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California Motley Soup


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Meal Ideas, Soups | Posted on 25-07-2011

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I worked as a waitress throughout high school and college in a variety of different restaurants. Nearly all of them served a soup called California Medley. It was a creamy soup (sometimes cheesy, sometimes not) with cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. I’m sure it came from Martin Brothers or some other food service place, so it was OK. I wasn’t in love with it, but I always liked the idea of it.

Flash forward to the present, where I have turned into a soup-making machine and even have a blog with the word “soup” in it. And yet, I’ve never tried to remake California Medley and make it awesome. Until now.

I’m calling my version of this soup California Motley because it’s much more of a mishmash than your regular old medley. It has yummy fresh herbs and fresh farmer’s market veggies  (as opposed to veggies that came from god-knows-where, guar gum and who knows what else). And it rhymes with Motley Crew. Who isn’t at least intrigued by that?

Oh, and did I mention that kids LOVE it? Mine gobbled it up and then stood by with spoons trying to steal more when I put away the leftovers. The other great thing about this soup is that it smells simply amazing while it cooks.

For those of you who want to run out to your nearest farmer’s market so you can get your fresh veggies and herbs, I have listed those that are in season and available in Iowa below.


1 tsp. butter or buttery spread
1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, chopped
1 medium-sized head of broccoli, chopped (florets only, no stems) — Farmer’s Market Item
1 tbsp. garlic scapes, diced — Farmer’s Market Item
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 small carrots, chopped
3 medium-sized potatoes, chopped
1 small onion, diced — Farmer’s Market Item
1 tsp. fennel seed — You can add fresh fennel from the Farmer’s Market
1-2 tbsp. fresh basil– Farmer’s Market Item
1 tbsp. fresh dill, minced– Farmer’s Market Item
1 tbsp. fresh celery leaf– Farmer’s Market Item
6 tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
6 cups water
1-2 tsp. freshly ground pepper


  1. Saute onion and celery in buttery spread until clear and soft. (Add liquid aminos a tablespoon at a time to avoid sticking.)
  2. Add garlic scapes and fennel seed. Saute until fragrant, about two minutes.
  3. Add carrots, potatoes and cauliflower, then pour in water and remaining aminos. (For a thicker soup, pour water until barely covering veggies.)
  4. Bring to a boil and boil until veggies are tender (around 10 minutes).
  5. Turn heat down to low. Add the broccoli. (This will cook while you follow steps 5 through 8.)
  6. Using a ladle, dish out about half of the broth and veggies into a blender.
  7. Add cheese and pepper to the blender.
  8. Blend under “liquify” until smooth.
  9. Pour the blended mixture into the remaining soup in the pot. NOTE: This method helps us get a creamy texture without added butter, flour and cream (so this recipe is gluten-free).
  10. Add the basil, celery leaf and dill. NOTE: These herbs will MAKE the soup, but are optional for kids. Pickier kids may like the soup better without.

Kung Pao Sliders


Posted by Mariah | Posted in 21-Day-Adventure Cleanse, Appetizers & Sides, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas | Posted on 11-01-2011

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We can all thank the “slider” concept for making burgers even more fun. But this recipe, adapted from the Vegetarian Times, makes them healthy, too.

I made part of this recipe way easier to make by simply opting to make less sliders and using Wildwood marinated and baked tofu instead of making the “tofu” part of the slider myself. Then, I paired this with an awesome kale stir-fry recipe from VT.

Full disclosure: Because the sliders look like burgers, your kids will probably try them. However, you might forgo the Asian slaw so they’re not overwhelmed by too many different textures. My kids didn’t care much for the sliders with the slaw, but they liked the kale stir fry just fine.

Ingredients For Sliders:

1 package Wildwood Baked Teriyaki, slice each tofu square to fit slider buns
8 slider buns

Ingredients For Asian Slaw
3 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbs. vegan mayonnaise
2 Tbs. no-salt-added creamy natural peanut butter
5 tsp. natural cane sugar
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
2 medium zucchini, julienned (8 oz.)
4 medium carrots, julienned (8 oz.)
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

Directions for Sliders:

  1. Stack tofu and then slaw between slider buns. (Feel free to toast the buns beforehand.)

Directions for Slaw:

  1. Whisk together soy sauce, mayonnaise, peanut butter, cane sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using), in large bowl.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Skinny Soup


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Meal Ideas, Soups | Posted on 18-12-2010

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I threw this soup together with some veggies I already had in my fridge because I wanted something simple, filling and low-fat. I called it skinny soup (at least in my head) and decided to include it on the blog. I then Googled “skinny soup” and realized that Dr. Oz had already made it up!

Dr. Oz’s skinny soup recipe is very similar to mine. However, mine is vegan and WAY easier to make. (The Dr. Oz recipe takes at least two hours. Mine takes about 30 minutes.)

So, whip this up and gobble it down — without any guilt!


1 small onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large clove garlic
1 carrot, diced
2 cups cabbage, chopped
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. dried celery
1 pinch fennel seed
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp. red wine
4 tbsp. liquid aminos
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper (optional)
1 cup edamame


  1. Saute onions and celery with liquid aminos on medium-high heat until clear.
  2. Add garlic and red wine and saute until fragrant, about two minutes.
  3. Add carrots, spices and cabbage. Saute for five more minutes until veggies soften.
  4. Add tomato sauce. Add water to the rim of the un-rinsed can (so as not to waste tomato sauce) and pour into soup. Pour another can of water into soup.
  5. Add edamame.
  6. Bring soup to a simmer and simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Pour into bowls and serve with croutons, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or vegan cheese).

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Appetizers & Sides, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas, Uncategorized | Posted on 29-09-2010

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Nearly everyone I know loves grilled cheese — it’s practically the perfect comfort food. But sometimes you want a little kick with your comfort. These “gourmet” grilled cheese sandwiches deliver and then some. They give you all of the crispy grilled-ness you love, just with more flavor and different cheeses.

I grew up hating cheese. It’s true. Someone made me eat a Kraft single when I was about four, and I was a cheese hater my entire childhood and well into adulthood, until I met my husband. He convinced me there was something inherently wrong with not liking cheese and made me try real cheese — sharp cheddar, gouda, swiss and goat to name a few — and then I was hooked! These cheeses were nothing like that oily, floppy old slice I flushed down the toilet when I was a kid!

Needless to say, when I make a grilled cheese sandwich, for my kids, myself or the hubby, I use real cheese. That’s an absolute must. But liking spicy foods, I’ve found over time that I need something more. That something more being flavor — veggies, spices, etc. So I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes with you now.

Besides real, good cheese, the other must of an awesome grilled cheese sandwich is good bread. If you don’t worry about “healthy” bread, one of the best breads to use is Pepperidge Farms sandwich white. For those wanting a healthier bread, I like Rudi’s Organic 7 Grain with Flax.

Now that you have your bread, you need to make sure you have either a grill press or a heavy pan, preferably a cast iron skillet, to press your sandwich. This is a must to achieve the all-over-golden-brown deliciousness demonstrated in the photo. However, if you don’t have a press of some sort, it will still taste good without it.


Gouda cheese
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Goat cheese
Sun-dried tomato pesto
1/4 red onion, diced
1/4 red pepper, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
Butter or buttery spread

For vegans:
You can use Daiya shreds, either Cheddar or Mozzarella, to make these sandwiches every bit as yummy as the real thing. This is really the only exception to my “real” cheese must. :)


  1. Heat skillet to medium heat, or griddle to 350.
  2. Lightly toast your bread in your toaster — this is a must for a good, crispy sandwich and another trick I learned from my husband.
  3. Butter opposite sides of bread, and then lay the buttered sides together, like you’re making a butter sandwich.
  4. For the Gouda cheese sandwich: layer three thin slices of Gouda on the dry bread side. Sprinkle with red onion and peppers. Layer three more thin slices of Gouda on top of the veggies. Then turn the bottom buttered toast layer on top of the stack, so that now both buttered sides are exposed.
  5. For the goat cheese and mozzarella sandwich: spread the sun-dried tomato pesto on the bread. Top with two thin slices of mozzarella and about five goat cheese crumbles. Then turn the bottom buttered toast over as directed above. If you want veggies, add them!
  6. Grill for about a minute, then flip over.
  7. Now lay your press on top of the sandwich and grill for one more minute.
  8. Flip over again and grill for another 30 seconds so that both sides are uniformly golden.
  9. Let cool for about a minute, then cut into sections and serve.

Blue Potato Enchilada Casserole


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Casseroles, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas, Uncategorized | Posted on 14-09-2010

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September just happens to be national potato month! What better way to celebrate than with this unique blue potato enchilada recipe.

I found some excellent blue potatoes at the Cedar Falls Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago at the Friedrich farm stand. I instantly fell in love with their unique flavor and texture, not to mention their gorgeous blue-purple color! They seemed to me the perfect filler for my ever-evolving vegetarian enchilada recipe, and hence they were!

I made a pan of these enchiladas for our cousins in Des Moines last weekend using Juan O’Sullivans Salsa De Mesa, a locally made salsa, as the enchilada sauce. It was absolutely delicious. You can order your own jar right online if you wan to try the salsa in this recipe. If not, any can of red enchilada sauce will do.

4 medium blue potatoes, thinly sliced with skins on
1 small onion, chopped
1 14-oz can of red enchilada sauce or 1 jar of Juan O’Sullivans
6 whole-wheat tortillas
1 can black beans
1 12-oz. bag of cheddar cheese
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
4 roasted green chile peppers, or 1 can green chiles (optional)
1 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Start by covering the bottom of  the pan with one ladle of enchilada sauce.
  3. Spread two tortillas across the middle of the pan. Tear the other tortilla in half and then layer the two halves on opposites sides of the pan, with the straight edges parallel to the edge of the pan.
  4. Spread another ladle of sauce over the tortillas.
  5. Lay 1/2 of the potato slices flat on top of the sauce, spreading them evenly across the pan.
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 of the onions and 1/2 of the beans over the potatoes.
  7. If using green chiles, spread these evenly over the onions and beans.
  8. Add 1/2 of the cheese.
  9. Repeat step 2 by spreading tortillas over the cheese.
  10. Spread another ladle of sauce over the tortillas.
  11. Repeat steps 4 through 8 (though you will probably be out of green chiles; if not, spread the rest)
  12. Add red pepper slices to the top of the cheese.
  13. Cover the pan with foil and bake for and hour and 15 minutes.
  14. Allow to cool and set up for 10 minutes before serving.
  15. Serve with Heirloom Tomato and Sweet Corn Salsa.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta


Posted by Mariah | Posted in 21-Day-Adventure Cleanse, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas, Pastas | Posted on 14-05-2010

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Broccoli pesto pasta may just be my favorite vegan dish! When you add broccoli to the pesto mix, it takes on the texture of grated Parmesan cheese, and is wonderfully flavorful. Even if you’re not vegan, with this recipe, there really is no need to add the extra fat, salt and cholesterol found in cheese.

I was inspired to make this dish by a series of broccoli dishes featured in the April edition of Vegetarian Times. I decided to make my normal pesto recipe and just add broccoli. I combined the pesto with spaghetti noodles knowing I’d have a better chance of getting the kids to try it since they innately love “basketti.” Everyone — hubby, kids and I — loved it.


2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts (toast in a skillet over medium heat until golden-to-dark brown)
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed until bright green, but not mushy
1/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 package of thin spaghetti (vegans, look for egg-less pasta; for a healthier pasta, I like Barilla Plus Pasta), cooked al dente


Pulse ingredients (except pasta, of course) together in a food processor until smooth. Combine pesto with pasta. Garnish with additional broccoli florets if desired. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Farmer’s Market Veggie Lasagna


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Main Dishes, Meal Ideas, Uncategorized | Posted on 09-05-2010

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The Cedar Falls Farmers Market opened last week, loaded with lots of fresh veggies, herbs and flowers. Leafy greens were the main attraction — the perfect inspiration for an Italian meal featuring veggie lasagna, a real spring mix salad and fresh-baked bread.

I try to go the Farmer’s Market every Saturday, for a multitude of reasons. The biggest one is to support our local farmers. They are nothing short of amazing in their skill, knowledge and dedication. The farmer from whom I bought my spring greens took about 10 minutes of his time to help me plan my herb garden. As I watched him explain the different ways the plants would need to be cared for, with hands permanently etched with dirt, he actually talked me OUT of planting much more than a few pots of herbs. (He probably realized his precious plants might not fair too well in my hands! I love to cook with fresh vegetables, but I’ve literally killed every single plant I’ve ever owned, with the exception of two cacti.)

The second reason I shop regularly at the farmer’s market is because buying locally is better for the planet. There’s less transportation involved in moving your food from point A to point B. There’s less packaging, and thus, less waste, especially if you re-use your produce and grocery bags!

The third reason is that the food simply tastes better. Lettuce that was recently plucked from the ground is crisper and has that almost indescribably fresh, earthy flavor. Bread that was recently made by hand and plucked from an oven that morning is soft and fragrant, with a distinctly homey flavor.

OK, enough preaching about the farmer’s market. I give you the recipe — plus ideas for a salad and the name of the wonderful baker who made my bread. I can tell you that the whole meal was a big hit with my kids and their friends — they ate almost every bite and virtually devoured the bread!


1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (I like Muir Glen organic)
1 can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. oregano
2 tbsp. fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil — fresh is a farmer’s market ingredient
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp. fresh) — fresh is a farmer’s market ingredient
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup water
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped — farmer’s market ingredient
1/2 package veggie crumbles (I like Morningstar Farms)
1 1/2 cups fresh mozzarella, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups grated mozzarella (not the fresh kind)
1 package lasagna noodles (uncooked)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Saute onions and peppers in a saucepan over medium-high heat for about five minutes.
  3. Add garlic and saute one to two more minutes until fragrant.
  4. Add tomatoes, oregano, basil, pepper flakes, veggie crumbles and water. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. While sauce is cooking, stir cheeses together.
  6. When sauce has simmered, ladle about one cup on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  7. Layer uncooked noodles over the sauce.
  8. Cover with another cup of sauce.
  9. Cover sauce with 2 cups spinach.
  10. Cover spinach with 1/2 of the cheese.
  11. Repeat the steps, starting with another layer of noodles, then sauce and so forth.
  12. You will finish the layering with the cheese on top.
  13. Sprinkle additional pepper flakes and rosemary on top for a prettier dish.
  14. Bake for 45 minutes.
  15. Allow lasagna to cool, then serve with the spring greens salad below and the Sandwich Loaf made by Lorna Martin at Wild Wood farms.

Spring Green Salad Ingredients:

2 cups spinach
1 head romaine lettuce
1 sprig fresh dill, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced


Toss the above together and serve it with your favorite dressing. Mine is Goddess Dressing by Annie’s Naturals.

Spicy Peanut Soup


Posted by Mariah | Posted in 21-Day-Adventure Cleanse, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas, Soups | Posted on 23-02-2010

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Spicy Peanut Soup

I absolutely LOVE peanut butter — peanut sauce, PB&J, peanut butter cookies, Peanut Butter Panic ice cream … you get the drift. I’ve been making an Indonesian dish that features a delicious peanut sauce called Gado Gado since I first started really cooking in my early 20s. So, when I saw this delicious soup in the Post Punk Kitchen, it reminded me of Gado Gado and I had to try it.

I knew the veggies in the original recipe wouldn’t fly with my family, so I added my own combination of zucchini, peppers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. I also added edamame for a little extra protein. Without noodles or rice, this soup/stew is low carb and LOADED with veggies (don’t let that long list scare you). It’s seriously one of the yummiest soups I’ve ever made (and I’ve made A LOT of soups in my life). Plus, it’s the perfect winter warm-up comfort food!

NOTE: If cooking this dish for kids, omit the hot chili and spice it up on your own with Srirachi sauce.


1 cup shallots, sliced very thin
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp. peanut or dark sesame oil
1 hot chili, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic
1” cube of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
1 16 oz. can roasted diced tomatoes w/ juice
5 cups water or light veggie broth
1/2 cup creamy or chunky natural peanut butter

1 red pepper
1 cup cauliflower
1 small zucchini
1 large carrot, sliced on the diagonal
1 head broccoli
1 cup cabbage
1 cup frozen edammame
1 tbsp. honey (optional)
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, lightly packed
chopped roasted peanuts and cilantro leaves for garnish

Peanut Stir

1. Saute onions and shallots in peanut or sesame oil for five minutes, or until tender.

2. Add garlic and saute another two minutes, then add ginger and chile and fry for 30 seconds. Add ground cumin, coriander, tumeric and fry for another 30 seconds then add all the other veggies. Stir fry for a few minutes until just tender.

3. Pour diced tomatoes, water or broth into pot. Stir to combined and raise heat to medium high. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat.

4. In a separate bowl stir peanut butter to combine any separated oils. Pour a ladleful of hot soup onto peanut butter. Stir peanut butter with soup till creamy and peanut butter is completely emulsified. Scrape peanut butter mixture into rest of simmering soup, stirring to combine.

5. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Add salt to taste.

Serve this with Citrus Salad, spring rolls or egg rolls!

Soba Noodle Salad


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Main Dishes, Meal Ideas, Pastas, Salads | Posted on 02-02-2010

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Soba Noodle Salad

I created this cold Soba Noodle Salad for @PickleSugarPlum, as explained in an earlier post for Grilled Ahi Tuna Steaks. This recipe was created, in part, to be used with the leftover tuna made with that recipe, but you could certainly make this all on its own. If you’d like more protein, I suggest adding firm tofu or edamame.

The great thing about this salad is that’s it’s extremely easy to make. I like to stir-fry the veggies so that they’re crisp and flavored nicely with the sesame oil and garlic. This maximizes the flavor of the sesame oil and, in return, requires less oil in the dressing.

I taste-tested this on my family and they really enjoyed it! When serving to small children, it’s wise to cut up the noodles before you serve them, as the dressing on the salad makes the noodles a little slippery for young fingers to twirl around a fork. :)

Soba Noodle Bundle


1 carrot, sliced on the diagonal
1 small zucchini, sliced on the diagonal
1 small red pepper, sliced
1 small green pepper, sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced or pressed
1 1/2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
3 tbsp. cilantro, stemmed and chopped
2 scallions, diced
1 bundle Koyo organic soba noodles

Ingredients for Dressing:

2 1/2 tbsp. teriaki sauce
1 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Soba Noodles Over Veggies

Directions for Salad:

1. Boil soba needles according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil on medium-high heat in a large wok.

2. Add all veggies and stir fry for about five minutes. Add garlic and saute two more minutes.

3. Add scallions and cilantro and stir fry about two more minutes. Set veggies aside to cool.

Directions for Dressing and the Salad:

1. Whisk all ingredients together.

2. When noodles are cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Combine veggies, noodles and dressing.

3. Chill for at least one hour or serve at room temperature.

4. Serve with Grilled Ahi Tuna Steaks. Garnish with additional scallion and cilantro, if desired.

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Main Dishes, Meal Ideas | Posted on 16-01-2010

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Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Pancakes are MANDATORY breakfast fare at my house on the weekends. These apple cinnamon pancakes are a quick, easy way to make this “treat” somewhat healthier, but still yummy. As you can see from the photo, I was barely able to snap a quick shot before they were gobbled up!


1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread
1 dash nutmeg (optional)
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 batch Arrowhead Mills Pancake Mix


1. Mix 1 batch of pancake mix; set aside.

2. Saute apple in Earth Balance Spread for about five minutes, until soft but still firm (don’t let the apple pieces get mushy).

3. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup. Heat till warm, then set on the lowest heat setting possible.

4. Make pancakes.

5. Spoon apple topping on top of pancakes and serve immediately!