Sep 282012

You know when you come across something that is so good you just want to eat it all the time?  For me it is still that salad I told you about a few posts ago- the simple purple cabbage and creamy avocado.  But last night I was looking for a bit more protein, so I came up with this super satisfying salad that has all the great textures; the crunch of the cabbage, creaminess of avocado and light crisp cucumbers, but also has some heartiness from the falafel burger.  This salad will really stick with ya. 

Falafel Salad

 If you are like me, your life is super busy; between my day job, running a business, writing recipes, working out, camping and having fun with my family and friends, there isn’t much time left for elaborate dinners – especially during the week – so I love to use time saving shortcuts like these Sunshine Burger pre-made falafel burgers.  Not only are they DELICOUS, but you can actually pronounce each and every ingredient; such as, sunflower seeds, brown rice etc. 

Falafel Salad

 For the dressing, I used my favorite Annie’s dressing, totally vegan and another one of those amazing all natural products that you can feel good about eating. The goddess dressing has tahini, lemon, garlic and a bit of soy which makes for the perfect compliment to the falafel burger.

Falafel Salad

Crisp Cabbage and Creamy Avocado Salad with Falafel “Croutons” and Annie’s Goddess Dressing

Serves 1
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


1 cup sliced red cabbage
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 avocado, chopped
1 slice red onion, chopped
1 falafel burger, I used Sunshine Burger 
1 Tbsp Annie’s Goddess Dressing 
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional – 4 Slices Bell Pepper or Mild Pepper of Choice


1. Heat burger in toaster oven until just warmed through.

2. Layer cabbage, cucumber, avocado and onion in a large bowl; tear heated falafel burger gently and add to salad; top with Goddess dressing, salt and pepper, to taste and bell pepper if using.

Nutrition Facts
1 Serving
Amount Per Serving

Calories 416.4
Total Fat 25.5 g
Saturated Fat 3.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0
Monounsaturated Fat 4.3 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 421.8 mg
Potassium 602.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 39.2 g
Dietary Fiber 15.0 g
Sugars 2.1 g
Protein 9.5 g

Vitamin A 58.1 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 13.2 %
Vitamin C 64.2 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 3.8 %
Calcium 8.4 %
Copper 6.7 %
Folate 23.0 %
Iron 8.0 %
Magnesium 9.6 %
Manganese 14.9 %
Niacin 6.7 %
Pantothenic Acid 9.5 %
Phosphorus 6.8 %
Riboflavin 7.2 %
Selenium 1.5 %
Thiamin 7.0 %
Zinc 4.5 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Aug 072012


Tropical Salsa with Cucumber, Fresh Mint, Peach and Mango


Summer here is all about quick and easy – especially since last week I was really sick.  My doctor said I caught it before it turned into full blown pneumonia.  Goodness knows that one thing I can’t seem to do is slow down, so I had simply worn myself down.  For someone in-tune with their body, I have a hard time listening when I’m sick and that is something I need to work on.  
On a positive note, I found Netflix on line and watched every episode of Survivors from the BBC where a flu pandemic wipes out most of the world and the few survivors left have to live life and find a cure.  I loved all the story lines and watching the writer’s ideas of what would happen when government is gone – which is also kind of a fun fact about me.  I LOVE reading and watching survivalist books and movies.  Not necessarily zombie movies, though I did like I Am Legend.  (It doesn’t have”zombies”, but there are definitely some un-realistic vampire/undead people.)  It’s the whole virus part I find so interesting. Biology and sociology were some of my favorite subjects in college – in fact, I started out majoring in biology and ended up with a sociology degree! Studying people is SO interesting so wondering what would happen and what we would do if a major virus outbreak or climate change. 
After that, at the suggestion of some co-workers I started watching Breaking Bad.  It’s about a high school chemistry teacher that finds out he has terminal lung cancer and starts to cook meth with a local drug dealer.  So far I haven’t really been able to get into that one but they keep telling me to get through the first two episodes so I’ll have another go at it later.
And finally, I got my hands on the Secret.  If you haven’t watched it, you have to rent it.  It’s all about the power of positive thinking and changing our thoughts from constantly thinking about what we DON’T want to what we DO want.  So instead of me saying, I hate sitting in a cubicle, I hate being stuck till 9 pm away from my husband and baby girl at end of month, I have changed my thoughts to I can’t WAIT for my career in food and nutrition.  I can’t WAIT to change people’s lives for the better.  I can’t WAIT to make a real and positive impact on this world.  In fact, I have TWO “vision boards” and a gratitude board. 
On the vision boards we paste pictures of what we want – I have the logo for Institute of Integrative Nutrition up there, teacher training at Yoga Den, a photo of the big tent that attaches to my camper and my beach house in St Augustine – down to the comforter on the bed and the layout of the kitchen.  What this does is keep our wants in the forefront of our brains so we are constantly reminded of it and thinking about it.
Has it worked so far? Absolutely.  I got my Dyson vacuum, after LOTS of problems I finally got my healthy baby girl, I lost the weight I wanted, brought my daughter to Cape Cod, took my trip to wine country, got my daughter to sleep through the night when she was a baby – and on and on.  You can put ANYTHING on there.  It’s actually lots of fun!
Next up, the gratitude board, where each day I write something I’m grateful for and really try to think about it.  A roof over my head, healthy husband and daughter, running water, hot shower, food at the grocery, my parents and in-laws live five minutes away – and so many more things.
My second love is motivational books. I recently read The Choice, Beach Money and the Business of the 21st Century from the author that also wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad. 
What are your favorite subjects to read about and watch?   Do you have a “vision board” – if so what is on there?
10 minute -5 Ingredient Vegan Black Bean Burgers
Back to the burgers!
These 10 minute – 5 ingredient bean burgers are a main staple in the house so I hope you’ll forgive me for posting these again with a fresh twist.  Since these burgers are mainly beans and oats, I love that my 3 year old daughter can help me make them and she even loves to lick the bowl!
Tropical Vegan Black Bean Burger
This combo of hearty black beans, cool cucumbers, fresh mint, ripe peach and sweet mango blended together in a perfect melody.  I just had to share it! 
Throw a little hot sauce on for a kick and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Vegan Tropical Black Bean Burgers

with Cucumber, Mint, Mango and Peach Salsa

Serves 4
Salsa Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups – 8 servings)
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 peach, seeded and chopped
1 mango, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 cups cooked and drained black beans (or use a 14.5 oz can)
1/3 cup instant oats (or 1/2 cup rolled oats pulsed in the food processor)
1 Tbsp steak seasoning
1 Tbsp coarse ground prepared mustard (or whatever mustard you have)
2 Tbsp Gluten Free Ketchup
4 Ezekiel Whole Grain Burger Buns
Hot Sauce of choice
1. Mix salsa ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Preheat the broiler on high and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.** Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl; divide into four burgers or eight sliders. Broil first side for 6 minutes; flip and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until browned.
3. Toast buns; top each with 1 burger, 1/4 cup salsa and a few dashes of hot sauce.
** Reserve extra salsa for later use.
Apr 192012
Welcome back to Wine Down Wednesday where I review a vegan dish paired with two different wines.
To pair wines with a meatless dish we must look at the spices and main flavors of the recipe.

For an ideal pairing we look for wines that that compliment Sweet Potato and Tahini Burgers Citrus, Mango and Avocado Salsa we look at the tahini, sweet potato, citrus and mango.

The Wines selected to taste are Warwick ‘First Lady’ Cabernet Sauvignon and Barboursville Viognier.

Sweet Potato and Tahini Burgers
with Citrus, Mango and Avocado Salsa

These sweet-spicy burgers are super easy to put together – only six ingredients. They can be baked, grilled or pan seared.  The mango salsa a spur of the moment inspiration that compliments the burgers so well it is a match made in heaven.  Mangos are on sale for a dollar and avocado is super cheap right now, too.  I had a jalapeno on hand to add a kick and some fresh Florida oranges and limes to add a nice tang.  For a side, I a added some nice steamed edamame with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Time Saving Tip: To save time for the salsa, simply buy a quality store bought mango or citrus salsa in the refrigerated produce section of your grocery!

From 1791 through 1902 Warwick Wine Estate in South Africa was originally known as  ‘De Goede Sukses’, the Good Success farm.  It was later renamed Warwick after being purchased by Colonel Alexander Gordon of the Warwickshire regiment.  In the 60’s the winery traded hands again when it was purchased by Norma Ratcliffe and her husband Stan.  After initially selling the grapes wholesale to other wineries, Norma studied the art of winemaking and began producing her own wine in 1984.  She was the first female wine maker in South Africa, thus the ‘First Lady’ Cabernet Sauvignon is named as a tribute to Norma.

The winemaker’s notes, “The wine has a deep and intense ruby red colour. The nose reveals lots of red berries and sweet black cherries, complemented by sweet vanilla and chocolate oak background. The smooth ripe, round tannins make this wine easy to drink while still retaining a full body. The balanced acid creates a firm finish that is complemented by a lingering sweetness.”

Barboursville vineyards reside along side the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, owned by Gianni Zonin of Gamnbellara Italy who is a 7th generation winemaker. This Viognier Reserve is grown by the general manager-winemaker Luca Paschina who has a degree in oenology; the study of all aspects of wine. 

It looks like I have found my calling – I must go back to school for an oenology degree. I wonder if this is an offering at FSU.  If not, I will simply have to attend the the Instituto Umberto in Alba Italy as Luca Paschina did.
Gregg from Broadbent Selections sent me some additional information on the vineyard that I thought was interesting, “this second-generation estate house at Barboursville plantation was designed by Thomas Jefferson, one of only 3 residences he designed for his friends. The Barbour family continued to occupy this residence until it was destroyed by accidental fire at Christmas, 1884, and returned to the elegant Georgian villa next door for several generations, now The 1804 Inn”

The Viognier, pronounced Vee-‘O’-nyaaay, is fermented in steel with tropical and floral tones.  It does well with aging of 4 to 5 years.  The photos of the vineyard are gorgeous-I would love to visit and take some of the cooking classes offered at their restaurant.


Category #1 – How well my dish turned out.
Category #2 – How well I like the wine.
Category #3 – Pairing notes – How well this wine pairs with the dish.

Rating Scale

Bleck -This wine is pretty bad.
Ho Hum- I could drink it if I was at a football game and there was nothing else in the cooler.
Nice -Good table wine. I would keep this in the wine cooler if it was a good value.
Yum – This is good, I would pay a fair bit more and have it for a special occasion.
Damn that’s Good – Self explanatory.
** We will use the same terminology for how the dish turned out and how well it paired.

Category #1 The Dish

Rating of Nice.  I would definitely make these burgers again as long as I could make the salsa with them.  I think that is what really made the dish.  It had all the elements I love – sweet from the mangos and sweet potato, aromatics from the cilantro and a spicy kick from the Cajun seasoning and jalapeno peppers.  The tahini wasn’t a prominent flavor, it just added enough to give it a nutty hint in the background. These were awesome with a bit of Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce on the side. 

Category #2 The Wine

Warwick Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 gets a rating of Damn That’s Good.  I’ve started a little wine journal now so I can sit down and write the first things that come to mind.  I’m still amazed when I go and look at reviews afterwards and the reviews actually coincide with my perception.  For this Cabernet the first thing I wrote down was chocolate/cocoa and no aftertaste. After sitting and swirling a bit I added perfect balance of dry and sweet, not too heavy.  Smoky mesquite.  Great with grilled foods.  My husband happened to be cooking on the grill at the time which may have had some influence there.

Virginia Voignier Reserve, 2010 also gets a rating of DAMN THAT’S GOOD.  I had to write that one in caps for emphasis.  On first taste I wrote honey, mango and tad sweeter than Chardonnays, higher percentage of residual sugar ?  I loved the honey-lemon color.  I also wrote down grass reminiscent of summer fresh cut grass which is interesting because in a review of the wine I read “herbal frame” – I wonder if my interpretation was the grassiness.

Category #3 The Pairing

Both get a rating of Yum.  Each brought the dish up to another level in it’s own way.  If I had rated the dish higher, the wines would have elevated the pairings to a DTG. 
The smoky-cocoa cabernet brings out the spicy elements of the dish and has a light enough body to not overpower the sweet potato burgers. 
The Viognier complimented the sweetness of the mango and sweet potato; the wine acquired an added layer of a lemony-citrus flavor when paired with the dish-refreshing and smooth.

Where to buy

All the wines will be for sale locally at the Grotto in San Marco. Please call first to ensure they are in stock.  You can contact Mitch Woodlief, with questions and pricing.  Anyone outside the Greater Jacksonville area can contact E-MAIL: PHONE: US +1 415-931-1725.

Sweet Potato Tahini Burgers

with Citrus, Mango and Avocado Salsa

Inspired by Lunch Box Bunch
Serves 6
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free


1 can of sweet potato
2 cans cannellini or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 heaping Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp maple or agave syrup
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/3 cup oats, pulsed in magic bullet, blender or food processor to grind it a bit

1 mango, seeded and chopped
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
1 avocado, seeded and chopped
1/4 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
Juice of 1 lime
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Add all burger ingredients to a food processor and pulse a few times, so just mixed.  Form into patties and place on a baking tray rubbed with oil.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through.  Turn on broiler to high at the end to crisp outside – about 1 to 2 minutes or until browned.

2. Meanwhile mix the salsa ingredients in a small bowl. 

3. Top each burger with a generous heaping of salsa and serve with Barboursville Viognier or Warwick First Lady Cabernet.

Nutrition Facts
6 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 381.5
Total Fat 8.2 g
Saturated Fat 1.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 113.4 mg
Potassium 1,199.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 67.5 g
Dietary Fiber 14.4 g
Sugars 8.3 g
Protein 15.8 g

Vitamin A 185.7 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 20.7 %
Vitamin C 65.9 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 5.8 %
Calcium 18.3 %
Copper 35.7 %
Folate 42.5 %
Iron 36.5 %
Magnesium 31.7 %
Manganese 78.9 %
Niacin 8.5 %
Pantothenic Acid 12.9 %
Phosphorus 27.3 %
Riboflavin 14.1 %
Selenium 5.2 %
Thiamin 25.9 %
Zinc 19.1 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Please note that as an ammendment to the Black Bean Soup post I would like to change my rating of the Pares Balta to a Damn thats Good. I’ll definitely be ordering more of because of it’s summer drinkability factor as well as the new information provided that this wine is produced with absolutely now animal products so it’s perfect for a plant based diet.

Apr 102012
I finally got around to trying Happy Herbivore’s super easy bean burgers.  These will now be my go-to recipe when I need something super quick and easy. 
This will work with any can of beans and some oatmeal.  By using the broiler you can speed up the cook time to around ten minutes and get a nice char on the outside of the burger.  My daughter had a blast mushing the burgers with her hands and rolling them into balls. Something I never let her do when we cooked with meat as I was afraid of her getting sick from the raw meat.  We made little sliders for her and the burgers for me.  She ate every bite of her slider.
I paired these with some left over fresh salad I made from the lettuce, carrots and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from KYV farm and some added some frozen sweet potato fries – broiled right along with the burgers.  Couldn’t have been much easier.
If you have extra these will freeze well too.
Ten Minute – Five Ingredient Black Bean Burgers
Inspired by Happy Herbivore
Serves 4
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
Printable Recipe
2 cups cooked and drained black beans (or use a 14.5 oz can)
1/3 cup Gluten Free instant oats (or 1/2 cup rolled oats pulsed in the food processor)
1 Tbsp steak seasoning
1 Tbsp coarse ground prepared mustard (or whatever you have)
2 Tbsp Gluten Free Ketchup
1. Preheat the broiler on high and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.** Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl; divide into four burgers or eight sliders. Bake first side for 6 minutes; flip and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until browned.
2. Top with whatever you like!
**Check the label on the cooking spray to ensure it is gluten free.  It’s best to simply use an oil mister to be sure.

Nutrition Facts

4 Servings
Amount Per Serving (burger with no toppings)

Calories 162.3
Total Fat 1.2 g
Saturated Fat 0.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 675.9 mg
Potassium 305.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.6 g
Dietary Fiber 8.5 g
Sugars 1.3 g
Protein 8.9 g

Vitamin A 0.1 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 3.0 %
Vitamin C 1.0 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 0.0 %
Calcium 2.3 %
Copper 9.0 %
Folate 32.0 %
Iron 12.5 %
Magnesium 15.1 %
Manganese 19.1 %
Niacin 2.2 %
Pantothenic Acid 2.1 %
Phosphorus 12.0 %
Riboflavin 3.5 %
Selenium 1.5 %
Thiamin 16.5 %
Zinc 6.4 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Jan 312012
With a severe case of writers block I resorted to asking my three year old what I should write about this Southwest Tortilla Bake and she said,

So there you have it folks.  This dish is as good as Tinkerbell so it must be pretty damn good because Tinkerbell rocks.  I had to cut her some slack since she hasn’t learned adjectives at school yet.  Ask her about air transportation though and you’ll get the entire gamut-plane, helicopter, hot air balloon, even blimp.  And for your information, hot air balloons do not have wheels.  Good thing I have her there to tell me.

I asked hubby what he thought.

“It was really good.”  A man of many words, he is.
(He did have a second helping.)

As for me, layered Tortilla Bake was one of my favorite dishes way back when I used to do Weight Watchers-it was comforting but light at the same time. 

To change it to fit my plant based lifestyle I used my favorite Sunshine Burgers as an even more delicious stand in for the beef.  They are made with only grains, veggies and beans, are packed with fiber, protein and most importantly-taste! Another plus….this shortcut is a great time saver as the burgers are pre-cooked. 

This dish freezes well and makes great leftovers too!
Southwest Layered Tortilla Bake
Inspired from an old WW favorite at DWLZ-Veganized (it’s way better this way, trust me)
Makes 4-6 Servings
Vegan, Gluten Free, Corn Free, Dairy Free
Printable Recipe


2 Southwest Sunshine Burgers (Locals-buy these at Native Sun!)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 mild pepper of choice, seeded and chopped
7oz (411 grams) cooked dark red kidney beans, (or ½ can) drained & rinsed
14oz (822 grams) diced tomatoes with chilies, I used Muir Glen fire roasted with Chipotle
2 brown rice tortillas, I used Food for Life, cut into strips

Seasoning mix
½ Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chipotle powder
1/8 tsp sea salt

1/4 c vegan cheese, I used Daiya (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the seasoning mix in a small bowl.

2. Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Add onions and pepper and sauté until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes; add garlic and cook an additional minute; add sunshine burgers, break up with wooden spoon and mix thoroughly.

3. Mix in beans, tomatoes with chilies and seasoning mix. Reduce heat; simmer 5 min. Spray 8×8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place half tortillas in bottom of baking dish, overlapping; spoon half of burger mixture evenly over tortillas. Cover with remaining tortillas and then remaining burger mixture. Top with cheese. Cover; bake 25 min.

Nutrition Facts (Nutrition facts include canned beans and Daiya, I used my own cooked beans so the sodium content is lower)

4 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 379.1
Total Fat 4.2 g
Saturated Fat 1.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 1,122.9 mg (lower this by cooking your own beans or buying salt free and using fresh tomato)
Potassium 477.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 60.4 g
Dietary Fiber 15.8 g
Sugars 8.0 g
Protein 12.5 g

Vitamin A 80.3 %
Vitamin C 158.4 %
Calcium 9.0 %
Folate 17.2 %
Iron 18.0 %
Manganese 20.7 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Nutrition Facts

6 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 252.7
Total Fat 2.8 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 748.6 mg
Potassium 318.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40.3 g
Dietary Fiber 10.5 g
Sugars 5.3 g
Protein 8.3 g Pin It

Jan 192012
Lovely historical Savannah, home of the Lady and Sons restaurant-that butter, cream, meat and fried food laden buffet owned by Paula Deen.  I’m sure you’ve all heard about her unfortunate but not surprising announcement that she has type II diabetes that can lead to heart disease, glaucoma, foot, skin, mental health problems…all kinds of nastiness. 
Paula, if you read this, now is the time to say no to that deal with the drug company devil that wants you to be the face of their new diabetes medication and show your fans how powerful diet can be.  Cut out cholesterol, processed foods, too much saturated fat; and add lots of plants, legumes and grains.  Take your fans along with you in the journey back to health through diet and exercise and NOT drugs! 
Her contribution to the SAD (standard American diet) is epic.  Who else would bring a macaroni and cheese dish that is wrapped in bacon, breaded and deep fried?  I love her sparkling personality but her cooking is so detrimental to our society that at my visit to Savannah last weekend I did not stand in line for the Lady and Sons buffet; instead I sought out unique, local restaurants that have health, local farming and sustainability in mind. 
This was no easy task.  Googling top 10 restaurants in Savannah will actually bring up Paula’s restaurant as her brand is so well known. It took a little digging around to find some restaurants with substance.  I visited the newly created Savannah Slow Food site and found Green Truck Pub.   It’s a burger joint that features grass fed beef, organic free range chicken, vegetarian and vegan options.  Any of their burger creations can be subbed for a bean burger which is wonderful.   The atmosphere is lively, being close to the art school, complete with a juke box and old time-y décor.  If you go be sure to get there early as there will surely be a long wait.

Hmm…these specials look interesting.

I’ll take a cold one bartender!

I tried the “Rustico” bean burger with basil, balsamic caramelized onions and a bit of goat cheese. Their bean burger was firm, moist and flavorful-completely home made-as are all their dressings.  I had the side salad with balsamic.  All the veggies on the salad were super fresh.   My dad commented on how good the onions were, of all things. 

Their little garden out back.
In a stand next to the door I found a booklet of other local restaurants, including Taco Abajo-Fighting the Tyranny of Bland Mexican Food.  We decided to head over there the following day.
We found the place in a trendy area, also near the art school.  The storefront is very inconspicuous, but when you walk down the stairs, the restaurant opens up in an expansive, brick floored room with a festive mix of contemporary music and Tex-Mex furnishings.

The salsa is home made and super fresh…we asked for a second bowl.  I got a grilled veggie taco and splurged on an authentic style fish taco with cabbage slaw, probably the best I’ve had. My daughter got a grilled fish taco on a corn tortilla with rice and black beans.  This was the first time she had ever actually picked up and eaten a fish taco (and loved it).
Proof of a 3-year old eating a fish taco!

Veggie taco, fish taco and black beans.
We will definitely visit both places again at our next visit.

Green Truck Pub on Urbanspoon Taco Abajo on Urbanspoon

Sep 072011
Last night I was at yoga and was talking to a couple about my upcoming trip to San Francisco and Sonoma. They were telling me what wineries to check out etc. when my friend Jodi came over to talk about how she just watched Forks Over Knives (great documentary about food and health and it’s now on Netflix!) and then we started discussing cow and goat products; specifically about casein, the protein found in dairy/cow’s milk. Casein is the main animal protein discussed in the China Study in relation to cancer growth, heart disease and a whole other host of diseases that Dr Colin Campbell believes are caused by the Western diet of animal foods.  When I looked up information on goat milk I found this interesting write up on it on the Worlds Healthiest Foods website that I trust when it comes to most nutrition info.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of goat’s milk, however, is that some people who cannot tolerate cow’s milk are able to drink goat’s milk without any problems. It is not clear from scientific research studies exactly why some people can better tolerate goat’s milk. Some initial studies suggested that specific proteins known to cause allergic reactions may have been present in cow’s milk in significant quantities yet largely absent in goat’s milk. The alpha-casein proteins, including alpha s1-casein, and the beta-casein proteins were both considered in this regard. However, more recent studies suggest that the genetic wiring for these casein proteins is highly variable in both cows and goats and that more study is needed to determine the exact role these proteins might play in the tolerability of goat’s milk versus cow’s milk.
 I take this to mean that there is some form of casein in goat milk but not at the same levels as cow milk.
I went further to look up additional information on dairy allergies/intolerance and found that, according to WHF, people who have full fledged dairy allergies that initiate an autoimmune response are typically caused by casein which is the dairy protein. Dairy intolerance being most typically caused by the milk sugar which is lactose.  They may not have enough of the enzyme called lactase to break this sugar down and this can cause uncomfortable bloating, flatulence and other unpleasant things. 
If an allergy or intolerance is present, then one must be careful about eating processed foods as well!  Look at this table where they show other foods that might contain hidden casein.
Processed foods that may contain casein:

Bakery glazes
Breath mints
Coffee whiteners
Fortified cereals
High-protein beverage powders
Ice cream
Infant formulas
Nutrition bars
Processed meats
Salad dressings
Whipped toppings

How does all this cow and goat talk tie in with the couple I was discussing my trip with?
When they overheard us talking about cow and goat they asked why we were talking about this, with an amused look.  I told her I write a food blog and Jodi and I eat similar meatless diets so Jodi and I are always talking about food.  
Then I found myself almost apologizing for/defending my choice, and after class I thought about it more.  I need to stop apologizing for this choice. When I started cutting most animal foods out I decided to just take one day at a time and not take an all or nothing approach and so far it has been a wonderful experience. Up to now, I have made an exception of the occasional honey, chocolate, fish and goat cheese.  In fact, I did splurge on some goat milk feta with olive oil, basil and garlic from Sharon from Terks Goat Farm at the St Augustine Farmers Market and it is delicious.  But, going forward, I think I might start cutting back on these even more too. 
The fact is that the plant foods have been so tasty that I haven’t wanted to allocate many calories to meats and cheeses.  No one really seems to believe me, especially about the cheese, but it’s true!

I promise that you can make these plant based foods taste so delicious on their own with just a little desire, planning and creativity. I love chickpeas smashed with seasonings, I love roasted veggies, I love nut and nut butters and I love my coconut-banana-chocolate Ice Cake and I love these Sunshine Falafel Burgers with Spicy Lime Tahini Sauce…..they are the perfect convenience food for those of us that need a quick fix!

I liked mine wrapped in lettuce but feel free to try it out with a whole wheat or gluten free bun.  It’s so much fun to experiment and play with recipes and variations. If you don’t consider yourself a great cook but want to try out the plant based diet this is a great way to start.  Roast yourself up a couple trays of veggies and grab some burgers and you’ll be on your way in no time!


Sunshine Falafel Burgers with Spicy Lime Tahini Sauce
Tahini Sauce inspired by Carol’s Falafel Sauce
Vegan, Gluten Free
Serves 4


4 Sunshine Falafel burgers
8 large leaves romaine lettuce

Spicy Lime Tahini Sauce
1 clove garlic
3 Tbsp tahini
3 Tbsp agave
3 Tbsp water
Juice 1 lime (about 3 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp cayenne
Dash coarse sea salt

Tomato slices
Onion slices 


1. Cook burgers to package directions.

2. Blend sauce ingredients in Magic Bullet or small blender. 

3. Pour about 1 to 2 Tbsp sauce per burger.  (There will be some sauce left over.) Serve burger wrapped with 2 romaine lettuce leaves and additional toppings if desired.

Per Burger with Lettuce, tomato, onion and sprouts
Nutrition Facts

4 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 243.1
Total Fat 11.2 g
Saturated Fat 1.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 264.5 mg
Potassium 135.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 27.7 g
Dietary Fiber 6.9 g
Sugars 1.0 g
Protein 10.8 g

Vitamin A 13.9 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 2.1 %
Vitamin C 14.0 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 1.0 %
Calcium 7.2 %
Copper 2.0 %
Folate 8.6 %
Iron 17.2 %
Magnesium 1.5 %
Manganese 8.8 %
Niacin 1.5 %
Pantothenic Acid 1.3 %
Phosphorus 2.1 %
Riboflavin 2.4 %
Selenium 0.3 %
Thiamin 2.9 %
Zinc 0.9 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Spicy Lime Tahini Sauce
Nutrition Facts

About 12 Tbsp
Amount Per Tbsp
Calories 28.6
Total Fat 2.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 17.3 mg
Potassium 21.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Sugars 1.3 g
Protein 0.7 g

Aug 212011
Could I be the next Food Network Star with my Breakfast Burger with Fresh Tomato, Sprouts and Carrot Mustard Sauce? Something along the lines of a plant-based Sandra Lee Perhaps?

At first I was a little guilty.  It’s not like I was actually going to be making these burgers from scratch.  But after my first recipe-free veggie/bean burger attempt came out more like brown burger mush I realized I needed some help.  Hey, I’m sort of new to this totally meat-free thing. So when I came across these Sunshine Burger samples at Native Sun that don’t have soy or wheat in them (so my daughter can eat them) it was like the heavens opened up and light shone down.  I believe I heard angels singing. 

Why the excitement? 

Let’s just say my new way of eating is taking a bit of an adjustment period for the family, which is understandable.  My husband Chris grew up in Jacksonville Florida.  Now mind you, I love it here, but the main staple is meat.  Let’s see, we have Bono’s BBQ, Sonny’s BBQ, Longhorn Steakhouse, Roadh0use, Texas Roadhouse, Ted’s Montana Grill and on and on, all based solely on meat.  Ten years back my new husband and I got married and in the back of his mind he was probably thinking I was already a bit weird as it was, if you’ve read my background, but whatever,  we were shiny new newlyweds, young and in love so it could be overlooked.  Little did he know…..there was more (or shall I say less) to come. 
In 2008 we had a beautiful baby girl who happened to have some SERIOUS eczema issues that we were paying $300 a tube each month for steroid cream not approved for her age so she wouldn’t scratch her eyelids until they bled.  Against the recommendation of the pediatrician I had her allergy tested and sure enough she tested positive for food allergies out the wazoo.  I immediately announced we can’t feed our, at the time, one year old daughter, wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, cod fish, peanuts, tree nuts, seeds (she can eat moderately) and all those synthetic dyes like red 40.  At first no one really believed me.  After all, the doctors said it’s not food related and you can’t eliminate all that from her diet, right?  I just say give me a chance and let me try.  And it worked.  So we got used to that and switched her to all free range organic meats, organic veggies and fruits and few snacks that come from Native Sun. 
And then I read the China Study. 
And then I made some seriously mushy bean burgers.  
My poor hubby doesn’t know what hit him.

So there you go.  That’s why the excitement over finding some seriously delicious, convenient burgers we can all eat. I needed an easy and tasty and cheap option.  Another bonus was that these were on SALE so they came to just over $1 per burger and with working full time the convenience factor won out.  Hellooo it’s like my very own dollar value menu or whatever they call it. Normally I  make most everything else from scratch so I had to let go of the guilt. 

And buy eight boxes.

Here is what I bought

Two breakfast:
Organic sunflower seeds
organic brown rice
organic adzuki beans
organic hemp seeds
organic onion
organic bell pepper
organic herbs
organic paprika
organic black pepper
sea salt

Two Falafel
Organic raw ground sunflower seeds
organic brown rice
organic chick peas
organic split peas
organic tahini(ground toasted organic sesame seeds)
organic sesame seed paste
organic parsley
organic cumin powder
organic garlic

Two Southwest
Organic ground raw sun-flower seeds
Organic Brown Rice
Organic Carrots
Organic Black Beans
Organic Bell Peppers
Organic Cilantro
Organic Garlic
Organic Jalapeño Peppers
Organic Ground Cumin Seeds
Organic Onion
Sea Salt

Two Garden Herb
Organic Ground Raw Sun-flower Seeds
Organic Brown Rice
Organic Carrots
Organic Herbs
Sea Salt
The first one I tried out was the morning after my purchase…the breakfast burgers.  I paired it with a slice of toasted sesame Ezekiel bread, some juicy fresh tomato, sprouts and I thought about what I used to like on my breakfast sandwiches in the mornings.  Typically a slice of Kraft yellow American cheese that I promptly threw out once I read the ingredients on the low fat slices I had, way back when.  I wanted to create a nice substitute, but I have a hard time calling something “vegan cheese” that doesn’t have cheese in it.  This sauce is made with carrots, nutritional yeast, spices and mustard but it just happens to taste a bit like cheddar and is delicious in it’s own way.  I’m reminded of my friend Cara when she talks about spaghetti squash.  Don’t eat it as a replacement for spaghetti.  You’ll have a hard time loving it.  Love it for the delicious squash that it is.  As for the burger, in every bite I could taste the perfectly seasoned brown rice, nutty sunflower and hearty hemp seeds.  It was the burger I had set out to make after the last perfection I ate at Cafe Karibo in Fernandina, but the best part about this is I can have it every day for just over a buck. 
Another option is to add some roasted veggies which would be delicious. For those of you new to my blog I roast four trays of veggies every weekend and sometimes more during the week and add them to everything.  But that’s another post.  This time I just wanted to keep it simple.

Breakfast Burger with Fresh Tomato, Sprouts and Carrot Mustard Sauce
Serves 1


1 Sunshine Burger, Breakfast Burger (or bean burger of choice)
1 slice sesame Ezekiel bread, toasted, or bread of choice
1 slice fresh, organic, ripe tomato
1 leaf fresh organic romaine
Drizzle of Carrot Mustard Sauce (will make lots of extra for later)

Carrot Mustard Sauce (blends and cooks down to about a cup)
Inspired by this recipe
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup water
4 Tbsp non-GMO cornstarch
4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp each onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt


1. Blend carrot mustard sauce in a magic bullet or blender; heat in a small sauce pan over medium high heat, stirring constantly, to just gently boiling, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about three minutes.  If too thick add a bit of additional water.

2. Cook burger to package directions; top toast with lettuce, burger, tomato, drizzle of sauce and sprouts.

****I did the nutrition info separate as you may have other bean burgers on hand or different bread.


Nutrition Information
Per Tbsp Carrot Mustard Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 10.6
Total Fat 0.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 39.6 mg
Potassium 55.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 1.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Sugars 0.3 g
Protein 1.8 g
Vitamin B-12 16.6 %
Vitamin B-6 60.6 %
Niacin 35.2 %
Riboflavin 70.8 %
Thiamin 80.3 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition Information
Breakfast Hemp Burger
Amount Per Serving
Calories 210
Total Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 1.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 300 mg
Total Carbohydrate 26 g
Dietary Fiber 5.0 g
Sugars 1.0 g
Protein 8.0 g

Nutrition Information
1 slice Ezekiel Bread
Amount Per Serving
Calories 80
Total Fat 0.5 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 80.0 mg
Potassium 75.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 15.0 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Sugars 0.0 g
Protein 4.0 g
Jul 062011
I was so honored when Cara asked me to guest post so once I agreed the search was on; what could I make that could live up to Cara’s Cravings standards? I searched for ideas for desserts, salads, soups, sandwiches….I knew it had to be healthy and unique.  In the end I decided to scrap all the original ideas and just create something completely original and impromptu.  Healthy, delicious, low in carbohydrate and high in protein.

One of the best things as a healthy cook is when you have absolutely no plan other than picking one element and building a completely impromptu meal that not only is perfectly executed but the entire family absolutely loves.  Especially with a picky two year old and an even pickier husband.

This dinner started out with a trip to my local natural food store, Native Sun, to buy avocados and a few other things such as some free range ground beef and dried dates that my daughter loves to snack on.  Later that night, when doing our usual; “What do you want to eat?”  “I don’t know what do you want to eat?”.

Burgers came to mind because they are so versatile and simple and when I looked at my avocado, the idea to stuff the burgers with this creamy substitute rather than our usual cheese stuffed burgers sounded like an interesting thing to try. We always have a surplus of sweet grilled corn in the summers that I have to freeze some of it. I decided that would be my second interesting add. What seasoning though? Something spicy of course to counter the creamy avocado.

These are so simple to make even my two year old could help while wearing bumble bee antennae.

The burgers were stuffed and grilled in no time then we topped them with or desired toppings; a bit of cheese, some additional avocado and some store bought all natural garlic roasted salsa as a flavorful time saver.

I was so happy with how this turned out I’m adding it to my favorites and it is now going to be added to our rotation of the very few recipes that we repeat.  The texture of the mild and smooth avocado is a pleasant surprise when the juicy burger is cut open, the flavor slashes a nice kick in the finish.  I topped mine with some gooey and melty Mexican cheese and some cool roasted garlic salsa.  This melody of flavors and textures creates a perfect balance that I think you will enjoy too!

Avocado Stuffed Southwestern Burgers
Created for Cara’s Cravings.  Please visit her site for the full post.
Printable Recipe
Jul 132010
I just received my August issue of Eating Well Magazine and it has a special article on bloggers that do reviews of their recipes. Kudos to them for recognizing us bloggers!

Speaking of Eating Well, when I came across these crab cakes that had a rating of “Awesome” on the website (average from 63 votes) I figured they must be dang good.  The recipe stated, with preparation and cooking, it would only take 20 minutes and I had all the ingredients on hand.  A winning combo.  My official rating?  I guess I will have to go along with the crowd.  They were awesome.  The small amount of panko, a Japanese breadcrumb, helped the crab stick together but still let the texture of the crab meat shine through.  The mustard and hot sauce gave just the right amount of spice and the small amount of mayo added a touch of creaminess without it being mayonnaise-y.

Crab Cake Burgers with Tahini Dressing
Altered from Eating Well’s Crab Cake Burgers
Printable Recipe
Serves 3


1 6 ounce pouch of crabmeat (I used the claw meat pouch as it was much less expensive)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/8 cup light mayonnaise
1 Tbsp minced chives
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp onion powder
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 dashes hot sauce
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp unsalted butter
3 tsp Annie’s Goddess Dressing
3 cups baby lettuce


1.Mix crab hot sauce in a medium bowl and form into three patties.  (They will be very soft)

2.Heat oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the butter stops foaming. Cook the patties until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

3. Divide lettuce onto three plates, top each with a burger and pour 1 tsp of dressing over each plate.