Semi-homemade Vegan: Arrabiata Quinoa with Cannellini & Asparagus

As much as I would like to make everything from scratch, sometimes it is just not possible. Thank goodness for Trader Joe's; I love using products of theirs like pre-baked tofu, jarred roasted red peppers, pizza dough, and prepared sauces to speed up dinner prep on busy nights.

Here I combined cooked quinoa with steamed finely chopped kale (I added a bit more water than required to cook the quinoa and threw a couple of handfuls of the kale in while it was cooking) with Trader Joe's Arrabiata sauce and topped each serving with stir-fried asparagus and broccoli, chopped roasted red peppers, olive oil and white cannellini beans. The whole meal took about 30-minutes to prepare (only about 15-minutes of that required hands-on time).

Tip: Before adding quinoa to water, dry roast it in a pan on medium-heat, stirring frequently until the grains become slightly browned and fragrant. This technique gives the quinoa a nice nutty flavor!

Baking Inspiration from Non-vegan Sources

This recipe is so great, that even when I have made it gluten free, the result was awesome!
I baked cookies this weekend for a big gathering of friends and I realized, I never use my vegan cookbooks! I always end up de-egging or veganizing recipes from very old non-veg cookbooks like this Mrs. Field's one (another favorite is my Land O'Lakes cookbook from the 1970s) and often have better and more tasty results.

Get a load of Mrs. Fields' do!

Do you have any favorite non-vegetarian cookbooks that inspire you and that you use often?

Asian-style Rice Salad with Creamy Ginger Dressing (Vegan)

Challenge your mom's narrow definition of salad at your next family gathering with this Asian-inspired rice salad dressed with a bowl-licking creamy ginger dressing.


  • 1/3 cup Veganaise
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 2 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 TB Hoison sauce (Optional. If you don't use, you may want to add 1 tsp of sweetener.)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • pinch red pepper flakes
- Blend all with a whisk or small food processor. Refrigerate.

  • 1 cup of cooked and cooled rice
  • 1 cup small broccoli florets, blanched and cooled 
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1.5 cups shredded carrots
  • 2-3 ribs of diced celery
  • 1/2 English cucumber (with skin, cubed)
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 7 ounces diced, pre-baked tofu
  • peanuts for garnish
- Combine chopped ingredients in a large bowl and toss with prepared dressing. Garnish with chopped peanuts. 

Tip: Fresh chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime would also nice way to finish each serving. Fancy!

Peach Cobbler Ice Cream Sandwich, Heirlooms, & Bacon Fries

Your favorite oatmeal cookie recipe (add a bit more brown sugar) + diced fresh peaches + pecans x 2 + soycreamery = messy fun vegan summer dessert.

Can of chickpeas + jarred cherry peppers + tons of fresh basil + fresh thyme + a tomato + garlic + sea salt + fresh crushed black pepper + lots of Spanish olive oil x food processor = Mediterranean chickpea puree + grilled Trader Joe's Tuscan Pane + heirloom tomatoes = easy handheld vegan lunch.

Alexia House Cut fries + oven = cooked + smoked paprika + smoked sea salt + splash of apple cider vinegar = the taste of bacon minus the piggies

Vegan Tapas! Catalonian Romesco Sauce Recipe

Romesco sauce atop crusty bread and topped with spicy baby arugula. Simple summer dinner!

When we were in Barcelona, we had a very late and delightful dinner with friends (hello, midnight!) and were encouraged by our more experienced tapas-partakers that romesco sauce is "very tasty." Taking their word for it, we ordered escalivada drizzled with a romesco sauce. It is a red pepper, tomato, nut, and bread based sauce used for everything from coating bread to dipping long, Spanish onions in before consuming them whole. I fell in love at first bite and decided I had to try to recreate it at home.

The key ingredient, I was told, is a dried, small sweet pepper called a ñora. Though not readily available in the United States, you can find them online easily.

Red pepper, roasted over and open flame and then "sweated" in a paper bag. The skin comes right off.

I wanted to recreate the smoky flavor of the first romesco we had--and we had several--for it was the most flavorful. Most of the ingredients in my recipe were thoroughly roasted, and I even added a bit of smoked paprika and smoked sea salt (both available at Trader Joe's. Use the regular versions if you can't find them.) I also tried using various nuts to capture the flavor of the model sauce. A combination of hazlenuts and almonds seemed to capture it.

There are tons of recipes out there and all use the same basic principals, so experiment with the flavors (like I didn't use garlic or onions in my sauce because I don't like them, but I will include garlic in the recipe below since I know most people do like it!). Use the romesco sauce recipe below as a starting point and make it your own!

Toasting a combination of almond and hazelnuts for the sauce.

Note for my GF friends: If you want to make the sauce gluten-free, either use gluten-free bread, or just add a few extra nuts. The bread is more about texture; the sauce has a great flavor without it. You can even leave out the bread and use the romesco, chilled of course, as a salad dressing or dip. It will last several days in the refrigerator.

Catalonian Romesco Sauce Recipe (vegan)
makes about 2.5-3 cups


  • 3 dried ñora peppers (or in the UK, order here)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating pan (Use Spanish if you can find it!) 
  • 1 red bell pepper 
  • 4 juicy, red tomatoes (about 2 cups if chopped), quartered
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and thinly sliced  
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/8 cup almonds
  • 1/8 cup hazelnuts 
  • 1 slice of crusty bread (Use more if you want a thicker sauce, leave out if you want a thin one.)
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar 
  • 2-3 tsp smoked sea salt (Available at Trader Joe's)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (Available at Trader Joe's)
  • dash of freshly crushed black pepper
  • dash red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Soak noras (or other sweet dried pepper) in water for at least 30 minutes or over night. When done, remove seeds.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Drizzle a baking dish with olive oil, add tomatoes, garlic and onions. Bake for about 45 minutes. Remove when done and let cool.
  4. While the tomatoes are cooking, roast the red pepper, using tongs over an open gas flame. BE CAREFUL! Don't burn your kitchen down or hurt yourself, kay? When the pepper is blackened, toss into a paper bag and let it sweat. Once cooled, the skin will peel off easily. Remove seeds and chop into pieces. (If you don't want to do this, use the jared kind or throw a chopped red pepper in with the tomatoes.)
  5. While your pepper is sweating in the bag, roast hazelnuts in a pan over low-medium hear for a few minutes, then add almonds until both nuts are toasted (about 5-10 minutes/or when they start to become lightly browned and fragrant). Set aside to cool.
  6. When the tomatoes are done, and all ingredients are cooled off, add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until everything is combined, and then keep on until the ingredients are pureed. If it seems dry, add a bit of olive oil. If it seems too thin, add another slice of bread. Serve over roasted veggies, on crusty grilled bread, over penne pasta, or leave it thin, chill it, and use as a salad dressing.

Street Art in Barcelona

When traveling, all the guidebooks will tell you to go to this museum, then go to that gallery and see this piece of art. Honestly, after day upon day of standing in lines, spending tons of money, battling crowds, looking at masterpiece after masterpiece, I start to go cross-eyed and grumpy. I far more prefer exploring neighborhoods and getting out of the usual tourist traps. Exploring a vast array of street art as you wander down unknown streets is way more exciting to me than being all stuffed up in a museum. Plus, when the weather is as awesome as it was when we were in Spain, who wants to be inside?

Here are a collection of pictures I took of graffiti in Barcelona. My favorite is that very dapper little daschund and I love the texture created the layered levels of various pasted pictures, stencils, and tags.