Meatless Holiday Recipes

It is hard for me to believe, I have been a non-meat eater for over 20 years.  I became a Pescatarian soon after my divorce.

My reasons were not typical. I wasn’t on an “ethical” kick although I do love animals. The reason I decided to try giving up meat was because I really wasn’t eating or enjoying it anyway.
It made sense to make a change.

Initially, I figured if someone invited me for dinner I would eat meat if it was served, but just not at home. Upon learning of my culinary choices, my dinner invites pretty much disappeared. My friends were just too stressed about what they would cook if I was invited for dinner.

After about 8 years without meat, it sort of became an ethical thing. Why would I eat meat and take a life for it when it was really unnecessary. I was doing just fine without it.

So, here I am 20 years later finding that I am still not the purist that most non meat eaters are. I still eat dairy and fish. I believe it helps me to be a bit more balanced and sociable. Lately though I have been trying to go back to the roots of my food behavior change and eat more non animal product meals.

With the Vegan trend, it has become easier to find some tasty meal choices and recipes sans animal products.  I have been making more vegetarian meals/snacks and have found it positive in terms of my weight, health profile, hunger and energy levels.  This was also true when I initially became a Pescatarian.

My first two experiments with Vegan recipes were inspired by a fitness blog DAMY Health. The author is a trainer and Vegan. 

The two choices I made from the recipe file were excellent. First a chocolate candy made with coconut milk and cocoa then put in the freezer. It made a nice pre or post meal snack. The other was what was termed cashew cheese.  It is made with soaked raw (not really raw but that’s another story) cashews, extra virgin olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, basil and Sriracha chili (love Sriracha) I not only enjoyed this as a snack but also started having it on toast or crackers for breakfast.  It makes a satisfying breakfast that stays with you.

For Thanksgiving, I often make a stuffed acorn squash with soy meat, apples, dried fruit and maple syrup. This year I found a NY Times article listing recipes for a Vegan Christmas. They sounded not only nutritious but tasty too.  I thought I would try them.

I planned to make dinner with my sister. She came to Dallas on Thanksgiving, so we planned to have our Holiday dinner on the weekend.  Time got away from us and we never made the meal. After she left, I made the meal for me myself and I. Loved it.

I made Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup and toasted Hazelnuts and for dessert, dairy free Spiced Crème Brulee.

I also made myself a non dairy eggnog snack using Almond Milk, Spices and Vanilla Protein powder. A small swig of vanilla rum in it didn’t hurt a bit.

I know to true carnivores, these recipes may sound “different”. The only thing I can say is I recommend these. If you have an open mind, you might find you can enjoy a few meat free meals once in awhile.

I did not follow the recipe. I used store bought almond milk(6oz maybe), about a ½ scoop of  LEAN Vanilla Protein Shake mix (http://www.waycooldiet.com/lean.html) for the sweetness and Vanilla flavor, about ½ a tablespoon almond butter, a shake of Apple Pie Spice and a good  pinch of allspice.
I whipped this all up in the blender with a few ice cubes until it was nice and frothy than served it with about a tablespoon of Vanilla Rum and freshly grated Nutmeg on top. Yum!

Here are links to the other recipes:
Holiday menu from the NY Times-

Damy Health recipes


Orange Sticky Salmon

I saw a Pinterest page from a Florida seafood website today. Looking at the recipes I saw one for Orange Sticky Shrimp.  Since I was trying to come up with an idea for dinner without grocery shopping it gave me an idea.

I didn’t have any shrimp but I had orange juice and Grand Marnier. So I took the sauce idea and adapted the recipe for a piece of salmon I had.

This is what I did. I preheated the toaster over to about 375. My salmon was a little over an inch thick. I sprinkled it with some pink salt, ground pepper, garlic powder and a light dusting of Cajun blackening seasoning, then popped it in the toaster over for about 12 minutes (common practice is 10 minutes per inch)

While if cooked, I poured ½ of a cup of orange juice and 1 ½ tbl Grand Marnier in a saucepan. I cooked it down until it way syrupy like honey.  To that I added just a little finely chopped jalapeno and about ¼ tsp butter.

When the salmon was done I poured the sauce over it. That was it. I loved it. I ate it with a salad on the side and it was filling and delicious. Clean up was a charm.

Here is the original recipe for the Orange Sticky Shrimp. You might try that sometime too. I bet it’s good.


    2 cups
    orange juice
    2 tablespoons
    triple sec liqueur
    1 1/2 pounds
    shrimp, peeled and deveined
    1 teaspoon
    sesame oil
    1 teaspoon
    soy sauce
    1 teaspoon
    chopped hot pepper


Cook orange juice and triple sec in a large skillet until liquid has reduced to a very thick, honey like, consistency. Add shrimp and oil and cook approximately 6 to 8 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in the center and liquid thickens again. Add soy sauce and chopped pepper and mix well. Serve immediately.

4 servings


Summer dinner

I have been getting pretty bored with my “at home” meals lately. I have been busy socially which hasn’t left much time to cook at home. Consequently, meals have been an afterthought. I even went so far as to buy premade hummus. It is now sitting in the refrigerator being ignored. Too much garlic and all I can say is it didn’t agree with me. Mine, I love.

So this weekend, I decided to make a nice meal for myself. It was easy to make, fresh and perfect for a summer evening.

Although I wanted to cook, I had no desire to go to the grocery store.  I had some nice shrimp in the freezer, a perfect avocado, a mango and herbs from my patio garden.

One of my favorite food blogs is Closet Cooking. On the site I found a recipe for Mango, Avocado and Grilled Shrimp Salad with Peanut Dressing http://www.closetcooking.com/2009/09/mango-avocado-and-grilled-shrimp-salad.html.  Almost perfect, I had most of the ingredients.

The grilled shrimp came from another recipe on the site, Tom yum grilled shrimp.  I found it to have too many ingredients that I didn’t have and sounded too time consuming. It was already 9pm and I was just starting dinner.  So, instead of making the as suggested, I chose to marinate them in a marinade I found of Bobby Flay’s, on the Food Network site. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/ginger-soy-lime-marinated-shrimp-recipe/index.html .

The only things I changed in the marinade was the ginger and leaving out the shallot. I had no fresh ginger but I did have crystallized ginger. I cut the sugar out of the recipe and used chopped crystallized sugar instead. It worked just fine. I grilled the shrimp on skewers on a med hot grill until browned and just done, but still tender.

The dressing for the salad called for a birds eye chile. I had no fresh chile but I did have Sriracha, so I used just a small squeeze of it instead.  The recipe also called for 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. I am not a big fan of fishy, so I only used about a teaspoon. For the salad greens, I had arugula.  I am happy I used it. It went very well with the dressing. Brown sugar was my choice of sweetener.

Along with the dinner, I made a tropical vodka colada using the tropical vodka I made from Roy Yamaguchi’s recipe http://ptbcooking.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-visit-to-dallas-last-year-i-had-very.html.

I combined the vodka, Knudson Pineapple Coconut juice and ice in a blender and blended until smooth. I toasted some fresh sweetened coconut, dipped the rim of a martini glass in honey then dipped it again in the coconut to decorate.  I then added the juice/vodka blend to the glass and topped it with cool whip I had mixed with a little rum extract. It was delicious.

I have included the link to the meal recipes above, but here they are as well.  I hope you will try them.  This makes a great summer meal.

Mango, Avocado and Grilled Shrimp Salad with a Peanut Dressing
(makes 2 salads)
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
1 lime (juice and zest)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 birds eye chili (sliced)
1 teaspoon palm sugar (grated or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon cilantro (chopped)
1 tablespoon mint (chopped)
1 mango (stoned, scooped and sliced)
1 avocado (stoned, scooped and sliced)
2 handfuls salad greens
2 green onions (sliced)
2 tablespoons peanuts (roasted and chopped)
6 tom yum grilled shrimp (optional)

1. Mix the coconut milk, lime, fish sauce, peanut butter, chili, sugar and cilantro in a bowl and set aside.
2. Assemble the salad, toss with dressing to coat and serve garnished with chopped roasted peanuts.

Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

    2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
    1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
    4 cloves garlic, smashed
    3/4 cup soy sauce
    1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 cup chopped green onions
    1/4 cup peanut oil
    1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
    2 pounds large shrimp, shells and tails on


Place shallots, ginger, garlic, soy, lime juice, and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the green onion and oil and blend until combined. Season with black pepper, to taste. Place shrimp in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat a grill to high. Remove shrimp from the marinade and grill for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve on brown paper bags, if desired.

Serves: 8; Calories: 177; Total Fat: 5 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 25 grams; Total carbohydrates: 7 grams; Sugar: 4 grams; Fiber: 0 grams; Cholesterol: 172 milligrams; Sodium: 1923 milligrams


The joys of coconut oil

A friend of mine that is into “holistic” foods and supplements got me interested in using coconut oil.  

He suggested I try the unrefined, organic, cold pressed coconut oil, that among other things, it was great for cooking. I decided I would  try it.  He also suggested that I take a teaspoon 2x a day for health.  I tried that as well.

The results? Well first, for my health, I take a teaspoon and sit it out to warm slightly (actually I put it briefly on top of my drip coffee maker until it liquefies). It tastes pretty good. I feel healthy but that doesn’t prove anything. Although I think he has “sold out” a bit, here is what Dr. Oz has to say about the health benefits. http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/charles-mattocks/benefits-coconut-oil If Dr Oz says it, it must be true, right?

Cooking with coconut oil has been great.  I cooked my salmon with it the other night. All I did was put my salmon on a baking sheet, squeezed some lemon on it then spread coconut oil on top. I then added a sprinkling (not too much) of Pink Salt. I baked my salmon  filets at 350 degrees for 10 minutes per inch.

A minute or two before the salmon was done, I topped it with shredded coconut (yes I used the sweetened kind but fresh coconut would be great too) and let it lightly brown on top. That was all I did and it was fantastic. I am hooked.

I doubt my friend had any idea how hooked on coconut oil I could be. Being a native Floridian, I have always loved coconut...fresh off the tree! 

 I read an online article about using it as a conditioner for your hair, so what do you think I did? Yes, you guessed it. I washed my hair then got out of the shower and an urge to spread the stuff on my hair took hold.

So, I will tell you….you can’t just rinse it out and you can’t leave it in. I tried both. Leaving it in, I tried to dry my hair but all I got was greasy hair. Then I tried rinsing it with warm water.  It was still in my hair but I was able to at least dry it. It was late and I was tired so I rationalized drying my hair but leaving what was left of the coconut oil in my hair overnight. I then washed it in the morning (an old pillowcase is recommended). Voila, I have the softest, silkiest, shiniest hair that I have had in years. I love it.

My sister thinks I am addicted to the stuff….she may have a point.


Shrimp and the Carbon footprint

More evidence that Asian produced shrimp are not good for us or the environment. Ask before you buy and buy Key West Shrimp!


Sheila’s Tomato Soup Minestrone

Yesterday, I met with the wife of a Medical Device manager I know. He suggested we get together because she is starting a corporate wellness consulting company.  I met with her and we had a nice conversation.

She is getting certified by an organization called Integrative Medicine. They support the idea of eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non Genetically Modified foods.

I had planned to stop at Central Market for some vegetables to make a Minestrone soup.  I was even more motivated after our discussion.  I made the soup and I really like it.

The recipe was a combination of a recipe for tomato soup I have been making for years. It came from The Frugal Gourmet cookbook by Jeff Smith.

The Frugal Gourmet is no longer on TV. Jeff Smith died many years ago and his reputation died as well. He had been accused of being a pedophile!

Still I love the soup. It is simple and uses fresh tomatoes. I never liked canned tomato soup but I love this one.  I decided to use that as a base for my minestrone. To it I added fresh veggies and beans.  I threw in sprigs of oregano, thyme and rosemary from my patio garden. This one is  a keeper!

The stock base I used is from a company called “Better Than Bouillon”.  I can find it in most groceries. The one I used is called “No Chicken Base”.  When I am looking for a more beefy stock, I use their “Mushroom base”.

 Since these can add a lot of sodium, I only use enough to flavor the stock to my taste. The label says to use ½ tablespoon per quart or 1 teaspoon per 8 oz. If you can use less, great because there is 670mg of sodium per teaspoon. If you want less sodium there are low sodium stocks you can buy or make your own!

I used roasted garlic and some of the oil from roasting it but fresh minced garlic is just as good. I hope you try this and enjoy getting your veggies!

Sheila’s Tomato Soup Minestrone

6 ripe roma tomatoes, chopped (skin, seeds and all!)
11/2 tbl olive oil and 1 tsp butter plus just enough olive oil to sauté the vegetables
3 cups chicken or chicken like stock or vegetable stock
I use 3 cups water and 2 tsp “no chicken” “Better than Bouillon” to make the stock 
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 medium zucchini chopped into cubes
1 medium carrot chopped into cubes
1 handful of green beans cleaned, tips removed and cut in half
5 large leaves of red Swiss chard, cleaned and red stalks cut off (greens only) chopped coarsely
½ potato chopped into cubes
½ can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
Sprigs of rosemary, thyme and fresh oregano
Salt and Fresh Ground pepper to taste

Saute the tomatoes in oil/butter mixture until they are tender. Add the soup stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, saute the garlic in a little olive oil (I used roasted garlic and the oil I roasted it in). Add carrot, zucchini, green beans and cook until zucchini starts to get soft.

Blend the tomato mixture (a hand blender is fantastic for this) in batches being careful not to overfill and burn yourself. Return to the pan and to the heat. Add the sautéed vegetables, the potato, the herbs and the chard. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add beans and cook covered 5 more minutes.  Season, remove herb sprigs and serve.