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Healthy Spanish Rice & Fajitas for the Family!

Healthy Spanish Rice Recipe & Fajitas for the Family!

I don’t know about you, but I love meals where everyone can choose what they want to add to their own dish. Last week I saw a recipe for “Anything Goes Fajitas” on www.JewishFoodExperience.com and decided that was the feast I was going to make for my peeps that evening. We ended up with so many leftovers I didn’t need to cook the next two nights. The recipe was supposed to feed a big crowd and I didn’t have one. However, I did have a happy me when I didn’t have to cook for the next couple nights!

There are several parts to this recipe, so it isn’t a five minute prep. However, like most things, you can simplify or make it bigger/fancier and more of an effort. There are also several steps that can be done ahead of time. It’s really a great recipe when you are having a lot of people and only want to make one dish. I mean, one dish with 5 parts…. Still, it’s all mental. This still feels easier than coming up with ideas for and cooking multiple dishes.

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The parts of the feast included:

1. The Marinade (Majorly simplified if you buy fajita spice mix in the store, which, of course, I did not).

2. The Protein (The recipe calls for chicken, beef and tofu. I made the beef for my hubby because I’m just occasionally awesome like that. I made the tofu of course and he also loved that.)

3. The Fajita Vegetables (Onions, peppers, etc….I happened to already have roasted red onion so I didn’t take time to saute yellow onion as the recipe suggested. I also roasted the peppers instead of sauteing which cut down on active cooking time. I’d just bought sliced portabella caps and roasted those too).

4. For Serving (Little-prep necessary items like tortillas, Tofutti sour cream, lettuce, cucumbers, guacamole, tomatoes and salsa). I also “mandolined” sweet potatoes and roasted those to serve on the side.

5. For me, the piece de resistance, was my accidental invention: Healthy Spanish Rice!

I made a microwave steam bag of brown rice. (Yes, of course it is healthier to use your rice cooker instead of microwaving in plastic, but I used what I had and it was so easy!). Then I made and mixed in my own recipe for homemade vegan nacho cheese sauce. A little diced red pepper and tomatoes and there you have it: creamy and healthy Spanish rice). I love Spanish rice, but have never been able to make it myself, so this was thrilling.

Recipe

Healthy Spanish Rice

Ingredients

Approximately 3 cups cooked brown rice (the amount depends on how large your crowd is)

1 Red pepper, diced

1 pint Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Optional: 1 can black beans

Cheese Sauce Ingredients

1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for at least an hour

1 roasted red pepper (can be from a jar!)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup almond milk

Cheese Sauce Directions

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend. Done! The recipe makes approximately 2 cups.

Rice directions
Mix cheese sauce into rice and vegetables, a quarter cup at a time, until desired creaminess is achieved.
Optional: Add black beans (and maybe even corn?) to make a main dish. Add salad and you’re done!

 

Celebrate Passover like Mayim Bialik!

Oh, Mayim Bialik, you are responsible for my downfall! The vegan Chocolate Truffle Pie of yours that I linked to in my Healthy Passover post was total crack! The sugar, the chocolate, the fattening horrible for you Passover margarine… It was a bliss point trifecta! That being said, it was such a hit I had to make another one two days later. Um…I didn’t say the Chocolate Truffle Pie was healthy, did I? But, damn, was it good!

By the way, if you haven’t heard me say this before, vegan doesn’t always mean healthy and that you miss out on eating anything enjoyable. Sometimes the good involves sugar-filled desserts and other times it is raw “caramels” made with dates and pine nuts (they are so good!). It’s not just about vegan, it’s about healthy. And healthy can be delicious too. But, very occasionally, I just need an unhealthy treat.

I spent the rest of the week gorging on vegetables, so I almost have a clear conscience. I mean, I would if I hadn’t gone ahead and made the second pie, two days later :)

Seriously, though, folks… I was surprised at how easy the week actually was. Well, by easy I mean completely doable and manageable. However, I did have to manage it, plan ahead and do A LOT of cooking. I spent at least 3 whole days in the kitchen throughout the holiday. Considering the number of formal meals I was cooking for (8?), that actually isn’t too bad. If I was cooking for just my own nuclear family, it never would have taken so long.

In an effort to help others trying to have a healthy Passover (or any other holiday), especially if they’re eating differently than others around them, let me tell you what can work.

1. Take responsibility for whatever it is you want to eat. There were meals when I wanted to enjoy dessert and others when I cared most about having three servings of salad. I was willing to work hard to make whatever I wanted to eat and to help others enjoy the holiday in the healthiest way possible (um…with the exception of the Truffle Pie of course…). In fact, my family was joking that I worked so hard and did such a great job on all the vegetables it must be an attempt to turn them all vegan. I responded that I had no such delusions, but if all of my healthy vegetables crowded out some other choices on the table, that was okay by me.

2. Be perfectly happy when it feels like you can only eat a couple of the dishes at a meal. Caveat: …As long as those items are healthy and will satisfy you. For instance, there were meals at which I knew I would be eating salad, soup (my mother in law was super considerate and had veggie soup for me while everyone else enjoyed her famous homemade chicken soup), a quinoa salad, one veggie side dish, and fruit for dessert. Only in a Thanksgiving type atmosphere is that NOT a perfectly satisfactory meal. I love not feeling disgusting at the end of a long meal with family and friends. I especially don’t mind my (self-imposed) dietary limitations, when I know it means I’ll feel well and that I was there for the company, not the food.

3. Involve your friends and family in the menu planning, but make it easy for them. I was happy to hear from friends that I’m not the only crazy one who keeps spreadsheets with grocery lists from year to year and menus for holidays going back to when I was single. For this year, I prepared a document divided into categories like salad, side dishes, vegetarian main meals and desserts. I listed all the recipes I’d found that I thought could work and where to find them. The where could be a link, a cookbook with a page number or a saved document.

4. Ask for the help you need! There was no way I could cook this amount and watch the kids at the same time. Sure, this can be paid help, but it can also just be making sure that you have family or friends who can juggle family responsibilities with you.

What’s next, peeps? You got it! Mother’s Day Brunch. Stay tuned for a great menu! (I welcome your suggestions too!)

 

Healthy Passover Recipes? Yes!

[Notes to my peeps: You’ll notice my once-weekly blog distribution has changed from Thursdays to Mondays. However, I’m sending out next week’s blog today, on a Thursday, so that you can incorporate these healthy recipe ideas into your Passover meal plan. Also, scroll to the bottom of this page for some great Israel/Passover inspiration (and non-vegan recipes) from The Israel Forever Foundation.]

Healthy Passover Recipes? Yes!

I thought Passover could be difficult being a vegetarian. That was a walk in the park compared to this, my first Pesach as a vegan. I see a lot of quinoa salads in my near future!

Although I will make a few interesting quinoa salads,I’m looking at the week as a great opportunity to incorporate healthy habits that I should follow the rest of the year (maybe I’ll do a little better though…):

1. Stay away from processed vegan foods (like the fake sour cream, cream cheese, and meats)

2. Be adventurous with vegetables!

3. Discover new vegan recipes that work well for family and holiday gatherings.

In addition, I’m excited to try Mayim Bialik’s Passover egg replacer recipe. I’ve been scouring the earth for one! 1 egg = 2 tbsp water + 1 tbsp oil + 2 tsp baking powder

I found this recipe for vegan cream cheese and this one for vegan sour cream, both from Leanne Vogel over at www.healthfulpursuit.com.

I was excited to discover that my favorite Susie Fishbein Pesach cookbook actually contains a decent number of vegan recipes. I already love my Nava Atlas Vegan Holiday cookbook (she includes American, Christian and Jewish holidays). Then, of course, there’s the internet!

Here are a few of the resources I’m using for recipes. I’m sure I’ll come up with some of my own recipes during Passover week, which I will dutifully record for next year! In the meantime, I’m using others as a jumping off point.

 

 

Please let me know if you make any of these or if you have other fun vegan/healthy recipes I should try.

For additional recipes and Israel/Passover inspiration, click on the links below!

From The Israel Forever Foundation

Israel at Your Seder: Celebrating our Journey to Freedom is an original Passover program written by Dr. Elana Heideman which is available for those looking to incorporate the Israel Connection at their Seder.