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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

My mom made this amazing vegan shepherd’s pie with a recipe she found online a few weeks ago.  I can honestly say it’s the best shepherd’s pie I’ve had, vegan or otherwise.  She gave me the recipe, which according to her printout, is from  Here is Fat Free Vegan’s recipe below along with pictures I took of it when I made it for dinner tonight.

Shepherd's Pie 3


2 lbs yukon potatoes

1/2 cup almond milk

salt & pepper, to taste

1 sweet onion, minced

2 large carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

8 oz. mushrooms, diced

2 cups vegetable broth

1 can kidney beans, drained

2 cups green beans, cut in 1 in. pieces

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 1/2 tsp thyme

1/4 tsp dried sage

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp water


Scrub the potatoes and cut them into cubes.  Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Reserve a cup of their cooking water and drain.  Place in a large bowl, add the almond milk, and mash until smooth.  Add some of the potato water if you need to, though the almond milk should be enough.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and then set aside in a warm place.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the filling.  Add a little bit of oil to a large skillet on medium high heat.  Saute the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms, and saute for 3 more minutes.

Add the vegetable broth, kidney beans, green beans, and herbs.  Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  There should still be a little bit of liquid in the skillet, but you may need to add just a bit of the potato water.  Add the spinach and stir until it’s completely wilted.  Mix the cornstarch and water in a separate bowl, and then pour into the skillet with the vegetables.  Stir until the mixture has thickened.

Shepherd's Pie

Turn the heat off, and spoon the potatoes evenly over the top of the filling and sprinkle with either rosemary or fried onions.  Serve immediately while hot.  This makes great leftovers as well!  Yields 6 servings.

Shepherd's Pie 2


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Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)

My husband LOVES canh chua!  I dare say it’s his favorite food.  I happen to like it a lot myself, so I want to share my recipe with you.  I’ll admit that Western taste buds are not really used to the sour flavor found in this soup, but I highly encourage you to be adventurous and give it a try, because it is so good (and packed full of healthy fruits/veggies)!  Not to mention this is an authentic Vietnamese recipe (except for the fact that my recipe leaves out the usual fish or shrimp and replaces it with red lentils).

Canh Chua 3


1 cup red lentils

2-3 stalks bac ha (I believe this is called taro stems in English; if you can’t find this, you can just use regular celery.)

15 okra, sliced into 1 inch pieces

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into 3 inch pieces

1 cup bean sprouts

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

several leaves of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander; if you can’t find this, you can use Thai basil.)

2 Tbsp fresh tamarind OR several spoonfuls of canh chua soup mix

nuoc mam chay (vegetarian “fish” sauce), to taste

You can buy bac ha, rau ram, nuoc mam chay, tamarind and/or canh chua soup mix, and lemongrass at most Asian markets.

Bac Ha

Bac Ha (taro stems)

Rau Ram

Rau Ram (Vietnamese coriander)

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Canh Chua Soup Mix (This is mine that I use.)


Heat up about 1 Tbsp of oil in a 5 quart pot.  Saute shallots, garlic, and lemongrass until fragrant (if using fresh tamarind, add that now, too).  Add in 3 Tbsp of canh chua soup mix and stir for about a minute.

Add 1 cup red lentils, 4 cups of vegetable broth, and 5 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, and then turn heat down to medium low so it can simmer for 10 minutes.

At this point, you can either use a slated spoon to scoop out all of the lemongrass pieces, or you can leave them for the added flavor and remove them from individual serving bowls as they are not eaten in this soup.

I like to add 2 Tbsp of canh chua base at this point along with the bac ha, okra, tomatoes, and pineapple.  Add in nuoc mam chay to taste.  Stir and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes.

At the end of the 10 minutes, the lentils should be cooked and the vegetables softened.  You may like the soup as is, in which case, you can now add in the bean sprouts and rau ram and it’s ready to serve.  However, if you are like us and enjoy strong flavors, we normally add in 1-3 Tbsp more of canh chua soup mix before adding in the bean sprouts and rau ram.

Typically, this soup is served with a separate bowl of rice to go with it, and Vietnamese people often spoon some of the soup over their rice.

Canh Chua 4

Once you stir everything in, it should look like this.

One more thing.  I know it’s kind of late, but Happy Memorial Day from our family to yours.  Since we do not personally know any fallen soldiers and neither of us have close relatives buried nearby, we walked through a local cemetery praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asking God to bring peace to those families who have lost loved ones this year.  What did you do for Memorial Day?


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Chocolate Goo

Craving something sweet but don’t have a lot of time or just don’t want to bake something that will have leftovers to tempt you in the fridge?  I don’t know where we came up with this or why we started making it, but my sister and I used to make something we called “chocolate goo” when we were kids.  I still make it to this day when my sweet tooth starts to ache.  Below I’ve posted the original version and the “healthier” version.



Chocolate Goo Unhealthy

Put ingredients in a bowl in this order:  1/4 cup oats, 1 heaping Tbsp peanut butter, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp Earth Balance, small handful vegan chocolate chips (I’ll the leave the amount to your discretion).  Do not stir the ingredients together; just place them in a bowl in that order and then put it in the microwave for 45 seconds.  Remove from the microwave, stir, and enjoy!


Healthier Version

Healthy Goo

The directions are the same as for the original recipe, but the ingredients are just slightly different:  1/4 cup oats, 1 heaping Tbsp of peanut butter, 1 Tbsp raw turbinado sugar, 1 tsp coconut oil, small handful vegan chocolate chips.


As you can see from the pictures, the consistency of the goo varies depending on which recipe you use, so that may be something to take into consideration when deciding which one you want to try.  Also, the “healthier” version does have a slightly different taste because of the coconut oil.  You may like that or you may not.  It’s all up to your preference, but I personally like both, and I’m telling you–this simple recipe is perfect for a quick chocolate fix.


I also wanted to let you know that if you read my last post about the homemade sunscreen and are wondering how it turned out, we ended up not going to the lake after all, so I haven’t made the sunscreen yet.  I’ll let you know as soon as I do!


Homemade Non-Toxic Sunscreen

A friend of mine posted a link to this homemade sunscreen recipe today, so I had to share it on here.  I’ve been researching different sunscreens so I can find the safest brand possible, but now that I have this recipe, there’s no need to buy sunscreen from a store.  My dad is taking my husband, me, and our dog, Xanh, to the lake with him on Friday in his boat.  Xanh has never been on a boat before, so we are really excited!  We bought him a life jacket yesterday, so the only thing left for me to do to prepare for our boat outing is to get my hands on a non-toxic sunscreen. 


Looks like I’ll be in the kitchen making some after I go to Whole Foods on Wednesday. 

There are 2 ways to make this:  the easy way and the even easier way.  The easiest way is to buy a lotion that does not contain any citrus oils and add 2 Tbsp of zinc oxide to it.  Mix well.  This will give the lotion an SPF of around 20.  Add more zinc oxide if you want a higher SPF.  I think a shea butter lotion would be perfect to add this to!  Shea butter lotions usually have Vitamin E added to them as well.  Now, the more hands-on approach is shown below (copied directly from the link above by



  • 1/2 cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (natural SPF 4)
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide (This is a non-nano version that won’t be absorbed into the skin. Be careful not to inhale the powder). This makes a natural SPF of 20+ or more can be added.)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter (natural SPF 4-5)
  • Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference



  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.


I think I’m going to make the fully hands-on version, although I think adding zinc oxide to shea butter lotion would be a great option, too.  I’ll let you know how it turns out after I use it Friday!  I’m so glad my friend posted this recipe from  Anytime I can eliminate more toxins and chemicals from my life, I’m on board to try it!

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Grilled Asparagus Salad

We’ve been having gorgeous weather lately, so I really wanted to grill tonight.  Asparagus and strawberries are super fresh and delicious this time of year, so I decided to put them together in a salad.  It turned out really well!




1 bunch asparagus

extra virgin olive oil

salt & black pepper, to taste

1 cup strawberries, cut in half and then thinly sliced

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 green onion, minced

strawberry basil dressing (see recipe below)


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Wash the asparagus and spread in a pan.  Brush olive oil on and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Grill the asparagus.

While the asparagus is grilling, cut up the strawberries and green onion, and make the dressing.

When the asparagus is finished on the grill, cut the stalks into one inch pieces and place in a medium sized bowl.  Add in the strawberries, almonds, and onion, and pour the desired amount of dressing on top.  Mix and it’s ready to serve!




We grilled potato packets to go with our grilled asparagus salad.  Basically, you wipe a little oil onto a rectangular piece of foil (to prevent the potatoes from sticking), and then you fill the foil with thinly sliced potatoes, slices of onion, Earth Balance, and whatever seasoning you choose.  Fold all the sides in to make a little packet.  Put the packets on the grill and cook until the potatoes have softened.

Before giving you the recipe for the salad dressing, I have to admit that I actually made a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette from the Whole Foods website, but we did not particularly love the recipe, because the flavor of thyme was too strong in it.  However, we LOVED the salad and agreed it would be PERFECT with this strawberry basil dressing, which I have used for salads before.  The recipe comes from ohsheglows.


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1 cup strawberries

1/4 cup fresh basil

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp pure maple syrup

fine grain sea salt and black pepper, to taste


Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.


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Citygarden Park St. Louis

My husband and I took our dog, Xanh, (who just turned a year old last month) to Citygarden in downtown St. Louis today for a picnic.  It was HOT, so it was the perfect day for Xanh to play in the spray plaza (one of those areas where water sprays up at different intervals out of the ground).  He’s never been near a spray plaza before, so he wasn’t sure what to think at first, but he ended up really enjoying it–especially since he could drink as much water as he wanted in this 90 degree weather.  We had a great time!  Xanh LOVES going to crowded areas, because he loves people and he loves dogs.  It always makes me laugh to see him, this ginormous pitbull, sit and wag his tail when other dogs come around.  So much for the vicious pitbull persona.  In fact, he tends to be the most well-behaved dog at these places.  (Of course we do a LOT of training with him to make that happen.)

Anyway, enough about my little guy.  Now to the food!


This morning I cooked our favorite veggie burgers.  The recipe comes from ohsheglows.  This is seriously the best veggie burger recipe I’ve come across.  They are nice and crispy, work just as well with grilling, frying, or baking, and have great flavor.  I highly recommend them for your summer grilling needs.  I put vegan rice cheese on our burgers with a little ketchup.  Perfection!  I also put together a salad with poppy seed dressing and a mixture of strawberries and red grapes.


Ready to go!!

We made a short video of Xanh playing in the spray plaza, but I haven’t had time to edit it yet.  Maybe I’ll post that video another time.  After playing in the water and going for a walk through the park, we got our lunch from the car and found a nice shady spot to sit and eat lunch.


Xanh really enjoyed rolling around in the grass to cool off.

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If any of you live in the St. Louis area, you should definitely check out Citygarden.  The unique sculptures, pools, and water features make it a nice place to go for a stroll or have a picnic.  I am so excited to finally have some sunshine and warm weather this week!  This spring has had the longest rainy season I ever remember having around here.  I hope the sun is here to stay!



Garlic Roasted Veggies and Lentils



2 large russet potatoes, washed and cut into 2 inch chunks

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

black pepper, to taste

3/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup green lentils

2 cups vegetable broth


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare the potatoes and carrots, and place in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and then pour over the potatoes and carrots, stirring well.  Pour the mixture into a casserole dish.  Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway through.


Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup of green lentils into a small saucepan with 2 cups of vegetable broth (lid on) and bring to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, slide the lid over so it’s slightly ajar, allowing more steam out, and turn heat down to low.  Allow to simmer until the broth cooks off.  The lentils should be done cooking around the same time as the potatoes and carrots.

About 10 minutes before the potatoes and carrots finish cooking, cook the peas, drain, and set aside.

Once everything is cooked, add the peas and lentils to the potatoes and carrots in the casserole dish and mix everything together.  Makes 2 entree servings or 4 side servings.