Veggie Marinara Sauce (cheat)

I love Victoria marinara sauce (so does Chris). There are no scary ingredients (such as chemicals or sugar) in it, but there is olive oil and salt, the two ingredients that I try to avoid in the early stages of this nutritarian diet (I have just finished week 6 so now I can go back to olive oil as a treat! Yay!). This sauce is delicious, it’s the one food that I will not give up entirely.

I thought I would have some whole wheat pasta (I love DeCecco’s 100% whole wheat spaghetti) and wanted to sneak some veggies into the meal. The only hard part is limiting my portion to only 2 ounces of pasta… this is why adding more veggies is so important! Kids would definitely love this. It’s so yummy and you’d never know there was zucchini in it!


Next time I will definitely add spinach to it, I just didn’t have any on hand.

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced small
  • 1 large zucchini (or 2 small), shredded and drained
  • 2 containers cremini mushrooms (about 10 oz each), cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach (I didn’t add this but definitely will next time)
  • One 25 oz. jar Victoria marinara sauce


  • Grate the zucchini using the small shred holes of a box grater. Let it drain in a mesh sieve. While you’re waiting for it to drain, prep other veggies.
  • In a large pan saute (in a little water) the garlic and onion until it starts to get soft. You could also add some red pepper flakes here if you like your sauce spicy.
  • Add the shredded zucchini and cook some of the water out.
  • Then add sliced mushrooms and cook down further, until you don’t see water in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add 1 jar of sauce and simmer on low for 10 minutes until it thickens.
  • Then add baby spinach, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes or until leaves are wilted.

Serve over whole wheat pasta with a big romaine salad on the side. Yum!


Zucchini, onions and mushrooms cooking down


Simmering away…

UPDATE 10/7/13: Tonight I heated up some of the remaining veggie sauce and sauteed 2 bunches of swiss chard with some shallots and then heated them together. This on top of a serving of whole wheat pasta (2 oz dry, 5.2 oz cooked) was sooo delicious! The chard made it  even better. Next time I’ll use three bunches of chard to make a full batch. The sauce really thickened up in the fridge, I guess the zucchini and mushrooms really soak up that liquid, but I liked it even more. I don’t like watery sauces.


Sauce and paste before I mixed them together. Yum!


The red stems and green leaves also add great color to the dish. The zucchini kind of fades during cooking so you don’t see much green from that.




Veggie Fajitas

Not that anyone needs a recipe for this, but it’s more to help me remember. I loved the way this came out. I made enough veggies to pack it up and heat up for dinner every night for 4 nights. Yummy.  🙂

Next time I will add fresh salsa to make it taste a little fresher. I used the whole grain tortillas from Trader Joe’s (delicious) and spread 1/4 cup of fat free vegetarian refried beans (Bearitos brand, but the TJ brand is great too – the only ingredient in each is beans!) on top of the tortilla.  I think some jalapeno peppers would also be great on top. Next time I’ll make a chipotle version.


Forgot to put on the scallions before the photo.

Ingredients for veggie fajitas:

6 red onions, sliced thin

1 clove garlic, minced

2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks

2 zucchini, cut into matchsticks (skin on, get organic)

3 containers cremini mushrooms (or cremini and shiitake), cleaned and sliced

1-2 tbsp trader joe’s taco seasoning (depends on your preference)

1 bag baby spinach (it really cooks down to nothing)

Scallions, sliced (don’t cook these)

Fresh tomato salsa (optional)

Saute onions and garlic in a tablespoon or two of water until soft and translucent. Add pepper, zucchini, and taco seasoning, cook down until liquid is drawn out and cooks down a little. Then add mushrooms and cook down again. Add spinach after all veggies are cooked through and allow spinach to wilt.

Serve on tortilla spread with refried beans, top with scallions (or cilantro) and salsa.

Black Forest Creamy Mushroom Soup (Dr. Fuhrman)

The smell of almond milk in soup seemed a little strange to me at first, but this soup got even better after sitting in the fridge overnight. It is rich and satisfying, and I love the flavors. Who doesn’t love mushrooms?

This made about 8 (pint) servings.

I didn’t juice the carrots for broth (as requested in the original recipe), I used premade low-sodium veggie broth. If you want to follow the recipe, you’ll need 5 cups of carrot juice. You’ll see my changes to the original recipe ingredients below. The directions include my modifications.



Black Forest Cream of Mushroom Soup
Preparation Time: 60 minutes
2 tablespoons water
2 pounds mixed fresh mushrooms (I had a mix of button and cremini) sliced 1/4 ” thick
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I didn’t have this so I used 1 shallot)
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
5 cups carrot juice (5 pounds of carrots, juiced)  I used 5 cups low-sodium veg broth
3 cups unsweetened hemp, soy or almond milk, divided
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels I didn’t have this so I used frozen petite peas
1 cup chopped celery
3 leeks, cut in 1/2-inch-thick rounds and cleaned
1/4 cup Dr. Fuhrman’s VegiZest or other no-salt seasoning blend, adjusted to taste
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 cups cooked white beans (northern, navy, cannellini) or 2 (15 ounce) cans no-salt added or low-sodium white beans, drained
5 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish didn’t have this either, skipped it

Heat the water in a large saute pan. Water saute the mushrooms, garlic and herbes de Provence for about 15 minutes, or until tender and starting to caramelize. Set aside.
In a large soup pot, bring the carrot juice or veg broth, 2 1/2 cups of the almond milk, carrots, onion, peas, celery, and leeks to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
In a food processor or high-powered blender, puree the cashews and remaining 1/2 cup milk. Add the lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, and half of the beans, and blend it all with an immersion blender until smooth.
Then add the remaining beans and the spinach, and sauteed mushrooms. Heat until the spinach is wilted.

Stores in fridge and freezes well.  Made 8 pints.

Mushroom Veggie Chili (very mild)

Chris does not like spicy food and he helped me make this (hooray for my sous chef!), and so we made this batch mild enough for him to eat it. Next time I think I would add more chili pepper or jalapeno or something. I really love it. The flavors are great and it feels filling. I bring it for lunch at work with a salad or raw veggies. Yum!

As for the spices, I didn’t measure, just kind of added more as it needed it. I kept tasting it to see how it was while cooking. I used a lot of paprika especially.


Unfortunately all of these vegan dishes are in my take-away containers, ready for work and the freezer! Not pretty, but it works.

2 onions (1 red 1 yellow, just what was on hand), diced

2 tbsp vegetable broth

2 red bell peppers, diced

mushrooms (I used two 10 oz containers of cremini, and 1 container of shiitake), chopped

2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed

2 cans No Salt Added stewed tomatoes with celery, green peppers, and onions (we used DelMonte)


cayenne pepper

onion powder

garlic powder

1/2 bunch fresh scallions, chopped

Saute onions in veggie broth until translucent, 5-10 min. Add spices. Add peppers and cook until soft another 5-10 min. Add stewed tomatoes and mash, cook another 5 minutes. Add beans and simmer until it thickens and liquid cooks down by half, about 30-40 minutes, tasting as it cooks to check to see how much more spice you need.

Once it’s thick and yummy looking, add scallions and serve. Makes 5 pints. Stores well in the fridge or freezer.

Shiitake mushroom harvest and scallions

Day 8… harvest time! Yay!

Chris cooked some of them with the chicken thighs…. delicious! I think I’ll saute the rest tomorrow night. They are so flavorful and soft.

shiitakes on day 8 after harvest

shiitakes on day 8 after harvest

I forgot to mention that the scallion reboot that I found on pinterest really works! Cut organic scallions down to 2-3″ above the roots and you can stick them in water to regrow them!

Here is mine after 2 days… the tall one is after 5 days (I tested that one first)… the shorter ones, only started 2 days ago were older and staring to wither but this still works! So cool…

tall scallion after 5 days, others after 2 days

tall scallion after 5 days, others after 2 days

Shiitake Mushrooms

7 days after receiving and soaking the mushroom kit, lots of mushrooms are growing! They might have started earlier but I had to buy a spray bottle to mist it daily.


close up

sideview longview

I found a website that explained when to harvest:

Harvest when white, cottony veil beneath the cap has fully broken away from the stem or, if you want really large mushrooms just let them grow….

that sounds easy enough.  🙂


Christmas Eve Dinner (for an army)

This year I tried to cook foods that caterers make so that I could make most of it ahead of time and heat it up right before everyone came over. Everything came out great, but I definitely could have made less! We had 8 for dinner and I made enough for 16!

Menu (what we cooked):

  • Fried Cauliflower (Mom-Mom Tribiano’s recipe)
  • Stuffed Mushrooms (Elaine’s recipe, from Dom DeLuise)
  • Meatballs (Elaine’s Recipe) & Sausage in red sauce
  • Stuffed Shells
  • Chicken Marsala

The cauliflower cannot be made ahead, but everything else was. We bought fresh stuffed shells from Pastosa. Delicious!

I made the meatballs the night before, and prepared and stuffed the mushrooms, but didn’t cook them, just covered them in cling wrap and tin foil. I also Made the chicken marsala the day before, but kept the chicken and sauce separate until I heated them together on Christmas Eve.

The best part? The leftovers on the days after Christmas!!!


Clockwise from bottom: Chicken marsala, stuffed mushrooms, Mom’s torta, fried cauliflower


Clockwise from bottom: Stuffed shells, fried cauliflower, stuffed mushrooms, torta, meatballs

Mom-Mom Trib’s Fried Cauliflower

1 cup of flour
2-3 tablespoons of grated cheese (Chris adds more cheese but doesn’t remember how much, maybe 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (should be like the consistency of pancake batter…not too thin or too thick…so it coats the cauliflower)


Break apart a medium head of cauliflower.  Try to cut all pieces about the same size so they cook evenly.  Add it to boiling water.  Let water return to a boil and boil for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Test cauliflower with a toothpick to see if it is tender but not too soft.  DO NOT BOIL TOO MUCH OR THE CAULIFLOWER WILL BREAK APART WHEN FRYING.  When done, immerse cauliflower immediately in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  You can do this step a day ahead.  After drying on a paper towel or towel, refrigerate cauliflower until ready to fry.
Put 1/2 inch of olive oil and a garlic clove in a large frying pan.  Heat oil until a drop of batter sizzles.  Fry cauliflower until golden brown on all sides, keeping the oil at a sizzle so cauliflower doesn’t get too oily or soggy. We fried it in an electric skillet that cooks a large amount at a time. For Christmas we doubled this, using 2 heads of cauliflower.

Elaine’s and Dom DeLuise’s  Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms are moist and delicious, the secret is adding soy sauce and water to the bottom of the pan as it bakes, and keeping it covered in foil for a long time, much longer than the recipe calls for, only removing the foil once the mushrooms are soft, then allowing them to brown uncovered for a few minutes. I doubled the recipe.

  • 1 lb mushroom, medium-sized
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove stems from mushrooms, and set caps aside.
Chop mushroom stems.
Heat olive oil in a skillet, and brown onions and garlic.
Add mushroom stems, and brown over low heat.
In a bowl, combine onion mixture with egg, bread crumbs, cheese and parsley, and mix well.
Stuff mushroom caps with mixture.
Place mushrooms on a baking dish.
Add soy sauce and water to the bottom of the dish.
Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft .
Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, about 10 minutes more.


In progress (2 lbs of mushrooms)


Ready to cook, but I covered them and put in the fridge overnight for easy prep. Then toss in the oven.

Elaine’s Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 lb ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C grated cheese
  • 1/4 C bread crumbs
  • 1 teas. dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped with onion
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 1/2 teas. oregano
  • 1/2 teas. dried sweet basil
  • 1/8 teas. pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (if you are frying them. If you want to bake them, no oil is
  • necessary.)

Combine all ingredients except oil. Shape into approx. 18 meatballs. Either brown them in oil
in skillet or bake them in a 350 degree oven until brown. Turn them over when brown on first
side and then brown on the other. I baked them through and then put them in the sauce overnight, then heated the sauce with meatballs and baked sweet sausage links on the stove for an hour before eating.

Chicken Marsala (from Cooking with Sugar blog)

This marsala is delicious! I added cornstarch to thicken it, and it did better after reheating. I used 4 lbs of chicken which made two large trays, about 32 pieces. I also quadrupled the sauce recipe. It was a lot of work, took hours to pound the cutlets and cook them (I only had one pan in which to cook them so I repeated the process many times), but it was so good I will definitely make this again. The fresh parsley really freshens it up before serving. We had enough food for everyone to take home lots of leftovers. You can eliminate the prosciutto, just season to bring up the salt levels as necessary, but Marsala wine is salty, so you may not need it.


  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds fillet and pounded thin)
  • 1-8 0z. container of fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup of flour, for dredging
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper


On a cutting board, fillet each chicken breast and trim off any fat. Place two pieces of chicken at a time between two pieces of parchment paper as seen in photo below. Pound with a flat mallet, until the cutlets are about 1/4-inch thick.  Set aside and repeat until all the chicken is pounded thin. Put some flour in a shallow dish. Season each side of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge each cutlet lightly on each side with flour.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, brown a few cutlets at a time for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Once the chicken is brown, place the pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a rim, or a glass casserole dish. Continue until all the chicken is browned.

Lower the heat to medium and add the prosciutto to the drippings in the pan, sauté for a minute or two until browned. Add the mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until they are nicely browned on each side.  Turn up the heat and pour the Marsala in the pan and boil down for a minute so the alcohol cooks off. Then add the chicken stock and the butter.  Allow it to cook for a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Remove chicken and sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

CAT’S TIPS TO PREPARE AHEAD: Sauté and brown the chicken breasts (but don’t cook completely), place them in a baking dish or disposable lasagna pan and cover it with foil. Then cook the sauce separately and set aside in a separate bowl. Refrigerate everything and take it out 40 minutes before company arrives. Then preheat your oven to 350 F, pour sauce over the chicken and cook for 20-30 minutes before serving.

chickenfloured chickencookedbeforesauce marsalacooking saucecookingdown