Tag: recipe

Pumpkin Coconut Pasta

Pumpkin Coconut Pasta

pumpkincoconutpasta Here in the desert of the American southwest, it may be autumn according to the calendar but we are still experiencing daily temperatures in the 100s. This last weekend, as a belated birthday present, my in-laws and I took Bradley on a short two-day trip to cooler locales: we walked near Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in Sedona, lounged in the cool shade and hopped rocks at Oak Creek Canyon, spent the night in Flagstaff, experienced Bearizona in Williams, swung by Walnut Canyon National Monument and enjoyed flock of thirty or so ravens conduct impressive aerial maneuvers, and stopped in Campe Verde along Moonrise Drive to watch the spectacular lunar eclipse.

It was great to get away from the heat of the valley and just relax. Up in the Flagstaff area, it actually almost felt like autumn and autumn is our favorite season. Perhaps inspired by our trip, last night I created my first original recipe for Autumn and it was delicious!

Pumpkin Coconut Pasta by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Gluten-free, vegan


1 bag of brown rice gluten free pasta
1 can of pumpkin puree, 15 ounce
1 can of Thai Kitchen Small Coconut Milk, 5.46 ounce
1/3 can of tomato paste, 5.46 ounce
1 small onion, chopped
1 red apple (any sweet or semi-sweet apple, not tart), chopped
1/2 can of chickpeas, 15 ounce
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
Garlic powder
Italian spice blend*


Prepare the pasta as per the directions.

Meanwhile chop onion and apple into similar sized chunks. Heat the oil in a small pan and sauté the onion and apple on medium-high for 3-5 minutes, tossing/stirring often. Add the almonds, dried cranberries and chickpeas. Lower heat to medium-low, cover and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt, garlic powder, and Italian spice blend to taste. When the apples, almonds and chickpeas are the right softness for you, turn off the burner and keep covered for warmth.

In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, coconut milk and tomato paste. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add salt, garlic powder, and Italian spice blend to taste.

When pasta is done, drain and rinse in cold water. Return pasta to the pot and gently mix in the pumpkin puree mixture. Stir until all of the pasta is evenly coated. Add in the onion, apple and chickpea mixture and stir. Add more salt, garlic powder or Italian spice blend to taste. Top with parsley.

Servings: 2-4

Allergy Warning

Please check all ingredients for possible allergens before preparing for someone with a food allergy or sensitivity.

We ate the pasta with steamed asparagus and a light butter lettuce/spinach salad topped with cherry tomatoes, black olives and artichokes. It was delicious! The almonds and pumpkin combined with the hint of sweetness from the apple and cranberries made the dish truly tasted like autumn. At first I was nervous about combining pumpkin with coconut milk, but after the spices were added, the two flavors blended nicely together.

It was so good I went back for seconds, even though I know I should not eat seconds at dinner. And I brought it for lunch today. Yummy!

*The particular Italian spice blend I used is a special blend usually used for bread dipping (by adding it to olive oil). My sister and brother-in-law, who are now selling different oils, balsamic vinegar, hot sauces, and possibility spice blends at Sassy Olive. I will check which one it was when I get home and update this post.

Soupy coconut pasta primavera

Soupy coconut pasta primavera

Mountain vistas at Sequoia National Park. June 29, 2015.
Mountain vistas at Sequoia National Park. June 29, 2015.

Monday evening we arrived home, safe and sound, from our nine-day vacation. We drove with Bradley’s parents through southern and central California visiting various members of his family, Sequoia National Park, and Whale Watching in Monterey. Needless-to-say, when we finally returned home, we both crashed.

Our fridge was so empty, I took the opportunity to clean all the shelves.

Then Tuesday, after picking me up from work, we hit the 99¢ Store for some very basic groceries, which in our case is mostly produce. Needing something fast and desiring something light, we had salad Tuesday night.

After so long away from home, however, I was craving a nutritious home-cooked meal. So last night I created a new soupy pasta dish using odd but delicious mix-match of whatever ingredients we had on hand. Surprisingly, it turned out oh so very yummy! (I am actually enjoying some leftovers for lunch today!)

It had started out with the desire to replicate a Thai coconut soup and we ended up adding tons of other odds-and-ends into the pot.

Soupy Coconut Pasta Primavera by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Gluten-free, vegan


3 cups vegetable broth (made using 1 Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Bouillon Cubes)
1 Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk, Premium, First Pressing, 13.66-Ounce Can
1 can of palm hearts (chunks)
1 can Dynasty Sliced Water Chestnuts
3 carrots (chunks)
3 celery stalks (chunks)
10 small golden potatoes (cubed)
1/2 package organic tofu, extra firm (cubed)
1 Westbrae Natural Organic Garbanzo Beans, 15 Ounce Can
2 handfuls of kale (fresh from garden)
1 box gluten-free pasta (brown rice preferred)
Spices and sea salt to taste


First open all cans and drain excess liquid. Mix vegetable broth and coconut milk in a large pot on high heat. While warming up the liquid, cube all vegetables into equal-sized chunks. Add thicker vegetables first (carrots, celery, and potatoes). Add gluten-free pasta. Add sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, parsley, thyme, basil, crushed black pepper, chili powder, cumin, and other spices desired to taste. Lower heat to medium, cover and let cook for ten minutes. Add palm hearts, water chestnuts, garbanzo beans, and tofu. Cover and cook for ten minutes. Taste and add more sea salt and spices if desired. Test potatoes and pasta to ensure thoroughly cooked. If ready, add fresh kale (or other dark leafy green of choice, like baby spinach), stir, and cover. Simmer on low for five minutes. Taste. If ready, turn off heat and let cool slightly before serving.

Servings: 4-6

Allergy Warning

Please check all ingredients for possible allergens before preparing for someone with a food allergy.

This is how I made the Soupy Coconut Pasta Primavera, but I simply used items that I already had on hand. If you give this recipe a try, feel free to exchange ingredients to ones you already have.

The foundation of this dish is a vegetable soup, but substituting some of the broth with coconut milk, and then adding whatever else sounds good. Be sure to taste test and add spices to get the perfect flavor. If the dish tastes a bit bland, my go to spices are sea salt and garlic powder. You could also add a dash of hot sauce if you wanted to kick it up a notch. I have never thrown pasta into a soup before but it worked out quite nicely. I will probably to that again sometime.

Five bean sweet potato chili

Five bean sweet potato chili

This last weekend our church’s Pathfinder Club held a fundraising event, a Pioneer Festival. It was a fun mixture of a fall festival with stations for the Pathfinders to earn and/or demonstrate various parts of the Pioneering Honor. Some of the stations included corn husk doll making, butter making, and more. We also had plenty of games like Tic-Tac-Pumpkin, tug-of-war, three-legged race, needle in a haystack (a large crochet needle) and hayride.

As for food and refreshments there was old fashion lemonade, popcorn, cornbread, three different types of chili, and funnel cakes.

I made one of the chili and was pleasantly surprised with the amount that was eaten. I was a bit nervous as I had never made this chili before, but I have to say that it was delicious! (It could have used a tad more sea salt, but I did not want to make it too salty for those guests who are watching their sodium intake.)

I decided to share my original recipe here with you.

Five Bean Sweet Potato Chili by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Gluten-free, vegan


1 can kidney beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can black beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can pinto beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can white/navy beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (28oz)
1 can tomato paste (6oz)
1 can of green chiles (4oz)
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 bell peppers
1 medium-to-large sweet potato
1 medium-to-large yellow/sweet onion
Sea Salt
Chili powder


Chop the fresh vegetables (onion, bell peppers, and sweet potato) in large chunks.

Open, drain and rinse the five cans of beans and add beans to your crockpot. Rinse quinoa well in a very fine strainer and add to crockpot. Open the other cans (tomatoes, tomato paste, green chilis) and the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot. Add your spices (sea salt, cumin, chili powder and paprika) and stir until all ingredients are well mixed.

Cook chili on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

Servings: A lot! You will have leftovers so enjoy your chili over the course of a week. Leftovers can be put in freezer-safe containers and frozen.

Allergy Warning

Please check all ingredients for possible allergens before preparing for someone with a food allergy or sensitivity.

The nice thing about chili is that you can so easily substitute ingredients to meet your personal taste preferences or to accommodate many food sensitivities/allergies. I intentionally avoided gluten and corn, though the canned tomatoes and chiles do contain citric acid that can be derived from corn so the chili is not guaranteed corn-free.

If I were to use fresh tomatoes and chiles instead (I had considered it but decided to save a little money), then the chili would have definitely been corn-free. If you truly want to know exactly what is in the chili, you could use dry beans instead of can, but be sure to soak them thoroughly overnight and rinse well before cooking.

I had not thought about putting a sweet potato or quinoa in chili before, but I saw both used in two different chili recipes online when I was doing a little researching, and being the daring person that I am, I decided to use both. Also, the bell peppers I used were orange so the finished chili looked quite beautiful and delicious with the bright orange of the peppers and sweet potato chunks. There were numerous compliments on the chili.

Chili is the perfect food for the crockpot. You can cook the chili on low over night or while you are at work or on high for a few hours earlier in the day and serve nice and hot for dinner.

When the chili is served, you can add more sea salt to taste and/or top with your favorite chili toppings. I like putting chili on a cup of brown rice and topping with a sprinkle of vegan cheese. Enjoy!

Quick Fried Rice

Quick Fried Rice

Have you ever had those days where you do not feel like spending time preparing a lavish meal? I would like to share with you a very quick dish you can whip up in five minutes and it tastes delicious!

The trick with this meal is that you need to have at least 1 cup of rice already prepared, because the rice is the foundation of this dish. If you are preparing this dish for more than one person, it is best to do a ratio of 1 cup of rice per person. This dish also works great if you have some frozen vegetables or pre-cut fresh vegetables.

Quick Fried Rice


  • 1 cup pre-cooked rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1-2 cup frozen or pre-cut fresh vegetables (however much makes it look “balanced”)
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (GF)
  • Favorite seasonings: salt, garlic powder, italian blend, basil

If your rice is cold, add a teaspoon or two of water and microwave for 40 seconds. Heat your olive or grapeseed oil in a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir. Microwave frozen vegetables for 40 seconds to 1 minute, depending upon the strength of your microwave. Add to rice and stir. Add your favorite seasonings, the Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or your choice of soy sauce or gluten-free Tamari), and the optional gluten-free hot sauce. Cook until vegetables are tender. Stir often to prevent food from sticking to the pan. You may have to adjust your heat. If food starts to stick, add a dash of water. When it is hot and the vegetables are of the texture you like (hard, lightly steamed, or soft), move contains to a bowl, at a dash of salt, and enjoy!

Bonus: Eat your quick fried rice with chopsticks! 😉

Really, this dish is so simple, you can add WHATEVER you like, and it cooks up fast! The frozen or fresh vegetables can be anything you have on hand. I have used frozen peas and carrots; fresh broccoli, cauliflower and carrots; leftover sauteed veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, etc.); even brussel sprouts and onions! I have also added leftover tofu, black beans, baby spinach leaves, fresh basil, etc. Quick fried rice is a superb choice for a fast lunch or a lazy dinner!

To make this dish healthier, use brown rice instead of white, switch out rice for quinoa, or try using less oil or replace the oil with water. Want to add a hint of Thai to your fried rice? Mix in spoonful of peanut butter with a little coconut spread or coconut milk!

Also, due to the growing number of food allergies and sensitivities, you can easily substitute ingredients you (and your family) can eat without worry. Gluten-free? Use a GF sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce! Corn allergy? Skip the baby corn! Nut allergy? Just don’t put them in!

Two gluten-free vegan meals on the go

Two gluten-free vegan meals on the go

A while back, Bradley and I decided to start planning our dinner meals out on Sundays. This helped us to limit buying grocery items to those necessary for the planned meals, thereby saving some money, and also saved us a lot of time because I knew ahead of time what I would be preparing that evening.

Unfortunately, life seemed to go from busy to hectic in the last few weeks, and we have failed to maintain the weekly meal plan. We both get off of work late, which means by the time we get home, prepare and eat dinner, it is already dark and difficult to go do errands (as some stores close early). We feel rushed and frazzled, but we refuse to spend unnecessary amounts of money to eat out.

So I have been trying to find some fast fixes for meals on the go.

Classic soup and grilled cheese sandwich

For those who do not have to avoid gluten and dairy, your options are limitless. You can make soup from scratch or used canned soup. For those of us vegan and gluten-free, our options a little more challenging. Here is how I do it:

  • 2 slices your favorite bread (I used a gluten-free bread)
  • use a vegan spread such as Earth Balance (I prefer the organic coconut spread for sandwiches)
  • favorite vegan cheese (I prefer Daiya‘s slices and use one slice of cheddar and one slice of swiss together)

For those who want to mix things up, try topping your grilled cheese with spices (garlic powder, parsley, and crushed red pepper are my go-to sandwich spices). I also like to take the sandwich up a notch to Grilled Cheese Burger by adding a Sunshine Burger patty, sliced onions, tomato, and dill pickles. It is DELICIOUS! (And more filling.)

For soups, if I am in a hurry, I will use a canned lentil soup. If I have time or prepared it ahead, I will make my own lentil soup, butternut squash soup, Fresh Tomato Soup or, my absolute favorite soup of all time, Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings.

Fresh Veggie Tacos

The other day we needed to eat something quickly and I was craving vegetables. So I quickly diced up whatever veggies were on hand and sauteed them, popped open a can of refried beans, and make these delicious fresh veggie tacos (or burritos!).

  • Olive oil
  • diced onion
  • diced bell pepper
  • cut brussel sprouts
  • cut zucchini squash
  • cut yellow squash
  • frozen butternut squash cubes (thawed)
  • frozen spinach (thawed)
  • shredded cabbage or lettuce
  • 1 can refried beans (vegetarian, low fat/sodium)
  • optional: Vegan Chicken-free Strips (thawed)
  • favorite salsa (I used roast garlic salsa)
  • taco shells, tortillas, tostada… whatever you want (I used GF tortillas and Bradley used hard shell tacos)

Warm up refried beans separately and add more seasoning (cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, salt, etc.) if needed. Thaw the frozen butternut squash cubes and spinach in the microwave. (I do mine for about 2 minutes at 70 or 80 percent power). Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a heating pan, swirl it around to coat the bottom of pan. Add onions, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, and brussel sprouts. (Optional: add your thawed chicken-free strips either as strips or cut into cubes.) Toss to coat. Add salt and other seasonings to taste. Cook on medium to medium-high. When the veggies are almost to the right texture for you (you may prefer your veggies cooked lightly or cooked more), add the butternut squash and spinach. Mix well.

When the food is done, assemble your tacos, burritos, or tostadas. Start with a generous amount of refried beans, add your veggie mixture, and top with the shredded cabbage/lettuce and salsa. Bradley was so impressed with his three hard-shell tacos, that he went back and used up the last of our beans and veggies to make himself a burrito with a flour tortilla. I pilled my beans and veggies on top of a GF tortilla made from brown rice that does not roll with tearing, so it was kind of like a giant tostada.

Tonight is another night where we need to eat fast. I am thinking about doing a variation of the Fresh Veggie Tacos but using sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash and black beans instead of refried beans. I’ll probably cook the potatoes in the microwave and mash them a little with a fork. I also have a gluten-free vegan taco “meat” that I will cook up really quickly in a pan with onions, garlic, and whatever other vegetables I have on hand.

Nothing like delicious ratatouille

Nothing like delicious ratatouille

I had never had ratatouille before, but while organizing my DVDs, I happened upon Pixar’s Ratatouille. I was reminded by how delicious the dish looked. Granted, it was an animated movie. However, the idea to try my hand at making a similar dish pestered me for two days. Today on my lunch break, I did a search of the the internet for a ratatouille recipe.

Now, traditional ratatouille is a stew and I don’t like stews (I am not a big fan of eggplant, either), so what I was looking for was the pretty version featured in Pixar’s movie. I found what I was looking for over at SmittenKitchen with her amazing Ratatouille’s ratatouille recipe.

Smitten Kitchen's ratatouille
Smitten Kitchen’s beautiful and delicious ratatouille. (Mine was not as pretty.) Try the recipe!

I think I put a little more tomato puree at the bottom of my dish then the instructions say because after it was done, some of the sauce had seeped up over the veggies along the sides. I used a circular dish, not an oval, and foil on top instead of the recommended parchment paper. I

was also quite generous with the seasoning, mixing in salt, peppercorn medley, garlic and onion powders, and parsley into the sauce at the bottom and sprinkled on top (with a nice sprinkle of thyme on top). I used about half of a regular-sized eggplant and about 2/3 of a zucchini and a yellow squash, but I guess that just depends on how big your dish is. Since I was testing out this recipe and feeding a family of one, I used my smallest oven dish.

The ratatouille smelled so good when I took it out of the oven, and it tasted DELICIOUS on top of some rice. Best of all, it is naturally vegan and gluten-free! So whether or not you (and/or your guests) follow a specific diet or have any food allergies, this is fantastic dish to serve. A perfect wintery dish that makes you feel good with the first bite, yet surprisingly healthy.

Eggplant… who knew it could actually be prepared in a way that was not only edible but delicious?