less, kid dinners, kid friendly, plant good, vegan chili, whole food

Quick, Easy Meal # 2: Healthy Fried Rice

Posted on March 04, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Ok, everyone, here it is! Meal #2. I absolutely love this recipe! It is my go to-last minute-kids are hungry-and I have nothing but rice in the fridge-meal. Not only is it quick (pre-make the rice and this dish literally takes 10 minutes!), but you can feel really good about giving this to your family because it is super nutritious; fiber, protein, carbohydrates; this dish has it all.  Enjoy!


Healthy Fried Rice

2 C brown rice (uncooked)

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 C frozen stir fry vegetables; peas, corn, edamame, carrots etc

1/2 cashews (or other nut of your choice)

2-3 green onions, chopped

2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

1/4 terriyaki sauce (or use the homemade recipe below*) 

Prepare the rice first. If you have a rice cooker, now's the time to use it! Cook the rice according to your machine's instructions.  Set it in the morning before work and your rice will be ready when you get home!

In a large skillet, warm up a drizzle of olive oil (or oil of your choice) on medium heat.  Add the diced onion, a dash of salt and saute for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.  Add the frozen vegetables and cover the skillet for a couple of minutes to defrost the veggies.  Once the veggies have started to soften, add the cashews and stir.  Let the cashews fry up a little bit and then add the rice.  Crank up the heat to high for a few minutes and let all of the ingredients crisp up a little bit, tossing with a spatula frequently.  Add the terriyaki sauce and stir.  Remove from heat and top with green onions and sesame seeds.

*Homemade Terriyaki Sauce

2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari

2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup

1 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp mirin

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger

Whisk everything together and set in fridge until ready to use.



Posted in 30 minutes or less, kid friendly meals, plant based, quick healthy meals, vegan, whole foods

Easy Weeknight Meals

Posted on March 03, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 1 Comment

We asked and you answered! I wanted to know what topics you wanted us to cover most on our blog and overwhelmingly, you all said "QUICK, EASY MEALS"! So, I've created a 5-day dinner menu along with shopping list, that I will post over the next 2 weeks. Most of the prep and even some of the cooking can be done ahead of time and all of the recipes require 30 minutes or less of active cook time. Do your shopping and prep on Sunday or before the week and your meals will be a breeze. These recipes are designed to feed up to 4 people, so if you have a larger family or in my case, a really big appetite, all of these recipes can easily be doubled without loosing any integrity. 

Lastly, these meals are so versatile. If a recipe calls for broccoli but you prefer cauliflower swap it in. They can totally be customized to your family’s taste buds! Oh, and don’t forget to post pictures of dinners and post them to twitter or instagram @michysfoods. Enjoy, friends!

We'll be making:

  • Lentil Tacos
  • Healthy Fried Rice
  • Vegan Chili
  • Lentil Bolognese
  • Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Here is your shopping list for all of the recipes:

12 hard taco shells/soft tortillas (your preference)

1 lb pasta of your choice

2 cups brown rice (uncooked)

2 14 oz cans brown lentils OR 3 ½ C cooked brown lentils

1 14 oz can white beans

1 14 oz can black beans

1 14 oz can pinto beans

2 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 avocados

4 small yellow onions

4-6 large sweet potatoes or garnet yams

1 head garlic

1 bunch green onions

1 package taco seasoning (or you can make your own mix, see below*)

1 packet chili seasoning (or you can make your own mix, see below on "Chili Night" recipe)

dried oregano

terriyaki sauce (or you can make your own, see below on "Healthy Fried Rice" recipe)

½ C cashews (or nut of your choice)

sesame seeds (optional)

1 ½ C frozen stir fry vegetables

Olive Oil, Coconut or Non-GMO vegetable oil (whatever you have on hand)

vegan cheese of your choice

salsa (optional)

vegan sour cream (optional)


First Up: Lentil Tacos

My family absolutely loves this recipe. I make it almost every week. Once you fill your crunchy taco shell with the hearty lentils and top it with all the fixin's, you won't even realize it's vegan! Enjoy!

Taco Filling:

1 14-oz can brown lentils (or about 1 3/4 C cooked lentils)

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 packet taco seasoning (OR use the homemade recipe below*)

1/4-1/2 C water

Taco Toppings:

12 taco shells or tortillas

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 C vegan cheese, grated

vegan sour cream


Warm up a large skillet to medium heat with a light drizzle of oil. When the pan is hot, add the onions and a dash of salt.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes until they are translucent.  Add the garlic and mix, making sure not to burn.  When the garlic is fragrant, add the lentils and taco seasoning; mixing well.  Add about 1/4 cup of water to loosen up the mixture and bring to a boil.  Stir frequently and then lower to simmer for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.  While that is cooking, prepare all of your toppings and warm your shells or tortillas in the oven (325 for about 3-4 minutes).  Taste the lentils and adjust seasonings in necessary.  Spoon into shell and top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! See, wasn't that easy?!?!!?


*Homemade Taco Seasoning

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp corriander

1/2 tsp oregano






Posted in 30 minutes of less, easy dinners, kid dinners, kid friendly, quick meals, vegan, weeknight meals, whole foods

A Tale of a Juice Cleanse...

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 1 Comment

All 8 juices. Each flavor was really, really delicious!

So last week my husband and I did a juice cleanse.  Now, let me start off by saying that although I love juices, green drinks, smoothies and the like, I am a big fan of actual food.  In fact, most of my day is centered around what I'm going to eat next-true story.  So, when my husband asked if I'd like to join him on a 5-day juice cleanse, I was a little hesitant.  Would I be able to go 5 days without eating solid food?  What if I got so hungry I passed our in the car?  What if I got such bad headaches, I actually lost my mind?  What if the world imploded?!?!  Ok, so I'm being a little dramatic but similar thoughts did run through my head.  Luckily for me, there was a 3-day program that I was able to wrap my brain around.  We went with Juice Crafters here in Los Angeles; which has probably the most delicious juices and smoothies on the planet.  We often grab a drink or two when we're at the Brentwood Farmer's Market, so my faith was growing in my ability to do this cleanse.  My husband went for the ambitious 5-day Master Cleanse where as I opted for the 3-day. (Note: this Master Cleanse is no relation to the other Master Cleanse where in you only intake lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup water for 10 days.  I tried that for a few days many years back and was utterly offended and nearly did loose my mind, but that's another story).  Anyhow, each day we had 8 drinks-8-I mean, it's a lot of liquid!  And since I still started my day with my cup of green tea, by the time I even started juice 1, I was having a drink almost every hour and a half.  The flavors were so thoughtful and unique and yummy, by the way!  And the best part was, I actually wasn't even hungry!  I know, me, not hungry!?!?! But it was true.  My blood sugar was stable and I was surprisingly in a very good mood.  Even my kids seemed surprised!  The hardest part about the whole cleanse was getting dinner ready for my kids.  It wasn't so much that I was hungry but the ritual of eating with them and the smells of the food cooking was hard to resist.  But, it was only 3 days so I tried to suck it up.  And I'm glad I did.  It was a great experience.  The best thing about this cleanse is that it isn't a "weight loss" cleanse.  So many times I see people do cleanses and then shed a ton of weight but then once they get back to eating food again, the weight just creeps back on.  Neither myself or my husband wanted to loose weight.  We just wanted to kind of press the restart button after indulging and being sick over the holidays.  We kind of wanted to give our immune system and metabolism a little jump start.  Because the drinks had a fair amount of calories, neither one of us lost weight but we both finished the cleanse feeling lighter and leaner and our transition back into our whole foods plant based diet has been seamless.  It kind of gave us the recharge we were looking for to kick off the new year.  Anyhow, that's my experience.  Have you ever done a cleanse?  What was your experience like? 

This almond milk was my favorite.  I ended each night with it and I would savor every last drop. I will never make almond milk without dates again. So delicious!

The raw almond milk with dates & vanilla bean was my favorite flavor and new favorite drink. An absolutely delicious & deceptively nutritious treat!

Posted in fat free, juicecleanse, low fat, plant based, raw, vegan, whole foods

Super Simple-5 minute-Powerhouse-Hemp Seed-Avocado-Sweet Pea-Basil Pesto

Posted on January 16, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Ok, folks, are you ready for dinner tonight? Seriously, this pesto recipe will change your life.  Fry up some tofu, boil up some pasta, saute your veggies, or just grab a spoon because this pesto recipe is so delicious that it will go with anything that you already have on hand.  It's bright and fresh and packed (I mean packed) with nutrients! Did you know that hemp seeds are super high in protein and have all 9 essential amino acids?!? If you're unfamiliar with hemp seeds, check them out.  They have a delicious, nutty bite and can thrown in practically anything.  Especially important with little ones who can sometimes be picky.  Hemp seeds hidden in pancakes and smoothies? Sure, why not!  Obviously avocado, sweet peas and basil also have a ton of health benefits so really, this recipe is a win-win! Check it out and let me know what you think!


5 minute Powerhouse Pesto

Makes 1 1/2 Cups
3 heaping C basil, rinsed
1/4 C nuts; cashews, almonds or pine nuts
1/2 avocado
1/4 C frozen peas, defrosted
3 Tbsp raw hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Generous pinch of salt; very generous
1/4 or more Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or water/veg broth if you don't do oil)


In your blender or cuisinart, pulse together nuts, seeds and garlic until evenly chopped.  Add basil, avocado, peas, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and salt and pulse until everything starts to break down.  Slowly stream in EVO or water while pulsing, making sure to scrape down the sides as you go.  Blend together until a nice cohesive sauce forms.  You can add more or less EVO/water depending on how watery you like your pesto.  If you like it more like a hummus, stop at about 1/4 C, if you like it more like a chimichurri, add a little more until you reach your desired consistency.  Taste and adjust seasoning in necessary.  Then, grab a spoon and indulge!


Posted in vegan gluten free hemp pesto simple suppers quick dinners

Rich & Savory Cabbage Soup

Posted on January 13, 2014 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Welcome to 2014! I know I'm a little late to the game (about 2 weeks late) but right before the New Year we all got hit with this pesky little cold and cough.  It was an inconvenient way to spend my last few days on vacation but it did help me create a delicious and soul satisfying soup to help clear out the remnants of illness and give my body the dose of vitamins it was needing.  This is soup is so super easy and gets better the longer it sits-it's kind of a win win.  The base is cabbage but you can throw in whatever additional veggies, herbs and spices you have on hand.  I think you should go ahead and try this recipe out tonight!

Rich & Savory Cabbage Soup

Serves 4-6

1 small napa or savory cabbage; sliced into strips

1 leek, sliced

1 onion, sliced

2 medium red potatoes, diced

4 carrots, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

2 Tbsp fresh herbs; rosemary, dill, oregano, tarragon etc

1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

4 C vegetable broth or water

Salt & Pepper to season

Heat a large stock pot or dutch oven on medium heat and add 1 Tbsp on olive oil.  If you are avoiding oil all together, put a thin layer of water on the bottom of the pot.  Once hot, add the onions and leeks and a generous pinch of salt.  Let cook down for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft.  Stir frequently to avoid burning.  The leeks are such a beautiful and vibrant green.  I want to put them in everything!

Once the onion and leeks have cooked down, add the carrots and garlic with another generous pinch of salt and cook for another few minutes until the garlic is fragrant. 

Then add the potatoes, cabbage, bay leaf and herbs. Toss to coat with the other ingredients and then add the veggie broth (or water).

Bring everything up to a boil and then reduce down to a low simmer for about 45 minutes, partially covered. 

Once all of the vegetables are very tender and the cabbage has reduced it's size to about half (45 minutes or so), season with additional salt, pepper, cayenne (of using) and worcestershire sauce.  Gently stir everything together and remove from heat.  Serve immediately or let sit.  Grab a piece of crusty buttered bread and you're good to go.  Enjoy!

Posted in vegan gluten free savory soup

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