Rice Pudding Reinvented

There’s something comforting about the smell of cinnamon and vanilla that permeates the house as rice pudding cooks stovetop on a cold, gloomy day.  My Mother’s rice pudding used regular milk, white rice and had egg folded in at the end to add creaminess; it wasn’t something we had often but when we did it always seemed a treat.  It took a few attempts to achieve the creamy texture of my childhood dessert with brown rice and non-dairy milk but I’ve created a whole food plant based version that I’m quite pleased with.

2 1/4 + 3/4 soy milk, divided
1, 13.5 ounce can lite coconut milk
1 cup brown rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup maple syrup

  1. Add brown rice, 2-1/4 cups soy milk, lite coconut milk, cinnamon stick, and vanilla to a 3 QT pot
  2. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to low
  3. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and mindful that the pot doesn’t boil over
  4. Turn off heat.  Remove the cinnamon stick
  5. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of soy milk, pumpkin pie spice, raisins, and chia seeds
  6. Let sit ~ 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the dish becomes creamy
  7. Fold in the maple syrup, taste for sweetness
  8. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice

IMG_6035You can either serve warm or put in the refrigerator to chill and serve cold.

IMG_6044I’d attempted various non-dairy milks and soy milk seems to provide the creamiest texture.  Chia seeds also add to the texture, as they function as a thickener when added to liquid.  Alternatively, banana or pumpkin puree may serve to maintain the creaminess of the pudding but would alter the flavor.


Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli

Finally writing up this week’s post after a beautiful weekend enjoying life as Spring tries to push Winter out (though it seems Winter may not be down for the count and snow may return tomorrow).

Last week I made another Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe from Isa Does It, Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli.  The sun-dried tomato cream sauce gets its creamy base from soaked cashews blended in vegetable broth with sun-dried tomatoes.  Red onion and garlic are sautéed before adding red wine, broccoli, and additional sun-dried tomatoes.  Once the broccoli is tender the cream sauce is added and penne and fresh basil are tossed in to finish off the dish.

IMG_5985This came together quite quickly and easily.  I don’t own a blender so I made the sauce in my food processor, which seemed to work just fine.  The sauce had a nice texture and the sun-dried tomatoes, which were blended in the cashew cream and whole, created a nice flavor profile with the garlic and fresh basil.  That said, this is the first dish from Isa Does It that I found needing something more.  For leftovers, I added some sliced kalamata olives and topped with fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.  Perfection!


Isa Does It Recipes: 14


Whole Food Plant Based Breakfast Tacos

The first week since the Engine 2 Challenge ended and I didn’t fall too far back into old habits.  There were a couple of moments where “it’s been so long since I’ve had x…I think I’ll indulge.  What I’ve found for the most part is that my tastes have changed and things simply don’t taste as I good as the memory seems.  Diet Coke is a good example.  I used to have one diet coke a day with my lunch.  I never considered this a healthy choice or even a better choice than the regular high fructose corn syrup version, but I preferred it to water.  Now, I don’t seem to find myself wanting it or enjoying the taste as I used to.  Unfortunately, I did still enjoy yesterday’s bagel but will limit that so it does not become a daily habit again.

Which finds me here today making my breakfasts for the week to take in to the office.  I made a breakfast hash last week mainly to use up what I had in the fridge; I enjoyed it so much I decided to make it again for this week.  I  had planned this week’s post to be the recipe for the rice pudding I’d made last weekend but it lost some of its creaminess after the first day;  while I play with making brown rice creamy here is the hash recipe.  You are encouraged to play with it and make it your own (have you ever seen Chopped?  They often seem to throw a hash appetizer together to use up the basket easily – it’s a forgiving dish).

IMG_5965For the Potatoes
2 small russet potatoes
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
fresh ground black pepper
a pinch of salt

For the Chickpeas
1 can garbanzo beans
1 Tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
I follow the Happy Herbivore Chickpea Taco Recipe.  I also follow the link in that recipe and make a large batch of taco seasoning to keep on hand in a mason jar.

For the Hash
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 pint mushrooms (I use baby bella, stems removed, sliced thinly)
1/2 – 1 pint grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of dinosaur kale (or other greens), stems removed and sliced into 1/2 -1 inch pieces

To Serve
Green Onion
Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce, or your preferred hot sauce
Corn Tortillas (Trader Joe’s Corn & Wheat Tortillas are oil free)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Dice the potato into a small 1/2 inch dice.  Spray with cooking spray, toss with garlic, onion, fresh ground pepper and a dash of salt.  Place a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet.  For the chickpeas, I use the same bowl that I had prepared the potatoes in to toss the chickpea taco ingredients.  I tend to layer on the same cookie sheet as the potatoes to save myself from dishes (though keep them separate in case the potatoes need longer than the chickpeas it is easy to just put them back in the oven). Bake for 25-30 minutes.

IMG_5967Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients. Sauté the red onion over medium-high heat in a large pot, until translucent 5-7 minutes.  Add splashes of water to keep from sticking to the pan.  I use my Dutch Oven so there’s plenty of room to add everything in at the end.

IMG_5970Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and continue cooking until they release their juices, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant.

IMG_5971Add the kale, toss, cover and remove from heat.  The kale should steam in 1-2 minutes but retain it’s vibrant color.  Once the potatoes and chickpeas are done add them to the pot and toss again.

IMG_5975I’ve been enjoying this as breakfast tacos (sadly, I cannot find burrito sized oil-free tortillas), topped with green onion and cilantro with plenty of hot sauce.  I don’t have a pretty assembled picture since I was packing up to go, but here is the meal prep madness version.  As written this makes 6, 1-cup servings, which I find to be a pretty satisfying breakfast.


Engine 2 Challenge: The Finish Line

Today is the final day of the 28 Day Engine 2 Challenge.  During the Challenge my two year plant-iversary passed.  I don’t recall the exact date but it was February 2012 when I decided to give up meat for Lent.  I’m not a particularly religious person, but wanted to reclaim my diet and Lent seemed as good a time as any to focus on healthful eating.  I did not expect this would be a longer term decision.  I noticed during that time that I had more energy, slept better and generally felt better; that was what led to the decision to continue with this lifestyle change.  Given this was primarily a decision based on health benefits,  it has been important to me not to substitute standard junk food for vegan junk food.  Of course, it is easy to slip into convenience.

Immediately before starting the Challenge, I was 100% vegetarian, ~90% vegan, and I’d guess ~80% whole food plant based no oil.  The 90% vegan is due to my love of the fried egg on an everything bagel.  I wouldn’t have guessed this the vice that I could not seem to crack (pun intended) but apparently the egg and bagel sandwich is engrained in my NYC girl DNA.  This was a common weekend treat, so I would guess I probably had 1-2 eggs/week.  Cream cheese on bagels was the other non-vegan item that tended to find itself in my diet (as I write this I realize that I apparently need a bagel intervention).  Before starting the Challenge I may have graded my WFPB no oil  higher because I have been cooking and baking without oil for some time but now that I have been more cognizant of EVERYTHING I eat, ~80% is probably more accurate.

If I were to grade myself during the Challenge I’d pass 100% vegetarian, 98% vegan, 95% WFPB no oil.  I went from having a bagel from the office cafeteria 3-4 days a week and my weekend egg & bagel sandwich to one bagel a week at the office and steel cut oats or scrambled chickpeas on the other days.  I did succumb to one egg sandwich over the 28 days.  I went from inconsistent lunch prep resulting in buying office cafeteria lunches about 60-70% of the time to bringing lunch from home nearly every day (I think I had 1-2 days that I bought salad bar at work).  Dinners have always been well prepped for me but I did cut out my weekend Wegman’s Asian Food Bar (which I am quite certain would not qualify as oil free).  I only had that 1-2 times during the 28 days and found I’ve lost taste for it – Happy Herbivore Cheater Pad Thai is more flavorful by far.

The biggest improvement for me was snacking.  Pre-Challenge, I often found myself going to the coffee bar at work and getting a Philly pretzel and diet Coke in the afternoon.  In the evenings I would, out of habit, go for store bought hummus ( ~50% calories from fat) with Blue Corn Chips (~40% calories from fat) and veggies.  The Challenge has made me much better at conscientious eating and making better choices.  I pack fruit and some nuts to bring to work everyday and this has replaced my afternoon snack.  Hot green tea has replaced my Diet Coke.  I make my own hummus without the oil and I’ve made my own tortilla chips from oil-free tortillas.  Reading Rip’s post about Plant-Strong Snacking made me rethink what it means to snack.  At first glance, I was confused to see potatoes and ears of corn on the list.  Ultimately, anything is a snack – baked french fries with hot sauce, soup, cereal.  We’ve become so accustomed to the snack aisle that it is a habit we rarely reconsider.

It’s not all easy, but it’s not as hard as the typical omnivore might think either.  I easily cook and bake without oil (admitting that baked goods will not last as long without oil as they do with the added fat but do taste just as good fresh).  The most difficult for me during the Challenge was bread.  It was difficult to find oil-free breads and those that can be found are not quite the same.  I think eating out would also be difficult; given the snowtastic winter we’re having here in the East, there hasn’t been much opportunity to get out and I’ve made it a bit easier on myself by sticking to preparing all of my own foods.

What next?  I do consider an unprocessed life to be as good as it gets.  I enjoy cooking, have far more variety in my meals now than I ever did as an omnivore, love different flavor profiles and tastes that develop as you cut back on salt, fat and sugar, and it is cheaper.  Preparing my own food for this past month has not really increased my grocery bill but I saved a lot of money by not buying food at work or takeout from Wegman’s.

For me personally, I intend to continue this journey beyond the 28 days but am doubtful I will be 100% all the time.  I plan to continue to choose healthy snacks, and pack it rather than resort to  the office cafeteria (frankly my food tastes better than the cafe).   At the same time an indulgent, or even bad, choice does not mean giving up and going back to old habits, and I may enjoy a meal out without worrying about the oil now and again.  Diet has many meanings and too many people consider it as a temporary alteration in life rather than a lifestyle. A concept so wonderfully explained on Weighing In with Words.

Since it feels strange to have a post with no pictures I thought I’d post the final few days food diary and pretty this post up a bit.  Breakfast was a potato hash with kale, mushrooms, tomatoes, and roasted chickpeas.

IMG_5948Lunches over the weekend consisted of a Chopped Salad with Spicy Chipotle Dressing.  Fat Free Vegan was the source of this deliciousness.  My version was romaine lettuce, tomato, zucchini, radish, peppers, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and scallion topped with a homemade creamy, spicy (and oil free) dressing.

IMG_5951Dinner found me going back to an Indian flavor profile mainly to finish up the cauliflower I’d bought to make pizza crust.  I made an Indian eggplant dish and  a dish inspired by another Fat Free Vegan delight, Vindaloo Vegetables, served over brown rice.

IMG_5956For a plant-based dessert worthy of a gloomy snowstorm (ugh) I made rice pudding.  I’ll post the recipe in my next post.


Engine 2 Challenge: Week 4!

If you think you couldn’t handle a 28 Day Challenge, let me tell you it goes by fast!  Monday, March 3 will be the end of the Engine 2 Challenge.  I’ll post my final Challenge post early in the week after I cross the finish line but for now will focus on the Week 4 wrap-up.  For the final week I was a food prep master (to the point I ran out of containers and used mason jars to keep my steel cut oats).

Breakfasts included pumpkin version of last week’s french toast; I used the Ezekiel Raisin English Muffins for that again.  I also made another batch of steel cut oats in the pressure cooker to bring to the office.


Lunches were leftover penne broccoli rabe early in the week and potato leek soup from Isa Does It (sans oil) with a side salad dressed with fresh lemon juice and ground black pepper for the remainder of the week.


We had a brief, too brief, reprise from the cold and snow over the weekend that made it seem like spring until you saw the piles of snow lingering at every turn.  The milder temps inspired me to grill and I decided to go with fajitas for dinner this week.  I marinated portobello steaks in ginger, garlic and tamari based sauce (Forks Over Knives Cookbook has my preferred portobello steak recipe) before grilling them.  I also cooked the peppers and onions on the grill then sliced and seasoned (Happy Herbivore Cookbook is my go to fajita seasoning).


I assembled the fajitas in an oil-free corn/whole wheat tortilla (Trader Joe’s), topped with green onion, cilantro, fresh tomato and avocado.  I served chipotle black beans (Veganomicon) over cilantro lime brown rice on the side. The dish was exactly what I wanted, and I pretty much ate this every night of Week 4 (and could go for another week without getting bored of it, so good!).  I should say that the Trader Joe’s Corn & Wheat Tortillas are so much better than the Chi-Chi’s corn tortillas, which were the only oil-free I could find at Wegmans.  They’re definitely worth the trip to the tiny, over-crowded Trader Joe’s (or Trader Jose’s as they write on the packaging).


By Friday I was out of leftovers and my refrigerator was barren with the exception of pickles and condiments.  A quick stop on the way home from work and I am storm ready (yes, it is March, and yes, another snow storm is expected tomorrow).  I seemed to be the only one not looking for milk and bread 😉

IMG_5356For a quick, after work dinner, I made cauliflower pizza crust pizza.


A sweet treat this week was Forks Over Knives Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Whip to finish up the Ezekiel Raisin Muffins and the silken tofu that I had used a portion of in the chickpea tikka masala; I hate wasting food and cannot figure what to do with the English Muffins without butter or cream cheese other than french toast or bread pudding.

IMG_5928Stay tuned for the final Challenge post!