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Cooking it all: Better than Vegan by Del Sroufe

forks over knives cookbook

Del Sroufe is known for a few specific accomplishments. First, he wrote the Forks Over Knives cookbook, (although the desserts are by one of my fave vegan chefs, Isa Chandra Moskowitz). Second, he has written a new cookbook, “Better than Vegan.”

The reason he wrote this new cookbook highlighting a whole foods, plant-based way of eating, is because of another one of his remarkable accomplishments: Getting up to 475 pounds as a vegan! Yes, as he writes in the book, animal products contain more fat and calories than plant-based foods…However, eating sugar and white bread sandwiches can sure do the job too! If someone has a compulsive eating issue, it doesn’t matter which foods they restrict themselves to. They will over-indulge on those foods. When you gorge on donuts, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re made with butter or non-dairy margarine.

del sroufe

One of the biggest premises of “Better than Vegan”, aside from avoiding animal products and focusing on whole, plant-based foods, is to avoid fat and oil. As I’ve written here before, oil – even olive oil – does not provide you with any nutrients. It simply provides you with fat and calories. Most foods can be made without added oil. Sroufe even avoids coconut and avocado, two high-fat plant foods, as much as possible. In addition he is careful to watch his intake of nuts and seeds. He advises his readers to save their (very low) fat intake for items that do contribute vital nutrients, such as the aforementioned nuts and seeds.

better than vegan

I’ve learned so many tricks the past few years, as I have transitioned to a vegan (and healthy, whole foods) way of eating. However, this book gave me several new tools that I intend to keep in my every day tool kit. I don’t think you can say much more than that when complimenting a cook book. (I hope my upcoming “Healthy Family Healthy You” book does the same for you!). First, here are some of the basics that I will be using daily, from now on. Then I’ll show you the Better than Vegan recipes I used them in. First, Sroufe uses cauliflower puree as a base for white sauces, salad dressing, and a replacement for coconut milk. I’ve already taken the puree and made my own Alfredo sauce recipe (to be shared with my readers in some form shortly).

I’m most excited about his recipe for low-fat mayonnaise, using the cauliflower puree and lite silken tofu. I’m changing all of the recipes in my book that use any type of vegan mayonnaise. Forget low-fat Nayonaise, the vegan option I usually recommend out of a lack of other choices. I made this one today and it is delicious! It tastes better than regular full-fat mayo as far as I’m concerned. However, it doesn’t contain a lot of fat and it actually provides nutrients! Can’t beat that!

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Then I took the Sroufe mayo and made his recipe for Potato Salad. Delish! A little too much mustard for my taste, but I can adjust that next time.

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I also made the Spinach Artichoke Dip (amazing, but VERY garlicky for mere mortals, who are not garlic fiends like me). Others may want to adjust the number of garlic cloves. I forgot to mince the garlic first so I ended up completely blending the dip (in order to incorporate all of the garlic cloves), rather than only pulsing the last few ingredients. It’s pretty bright green! I’ll be interested to see how it turns out next time, when I don’t whip the whole thing and leave some of it chunky.

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Finally, I made the Tropical “Chicken” Salad. Again, delish! I’m going to be adding it to my Thai Lunch in the Sun Room menu (Let me know if you want me to share that menu on my blog some time, like when spring actually shows up!).

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Aside from the cauliflower puree and mayonnaise recipes, there is one other basic that he includes in many of his recipes. He calls it, “Best Date Syrup Ever.” No matter how I try I just don’t like Stevia, so I left that out of the recipe. The syrup was plenty sweet without it and contributed to the “chicken” salad recipe. Basically, it’s a less processed, lower fructose option over the ubiquitous agave nectar (…which I absolutely think is too high in fructose and makes me fat. I just didn’t have another great liquid option before the date syrup. Brown rice syrup doesn’t always work with every recipe.)

Here’s a picture of the date syrup.

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I highly recommend this cookbook and will be adding it to the Resources section of my upcoming “Healthy Family, Healthy You” book. I’ll be providing very short vegan cookbook reviews in the Resources chapter. However, if you want more detailed reviews like this in the future, I’m happy to blog them. Just let me know!

2 Recipes: Vegan Hamantaschen and a Bonus Dessert!

Vegan Purim Success!

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As I start thinking about my first Passover as a vegan (and not just vegetarian), I’m happy to report a successful first vegan Purim. I can’t eat most of the candy (good for me!) and had to make my own to get vegan hamantaschen (I hear there is one brand that is vegan. However, every one I’ve found in the store has food coloring). Now I have to stop eating them!

I made my own vegan hamantaschen, with my own delicious twist: caramelized banana and chocolate. I found the recipe through Food 52, although the author credits it as a copy of a recipe from The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook with her addition of maple sugar. I did not try it with the maple sugar.

I also discovered another use for this dough. Your guests will love you! Keep reading to find out my yummy idea for company.

[See my comments about the recipe in brackets below]

Vegan Hamantaschen Recipe

Makes 24

  • 2/3 cups vegetable shortening or butter substitute [I used Earth Balance coconut shortening for baking]
  • 1/2 cup white or raw sugar [Oh, s#*t. I just realized I misread this and put in 1 cup of sugar! No wonder it was so sweet, like chocolate chip cookie dough. My daughter was shocked when we put this in. She said, “We never make anything with this much sugar!” I told her “It’s just for Purim, don’t get used to it.” No wonder it will be perfect for my second dessert idea….]
  • 1/2 cup well-mashed banana [I used one banana and didn’t measure it.]
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • jam, Nutella, fruit butter or traditional filling [I used the caramelized banana and chocolate.]
To make the caramelized banana and chocolate filling: Slice 1 banana thinly and cook it for 20 minutes at 300 on parchment paper. I placed one in the middle of each circle of dough and topped it with a few non-dairy chocolate chips.
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I also made a few without banana for my daughter
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and with raspberry jam for my husband.
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That’s one thing that’s great about hamantaschen. It’s easy to customize for everyone.
I also treated myself to a chocolate, walnut and coconut trial. It’s not that it didn’t taste good. It did. However, I think the walnut didn’t work for me because it’s crunchy. It’s better to have a soft filling in contrast with a soft dough with crunchy corners.
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  1. beat together shortening and sugars
  2. add in banana, water and vanilla, beat well. don’t worry if the mixture separates out here–it looks ugly but it works!
  3. beat in the salt and flour to make a smooth dough
  4. form a ball, cover and chill for at least 2 hours
  5. on a floured surface roll out to less than 1/8 inch thick. cut 3-inch circles in the dough. it’s good to work in batches as the dough softens quickly. you can gather scraps and re-roll them, but put them in the freezer or refrigerator while you deal with your circles.
  6. dot a scant teaspoon of jam or filling in the middle of each circle.
  7. to make the traditional triangle shape: fold one side of the circle, then fold the next third so there is some overlap, then fold the last third. the jam center should still be visible. note: to keep them from opening up, instead of folding up and pinching sides together “up-side” to “up-side”, use some of one edge (what used to be facing up) to fold OVER the other edge (what used to be on the bottom), then pinch.
  8. place a few inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets (in case of runny jam) and bake at 375F for 12 or so minutes, until you can see some browning. let cool before enjoying–the jam will firm up nicely.

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And finally, my other use for this dough...
Especially because I realize now that I made a mistake and used twice as much sugar as I should have, I thought the dough tasted exactly like the raw cookie dough I ate as a child. My daughter gets very excited about my vegan baking batters and doughs because, without raw eggs, she is free to eat it safely (not that kids don’t eat it anyway)!
(Safely) Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls
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Take the above dough (probably with my mistaken doubling of the sugar!), and mix it with chocolate chips. Form into small balls, place on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer. When you’re ready to serve dessert, take them out of the freezer, place on your serving plate and place cute toothpicks in each one, allowing your guests to take them with ease. I promise, they will not believe you the dough is egg-free!
Chag Purim Sameach!

Tips & Tricks from a Foodie turned Food Editor!

Shifra Klein, Editor-in-Chief, for Joy of Kosher Magazine

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending Shifra Klein’s presentation for my Chabad Women’s Circle. Shifra is the Editor-in-Chief for Joy of Kosher magazine.

shifra klein

She started out as a foodie, then created Bitayavon magazine with her husband, before joining forces with cookbook author Jamie Geller’s Joy of Kosher magazine. We received Joy of Kosher’s Purim issue and it is gorgeous! There are endless recipes for every foodie interest and persuasion. It just so happens that this particular issue has a whole vegan section! Every page is full of useful information.

They’re currently running a special promotion. See below for more information.

Shifra made a number of delicious dishes, including chocolate mousse, mushroom and sweet potato balsamic salad (in this month’s issue) and a green bean salad with mango and pine nuts.

Top 10 Cooking Tips and Tricks

While she cooked, she provided cooking tips and tricks she’s learned over the last few years as she transitioned from Foodie to Food Editor.


joy of kosher

10. When choosing a non-dairy milk to use in a recipe, keep in mind the following: Almond milk and rice milk are the most watery. Soy milk is the thickest. Coconut milk falls in between, but can sometimes impart a coconut flavor, so don’t use it if you don’t want it. Shifra made a kale quiche (perhaps I will try with tofu?) and recommended the thicker soy milk for it.

9. To get the most juice from a lemon, first roll it on your counter for a minute to soften the lemon. Then, contrary to popular practice, cut it in half lengthwise before squeezing out the juice.

8. To keep your green beans bright green: Boil them for just a few minutes until they are still firm and green. Then plunge them into an ice water bath (that’s the chef’s term for a bowl full of very cold water).

7. When you plan to use herbs (such as basil) in a sauce, blanch them quickly, perhaps for 30 seconds, and then plunge them into an ice water bath.

6. You don’t want to serve green beans warm because they will turn dull and brownish if you warm them in the oven or on a warming tray. Serve the green beans at room temperature if cold is inappropriate for your dish.

5. Press your tofu before using it. This will get the water out, firm it up and improve the texture. To do this: Drain the water and take the tofu out of its container. Place a towel or several paper towels under and over the tofu. Place something with weight, like a plate or can, on top of the towel(s). Leave the tofu like this for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the towels and pour off any additional water.

4. For fresh, clean mushroom caps, simply peel the tops. Start at the edge and pull up. Keep moving around the top until you’ve removed all of the skin.

3. To make a recipe vegan, replace honey with agave nectar.

2. To make a non-dairy (vegan, parve) chocolate mousse, simply mix a bag of chocolate chips (pareve, vegan) and 1 cup of hot water. You will want to use a standing mixer so your arm doesn’t go numb. That’s because it takes about 15 minutes, but keep mixing, and you’ll have a fluffy chocolate mousse with no added sugar, oil or eggs.

1. Buy two subscriptions and receive Jamie Geller’s new cookbook free!