Spicy Italian Sausage (Vegan)

I'm not going to lie. One of the things I miss about not eating meat is barbequing. There's nothing better than sitting out in the sun with family and friends, barbequing up a whole slew of goodies. I'm sorry but slapping on a Boca burger just doesn't cut it for me and my homemade burger would fall right through the grate. So I needed to come up with something else for this summer - and boy did I find it.

I LOVE these sausages. They are a little time consuming to make considering you cook the beans (or you can buy canned and save some time), cook the vegetables, mix it all together, shape them into logs, wrap them in foil, steam them, and then put them in the refrigerator overnight to firm up. Let me tell you though, it is worth it. I have made these sausage twice now. The first time I made a small batch (one listed below) but we ate though them way too fast. So the second time I made them I tripled the batch and stuck them in the freezer. I figured if I'm going to go through all the trouble of making them, I might as well make enough to last a while.

These are delicious. The fennel seeds definitely give them that distinct sausage flavor. They hold together beautifully on the grill. We have both done them at home on the grill and in a pan, as well as bringing them to a party where the grill master there grilled them up. They neither stuck nor fell apart. I no longer feel left out at barbeques and I feel a heck of a lot healthier knowing I'm not eating mystery meat. I always, ALWAYS, got that one sausage that had cartilage in it. I've gotten it with hot dogs, too. I guess I was always the lucky winner. Thankfully, that will no longer be the case. Even though my one year of being a vegetarian was up a couple of weeks ago, I will still pass up on the burgers and sausage and instead grill up these babies.

*Sorry I don't have any amazing photos of the sausages. Every time I've made them, I've devoured them in seconds. I will update this post later with better photos but I just REALLY wanted to share this recipe with you guys.*

recipe adapted from The V Word

spice mix
  • 1 ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. fennel, crushed
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice

  • 2 tsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups cooked or 1-15 oz. can of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbs. sun-dried tomato paste
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 Tbs. of gluten-free, vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • A few drops of Liquid Smoke
  1. Prepare spice mix in advance. Set aside.
  2. Heat a skillet with 2 tsp. of olive oil. Sauté the onions, mushrooms and garlic until softened. Set aside and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl, add the black-eyed peas and mash them up. You can use a fork, a potato masher or just get your hands in there. If you want to use a food processor, do a rough chop. You don’t want a puree. Then add the tomato paste, nutritional yeast, spice mix and brown rice flour. Mix well.
  4. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the mixture and incorporate it well.
  5. Add the cooled veggie mixture to the bowl and mix it into the dry ingredients. Add the Worcestershire sauce to the bowl and mix it all up well. If you are using the Liquid Smoke, add it in now too.
  6. Divide the mixture into 4 parts. Shape each part into a log. Wrap the logs individually in foil and steam them for 15-20 minutes. I use a metal steamer that sits atop a large stockpot of boiling water. Let them cool. Then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, if possible. This will help them firm up even more.
  7. When ready to use, unwrap and cook them however you desire. We cooked them on a grill pan and topped them with mustard and sautéed bell peppers and onions. Yum!

Cauliflower Tots

Let me just start out by saying that I had NO IDEA that cauliflower was so versatile. I've only had cauliflower in one form before, steamed, as is. It wasn't until recently that I realized that cauliflower can be so much more than just... well, cauliflower. I mean, who'd have thought that you could turn a head of cauliflower into tater tots? I certainly did not. However, when I saw these I knew I had to give them a try. C'mon, it's cauliflower tots! How could you turn that down?

I'm happy to report that these are amazing! Now, you won't be fooled that these are those tater tots you get in the freezer section of your grocery store but they are delicious, and healthy to boot. When I started making them I thought they'd be a pain to make but they weren't all that hard. Time consuming, sure, but difficult they are not. The recipe makes a HUGE batch and it's just the Mr. and myself, so I wound up freezing half of the mixture and later down the road thawing it out and forming them into the tater tots you see above. (I did take pictures of the first batch but these pictures turned out so much nicer) Trust me on this one, try these. You will not be disappointed.

Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste

  • 2 1/4 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Steam cauliflower until tender but not mushy. Lay out paper towels and allow to cool. Once cooled finely chop the cauliflower and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Review: Veggie Slicer

If you follow me on Facebook you know how excited I was to finally get a chance to try a veggie spiralizer gadget. So many of my friends had been talking about it online and how amazing it was that I was getting a little jealous. The company apparently took pity on me because they were kind enough to send me one for an honest review. I was over the moon. I started pinning recipes left and right on Pinterest. I even watched some how-to videos on what vegetables to use it on. I mean this thing can spiralize anything from a beet to butternut squash. *mind blown*

Then I got the device and the first thing I tried were carrots. Now, I don't know about you but my grocery store's carrots are not massive in size. They are larger than the ones you get in those pre-packaged bags, but apparently not big enough for the Veggie Slicer. I wanted to make carrot "noodles" for a salad but due to the carrots shape and size, I was getting more rice, than noodle shapes. It didn't matter though, I just got this gadget and I would not be deterred. I ate my carrot rice salad and I loved it!

Sweet potato failure
Next I tried sweet potato. I really wanted curly sweet potato string "fries". So I grabbed the straightest and most narrow sweet potato I could find at the grocery store, went home, and got to work. Let me tell you, it is NOT as easy as you see on T.V. Let's just say that this is a good arm workout. Which wouldn't be a huge issue for me if the device wasn't so awkward to hold. It has these paper thin metal side things that are not the most pleasant to grip, let alone they feel like they would snap on you with the littlest pressure. There really is no easy way to hold this thing... so I gave up and handed it to the Mr. He tried for a while but I was getting too hungry and we weren't making much progress. So I told him to stop and that I'd just make normal fries.

Like cutting butter

Then I tried using the Veggie Slicer on zucchini. The experience was night and day. Sure it was awkward holding the device but zucchini is so soft that the device cut through it like melted butter. I didn't need to hold it in a death grip while I made "noodles". I was able to go through four zucchini in the time it took me to make that tiny pile of sweet potato. I made a really delicious shrimp scampi with the zucchini noodles and it was pretty easy. I actually plan on making the scampi again this week for dinner.

Conclusion: While this device can make an awesomely healthy shrimp scampi, I'm not sold on it. It's uncomfortable to hold onto, difficult to use on harder vegetables, and isn't the easiest thing in the world to clean. I spent more time cleaning the zucchini bits out of the blades than I did spiralizing the zucchini in the first place. I think it's a nifty gadget and it's an amazing way to eat more vegetables but it needs to be a little more user friendly.

Snickers Cookies

You know how much I love trying recipes that I find on Pinterest. With that being said though, they don't always turn out like the picture. I've had my fair share of Pinterest Fails and this was one of them. Now I know you're looking at that picture thinking, "That's a fail?" Well, no that one isn't a fail, this one is...

You see they were supposed to turn out like this...

Picture from Bakergirl site.

Huge difference. The peanut butter was just dried crumbly peanut butter and the chocolate was almost on the verge of being cake better consistency. It was a complete mess and I was not at all surprised when mine didn't come out looking like the picture. I went though the comments and realized that a lot of people had the same exact problem that I did. I had a huge amount of dough though and decided to improvise. I combined the two doughs together into one.

And that is how I went from a fail to a really delicious cookie. I did change the recipe quite a bit though. I mean, a total of 4 cups of sugar AND 4 full Snickers bars seemed like a bit much.I'm not overly convinced those extra cups of sugar would have made a lick of difference in the finished product though. The two doughs were just all over the place. However, once I mixed the two doughs together, not only did it split the process in half but the cookie turned out much more appealing to look at.

I had a little helper with me while making my cookies.

recipe adapted from Bakergirl

Peanut butter dough
  • 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup natural chunky peanut butter
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate dough
  • 1 cup margarine/butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 regular-sized Snicker bars, chopped into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup caramel chips/bits

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. For the peanut butter dough, cream together the peanut butter, oil, and egg until dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips. 
  4. For the chocolate dough, cream together the margarine, sugar, and brown sugar until well combined. Slowly beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the butter mixture until well combined. Stir in chopped Snickers pieces and caramel chips. 
  5. Mix the two doughs together until just barely combined. 
  6. Take two tablespoons of dough and gently roll into a ball and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. 
  7. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until done. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cajun Shrimp Quinoa Casserole

We didn't really have a winter here but there were a few weeks where it was a little chilly. By chilly I mean 50°f. However, considering we just came from the 115° desert this past summer, 50° feels like winter to us. So I started searching for casserole dishes that I could make that would not only be hearty but easy to make. That's when I found this recipe. I had some extra frozen shrimp in the freezer from new years eve that I had been wanting to use and this was the perfect recipe for it. 

This is definitely something new that we've never had before. I don't think I've ever had cheese on shrimp before. However, considering I've made and enjoyed shrimp with cheesy bacon polenta I figured this wouldn't be too far off. This was pretty delicious. I'm not familiar with cajun food so I can't say that this was authentic or reminded me of Loisianna but I can say it was different from anything I've had and it was tasty. I particularly enjoyed that you make everything in the one pan (if it's oven safe). So there aren't multiple dishes to clean up afterwards. The only downside to this dish is that you kind of have to eat it all while it's fresh. We had a lot of leftovers and they weren't quite as good after being nuked in the microwave the next day.

 recipe adapted from This Gal Cooks

  • 3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2½ tsp cajun seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2½ c. cooked quinoa
  • 1 c. shredded fontina cheese
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
  1. Cook quinoa according to package, set aside.
  2. Toss the shrimp and 1 tsp Cajun seasoning together, set aside.
  3. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet (or any oven-safe skillet) Cook the shrimp until opaque, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan along with the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Cook until the onion and jalapeno are tender, stirring often. Mix in the quinoa, tomato paste, ½ tsp Cajun seasoning and tomato chunks. (If you don't have an oven safe skillet then transfer ingredients to a 9x9 baking dish and follow remaining steps) Top with the shrimp and then sprinkle with the fontina cheese.
  6. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. During the last 2 minutes, turn on the broiler to high and broil until the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.
  7. Garnish with fresh cilantro.