Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lunch in a Jar

I have been absent way too long. I've been so busy and pre-occupied with school and life that I confess I have lost my creative touch. I still spend plenty of time in the kitchen, but I haven't, until recently, created any new meals in a very long time.  

I've made many "new" meals from the numerous cookbooks that I own, along with Pinterest recipes and other bloggers recipes, but I haven't had the gumption to create my own, let along post anything here. Until just recently.

Recently, I posted on Facebook pictures of a salad I made for lunch and I stacked and packed more of the same in jars for the remainder of the week. It was such a hit, I thought I would share another version (with decent photos) here on It All Begins with Dirt.

These jars are simple to make and keep fresh for a week in the fridge when stacked properly. 

Start with your favorite dressing on the bottom of a quart mason jar.  For this salad, I made my own Tahini Lemon dressing and used about 1 1/2 TB in the bottom of each jar. 

From there you'll want to add the chunky veggies.  I added about 1/3 cup of each of: broccoli, carrots, and chickpeas. Shake these down as you go so it all fits in the jar.  Then I added (still about 1/3 cup each) layers of mixed red and white quinoa, chopped red bell peppers, peas, chopped dried apricot, pumpkin seeds  and then topped it off with as much greens as I could stuff down. If you don't like, or don't have these veggies, use what you have or like. It's very versatile.

Once it's all in there, top it with a lid and store them in the refrigerator. 

These are so easy to grab and go by themselves, or pack in a lunch bag or box.  When you're ready to eat, shake the jar really good to get all that dressing all over everything and dump into a bowl, or eat it directly out of the jar. 

Use your favorite recipe for Lemon-Tahini Dressing or here's one that I used:

  • ½ cup tahini
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 or 3 tbsp)
  • 1 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb Nutritional Yeast (optional, but recommended)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Add this to a high-speed blender (like a NutriBullet) or whisk together until smooth. Keep any remaining in a glass jar in the fridge. 

Experiment with different layers and dressings.  The possibilities are endless!


Taco salad with salsa on the bottom, then layers of guacamole, tomato,onion, peppers, corn, black beans, and spinach, topped with brown rice tortilla cut into pieces.


Asian salad with honey ginger dressing on the bottom layered with mandarin oranges, red cabbage, bean sprouts, sliced carrots, broccoli, red bell peppers, water chestnuts, snap peas and romaine lettuce, topped with sliced almonds and sesame seeds.


Anti pasta salad with Italian Dressing, pasta, artichokes, black/green olives, roasted red pepper, chickpeas and endive with romaine lettuce, topped with pine nuts.

These are just a few ideas.  Have fun coming up with more!

Photo credits to Dave Howell at Photography Musings by Dave

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meatless Monday - Quick and Easy Fajita's!

Welcome to the 41st installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

My apologies for being absent for so long. I promise, I've been eating meatless on Monday's and pretty much every day of the week for going on one and half years now.  But lately my creative juices have been almost non-existent. That, plus I have a few new cookbooks that I've been trying out and using new recipes from. 

With that said, I wanted to share with you all the quickest, easiest and most tasty "recipe" I've made recently without a recipe. I was in the mood for Mexican food, had fresh colored sweet peppers from Costco (2 of each color) that I knew would need using soon AND a new hot pepper plant that I acquired from the farmers market had a pepper ready to harvest that I was anxious to try.  

I sliced up some onion, half of each color of bell pepper, opened a can of black beans, rinsed and drained them and used some brown rice I had in the freezer (I'm totally digging making a big batch of rice and any type of beans, lentils lately, and freezing up 2 cup portions ready for anything). I added about 1 tsp of Wildtree's Chipotle Lime Rub in the onion/pepper mix.  I heated up the bean and rice,  adding the Golden Cayenne pepper I harvested from the plant I bought at the farmers market. I used low-carb tortillas to wrap all this up along with freshly chopped romaine lettuce.  

Water or oil sauté the onions and peppers together.  You can add green peppers if you want, but I am not a fan of the green ones. If you don't have the Wildtree blend, add chipotle pepper and about a tsp of fresh lime juice.

 I heated the rice and beans with a little water and that awesome Golden Cayenne pepper. If you don't have rice made up ahead of time, just add the beans and pepper to freshly cooked brown rice at the end of the cooking cycle for the rice.

Lay out a low carb tortilla (or any tortilla of your choice), add about 1/2 cup of the rice/bean mixture to the center of the tortilla. Add a generous portion of onions and peppers, top with ribbons of romaine lettuce (any lettuce, except iceberg works here).  Serve with a side of fruit and ¡es facilisimo!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Meatless Monday - Quick Savory Marinara Sauce and Quinoa Pasta

Welcome to the 40th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

I don't know if it's been the long winter or... what it is, but I have been lacking tremendously in the creativity department lately.  In case you didn't notice, I haven't posted anything original in quite some time. 

I followed a detox diet very recently where there was a menu to follow, so all the cooking I did was solely from recipes. (I felt great, and lost weight though. See more about that here, here and here.) Since I'm not following the detox diet anymore, (although I still fix some of those delicious recipes) I am back to trying to figure out what to fix each night. It was nice having a menu plan where someone (in this case a book) was telling me what to fix each night. 

Last night I wanted something quick and easy, and thought pasta with marinara sounded easy. However, just plain marinara isn't that nutritious, so I began pulling out vegetables from my crisper drawer and started chopping.  I didn't think to write them down, but know that just about any vegetable you have would work as an addition to marinara.  Once I chopped them, I then sautéed them in a little bit of olive oil, starting with the firmer veggies and adding the softer veggies at the very end.

The vegetables I used were: Onion, leek, garlic, carrot, celery, tomato, zucchini, fire-roasted frozen mushrooms, and kale.  I added freshly frozen basil and dried oregano once all the veggies were softened.

Once the veggies were soft, I added the jarred marinara sauce. I used Prego, but use whatever your favorite brand is.  Add some pepper and a little salt, mix well and let simmer.

While the marinara sauce was simmering (which allowed that lovely vegetable medley to meld nicely into the jarred sauce), I boiled some quinoa pasta. With that going, I heated up some peas and carrots in the microwave and made garlic bread out of some "needed to be used up" ciabatta rolls. The vegetables and the quinoa pasta added the nutrients this meal would have been missing otherwise. 

 Did you know that kale and peas are just a few of the highest protein sources in green vegetables? Coupled with the quinoa pasta, this meal turned out to be a savory and nutritious meal. 

For dessert ...slices of fresh cantaloupe. Yummmm.

Yay for fast food!

Photos by Dave Howell

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Things Are Growing On Around Here!

Spring has finally arrived in NE Ohio and there are lot's of things growin' on around here! After a LONG hard winter, the earth is stretching and pushing up green things all around.

Japanese Iris

Lemon mint



Old Fashioned Iris (and other varieties)

Rose of Sharon

Magic Lilly


And scallions (better known as green onions)

We got our first snow in October of 2013 and our last snow (or I hope so), in March of 2014.  That's a long 6 months of snow and cold temperatures that these plants have hibernated through (as well as us humans!).  Now we are experiencing those famous April showers and green is popping up all around.

What's growin' on around your home?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meatless Monday - Mushroom Lentil Loaf with Barbecue Glaze

Welcome to the 39th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy

I have been reading the Virgin Diet book by JJ Virgin. In this book, she relays how there are certain "healthy" foods that trigger several physical symptoms such as fatigue and joint discomfort, among others things, that also cause us to gain weight or not be able to lose weight. She recommends cutting out 7 healthy foods that tend to lead to food sensitivities for most folks. She recommends detoxing for 21 days to allow our bodies to heal, then slowly reintroduce these foods back into our diets, one at a time to see if our bodies react negatively to them. Then, of course, if we do, we should cut these out of our diets completely. I definitely have been holding onto weight for a few years now and even though I eat meatless (not just on Monday's either!), I still can't seem to shake the weight.  

Anyway, you can read about my 21 day detox journey here where I share more, but I am thrilled that for once a diet plan actually considers that there just might be people who want to try a diet that are vegetarians. JJ Virgin actually has menu plans for vegetarians, not just meat eaters! Thank you JJ!

Below are the meatless recipes I tried out tonight. A lentil loaf with home made, and very tasty, BBQ sauce.

*Mushroom Lentil Loaf with Barbecue Glaze
Serves 4

3 TB chia seeds
1/3 cup water
2 cups organic dry, sprouted green lentils (such as TruRoots)
[Note: I did not have sprouted lentils, but used black lentils]
2 TB olive oil
8 oz cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
2 tsp coconut aminos (replaces soy sauce)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup All-Purpose Finger-Lickin-Good Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x4 inch loaf pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 3 inch overhang on each side.

Combine the chia seeds with the water in a small bowl and set aside.

Cook the lentils according to the package directions for a tender texture. (you should end up with about 4 cups)

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme and coriander and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place 3 cups of the lentils in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add the pureed lentils, and the remaining whole lentils to the bowl containing the mushroom mixture. Stir in the oats, chia seed mixture, coconut aminos, salt and pepper; mix well.  Firmly press the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Spread the top with the barbecue sauce.

Bake until the loaf is firm and browned around the edges, 48-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then lift the loaf out of the pan, using the foil overhang as handles, and transfer it to a cutting board.  Cool for an additional 20 minutes. Slice the loaf with a serrated knife and serve with additional barbecue sauce if desired.

*All-Purpose Finger-Lickin'-Good Barbecue Sauce
Makes 3 cups

1 (28 oz) can organic crushed tomatoes and it's juices
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 TB chili powder
2 TB smoked paprika
2 TB monk fruit extract (replaces sugar)
2 tsp coconut aminos (replaces soy sauce)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, except salt and pepper, in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, 20-22 minutes. Remove from heat and season with the salt and pepper. 

*Recipes from The Virgin Diet Cookbook

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meatless Monday - Chickpea Cherry Salad

Welcome to the 38th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

I've been on hiatus for awhile, visiting with friends and family out of state, and doing some sewing at a lodge in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. All fun and enjoyable, but it doesn't allow for much computer time. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad. I can tell you that it's nice to not have to come up with something to eat every day, and let others cook for you. On the other hand, wow do I feel heavy!  I was so appreciative of every ones good cooking and it was all good stuff, but I'm glad I don't eat like that all the time.

It's still winter here in NE Ohio. We have about a foot of snow on the ground and currently we are beginning to get what is supposed to be another good snow storm. This snow will last throughout the night adding another 3-6 inches to what we have already. (sigh)

We've been eating cold-weather comfort food all winter, and I LOVE that. All that "stick-to-your-ribs" type food, Mmmmm, what's not to love?  I've noticed though, just recently, that each day, the sun stays in the sky a few minutes longer. OK, technically the sun is above the horizon longer, but here in the Cleveland area we have to imagine REAL hard that it's shining on us most days during winter. But I digress.

I think my body is gearing up for longer, warmer days because I had an odd craving this evening. I wanted a salad. I know what you're thinking...weirdo.....right?  Who wants salad in the winter time?  Well, I had just bought some Napa Cabbage at the store this weekend, but was low on the traditional salad fixings we typically use during warmer weather. However, I had an email recently that had a recipe with an unusual list of ingredients, and I thought.... why not throw some of those together, mix it with my cabbage and see what we get.

I'm so glad I did.

Chickpea Cherry Salad

2 15.5 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 11oz can mandarin oranges, drained 
4-5 green onion, sliced going into the green
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
4-6 leaves of Napa cabbage, chiffinade 
(or bok choy would work too, or kale, or....)
1 TB candied or fresh ginger, minced (I used candied tonight)
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional, but recommended, yum!)
3 TB apple-cider vinegar
3 TB olive oil
1 TB dried parsley
salt and pepper

Add the ingredients together from the top of the list (from the chickpeas to the jalapeño). Give it a good toss to mix it all together.  Then mix the oil, vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the salad and toss again.

You'll want to eat all this up in one sitting. It should feed 3-4, but with just the two of us, we had very little left over.  If you need to store any left-overs, make sure to drain off the excess juices before refrigerating it.

This meatless main dish salad is packed with nutrient dense carbs, plenty of fiber and protein, and the ginger can help reduce inflammation while calming your stomach. All that aside, it just plain tastes good!  I hope you enjoy it. I know we did.

Thanks to my honey for capturing these great shots of the salad. See more of what he does over at his blog.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meatless Monday with Mindy - Fast Food Pierogi's

Welcome to the 37th installment of  Meatless Monday with Mindy!

It's hard to believe that it's already halfway through January 2014! It's been busy already this month with 2 birthday past and 2 more coming up as early as the 15th! (Happy Birthday to my Honey!).

I love to cook, but I must confess, there are days I just don't want to. Monday was one of "those" days this week. I still wanted something fresh but I didn't want to chop and cook everything from scratch. So began my search. I went to our overstock freezer and began sorting and shuffling bags of frozen goodies.  I came across a partially used bag of frozen potato pierogies and thought, hmmm, what would taste good with potato pierogies? Well, duh!  Onions for sure!  What else do I have?  I always want to add greens to any meal I make. Broccoli sounded good. As I continued to shuffle around bags of goodies, I came across a small bag of fire-roasted mushrooms. Ahhhh, that was PERFECT! Mushroom and onions go good with just about anything. There was the basis for my fast food meal.

I took all these bags of frozen goodness upstairs and begin the dumping process. Oh, but first I did thickly slice onions.  I then saute'd the onions and mushrooms in about a tablespoon of Wildtree's Smoky Bacon flavor grapeseed oil (don't worry, no pigs were harmed in the making of this oil).  Once the onions begin to go transparent and the mushrooms began to heat through, I added the pierogies. Although this sounded good enough, I knew I was going to need more protein as I skipped lunch and my body was needing the added nutrients. So I dug through my pantry and found some cannelli beans. Protein! (cue angels to sing here) Open, drain and dump.

While all of that was heating through, I microwaved some broccoli to serve on the side.

The moral of this story is, you don't have to create labor intensive meals to come up with a good and satisfying meatless meal.

This quick meal consisted of:
Frozen potato pierogi
Frozen fire-roasted mushrooms
1 large onion, thick sliced
1 can cannelli beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tb smoky bacon flavored grapeseed oil
Frozen broccoli

Saute' onion and mushrooms in the oil in a large skillet until the onions become translucent. Add pierogies and beans and continue to sauté until pierogies are slightly browned.  Serve with broccoli and enjoy. This meal came together in about 10 minutes. It's the best fast food I've ever had!

Thanks to my honey for taking this picture that made this fast food meal look as wonderful as it tasted!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Meatless Monday with Mindy - No-Chicken Pot Pie

Welcome to the 36th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

The holiday's are behind us and the new year has me thinking about how I can do it better this year.  Some of the things I'm thinking is; I am determined to add more greens to our meals and I want to try buying more organic when I can.  

I made tonight's meal with those concepts in mind.  This No-Chicken Pot Pie was made easier by using Wildtree Pot Pie Skillet Meal . The comfort-food style seasonings are all organic and include onion, cornstarch  sea salt, carrots, Umami, garlic, pepper, basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme and sage. And the nice thing here is, this little box has enough to make this recipe 3 times!

 I have a friend who I turned onto Wildtree when the company she was working for went out of business. She was so impressed that she started selling Wildtree product. So I have easy access to all the news and new products! Check out the links if you would like to order this product, or other organic products.  Just this past year Wildtree went 100% organic which makes me very happy. I already loved their products, and this just made it even better!

It is c-c-c-cold outside today! As I write this post it is currently -11° F  (yes, that's a negative number) but with the wind chill it feels like -39° F!  Can I just say …. Brrrrrrr!  So this Pot Pie comes in the form of good old-fashioned comfort food!

I obviously made this traditional chicken pot pie without meat, but wanted to add more vegetables than the boxed mix called for and of course more greens!

Here are the ingredients needed for the way I made it:
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped potatoes
1/2 sliced carrot
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, your choice
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cup garbanzo beans (or 1 can rinsed and drained)
2 cups packed, chopped kale
1 package Wildtree Pot Pie Skillet Meal
1-2 tsp cornstarch 
1 1/2 cup water
1 refrigerated pie dough or recipe for one crust

Start by pre-heating your oven to 400°F. 

 In a large skillet sauté the onion, carrot and potato until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the frozen vegetables and the mushrooms to the pan. Continue to cook until the frozen vegetables are warmed through and the mushrooms begin to lose their moisture.

Add the garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas). Stir them in and let them warm through.

While this mixture is heating through, add the Wildtree Pot Pie seasoning mix and cornstarch to 1 1/2 cups water.

Pour this over the vegetables and bring all the ingredients in the pan to a boil to activate the cornstarch.

Once the sauce begins to thicken, stir in the chopped kale.  

Transfer this mixture to a 9 inch deep dish pie plate, and cover with the pie dough. Cut a V in the top crust (or whatever letter or design makes you happy) to vent the crust.

Bake for 35- 40 minutes and the crust is a nice brown.

This pie hit the spot!  If you want it sauce'ier, add less frozen vegetables, but we like it nice and thick with vegetables. Either way, I think you'll enjoy this hearty comfort food for Meatless Monday.

Keep warm!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Meatless Monday - Whole Grain Salad

Christmas was celebrated a week early this year in our house. What fun it was to have our whole family together this past Thursday morning. Our children, their spouses and the grand-babies all gathered around our living room, while all eyes were on Eliza as she was old enough this year to "get" the concept of opening gifts and playing with her new toys. Next year should be even more fun as Eliana should be old enough to have some fun and Eliza will definitely feel the excitement of all those presents.

Later Thursday we all met at my oldest brothers house to exchange gifts and share food with almost every one of our family members on my side. Our brother and his family, who live in Texas, and my oldest brothers two oldest children and their sweeties who live in Washington were missing, but they were all with us in our hearts.  

Each year my sister-in-law and I take turns hosting dinner and planning the menu. This year, I was given the appetizer platter and a vegan dish for our daughter and myself. and after all our eating was over, I still had plenty of vegetables left over.  So I decided to use up as much as I could tonight using the pre-cut vegetables and the rice and grains I used in another dish.

Whole Grain Salad

I started out roasting a medium sweet potato, about a cup and a half of baby carrots and a medium onion for about 30 minutes. Toss these with just a little bit of olive oil (about a tablespoon) and then salt and pepper to taste. I then steamed about 2 cups of fresh broccoli just until bright green and still slightly firm.

While the veggies were roasting and steaming I measured out left-over cooked lentils (1 cup), brown rice (1 cup) and mixed red and white quinoa ( 2 cups)

 I added 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, 4 green onions and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the grain mixture. Stir all of this together and set aside.

I made up a dressing that was both nutty and slightly sweet to compliment all the flavors of the salad.

1/4 cup Tahini
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB tangerine balsamic vinegar
2 TB maple syrup (Or maple flavored agave)
1 TB low-sodium soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced

Mix all that together and pour over the grain mixture. Stir well.

 By now your vegetables should be roasted and steamed. Add that to your grain and dressing mixture and stir gently so as not to break up the sweet potatoes.

This dish is good served warm or at room temperature.  

 Spoon this main dish salad up into a bowl and enjoy!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Healthful New Year!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Meatless Monday - Sweet Potato, Farro and Kale Soup

Welcome to the 34th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

The Holiday season is officially upon us!  Happy Holidays!  This season is always an exciting one with wonderful foods, visiting family and gift giving. It's easy to get caught up in eating indulgent foods and setting aside what know to be better options for us during this fattening food laden season.  

Going meatless just one day a week during the holidays could help decrease your risk of developing heart disease.  Studies have shown that the number of heart attacks increase by 5% during the holiday season.  So, by all means, enjoy the seasonal foods that help make the holiday's special, but  counter those rich laden meals with health boosting meatless meals in between those gatherings. 

Here is one soup that is a complete meal, easy to prepare and it brings in the seasonal flavors with the addition of sweet potatoes.  I have to give a hearty nod to Lorna Sass who authored the book 'Whole Grains, Every Day, Every Way' where I got my inspiration for this soup. Farro is one of mine and my honey's favorite grains. The addition of this hearty grain makes this soup very satisfying.  

Sweet Potato Farro and Kale Soup

1 cup farro, rinsed
2 Tb olive oil
1 large onion, diced ( about 2 cups)
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 stalks celery, diced
 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
8 cups of vegetable stock
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed ( or 1 1/2 cups)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 tsp salt
4 cups kale, tightly packed
1 tsp each, dried basil and parsley
freshly ground pepper to taste

To speed up the cooking time, add cold water to a large bowl and farro, enough to cover the farro. Set aside for about 15 minutes, while preparing your vegetables.

Heat 1 Tb of oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot, over medium high heat. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery and sweet potato. Cook until the onion softens, about 3 minutes. 

Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 2 more minutes or so.

Cook vegetables just until they begin to brown, stirring often to prevent sticking.

Deglaze the pan with about one cup of vegetable stock, scraping pan to get any browned bits.  Add remaining broth.

Add the softened farro...

...and the tomatoes.

Stir in the basil and parsley.

Bring this to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the rinsed beans. 

Add the kale, stirring it in as you add it.  This looks like a LOT of kale, but it cooks down dramatically. 

Continue to cook until the kale it softens, about 15 minutes. 

Season with pepper to taste and serve.

This soup is a complete meal, but the addition of garlic bread is always yummy!

I hope you enjoy this soup. If you make it, I'd love to hear what you think!