Easy Chocolate Cake

Effortless Chocolate Cake
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As if you need a reason to make chocolate cake. Oh you do? Well let’s see there are: Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Date nights/Romantic dinners at home, Weddings, Bridal or Baby Showers, Promotions, Retirement, Holidays, Potlucks, Birthdays and your Unbirthdays for every other day of the year. See that…now you can make this cake any time and it’s a celebration! [Public Service Announcement] I do advocate healthy eating habits; even some vegan treats should be enjoyed sparingly.

Desserts and vegan baking are an artistry that I LOVE to explore. The expressions of non-vegans are the best. I take great pleasure in watching their eyes enlarge nearly falling out of their sockets, followed by, ‘this has no eggs or dairy in it?!’ as they talk with food in their mouths sloshing about – the one time that doesn’t seem to bother me as much. I grin baleful yet benevolent. This cake is incredibly easy to make and has all the characteristics of being the best chocolate cake I ever created: it is moist, decadent, rich and delectable.
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Ingredients:

1 Cup Non-Dairy Milk (I use almond/coconut milk blend)
1 Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
¾ Cup Cocoa Powder
1 Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Baking Soda
¼ Tsp Sea Salt (Ok to use reg. Salt)
¾ Cup light Brown Sugar, packed
½ Cup organic cane Sugar
1 Tsp pure Vanilla Extract
¾ Cup Earth Balance (Vegan Butter), softened
½ Cup natural Applesauce

Directions:
-Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Grease pan – Earth Balance/Flour or vegan cooking spray if you prefer.
-Stir the apple cider vinegar into the milk and let the mixture sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients. – The milk will curdle slightly to create a vegan buttermilk.
-In a large bowl combine dry ingredients: Flour, Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Baking soda, salt and sugar(s).
-Whisk dry ingredients together to incorporate.
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-Add wet ingredients: Vanilla Extract, Earth Balance, Applesauce and vegan buttermilk.
-Ditch the whisk and combine wet/dry ingredients with a large Spoon.
-Pour/smooth into your baking vessel and pop it in the preheated oven, then bake.
-Be sure to check that your cake is baked completely. The center should spring back and not be loose. – Insert a toothpick or butter knife and be sure it comes out clean with no batter or streaks of batter.

-Below are notes about cooking times and variations.
(1) 15×10 Pan: 20 Minutes
(1) Bundt cake: 40 Minutes
(2) 9-inch Rounds: 25 Minutes

Notes:
I first made this using a large cookie pan – similar to a jellyroll pan: 15x10x1. Just make sure the pan has a lip – 1 inch at least. –This bakes for 20 minutes only! – I use large cookie cutters or food rings (stacking-ring molds) to cut out pieces. You can cut larger pieces and leave one layer to top or cut out smaller pieces and stack up.
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Variations:
-I’ve made this cake with just a simple chocolate ganache over top.
(4oz Semi-Sweet chocolate, melted over a double boiler with ½ Cup non-dairy milk).
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-Try with Chocolate ganache then topped with Candied Walnuts.
(Toss shelled walnuts about a cup in a pan with a Tbsp Earth Balance and ¼ Cup Light brown sugar).
-You can also top with above-mentioned ganache and walnuts then sprinkle with Sea Salt – my favorite version.
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-On Valentine’s Day I made this cake with a Raspberry sauce, ganache and walnuts.
(2 Cups Frozen Raspberries-thawed, 1 Cup of Water, 3 Tbsp Ground Chia Seeds and 3 Tbsp Agave nectar. Blend ingredients in food processor then strain).
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-Honestly, this cake is perfect with even just a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
-Seth loves just the cake alone too without the extras, paired with a good cup of coffee.
Whichever version you try – Enjoy!

Curried Chickpeas with Potatoes & Carrots

Curried Chickpeas with Potatoes/Carrots (Serves 4-6)

Vegan/Gluten-Free

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This curry chickpea recipe is truly simple and fragrant; I served it over basmati rice. The addition of potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots make this a hearty and flavorful dish. You can swap or add ingredients; this really is a versatile dish, throw in some kale or spinach for example. Monday was one of those days coming in from work I needed to make something quick; this is roughly a 30-minute meal. Enjoy and fill your kitchen with the aroma of curry.

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Shallot, chopped
1 Sweet Potato, diced
1 Quart (32oz) Vegetable Broth, divided
2 (15.5 oz can) Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), drained/rinsed
5 small Gold Potatoes, chopped/quartered-smaller ones
2 Carrots, diced
½ Tbsp Curry powder
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
Salt/Pepper to taste (Abt 1 ½ Tsp Salt and ½ Tsp Pepper)

Directions:
-Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté shallots for 2-3 minutes until softened.

-Add Sweet Potatoes and continue sautéing for another 2-3 minutes. Then add ½ of the vegetable broth. Bring broth to simmer – low boil, cook sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes.

-Add remaining ingredients: Chickpeas, Potatoes, Carrots, Seasonings and remaining broth. Heat to boil – then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes – potatoes and carrots should be fork tender.

-Serve over Basmati Rice – click here for recipe. Enjoy!

Basmati Rice with Herb Broth and Root Vegetables

Rooted Basmati Rice with Herb Infused Broth (serves 4)
(Roots: Beets, Parsnips, Carrots) – Vegan and Gluten-Free

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The layers of flavors in this dish are paramount for the complexity of tastes and textures. I realize that there are several steps going on in this recipe, however, this was a special dish. This was our Valentine’s Day dinner this year 2015! We love to get fancy schmancy and sophisticated sometimes too especially at home. Why not revel and delight your palate 5 star style in the comforts of your own dining room. Our children certainly enjoyed, my husband was delighted and I loved every minute of it. Beginning with the first dice of the shallot to sitting down, blessing our food and enjoying the love of family and food, that is what it’s all about. This is truly an elegant dish. Basmati rice is fragrant and aromatic rice, the broth is complex and complements the seasonal veggies well.

Ingredients:

Broth:
1 Shallot, chopped
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
20 whole Black Peppercorn
20 fresh Basil leaves, chopped
1 Lemon grass, cut in half
5 sprigs fresh Thyme
5 sprigs fresh Tarragon
20 blades of Chives (about 2 tsp), chopped
Handful of fresh Parsley (about 15 sprigs), chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Cup Vermouth
1 Quart (32oz) Vegetable Broth
Rice:

2 Cups Basmati Rice
3 Cups Water
2 Tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance)

Vegetables:

2 red Beets
2lbs Brussels sprouts (1 stalk)
1lb Parsnips (about 4), peeled/chopped
4 Carrots, peeled/chopped
1 Tbsp + 2 Tsp Sea Salt, divided
6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Directions:

Broth:
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-Heat 1 Tbsp Olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté Shallots for 1 minute then add whole black Peppercorns. Rough chop the herbs leaving the Tarragon and Thyme whole, then add to the pan with lemon zest. Continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes stirring occasionally.
-Slowly add Vermouth then increase heat to medium-high. Heat for about 3-5 minutes.
-Add vegetable Broth bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and continue to simmer for 30-45 minutes over medium-low.
-Strain and set aside until ready to plate/serve.

Rice:

-Heat Rice, Water and Earth balance to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, cook for 15 minutes.
-Remove from heat – Do not remove lid – let the rice stand for 10 minutes, it will continue to steam. When ready to serve remove lid and fluff with fork.

Veggies:

-Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Beets:
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-Remove stems from beets but keep about an inch, then scrub the beets to remove excess dirt. Grab a piece of aluminum foil – big enough to wrap the beets making bed or pouch. Add 1 Tbsp Sea Salt to foil and place Beets on top of salt. Bring up the sides of the foil to close place on baking sheet to avoid beet juice seeping out into your oven. – Roast for about 1 Hour at 425 degrees. Today I roasted for 1 hour 10 mins. –Remove from foil and set-aside until cool to the touch, then peel and dice.

Parsnips and Carrots:
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-Peel and chop both carrots and parsnips, be sure not to dice or chop these too small, they will shrink alittle during roasting. -Toss Carrots and Parsnips in 1 Tbsp Olive Oil and 1 tsp Sea Salt. –Roast for 20 minutes then toss/stir and continue roasting for another 10 minutes at 425 degrees also.

Brussels Sprouts:
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-Gently rock the sprout back/forth until they pop off the stalk. –Trim the ends and remove the outer leaves of each sprout. -Place the Brussels sprouts in warm water and let them soak for a few minutes – I just keep adding them to the water as I go, so they end up soaking for 10-15 minutes by the time each sprout is prepped. –This recipe is for shaved Brussels sprouts and the easiest and quickest way to accomplish this is by using a food processor. –Working in batches use the slice-blade attachment for your processor to shave. –Add Brussels sprouts to baking sheet (2) and toss with 1 Tsp Sea Salt and 5 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil. – Once other veggies are finished, reduce heat to 400 degrees. Roast Brussels sprouts for 30 minutes until sprouts are tender and golden/browned. Toss halfway through for even roasting.
Note: I love a good Balsamic Vinegar reduction with Brussels sprouts. I did make a quick reduction with this recipe and drizzled over the veggies. –Simply heat 1 cup of Balsamic vinegar in saucepan over medium heat, bring to boil then reduce until vinegar has reduced to about half – 10-15 minutes.

Bringing it all together:

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-Add about a cup of rice to plate, then add ½ cup of broth. Top with veggies. I garnished with toasted Pine Nuts also.

Enjoy!

Carrot Ginger Soup

Carrot Ginger Soup (Serves 4-6)
Vegan/Gluten-Free

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I was inspired to create this soup after a story my husband shared with me upon coming home from work just the other day. While at work a man sparked up a brief conversation with him in passing…“The gentleman at 58, retired, had a degenerative eye condition where he was losing his sight. He didn’t name the condition but mentioned how the doctor wanted to put him on medication. Instead, he began to eat a bag of carrots a day until he miraculously rejuvenated his eyes back to 20/20; he doesn’t even need glasses anymore. Since his vision was restored, he went from a bag a day to now a bag a week. The man added that the bible teaches that one must Eat to Heal.”

So what’s up doc? While I cannot prove the validity of the stranger’s story I was certainly intrigued. Seems logical…carrots are great for you! They are rich in antioxidants and beta-carotenes. The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is important for immunity, eye health and promotes healthy skin. This carotenoid is also found in sweet potatoes, another ingredient in this soup. Along with the antioxidants and beta-carotenes, sweet potatoes are a good source of Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Iron, Vitamin C and D. The coconut milk in this recipe helps make it velvety smooth. Additionally, it is a good source of Iron, Potassium and Protein. This feel good soup would not be complete without ginger to spice things up. Great for immunity, digestion, blood circulation and it is popular for its anti-inflammatory properties.

As I listened intently and relished every word of Seth’s encounter, it truly made me re-evaluate my relationship with the frequently underrated Carrot…the star of this recipe. Thanks again to my hubby, the great narrator, for sharing that story.

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Ingredients:

1 ½ Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 stalks of Celery, chopped
1 medium white Onion, chopped
10 Whole black Peppercorns or ½ Tbsp
2lbs of Carrots, peeled/chopped
1 medium Sweet Potato, peeled/chopped
2 cans Coconut Milk, divided
2 Cups Water, divided
1 (2inch piece) Fresh Ginger, peeled
½ Tsp Garlic powder
½ Tsp Curry powder
½ Tsp Salt

Directions: – One Pot Meal

-Heat Olive oil over medium heat. Sauté Celery, Onions and Peppercorn for about 5 minutes.

-Add Carrots and Sweet Potatoes and continue sautéing stirring occasionally for another 7-9 minutes.

-Add 1 can of Coconut milk plus 1 cup of Water. Continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes or until Carrots and Sweet Potatoes are tender.

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-In Batches: Add soup mixture to blender (about 2 ladles at a time). Blend until smooth adding remaining Coconut Milk and Water to blender to help thin mixture during blending. I blended entire recipe in three batches.

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-Add fresh Ginger during blending process. Note: You may grate the ginger first before adding to blender also.

-Once soup has been blended, return to pot. Bring to slow boil and add remaining seasonings.

-Reduce heat and simmer for another 5-10 minutes before serving. Add a drizzle of Sriracha for added heat, optional. Enjoy!

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Gnocchi with Sweet Potato and Kale

Gnocchi with Kale and Sweet Potato  (Serves 4)

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My son is extremely fond of Gnocchi. If I asked my children what they’d like for dinner I can always count on Josh to select Gnocchi or Ravioli, they are tied in his book. This recipe utilizes dry packaged Gnocchi but is so versatile you can make it with fresh gnocchi or add/change some veggies. For example, I make this with Swiss chard instead of Kale sometimes. This is definitely a simple recipe that should take 30 minutes or less. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love being in the kitchen, but there are times when you need to put together a quick meal and this is certainly one of my ‘go-to’ meals.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Sweet Potato, diced

¼ Cup Water

1 Turnip, diced

3 Tbsp Earth Balance Butter, divided

1 Shallot, diced

2 Pkgs (17.5 oz) Gnocchi

3 stalks Kale, stems removed, chopped

¼ Tsp Ground Pepper

½ Tsp Salt

¼ Tsp Chili Powder

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Directions:

-Sauté Sweet Potatoes in Olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add Water and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.

-Add Turnips and sauté for another 5 minutes.

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-Dice up Shallots while turnips and carrots are cooking. To pan add 2 Tbsp Earth Balance and Shallots, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.

-Add Gnocchi to boiling water, cook for about 2-3 mins. Once gnocchi floats to the top they are ready to come out.

-Add Kale, Salt/Pepper and Chili powder and heat through for another 2 minutes.

-Drain Gnocchi then add to sauté pan with veggies plus remaining Earth Balance. Heat through until incorporated and golden.

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Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto (Serves 8)

Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish. I love the feeling I get when I make, eat and serve Risotto; it’s a sexy dish. It feels fancy and upscale the idea of turning plain old rice into something creamy and luxurious is so inviting. You have to monitor this dish and spend time with it all while adding Love.

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Ingredients:

2 Quarts (32oz) Vegetable Broth

2 ½ Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided

1 large white Onion, chopped

3 Garlic Cloves, chopped

1 Tsp Salt, divided

1 Tsp Fresh Cracked Pepper, divided

1 8oz Pkg Button Mushrooms, (½ Chopped, ½ Sliced)

2 Portabella Mushrooms, sliced

3 Tbsp Earth Balance Butter, divided

2 ½ Cups Arborio Rice (1-16oz pkg)

½ Cup White Wine

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Directions:

-Heat Broth over medium-low in saucepan to keep warm.

-Heat 2 Tbsp Olive Oil over medium and sauté Onions, after about 5 mins. add Garlic, ½ Tsp Salt and ½ Tsp Pepper and sauté for another minute. Remove from pan and set aside.

-To the same pan add ½ of the Button Mushrooms (Sliced), sauté for about 5 mins. until golden. Remove from pan and set aside.

-Add the remaining ½ of Button Mushrooms (Chopped) plus ½ Tbsp Olive oil and sauté for about 3 mins. Remove from pan and set aside.

-Back to pan add Portabella mushrooms and sauté for about 2 mins. – The pan will essentially be dry at this point. Add ½ Tbsp Earth Balance and sauté for another 2 mins. Remove from pan and set aside.

-Back to pan add ½ of the Onion/Garlic mixture plus ½ Tbsp Earth Balance over medium. Add Rice and stir until coated and onion/garlic/earth balance have been incorporated and rice toasts up a bit.

-Add White Wine and cook until liquid has been absorbed/evaporated about a minute.

-To rice mixture add 1 cup of Broth at a time: Stir in 1 cup of broth into rice mixture for about 3 mins. until liquid has absorbed, stirring occasionally. – I do this about 3 times over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue adding broth 1 cup at a time stirring occasionally for about 4-6 mins. each time until liquid has absorbed. I continue adding 1 cup at a time for about 5 cycles before add remaining broth in the end.

-Once all broth has been incorporated into rice, rice should be creamy. Add remaining onion and mushroom mixture plus ½ Tsp Salt and ½ Tsp Pepper before serving. Enjoy!

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Philly Cheese Steak – Vegan

Philly Vegan Mushroom Cheesesteak

(Makes 4 Sandwiches)

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Philadelphia – Greek for Philos (Love) Adelphos (Brotherly)…The City of Brotherly Love. I love Philadelphia. The history, culture, museums, life…the architecture, buildings, infrastructure, sites. The Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia Museum of Art (don’t forget Rocky), City Hall, Independence Hall, Comcast Center, PSFS Building, PECO Building, SEPTA, Philadelphia Navel Shipyard, One Liberty Place, Franklin Institute, Please Touch, Boat House Row, African American Museum, Rodin Museum, Academy of Natural Science, Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul…Penn’s Landing, Penn Relays, Broad Street Run, Puerto Rican Day Parade, 76ers, Flyers, E.A.G.L.E.S., Phillies! Lincoln Financial, Citizens Bank Park, Fairmont Park, the Arts…public art, murals, graffiti, nightlife, Kimmel & Mann Centers, Chris’ Jazz Café, Philadelphia Orchestra, music, ballet…The motto: Philadelphia Maneto (“Let Brotherly love endure”)…William Penn, Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, Kevin Hart, Kevin Bacon, Joan Jett, Bradley Cooper, Kobe Bryant, Will Smith, Billie Holiday, Hall & Oates, Jill Scott, Sherman Hemsley, Questlove – The Roots, Grace Kelly, Richard Gere, Joe Frazier, Frank Rizzo, Charles Ramsey, Ed Rendell, John Street, Michael Nutter, Bill Cosby and Noam Chomsky…LOVE Park, Jewelers’ Row, Morris Arboretum, Walnut Street, South Street, Chinatown, Italian Market, Reading Terminal Market, Stephen Starr Restaurants, Le Bec-Fin, Amada, Four Seasons’, Vedge, Morimoto, Vetri, The Capital Grille, Serpico, Figs, Memphis Taproom, R2L, Volver, Warmdaddy’s, Ms. Tootsie’s…Tomato Pies, DiBruno Bros, Amoroso’s, Stromboli, Tastykake, Water Ice, Soft Pretzels and the Philly Cheesesteak!

Ah, the Cheesesteak…developed in the early 20th century and often debated of who originated this creation, which cheese to use or who makes the best. Pat and Harry Olivieri are typically credited for the invention. The cheese – originally popular with provolone, the Whiz of Cheez has now dominated since the 80’s. Pat’s, Geno’s, Tony Luke’s your guess is as good as mine on who makes the best. So try my take and uncover the vegan within. This version of the popular sandwich “wit whiz” of course and minus the beef/steak, milk, whey, caramel color, modified food starch, etc. is so simple with mushrooms, fried onions and a cheez sauce. The simplicity and amount of love will surely do Philly proud.

Alternatively, I do make a version with homemade seitan in addition to the mushrooms. Mom’s seitan recipe is a long process so that version of the recipe is best suited for another day.

Ingredients:

2 (8-10oz) Pkgs White Button Mushrooms

4 Portobello Mushrooms

1 Medium Sweet Onion

3 Tbsp Canola Oil, divided

½Tsp Garlic Powder

½ Tsp Salt

½ Tsp fresh ground Pepper

½ Tsp Liquid Smoke (vegan friendly)

4 Hoagie Rolls (6 inch)

¼ Tsp ground Cumin, Optional

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Cheez Sauce:

Ingredients:

2 Small Baby Gold Potatoes

2 Small Carrots

1/3 Cup Water (use water carrots/potatoes were cooked in)

½ Cup Vegan Milk (Almond/Coconut blend)

3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

½ Tsp Garlic Powder

1 Tbsp Vegan Butter (Earth Balance)

¼ Tsp Turmeric

1/3 Cup Raw Cashews

½ Tsp Salt

¼ Tsp Fresh Ground Pepper

½ Tbsp Soy Sauce

¼ Tsp Smoked Paprika

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Directions:

-Cook carrots/potatoes in saucepan until fork tender. Remove potatoes/carrots and reserve water – 1/3 cup.

-In blender – combine potatoes/carrots with remaining cheese sauce ingredients.

(Note: My cheez sauce recipe is not specific to this cheesesteak, which means you will likely have leftover sauce – store and use remaining sauce for another dish. This sauce is also great for nachos, macaroni, dip with veggies/chips or in a burrito).

-Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent about 3-5 mins. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook on low until golden but not quite caramelized, stirring occasionally. Remove onions from pan and set aside.

-While carrots/potatoes and onions are cooking prepare mushrooms. Clean – wiping with damp cloth/paper towel, careful not to submerge mushrooms in water. Scoop gills from Portobello mushrooms and remove stems from buttons.

-Slice (6) of the button mushrooms and (2) of the Portobello mushrooms – then chop the remaining mushrooms.

-Sauté mushrooms in pan over medium-high heat in batches; cook for 5-8 minutes and remove from pan and set-aside after each batch. Add remaining oil to pan after half of the mushrooms have been cooked. (Note: Be sure to divide mushrooms and cook in multiple batches. If you throw all the mushrooms in the pan together at once they will get watery and steam up instead. You don’t want to over stir or season yet either. You’ll want mushrooms that have released their moisture and sizzle into a golden color).

-Once all the mushrooms have been cooked through return to pan. Toss with remaining seasonings and liquid smoke just until warmed through. Serve and top with cheez sauce then fried onions. Enjoy!

(Optional: Add 2 Peppers – poblano or green bell pepper. Seeds/Ribs removed then sliced and sautéed in pan after onions over medium-high heat until peppers are soft).

Zucchini Salad

Zucchini Salad (Serves 2)

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I thoroughly enjoy cooking and creating. There are some days that I literally open the pantry and refrigerator and voila! This salad happened on one of those days. Our children were visiting family for the day; Seth and I were about to enjoy a sandwich but I wanted something fresh to go along with it…a simple side salad. Boom…Zucchini salad! This recipe was perfect for just the two of us but could easily be doubled.

Ingredients:

1 large Zucchini, shaved

1 Vine Ripe Tomato, shaved

1 handful of Parsley, chopped

1 Scallion (Green Onion), chopped finely

3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, good quality

½ Tsp Italian Seasoning

1 Tsp Dijon Mustard

1 Tsp blue Agave nectar

1 Tbsp Capers

Directions:

-Using a mandolin slicer or vegetable peeler, slice zucchini and tomatoes into ribbons from top to bottom. (I use the 1/16 or 1.5mm setting on my mandolin). Chop parsley and finely chop green onion, set aside with zucchini and tomatoes.

-Whisk together Vinegar, Olive Oil, Italian Seasoning, Dijon Mustard, Agave and capers until combined. Toss both together until combined. Enjoy!

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