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Make Meal Time Easy: 5 ready to go must haves in your fridge!

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

People are always asking me for tips on how to make quick and healthy meals for their families.  They just don't have the time.  By the time they get off work, pick up the kids, eek through traffic and finally get home, the last thing they want to do is spend an hour getting dinner on the table.  I get it.  So, here are 5 must haves in your fridge to make meal time much more manageable. 

On Sunday night once my kids have gone to sleep, I start to make a loose map of meals for the week and make sure that I have some things cooked and on hand in the fridge to make meal time easier.  By washing, prepping and cooking things on Sunday, I find that my week nights are much more manageable.

1. Baked Sweet Potatoes/Russet Potatoes: We love potatoes at our house, especially sweet potatoes.  I usually bake up 6-8 big potatoes (roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes depending on how big) at the beginning of the week.  I store them in my glass tupperware and they are ready to go.  Sometimes we make baked potato night with all the fixins' or sometimes I'll dice up the sweet potato and make a quick hash.  You can also slice them up, toss in a little olive oil and herbs and through under the broiler for some quick fries.  Potatoes are also great taco fillings.  Saute with some taco seasoning and stuff inside a crispy taco shell. Potatoes are actually quite nutrient-dense, help keep your sugar levels steady and leave you feeling full. 

2. Rinsed Greens: I always, always, always have my salad spinner in my fridge full of greens; red leaf, kale, spinach-whatever.  It may not sound like much, but having greens ready to go is one of my best practices.  It doesn't seem like much, but rinsing and sorting through a bunch of spinach can be really time consuming, especially if it just came from the ground.  With ready-to-go greens, you can make a quick salad, saute up some greens and garlic or make a smoothie.  We all need to make sure we're getting our greens and making them accessible is one of the best ways to make it easy to do so.

3. Cooked Brown Rice/Quinoa: This is a must! I try to cook up a bunch of brown rice at the beginning of the week and just keep it in the rice cooker bowl in the fridge.  Brown rice can take 40 minutes to cook and even quinoa can take 20 so having this already done is a huge life saver.  You can do a quick fried rice with veggies and tofu or saute it up with your "pre-cleaned" greens and sweet potatoes!  You can even sprinkle it on top of your salad for a heartier meal.

4. Cooked Lentils: We love lentils in our house and substitute them for pretty much everything but they can take awhile to cook.  Having them cooked and ready to go will cut out a lot of prep time.  You can use them in a bolognese sauce, taco filling or sloppy joes.  You could also saute them with your cooked rice.  Lentils are so filling and are rich in protein, folate and iron.  They may be the healthiest food out there!

5. Ready-Made Sauce: Ok, here is where we can tie all of these things together; with a sauce.  I always have a vegan cheese sauce and tahini dressing ready to go to top off salads or rice bowls.  But use whatever is your favorite; terriyaki sauce, hot sauce, hoisin-whatever you and your family likes best.  And if you don't want to make it yourself, take a little help from the store and keep your favorite topping in your fridge.  A good sauce always ties the meal together so pick out your favorite and keep it on hand.

I hope this little list helped.  What are some of your favorite things to have on hand?


Posted in dinner time, easy meal prep, kid friendly, vegan food

One Pot Meal: Lentils & Rice

Posted on October 01, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Are you ready for a super simple, fat free, warm, comforting Fall dish?  Did I mention it has 7 ingredients and takes only 5 minutes of active cook time?  It's true!  The best part of this meal is that all you have to do is put all the ingredients into the rice cooker.  Yes, that's right, I said rice cooker!  It's amazing.  I know, people have been using slow cookers for awhile now, but I don't have one, so I'm always pretty impressed when I can cook something without even being home.

So, I admit, lentils and rice may not be the sexiest dish, but it's definitely hearty and soul satisfying.  I remember my Grandma Mary making this all the time, but she spend much longer standing over the stove cooking it.  Of course as a child I didn't appreciate Italian peasant food, but over the years I have come to adore this dish and I feel like I'm giving my kids a little piece of my heritage each time we make it.  My poor little rice cooker has been with me since high school but it's a trooper and always performs.  Since brown rice and brown lentils have similar cooking times, I thought this just might work.  And it did!  The rice still had a little bite, the lentils were soft and the stock I used, kept everything moist and flavorful.  Not to mention that this dish is loaded with protein, fiber and folate.  And since it's made without oil, there is no added fat.  This dish will help you stay full and satisfied for awhile.  I hope you try this recipe at home.

Rustic Lentils & Rice

1 C uncooked brown rice, rinsed
1/2 C dry brown lentils, rinsed
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 bay leaf
3 tsp tomato paste
3 1/2 C No Chicken Broth (or any veggie broth)
2 tsp salt
Start by rinsing your rice and lentils, picking out any discolored lentils. 
Add to the bowl of your rice cooker.  Dice up the carrot and onion and toss into the bowl.  Add the bay leaf, tomato paste, broth and salt and gently stir together. 
Put the lid on and let it go! 
I like to top mine with a little avocado for some green and creaminess, but you can also top with green onions, vegan parm or hot sauce.  Enjoy!

Posted in fat free, italian food, kid meals plant based, nutritious, vegan, vegan comfort food

Beyond the PB & J-Back to School Lunch Ideas.

Posted on September 08, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

It's that time again, back to school.  For most of us we are excited to get our little ones back into the routine of school and they're usually excited to see all of their friends.  But with that often comes the responsibility of daily lunches.  For some of us preparing lunches are easy.  We thrive on getting creative with different food combinations, designing perfectly balanced meals for our little ones.  But for others, we actually have anxiety about what to pack; either over packing with everything but the kitchen sink, or not packing enough.  So wherever you are on the spectrum, here are a few ideas that are sure to please both parent and child; they're quick, cheap and packed with nutrients.

Hummus Wrap

Hummus is a food of the gods in our house.  Packed with protein, it will keep your little one's energy up and sugar levels steady.  Swap out any of the veggies below for what your child prefers. 

1 sprouted tortilla

2 Tbsp hummus (any flavor your child likes)

1/4 avocado, sliced

2 long strips of cucumber

2 slices of bell pepper

Spread hummus on tortilla, layer in veggies and roll up.  Secure with a toothpick or two. 

Pasta & Peas

Using whole wheat or quinoa pasta in this adds protein and heartiness to this lunch.  The peas are sweet and the quick cheese sauce is a sure win over any kid!  The B vitamins and amino acids in the nutritional yeast are a bonus, too!  If your child enjoys beans or lentils, this is a great way to sneak in some extra protein as well.

1 C cooked pasta of your choice

3 Tbsp thawed sweet peas

1-2 Tbsp garbanzo beans or cooked lentils (optional)

2 Tbsp non-dairy butter (We like Earth Balance soy free variety)

1 heaping Tbsp nutritional yeast

Splash of non dairy milk

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the nutritional yeast and milk and stir to make a sauce.  Add the pasta and peas to coat.  Can be eaten warm or cold.

Tofu Bites

These little tofu bites are tasty and delicious.  The camoflaged peas give your child a daily dose of veg and also adds more protein and vitamin C.  The flaxseed meal adds a nice nutty quality to the panko as well as providing some vital Omega 3s.  Pack with a little dipping sauce; my kids like ketchup or teriyaki sauce. 

Crispy Tofu Bites

1 16oz package organic sprouted tofu

1/4 C pureed green peas

1/2 C non-dairy milk

3/4 C panko breadcrumbs

2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the tofu from the package and pat dry with a couple of paper towels, being sure to remove all of the extra liquid.  Cut into 16 equal size cubes and set aside.  In one bowl add the milk and pureed peas and mix.  In another bowl add the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, spices and mix together.   Coat each piece of tofu in the milk/pea mixture and then roll it in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure to coat each side.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and cook for 15-18 minutes (turning once) or until golden brown.  Excellent served warm or cold. 

What are some of your kid's favorite lunches?

Posted in back to school lunches, kids, vegan, vegan food

My latest eats...

Posted on August 25, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 1 Comment

My mama was in town a couple of weeks ago. 

In addition to hanging with the kiddos and doing a little shopping, my mom is always eager to try new food.  We're constantly sharing our latest foodie adventures and vegan recipes, so there were a couple of places I wanted to take her to.  I had told her about M.A.K.E by Matthew Kenney in Santa Monica several months back and she was very excited to try it.  We headed out for an early lunch one Sunday morning with my dearest friend for a girl's day out.  My mom was in love with the menu.  We ordered a bunch of food to share, some items I'd tried before and some new.  Everything was absolutely delectable. We shared the Cheese Plate and Kimchi dumplings, which were divine.  We also ordered the Kelp Noodles, Lasagna and Carrot Gnocchis.  I really can't express how good the kelp noodles were-they are my favorite dish!  They are creamy and spicy and aldente, if you can believe it.  So good!  The lasagna is unbelievably satisfying and the carrot gnocchis were light and delicate.  We finished the meal with a duo of desserts; the Key Lime Pie and the Chocolate Ganache Cake with Churro Ice Cream.  Wow!  The desserts are a must try.  The pie was light and refreshing and the chocolate cake was rich and decadent.  The ice cream was freakishly dairy-like.  So delicious!  My mom is still talking about the meal!  The thing I appreciate the most about this restaurant is that it's so good you don't even realize that the food is raw.  It's not "good for a raw food place", it's just good food

The Cheese Plate & Kimchi Dumplings. The chese plate was so decadant and the kimchi dumplings are literally melt in your mouth delicious!

We also visited Susan Feniger's Street in West Hollywood.  My husband and I just love that place.  Although it's not a vegan restaurant, they have a ton of vegan options, each are clearly marked.  And all of the options are delicious.  It's not like they just phoned it in with the "veg" options (you know what I'm talking about), the food is really thoughtful and yummy.  It's a small plate restaurant, which is perfect for us because we love to share.  Ok, here's what we got: Yucca Fries w/Coconut Curry, Jackfruit Bao, Ramen Noodles w/Bok Choy, Tofu & Mushrooms, Potato Samosas & Apricot Cake.  We liked everything.  If you've never tried yucca fries, I suggest you do.  They are starchy and crunchy and a nice alternative to potato.  The coconut curry on top was a little thick for my taste but it was a delicious dish.  The bao is my favorite.  The bun is soft and a little chewy and it's covered in a peanuty-hoisen sauce-whew-so good!  The ramen was solid.  I always love a good noddle dish.  The samosas were just delicious-crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle.  It comes with a date chutney, cilantro pesto and raita (not vegan).  I would eat the date chutney by itself, it was that good.  And I loved finishing the meal with such a delectable little cake.  It was moist and flavorful.  I am always so excited when my dessert is more than sorbet :-)

If you haven't tried M.A.K.E or Street, you definitely should make your way there.  You won't be disappointed.  Where have you been eating lately??


Posted in raw food, restuarant review, vegan food

Veg News Veggie Awards 2013

Posted on August 21, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

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Posted in best vegan cookie company, veg news awards, vegan cookies

A Guest Post from My Husband...

Posted on August 18, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 1 Comment

My wife is the founder of Michy’s Foods and she is vegan. She runs a vegan cookie company. We raise our kids on a plant-based diet. When we dine out, we tend to visit vegan establishments or at the very least seek out vegan menu options at non-vegan restaurants. 

So, why in the world am I 100% vegan, 80% of the time? 

I’m sure that conjures a few questions out of the gate. So, understanding how I approach the issue of diet is probably a good place to start…

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Posted in better choices, plant based, vegan

5 Tips for Raising Veggie Lovin' Kids & Recipe for Kale Pesto

Posted on August 11, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

When people find that I'm plant-based, it’s not uncommon to be asked if my kids are as well.  When I say yes, I usually get a look that consists of equal parts pity and horror, which is followed up by the inevitable question, "Soooo. what do they eat?  How do you know if they get enough protein?" 

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