Roasted Eggplant With Purple Thai Basil Flowers and Peppers

This eggplant dish is so pretty and tasty! I actually stared at my dish for a while just to admire the beauty of Mother Nature’s work. I love all the purple colors and since 2018 is the year Pantone named “Ultra Violet” color of the year, this dish is a perfect fit.

 

I found this beautiful Thai basil bursting with purple flowers at the farmers market. Flowering plants are a fun way to add some beautiful garnish to your dishes. Next to the basil were some cool looking purple Thai peppers. I love me some purple colored foods, and jumped at the chance to make a purple power dish.

For the eggplant, I went with the smaller rounder style eggplant versus the longer skinnier eggplant just to play with some shapes.

I roasted the eggplant because I really love the flavors and textures you get from roasting. Roasting vegetables is not a traditional Asian style of cooking but hey, it’s fun to fuse different styles together, right?

For the sauce, I used gluten-free tamari to make the dish gluten-free.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 pound of round eggplant cut into quarter pieces
  • 12-14 Thai peppers (depending on how spicy you want the dish)
  • 3/4 cup chopped Thai basil leaves
  • Thai basil flowers for garnish
  • Chopped red jalapeno (optional for topping)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbs gluten-free tamari
  • 2 tbs organic brown sugar
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

Let’s start cooking

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a baking sheet spread the eggplant pieces out and cover the eggplant with olive oil. Sprinkle a few dashes of sea salt over the eggplant pieces. Use just a small amount of salt because the tamari used in the sauce is high in salt.

Roast for 25 minutes. Do not remove the sheet yet. Coat the Thai peppers with some olive oil and toss onto the sheet with the eggplant and roast for an additional 5 minutes. We are basically sweating the peppers a bit so they become a little softer.

Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool down. The eggplant should be soft to the touch, not too mushy.

To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combine the tamari, brown sugar, garlic and garlic powder, and mix together until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat on medium a wok or large sauce pan. Put the roasted eggplant and peppers into the pan. Toss in the chopped basil leaves and pour the sauce over the eggplant. Mix well.

Cover the wok or pan, and let the eggplant simmer in the sauce for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Take the pan off the burner and let the eggplant cool down.

When plating your eggplant and pepper dish, garnish on top with some of the beautiful flowers and sprinkle on some chopped red Jalapeno like I did in the photo for some fun burst of color.

Enjoy!

Eating Kitchari Is Great For Post Indulgence Detox

 

Tis the season for over-indulgence. Partaking in feasts and treats is one of the fun things about the holidays, vacations, or celebrations which we all should absolutely enjoy! Food is pleasure and celebration as well as nourishment.

But, then, yeah, there are the days that follow that indulgence where you feel bloated, stuffed and are still wearing your stretchy pants. You are in need of some detoxing.

One great dish to help with post indulgence is Kitchari which is an Ayurvedic detox food. This creamy rich bowl of mung dal, rice, vegetables with warming spices will help you feel rebalanced. It’s also great to eat when it’s cold outside or if you are feeling under the weather because it’s gentle on the stomach.

One of the easiest recipes I’ve found online is Martha Stewart’s recipe for Kitchari.

I tweaked her recipe a bit to make the dish vegan. I omitted the ghee, and I did not make any of the chutney. The great thing with kitchari is that you can get creative with the vegetables. Choose what you like. Her recipe suggests cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato, bok choy, carrots, and green beans. Have some fun with variety.

I topped my bowl with pea shoots, cilantro, avocado, radish, and this protein crunch I found at Whole Foods from Local Greens which is germinated peas, lentil, adzuki, and mung beans.

Normally, you would not add peppers to kitchari because heat is disruptive when you are trying to calm the digestive system. I put the peppers in for the photo because the designer in me can’t help myself as the red color looks nice.  If you want to add some heat to your kitchari, go for it.

I also like to squeeze lemon in kitchari to add some zest. Enjoy!

If You Need Help Choosing a Turkey Meat Alternative

If you are doing your first plant-based Thanksgiving, let’s give you a standing round of applauds! *cheers*

Here is a good video if you decided to go with a turkey meat alternative but have no idea which brand to get because hello there are too many choices. Yay! There was a time when Tofurkey was it. Thankfully, you now have many choices and the turkey-less meats are getting better.

 

The top brands are Tofurkey, Field Roast, and Gardein. Not in the video, Trader Joe’s also has a Turkey-less roast with gravy. Enjoy!

Product Review: Gardein Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites

One of the many reasons I love Gardein is that they make it possible to have plant-based Asian food right at home. Sweet and Sour pork used to be one of my favorite Chinese food dishes, and now I can enjoy that flavor once again.

I have to admit I was a little skeptical of these Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites at first because just from the picture on the bag they look puffy like the Gardein Home Style Beefless Tips which is not in my top faves.

As soon as I took a bite of the cooked Porkless Bites from my plate, all that skepticism disappeared. These Porkless Bites are a good way to transition from eating real pork. For a plant-based version of sweet and sour pork, these bites are pretty darn delish and they have 13g of protein per serving which is awesome!

 

 

The Porkless Bites are best when you pan fry them in some oil so you get that nice crispy outside similar to the crispy outside you get when ordering real pork sweet and sour at a Chinese restaurant. I love that crispiness!

I use avocado oil for pan frying.

And speaking of Chinese restaurants, I added some carrots, onions, and red pepper to my Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites to make it restaurant style. So good! The sauce comes in a separate packet so if you do not like the sauce that comes with the bites or you want to try another sauce like an orange sauce or Peking sauce, you can totally do that.

The recipe for the whole meal pictured here is in our app.

One Pan Tomato Mushroom Pasta Featuring Heirloom Tomatoes

 

This pasta dish will quickly become one of your favorite go-to meals because it’s easy and fast to make, plus you can do many versions of it based on what you have in the fridge and pantry. This dish is especially amazing when heirloom tomatoes are in season when you can pick some up at your local farmers market. Heirloom tomatoes come in a variety of colors so try as many as you can.

I used Trader Joe’s brand organic whole wheat penne pasta but you can use 12 oz of your favorite pasta like linguine, spaghetti, or fun farfelle aka bow tie pasta. Normally for one pan dishes you’d use a 3-qt. sauté pan, but I used a wok because I found it easier to mix and stir the pasta while it was cooking.

 

 

I LOVE heirloom tomatoes because of their sweet, rich flavor, and the varieties of color and shape. For my dish, I used a combination of these two organic varieties.

 

Organic Red Zebra Stripes Heirloom Tomatoes

 

Organic Chocolate Stripes Heirloom Tomato

 

I cannot get enough of the rich color of the Chocolate Striped heirlooms. They are stunning to use in chopped salads or sliced in Caprese salad.

Get creative and have fun with this recipe. I used mushrooms but another fun add in replacement would be chopped Padron or Jimmy Nardello peppers.




Ingredients:

  • 12 oz organic penne pasta
  • 12 oz chopped organic heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 organic basil leaves
  • 4 small sprigs of otganic oregano leaves
  • 6 chopped organic cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 small organic red onion sliced
  • 4 coves organic sliced garlic – Add more to up the garlic excitement
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-1/2 tsps of salt. I added 1/2 tsp more salt to the recipe because whole wheat pasta tends to be a bit blander (to me) compared to regular wheat.
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes optional if you want spicy
  • 4-cups of water

Cooking the dish:

  • In your pan, pour in the pasta first then add in the tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, garlic, onion, basil, and oregano like you see in the photo above.
  • Add in the olive oil, salt, and a few shakes of black pepper. Add the red pepper flakes if you want spicy.
  • Pour in the water and mix everything together.
  • Turn the heat to high and wait for the water to start boiling. Keep stirring while the water gets hotter.
  • When the water boils, turn the heat down to medium high, and continue stirring until the pasta gets soft about 10-15 minutes.

The pasta water becomes the sauce of the dish. In the last few minutes, if you notice the water drying up faster than the cook time of the pasta, add a little more water. For example, Penne can use more water than Angel Hair pasta.

If you make this dish, take a photo, tag it #theflexi21 and share with the community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @theflexi21.

 

Vegan Grilled Cheese: Havarti, Roasted Tomato, Garlic, and Basil

 

Oh yes, this sandwich dripping with cheese is vegan!

The quality of plant-based cheese has thankfully improved dramatically since the turn of the century. We are getting to the point where the difference between a plant-based cheese and a dairy made cheese are getting pretty close.

The vegan cheese featured in this sandwich is the Jalapeno Garlic Havarti Daiya Wedge. This Daiya Havarti melts pretty well. It wouldn’t fool a dairy eater, but oh, it comes in pretty close. The Jalapeno is very mild and adds more flavor than heat.

I made this grilled Havarti with roasted vine tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Other brands of plant-based cheese I would recommend trying include Field Roast Chao Creamy Original and Follow Your Heart Pepperjack or Smoked Gouda.

 

 

For the bread, I found at the market a Pumpkin Seed Sage Boulet that was vegan. Sage and seeds sounded so good to me, and the pumpkin seeds just add more protein to the sandwich.

 

 

To make the roasted tomatoes:

  • Cut the tomatoes into slices. Dice some fresh basil leaves. Chop some garlic chunks.
  • Place on a baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with some olive oil. Massage the oil into the ingredients. Add a couple pinches of sea salt.
  • Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.




The butter I used was Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread. This flavor is my favorite of all the Earth Balance Buttery Spreads because it has a great buttery taste. Also, this spread is trans fat-free, vegan, and has no GMOs. I made toast for my folks using this spread and they didn’t know the difference.

A little secret to get the cheese to look gooey melted is to cook your grilled cheese sandwich in a pan on the stove top like you would a regular grilled cheese sandwich until the bread is a nice golden brown. Then put your sandwich on a plate and microwave it on high for like 10 seconds. If you microwave too long, the bread will start to get soggy and lose it’s crispy grilled texture.

Of course, I had to complete the sandwich experience with tomato soup. For ease, the soup is Whole Foods 365 brand organic Vegan Tomato soup in a can.

If you make this sandwich, take a photo, tag it #theflexi21 and share with the community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @theflexi21.

 

Serpentine Cucumbers, Heirloom Tomatoes and Dill Salad

 

Who knew that a cucumber and tomato salad could look this beautiful or sound this divine? You never know what you can find at the farmers market. This salad allows for so many different variations based on what variety of cucumber or tomato you use. There is a plethora of options.

This salad is great to take to potlucks or BBQs, and is so easy to make. Most of the work is in chopping the veggies.

For this creation, I used Serpentine cucumbers aka striped Armenian cucumbers which are so cool looking because they really do look like serpentine creatures.

I love the shape and texture of the ridges on the skin of these cucumbers. They have less seeds and thinner skin than cucumbers you normally find at the grocery store.

 

 

I used organic heirloom tomatoes in yellow orange and magenta colors. Below the tomatoes are flowering artichokes. The flower of the artichoke is so beautiful and makes for a really cool centerpiece decoration.

 

 

You can use any red onion. I found these cool organic Red Spring onions.

 

 

For the ingredients, there is no rhyme or reason to how much cucumber, tomato, or onion you use. Base what you need on how many people you want to serve.




Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 long Serpentine cucumber chopped
  • 3 Heirloom tomatoes chopped
  • 1/4 Red Onion chopped or 1 Red Spring Onion chopped
  • 5 sprigs of chopped fresh Dill
  • Brianna’s Blush wine vinaigrette – You can use any vinaigrette you want. The best to use is a sweet vinaigrette. I use pre-made vinaigrette because I am too lazy to make from scratch. Plus, this Brianna’s vinaigrette is one of my favorites because it has a cool sweetness that compliments all the veggies in the salad.

To make this salad, basically all you do is put all your chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onion in a mixing bowl with the dill and massage in the vinaigrette. That’s it.

For the photo finish, I sprinkled on top some hemp seeds and chili pepper flakes.

Boom! Done. Easy.

 

Product Review: Philz Coffee Iced Mint Mojito

 

One of the most popular coffee chains in California is Philz Coffee which not only has some good and fun coffee drinks but also serves vegan goodies like donuts, and cookies.

My favorite drink at Philz, and one of the most popular drinks in general there, is the Iced Mint Mojito which is sweet, creamy, and minty. This Mojito is a MUST.

The fresh mint leaves on top really make this drink incredible. Normally, the Mint Mojito is made with a signature cow milk cream but you can get a mojito made with soy or almond milk to make it plant-based. In the picture here, my mojito has soy milk.

The Mint Mojito also comes hot but it’s not really that good and the mint leaves shrivel in the heat and gets kinda yucky truth be told. Nice and iced cold is the way to go!

Product Review: Hampton Creek Just Ranch Dressing

If you have gone plant-based and have been missing the buttermilk richness of Ranch dressing, I have some good news for you. Hampton Creek known for their outstanding animal-free mayo, has knocked it out of the ballpark with their new Ranch dressing.

I could not believe this dressing is vegan. Their Ranch is creamy just like regular Ranch dressing and has an incredible flavor. I poured some of the Just Ranch on my green salad here so you can see what it looks like.

It’s GOOD! Just Ranch has become one of my new favorites now.

Even more outstanding is that Just Ranch is GMO-Free. Hampton Creek is proving that you can make incredible tasting food without any animals nor genetically modified organisms. It is just food with ingredient names you will recognize.

 

There is a difference between the Just Ranch sold at Whole Foods and the one sold at Target and other retailers.

The Just Ranch version at Whole Foods does not have the preservatives Cultured Dextrose, Potassium Sorbate, and Calcium Disodium EDTA in it that extends shelf life because it’s considered an unacceptable ingredient for Whole Foods selling standards so look for Just Ranch in the produce area where the chilled dressings are located.

In Target and other retailers, the Just Ranch sold there has the preservatives so you can find it on the shelf in the salad dressing aisle.

Vegan Szechuan Beef Strips With Padrons, Zephyr Zoodles And Fried Brown Jasmine Rice

 

This meal is something you can easily make for dinner because it doesn’t involve much prep. Thankfully, there are plenty of plant-based alternative meats available to choose from. My favorite Asian beef alternative is Gardein’s Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips . The texture of these beefless strips reminds me of a crispy sweet and sour pork like you get at Chinese takeout places.

I cooked the strips per the instructions and sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. The sauce Gardein uses to flavor the beefless strips is amazing! I wish they would bottle that stuff up because I would buy a whole bottle of it. It tastes like a sweet, soy stir-fry sauce.

 

 

Recently, I bought a Veggetti Spiralizer for like $10, and I’ll be honest because of this gadget I have become addicted to spiralizing vegetables, mostly zucchini. The Vegetti makes some real fun thick and thin veggie noodles.




To make the Zoodles, I used organic Zephyr squash which is one of my favorite summer squashes because of its fun yellow and green stripes.  No need to cook the zoodles because they actually taste better raw.

 

 

I love Padron peppers! Definitely try them if you haven’t. Padrons are a Spanish pepper and only about 3″ long. They have an earthy, sweet, nutty flavor and are mild 99% of the time. Occassionaly though, a couple in the bunch will be hot. It’s like playing roulette. In all the years I’ve eaten this pepper, only twice have I gotten a hot one.

If Padron peppers are not in season or available in your area, try other sweet peppers like Shishito or Jimmy Nardello.

Quickly pan sear a handful of chopped Padron peppers with olive oil, a pinch of garlic powder and pinch of sea salt.

Mix the cooked padrons in with the raw Zoodles and some chopped red onion.

The fried rice is simply pan-fried brown Jasmine rice with organic carrots, corn, edamame, and a little soy sauce for flavor.

 

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