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A fiery, red-headed newbie Vegan who loves wine, food, reading, writing, and all things curious.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vegan Stuffed Eggplant

Spring is here. Warm weather is flirting with us. The season of growth and abundance has arrived! This time of year hubs and I get giddy over picking fruits and veggies. Over the next few weeks we will be picking strawberries. My strawberry muffin, cake, and tart recipes are waiting to be made! As the temperature rises, we can expect summer squashes, leafy greens, beans, peppers, and delicious eggplants. 

Although it isn't quite eggplant season, I couldn't resist the voluptuous, aubergine vegetable at my grocery store. This is a great recipe to have on hand during those harvesting months when your garden or farm is bursting with veggies that are ripe for picking. 

A quick note about tempeh:

   I used tempeh in this dish but it could easily be substituted with a vegan meat of your choice. First I cubed the tempeh, then simmered it in 1 cup water, 1/4 cup red wine, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 tsp thyme for 15 minutes. Once cool, crumble to resemble ground beef. 

Vegan Stuffed Eggplant
4 servings

1 large eggplant, sliced in half and scooped out
1 cup onion, diced
water, as needed*
1 cup red & yellow bell pepper, diced
scooped eggplant
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup kale, chopped
1/3 cup pignoli (pine) nuts
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
very small pinch of cinnamon
8 oz tempeh, simmered and crumbled (See above)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 cup + 1 tsp bread crumbs
1/4 Daiya mozzarella

* I don't like to saute in olive oil if I don't have to. I saute in dry pan with a little water added as necessary to keep from burning. It is a wonderful technique if you want to cut down the amount of oil and fat in a recipe. 

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Slice top off of eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out center but leave enough of the eggplant meat so that it remains sturdy. Save scooped eggplant.

2. Heat a large frying pan over med-high heat and saute onions, adding a little water if necessary for 10 minutes. Add peppers, eggplant, and garlic and cook for another 10 minutes. Add kale and a little water and cook for another 5 minutes. Add pignoli, capers, seasonings and mix well. cook for another 5 minutes. Take off heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, mix filling, tempeh, nutritional yeast, 1/8 cup bread crumbs, and mozzarella. Mix well. The cheese will start to get a little melty from the heat.

4. Stuff those eggplant halves good and plenty! Sprinkle the 1 tsp of bread crumbs on top of each.  Either place on an oiled baking sheet or a large, heavy bottom pot. Bake for 50-60 minutes, the bread crumbs will be golden.

This dish is hearty on it's own. It pairs beautifully with a full-bodied red wine like Sangiovese. A side dish of broccoli rabe, sauted in garlic, makes this meal perfetto!
Mangiare e vivere bene! 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Orchid

Happy Easter everyone!

 I had planned to have Easter dinner at my new house this year with lots of family. But plans changed. Many of you know about a month ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After further tests, we learned the cancer spread throughout his body. He is 81 years old and has declined treatment, not wanting to be in anymore pain.  Last week he was admitted to a Hospice center and today we visited him.

When we arrived we were told  that he had received pain medication and would most likely be sleeping through our visit. It didn't matter. We sat next to him anyway. I watched as my husband tried to communicate with the man that raised him. My father-in-law kept slipping in and out of slumber, responding more to the conversations in his dreams than to my husband.

A woman and young girl, who I assumed was her daughter, came to the door. She asked if they could come in. We said yes but indicated my father-in-law was in no shape for a visit.

"That's okay. I just wanted to drop off this orchid for him," she said.

She pulled out a mini purple orchid that was planted in a small, white pot. "Orchids don't need a lot of sun or water."

The flower was beautiful. We put it on the windowsill and gazed at it.  A moment of silence for the reality that was around us. She was giving orchids to each patient in the center. She told me her name. I was so moved by her kindness, and weighed down with the emotions of the day that I simply cannot remember that name now. I don't think it matters. It is her actions that I will always remember.

The ability to bring a bright spot of beauty to an otherwise dark situation is such a gift. We all have this gift. We can bring orchids to the dying. Roses to the sick. Brownies to the lonely. Or just a soft shoulder when needed. Each one of us has the ability to take time from our busy lives to share in the sorrows and joys of another.

I encourage you to learn from the woman with the orchid as I have.  Think about how you can make a difference in someone's life. Even the smallest pebble can create the biggest ripples.

"In separateness lies the world's great misery, in compassion lies the world's true strength."--Buddha 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vegan Cheesy Corn Pudding

Before I became vegan, I would say my most requested dish was always corn casserole. It was a holiday table staple: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Birthdays...any reason to make it. I had found the original recipe in Cooking Light magazine. Far from vegan--egg beaters, butter, & Non-V muffin mix among the ingredients--family members encouraged me to try a vegan version.  

I am very happy to announce...The corn pudding tradition will continue! This vegan version has been modified and is even better than the original--it's cruelty free. 

I do apologize for the bad photo. We were SO excited to try this that taking a pic became an afterthought. If you do make this please send me a photo and I will upload it to the blog with credit to the chef of course :)

Vegan Cheesy Corn Pudding


2 Ener-G replacer "eggs"
1/2 cup melted vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 can whole-kernel corn
1 can cream-style corn
1 8 oz package Vegan corn mix*
1 carton plain soy yogurt (Whole Soy & Co)
1/4 cup Daiya pepperjack cheese

*Not ALL boxed muffin mixes are created equal! Many of them contain animal lard. I found a Shoprite brand vegan version. But Trader Joe's or Whole Foods might have one as well. 


1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Combine ingredients in a large bowl until mixed well. 
2. Pour mixture into an 8x8 baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. 
3. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until set, edges might be slightly browned. (Shake it--if it jiggles in the middle--keep cooking a little longer)

I am warning you...this is seriously delicious. I could probably eat a whole pan myself!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vegan BBQ Quinoa Stuffed Collard Greens

I am the foodie who gasps over the beauty of a display of Roma tomatoes at the grocery store. Many of you know, I find the art of produce inspiring. So when I found these gorgeous collard greens, I knew I had to stuff em' with something good!

My step-daughter was a super assistant today!

After our trip to Williamsburg, I was craving some good BBQ flavor. Always on the hunt for the best BBQ sauce I decided to try making my own.  In the words of hubs it was, "WOW!" Thick and sweet with a hint of vinegar and spice, he was eating it out of the bowl. Dinner was divine tonight!

BBQ Quinoa Stuffed Collards, Cheesy Corn Pudding, Sweet Potato Casserole

Carrot Top Vegan BBQ Sauce

1 cup onion, pureed
3 tbsp garlic, pureed
1/4 cup Maker's Mark Bourbon
21/2 cups ketchup
6 oz can tomato paste
1/4 soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoke paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tsp ground mustard

In a large sauce pan or large skillet with lid, cook onions, garlic, and bourbon over med-high heat for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, whisk until combined well. Cook for 5 minutes then reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Vegan BBQ Quinoa Stuffed Collard Greens

1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup garlic, minced
2 cups zucchini, diced
1 cup corn
1 cup lima beans
2 cups COOKED quinoa**
1 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground mustard
1 cup plus extra bbq sauce (recipe above makes plenty)
10-12 large collard leaves, stems removed and steamed**

**Make sure you have cooked quinoa. I steamed the collard leaves for about 15-20 minutes to soften them up and make them pliable. 


1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Cook onions in a large skillet coated with cooking spray for about 10 mins. Add garlic, zucchini, corn, lima beans and cook for 10 minutes. 

2. Add quinoa, spices and bbq sauce and mix well cooking for another 8 mins until everything is heated through. 

3. Lay collard green on flat surface and stuff with about 1/2-3/4 cup of mixture depending on size of leaf. 

4. Fold sides in, roll up and place package in 13x9 pan sprayed with cooking spray. Stuff all the leaves and put in pan. Top with bbq sauce. Cover pan with foil and put in oven and cook for 35 minutes. 

Little packages of barbecue delight!

Stayed tuned...

...recipe for the cheesy corn pudding coming soon!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Colonial Vegan

Oh I know! There was probably no such thing as a colonial vegan back when our country was being founded but Carrot Top Vegan is a modern day Colonial-lovin' vegan!

It is no secret-- Hubs and I LOVE Colonial Williamsburg! We try to visit a few times a year. (no we do not dress up in period clothing) We did join the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as Burgesses. Last weekend we went to our Annual Burgesses Meeting and had such a delightful time! Over the next few weeks I will be highlighting special events we experienced but first and formost...since this is a food blog...let's chat about the FOOD!

Of course we went to our favorite restaurant, Food For Thought. You can read more about this vegan-friendly place from this older blog post. This time I decided to try the Jerk Chicken (Gardein of course) with Mango Salsa and Sweet Potato Fries...WHAT A MEAL!

On Saturday at the Burgess Luncheon we had requested a vegan meal not knowing if such a thing would be possible. Kitchens are ready for the vegetarian request but...vegan...well...you know the usually head tilt. 
"Well what do ya'll eat then?" is usually the question we get from our curious Virginia folks. BUT the wonderful chef and kitchen did not disappoint! 
We had a spectacular vegan lunch that was visually stunning and had brilliant flavors! Roasted beets, pesto, steamed veggies, and carrot puree was as beautiful as it was delicious!
(If this isn't a reason to join the CWF, I don't know what is!)

We also found a great lunch spot!  (Thanks to Yelp!) Near the campus of William & Mary, we found The Pita Pit . Similar to Subway, you have to decide on options. You pick your bread type-- either white or whole wheat pita. Choose your fillings and toppings then they wrap it up perfectly into a portable lunch. The great thing about their website is the nutrition builder option where you calculate all of the calories, fat, protein, etc...and determine if you are eating healthy!

I got the black bean pita with spinach, tomatoes, olives, onions and avocado. For about 300 calories, 18grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat and 12 grams of fiber this was a superb lunch! 

And what Williamsburg trip wouldn't be complete without a trip to our favorite pizza place, ZPizza?!
Hello...Berkley Vegan!

We have already started buzzing about a summer visit. The Williamsburg Pottery, an institution for tourists in the 60's & 70's, has been rebuilt! Beautified well beyond it's prior glory, it is opening in April and we have to check it out! 
In the Colonial Village you can find some new exhibits like The Anderson Armory, The Tin Shop, The Armory Kitchen and so much more! 

People often ask us why we go to Williamsburg so often. 
There are so many wonderful things to do that each trip is a whole different experience! 
A great place to enjoy your summer vacation!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“It wasn’t the size of his ears that were the problem. It was how Dumbo felt about them…”

Body Image—a phrase relating to an ever-changing set of ideas and standards mixed with constant mood shifts, grumbles and the occasional—“Doesn’t look so bad today.”

Can you relate to this “definition”?

I have struggled with body image all my life.  From stand-out flame colored hair, a slightly unusual name, and ghost-white skin—I never stood a chance of blending in.  (Unless I was a Weasley) And let’s not even chat about all those numbers on the scale. Or how many scales have gone to the scale graveyard, smashed and shattered.  I am guilty of trying all the diets and plans: Slimfast, Weight Watchers, Suzanne Summers…thankfully was smart enough to stay FAR away from Atkins!

Recently, I had to unpack a box of old photos of myself.  I noticed that not much has changed with my body over the years. A few different hair colors and styles but overall the same average size. So I wonder—why have I spent all of these years fretting, foot-stamping, growling and tossing the contents of my closet on the floor because nothing ever fit right? I ponder how many hours I have spent obsessing over what I “should” look like.  It seems like an incredible waste of energy and time.

And then I realized:

It isn't  the size of me that is the problem.
 It is how I feel about it.

Can you connect with this? Are you your own worst body critic? The world might think you are beautiful—but your brain tells you otherwise.

Since I have become vegan, more compassion has filtered into my daily life than I ever thought possible.  But I lack compassion for myself. I think it is time to give myself a break—let go of the mirror monster. Change the way I think and feel about myself—change the body image.

Is it time to give you a break too?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Hubs and I are still unpacking from our move. Although you know the kitchen was the FIRST thing this vegan gal unpacked! Just had to break in the new & beautiful, Kitchen Aid double oven. This thing will make holidays smoother by being able to cook at different temp ranges at the same time! 

Tonight's dinner was created with a little help from some well-known vegan cooks! 

 Gardein's NEW Breaded Turkey Cutlets & Gravy
Dr.Neal Barnard'sWild Rice with Roasted Garlic & Spinach Pilaf (Get Healthy, Go Vegan!)

Hubs did give the green patties a questioning look at first. I think I added too much potato water. The mix was a little wet and created more of flat patties than the adorable round puffs on Susan's blog. This is the first time I have tried the colcannon and well--it has potatoes, kale, and nooch--Yum-tastic! Can never go wrong with a FFV recipe!

The pilaf had a healthy dose of smoked paprika giving it a rich flavor blended with roasted garlic and the perfect bite of wild rice. I use the The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook often. The recipes are simple and low-fat/low-cal but not low on flavor. 

Gardein has certainly impressed again! These turkey cutlets are by far our FAVORITE Gardein product! I am so excited I found a coupon for them because I plan to go stock up tomorrow! I oven-fried them, and they were crispy and juicy. It is scary how much they taste and feel like real meat. The home-style gravy has that perfect blend of sage and thyme that go so well with turkey. 

Now...time for green beer! 
Erin Go Bragh!