Creamy Polenta Ragu {Vegan and Gluten-Free}

Polenta RaguI have these neighbors. We will call them Wilfredo and Valentina, because those are their actual names. Cool, right? Well, they ARE cool and totally live up to those epic names. They moved in downstairs about eight months ago from New Jersey and we have become close friends. So close, in fact, that my two year old son, E, feels totally comfortable opening their front door and walking right in to say hello at any hour of the day.  (Yeah, we’re working on the whole concept of knocking.)

Wilfredo and Valentina are both avid athletes. It’s not uncommon to see them sprinting up and down the steep hill in front of our building, or doing interval training in the parking lot at dawn. And rain or shine, Wilfredo is running his heart out, getting ready to run UltraMarathon races,  and Valentina is probably completing a 50 mile bike ride as part of her triathlon training before heading off to work.  They have a serious love for activity, the outdoors, and competition.

They’re also VEGAN.

Now, we eat many animal products in our house. We eat plenty of veggies and fruits, too. But we are decidedly not vegan.

Our tribe here has expanded to enfold Wilfredo and Valentina into our hearts. We want to fully integrate them into our little community and become a safe place for these New Jersey transplants.

But here’s the thing: I love them. I love them BIG. They love my kid fiercely and he loves them fiercely right back. My love language is food. So, in order to share our table with them, I’ve been experimenting with dishes outside of my normal food repertoire.

But here’s another thing: Every single person in our tribe has special food things. E takes the (gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, carrot-free) cake because of his FPIES, but he certainly is not the only one who needs special food. But nobody has excluded animal products entirely from their diets.

Until now.

So, when the tribe decided to do a vegan brunch a few weeks ago, I accepted this challenge with great excitement.  Because even though you will never see me sprinting up and down the hill for funsies, I do love a good challenge.  And if the challenge translates to a little food love, then even better.

Everyone can technically eat corn, including E. I typically try to avoid it, but it doesn’t make me feel like wheat does. I also wanted to do a homestyle dish that was still healthy and everyone could enjoy.  I began to dream about casseroles, baked dishes, and rich, flavorful sauces.

Creamy, hot polenta dishes started filling my mind. It’s easy to veganize polenta. So, I scoured the internet looking for recipe ideas. I hit a wall when I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for and started getting frustrated.

Then I remembered that I can cook. DUH.

I started extracting favorite elements from dishes that looked great. Easy enough. Then I got to work.

I discovered that making the polenta first and baking it for a bit gave it the perfect texture. Scoring it, and then topping it with a simple tomato and veggie mixture and putting it in the oven to bake longer made mouth magic.

I brought my finished polenta dish before our tribe. I know I can count on them to give me their honest feedback. They tasted. They went back for seconds. They lamented when it was over, especially Wilfredo and Valentina. Luckily, I made an extra dish of it just for them, and walked it downstairs after brunch was done. They were stoked.

This dish is the classic, simple-food-done-right, love-in-a-Pyrex pan taste of comfort every person needs in their life. Probably right now.

You can make your own variations by using what you have on hand. THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE VEGAN. But then again, you can’t share it with your awesome vegan neighbors if it’s not. So, prepare wisely.

Ingredients for Polenta:

  • 2 cups dry polenta
  • 4 cups unsweetened, unflavored hemp milk (or regular milk)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ½ cup Nutiva Shortening, or butter
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt

Ingredients for Ragu:

  • 1 jar crushed tomatoes
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch spinach or chard, chopped
  • 1-2 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 4 leaves fresh sage, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions for Polenta:

  1. Cook polenta according to instructions on package, subbing water for milk. Add additional water to thin it out. It should be a smooth, creamy texture, and easy to stir.
  2. Pour polenta into a large, greased casserole dish. Bake on 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven, and score with a sharp knife into 1-2 inch squares, but do not remove from the dish.

Instructions for Ragu:

(Note: This is great to start while the polenta bakes in the oven.)

  1. Saute onion and garlic in oil, then add herbs, tomatoes, zucchini and sauce. Bring to a low boil.
  2. Remove from heat, and stir in spinach or chard.
  3. Pour over polenta, and bake for 30 additional minutes, or until mixture is bubbling.
  4. Serve and eat immediately, or store for leftovers.

This freezes okay, but stays good in the refrigerator for a week. But the thing is, I don’t think it will last that long. This is comfort food at it’s very best.

Hug a vegan,

Are you interested in learning more about vegan eating and running?  Visit Wilfredo’s blog over at Eat, Run and Done.



Garden Vegetable Frittata

FrittataQuarterViewI need to intentionally out myself here.

I am burned out with cooking. And a large part of my mission in life is cooking. Changing the conversation around food, around bodies, around babies and single people and periods and sex and family and allergies and wholeness and therapy and kombucha and…ALL OF IT.

I just have one small problem.

I want to flame my tiny pink kitchen down to the ground. Ignight it. Light it up and watch it burn down in a blaze of glory, a la Bon Jovi. (I will gladly let you film this spectacle as I stand in the middle of the flames wearing nothing but my mom jeans and an old leather vest that belonged to my grandma in the 1990s with my son’s pink ukulele strapped to my back in exchange for a lifetime of free Chipotle.)

Then I want to walk away, and never look back. 

This isn’t about food. This isn’t about my outdated micro kitchen. This isn’t even about my mission.

This is about self-care.

Last week, I started doing the thing where I eat trail mix for breakfast with a cup of coffee. Then I eat the same thing for lunch. I might grab a handful of cherry tomatoes or eat some cucumber slices off my son’s plate during lunch and start congratulating myself for making vegetables a “priority”. By the time dinner rolls around, I’m ravenous, have a terrible case of the bitchies and lose my words, so I groan and cry and end up laying on my bed in complete despair when I should be making dinner for my family. That is the moment when I want to douse my kitchen in gasoline, light it up with my Namaste candle and run away.

The trail mix is a bad sign, my friends. It means I’m giving up. I HATE GIVING UP. But sometimes I hate the process of not giving up more. It feels good to pretend I can’t cook. It feels like a whole lotta relief to plan to cook dinner and then say “eff it” at the last minute and orderThai takeout instead. It’s like a shot of heroin or the feeling you get when you cancel plans last minute because you want to stay home and watch Netflix in yoga pants and you have a legit, last-minute reason to do it.

Don’t get me wrong.  These food hacks are totally okay. We all hit our max, and sometimes we live at our max for extended periods of time without much relief.  There are seasons. I get it. I’ve been there.

But this isn’t it.

This is abandoning my commitment to taking care of myself.  So, now that the world knows what that looks like, here’s what maintaining my commitment to taking care of myself looks like.

(Note: It might look differently for you, so no judgment here.  Pound that trail (mix).)

  1. Hot breakfast.
  2. The end.

I don’t eat many grains because, with the exception of rice and sometimes oats, they really tear my stomach up.  Plus, I FEEL better when I eat a protein and veggie heavy breakfast during the rest of the day. I like the feeling of something warm in my belly, too. It reminds me that my body is served best when I care for it in small ways.  Plus, I don’t have to fight the trail mix bitchies.

What prep looks like in my tiny pink kitchen.
What prep looks like in my tiny pink kitchen.

Here is my plan of action: Fritatta. I make one large fritatta, portion it out into individual servings, and heat it up in the toaster oven while I get ready in the mornings.  This is all it takes to make me nice.  Well, this and a cup or seven of coffee.

This simple, humble little egg dish is great.  You can make a million different variations of it, but here is my absolute favorite. The fact that I can go outside and gather many of these ingredients from my garden is a total bonus.


  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup cheese (I prefer parmesan or asiago)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 lb of browned sausage or cooked bacon, crumbled (I prefer mild Italian sausage, but you can skip meat altogether to make this vegetarian.)
  • 1 medium onion, sauteed
  • 12 oz chopped broccoli
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large bunch of swiss chard or spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh herbs of your choice, or 1 Tbsp dried herbs. (I use rosemary, basil, and thyme from the garden)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (if not using sausage)


  1. Whisk together eggs, milk, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Mix in shredded cheese.
  2. Add protein and veggies, and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a large, greased baking dish, bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until the middle is cooked all the way through.
  4. Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Cut into individual portions and reheat in the oven or toaster oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.


My individual frittata portions are hanging out in my fridge, ready to be heated and eaten all week long. I blasted Bon Jovi’s greatest hits while prepping and cooking and cleaning up the kitchen to make this all a little more tolerable.  But I digress. I WILL TAKE CARE OF MYSELF THIS WEEK.  I hope you can, too.

Call Me Young Gun,






Boozy Lamb Short Ribs

Short Ribs 1You know how you have friends coming over and you want to cook for them, but lack the kitchen space, air conditioning, and energy to execute it?

Yeah.  Me, too.

Here’s The Thing, though.  I am fairly certain my love language is food. And I’m also fairly certain I have conditioned my family and friends to receive my love in this manner.  Food is NOT love, but food can be a loving gesture in a world of convenience and fast meals.  What’s better than sitting down with friends and sharing a great meal, enjoyable conversation, and choice adult beverage?  Not much.

Also, food is effing delicious, so there’s that.

When I want to share the love and keep the temperature in my kitchen down while making the most of my limited energy, I always turn to my crockpot.  I used to have major bias towards slow cookers. I grew up with crockpots galore at church potlucks.  Everyone clamored for an outlet to plug in their pot before service started so their mystery dish would stay hot and avoid poisoning a whole congregation. It was a sea of crockpots

A couple of decades later, I decided to try to resurrect my slow cooker that was still sitting in my kitchen in the box from our wedding when my truly kind souled cousin gifted us with it. I got brave.  I bought the food.  I read a couple of blogs. I studied and sweated and prayed to the kitchen gods that it would all turn out beautifully.  It didn’t.

I ruined a 5 lb brisket.

$40 of beautiful, succulent, grass-fed meat totally ruined because I didn’t understand fully how to use my slow cooker.  I did not sear it.  I under-seasoned it.  I ADDED WATER. Then I cooked it on high for 4 hours.  It was totally inedible, but of course we ate it anyway because we have a strict budget and can’t afford to toss food when it doesn’t turn out well.  I nicknamed it the Brisket of Tears, because I wept when I ruined it, and again every time I ate the chewy, gray, tasteless meat.

A couple of years ago, I decided to master the crockpot.  I did a massive amount of research. After a week of fretting and praying and hoping that I could pull it off, I made a pork shoulder.  It was phenomenal.  It gave me confidence. And I went further into the slow-cooker abyss.

When I found a ridiculously good sale on New Zealand grassfed lamb, I knew I could execute it well.  My dish would not go the way of the church potluck or failed brisket attempt of 2009.  Nope.  It would succeed.

This is probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.  I’m not exaggerating in the least. The flavor of the lamb is complex and finishing the whole dish off in the oven to crisp up the fat made this dish completely decadent.


  • 3-4 lbs of lamb riblets or short ribs
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/3 cup olive or avocado oil (I prefer avocado bc of the mellow flavor)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(ish) fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup  fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium shallot or small onion, quartered
  • 2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp (+) fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp (+) salt


  1. Combine all ingredients (except for lamb) in blender or NutriBullet.  Pulse until everything is combined.  Pour over lamb and marinate in a ziplock bag or covered dish for 2-12 hours, or if you’re in a hurry, skip the marination and use right away.
  2. Rub crockpot with a little oil, and put lamb and marinade in.  For best results, cook on Low for 6-8 hours.  Eight hours is optimal, but do what you can.
  3. When the lamb is finished in the slow cooker, transfer to a baking sheet and bake on 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes to crisp up the fat and caramelize.
  4. Garnish with chopped mint leaves and devour immediately.

Short Ribs 2I served this with a side of saffron infused basmati rice, pan fried mushrooms and sweet onion, along with a fruit-filled salad.  There wasn’t even a speck of lamb left on the bones, and we devoured an entire plate in 20 minutes flat.

You will love this.  Trust me.  Or don’t.  But take a chance.  And make friends with your crockpot this summer.

It feels good to be baaaaaad,



Quinoa Fritters with Coconut Honey Butter

This post is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Bob’s Red Mill.

We are strictly gluten-free at our house because of my son’s FPIES, (which is a fancy acronym for Allergic to Practically Everything).  Luckily, E can handle quinoa like a champ. I’m always looking for food all of our friends and family can enjoy so our kid grows up eating the same food as everyone else at our table. Traditional breakfast foods are the most challenging dishes to make to please a crowd.

Enter my BFF, Quinoa.

Quinoa is one of those universal foods that, when prepared correctly, is unbelievably satisfying. These fritters (I would call them pancakes except these are much more flavorful and delightfully crispy) are total crowd pleasers.  Even though I plan food as much as possible around E’s dietary restrictions, I also love to challenge myself and find new ways to make really tasty food that doesn’t feel restrictive in any way.  The quinoa fritters totally fit that bill.

Quinoa Fritters

I also have a hard time getting enough fat into my toddler’s diet, so I look for unique ways to incorporate fats into my dishes.  This coconut honey butter is totally edible as a stand-alone, if that’s what you’re into.


Ingredients for Fritters:

  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill organic quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (plant or animal)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil or butter
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey or other equivalent sweetener (optional)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • tiny pinch of salt

Directions For Fritters:

  1. Whisk baking soda, cinnamon and quinoa flour together in a bowl.
  2. Add wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in a skillet on medium heat.
  4. When skillet is hot, spoon batter into skillet and spread out with the back of the spoon into a thin round shape. Flip when the edges begin to cook and the center begins to bubble ever so slightly. It should only take a minute or two to finish cooking.
  5. Press the pancake with the spatula to see if it is finished cooking.  If it is mushy in the middle, it needs more time.  If it is firm, it’s ready to eat.

Ingredients for Coconut Honey Butter:

  • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 1-2 Tbsp raw honey

Directions for Coconut Honey Butter:

  1. Remove butter from refrigerator and bring to room temp. (Butter should be very soft.)
  2. In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil but do not make it hot.  Heat it just enough to liquify it. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk honey into coconut oil, and then whisk together with room temperature butter. (I prefer to use an electric hand mixer, but a hand mixer would work fine.)
  4. Spread over a saran wrapped plate or small cookie sheet, and freeze until firm, (or spread immediately).
  5. Cut into small squares and melt over piping hot fritters.

You can add anything you want into this batter.  I think pieces of cooked, thick cut bacon would be fabulous in this recipe.  Blueberries, and even zucchini or pieces of banana would be super tasty.  Or, better yet, add bananas and bacon and you’ll have a scrumptious breakfast feast.  But whatever you do, you can make it your own.

Quinoa’s Biggest Fan,



Zesty Kale Chips


Kale chips, by far, is my most frequently requested recipe outside of desserts.  Friends, family, readers, and remarkably self-aware Portland toddlers demand good kale chips.  There are a million ideas on the interwebs, and I feel as though I’ve tried them ALL.  And I don’t love them, I’ll be honest. Well, except for this brand.  I can eat that spendy kale goodness all day long.  But in general, I can’t quite get used to the bitter flavor of the brittle, crispy kale.

However, I’m always up for a challenge unless it involves something that I don’t want to do, like running a marathon or laundry.  Then I’ll gladly say Uncle! and curl up on the couch with a good book and glass of wine.

Given my love of kale and your great interest, though, I actually feel morally compelled to find a kale chip recipe that is not only passable, but doesn’t make me want to eat a whole cake afterward just to get the taste out of my mouth.

Cake Is A Liar

So, when I created a kale chip recipe that I wanted to eat compulsively, I did a little kitchen dance of joy. These little guys took  about 6 tries before I was satisfied with the results, and I ate them until I was almost full. Because you can’t REALLY get full on kale chips.

They taste wonderfully spicy, a little cheesy, and satisfied my snack cravings.  The only problem?  I wanted more.  I also used coconut oil which helped with the bitter flavor.  It is my favorite oil to use on the kale chips by far.

So, I give you Zesty Kale Chips!


  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, de-stemmed, and dried thoroughly
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil  (This coconut spray worked REALLY WELL, but I can’t vouch for it’s nutritional value or purity.)
  • 2 tsp favorite salt-free seasoning mix (I chose a Grill’n Chop kind, but Spike would work.)
  • smoked sea salt (which you can find at Trader Joe’s for cheap, or in the bulk bins at Whole Foods)


  1. After you’ve torn the kale into bite-sized pieces, put in a mixing bowl and spray or drizzle oil over leaves.  Mix well.
  2. Spread leaves over a baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Sprinkle nutritional yeast over the kale, and then follow with salt-free seasoning and a very light sprinkle of salt
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.
  5. Kale should be dark green and even a tiny bit brown in some places, but crunchy.  Consume immediately.

So, there you have it.  My You-Don’t-Want-To-Eat-Cake-After-Eating-These-Kale-Chips Recipe.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

All Hail The Kale,