Category Archives: Recipes

Cooking, Pulling Weeds And Resisting

I never thought I’d hear myself say this: Trump gave me a huge gift when he was elected.

It’s hard to imagine myself saying that because my inspiration usually comes from very different kinds of sources. Yet perhaps it’s just the mind- and spirit-numbing nature of Trump’s presidency that compels me to reexamine myself and clarify my course through life.

Like the 2008 recession, Trump’s presidency causes me to take additional steps on my journey toward self-awareness. Taking these steps involves some education and some house-cleaning to bring my values in different segments of my life into alignment. Most importantly I had to recognize both my limitations and my abilities as I figure out how best to respond to an event I experience as nothing less than a cataclysmic step backward in our culture and democracy not to mention our responses to a suffering planet.

I never considered myself a “political” person. In fact, until 2008, I was fairly apathetic for reasons I’ve explored with myself in recent months. Post Jan. 20, I tried to get politically involved in the traditional sense of that word. I attend meetings, I volunteer occasionally, I go on marches. I’ve learned a lot, but one of the things I have learned is that this isn’t the best place for me to contribute passionately and knowledgeably. Of course I’ll still continue to be as involved as I can, but I needed to focus my energies in other directions:

  • I deepened my exploration of veganism through my own cooking and writing.
  • I jumped at the opportunity to create recipes to go with the boxes that come from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Bob’s Fresh and Local.
  • I understand my volunteer work in the farm fields in a different way, as something much deeper and broader than physical and spiritual health.
  • With a fairly extensive background in academics behind me but little involvement for a quarter of a century, I decided to work my way through the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. I wanted to discover in greater depth what it has to say about human life in relation to the planet and other life on it. My blog posts on this topic, largely notes to myself as research, will become the basis of a book. More importantly, my research is providing me with a strong foundation for steps toward meaningful activism. At the very least, it provides me with information I use in evaluating people and policies.
  • I’m teaching for the first time in many years, which demands from me further clarification of my thinking and message.
  • I decided to engage with my synagogue in ways I haven’t before, to take on a role beyond participating in services and preparing food now and then. While it’s shaky ground for me to take on a role in shaping policy, I hope it will be a growth opportunity I can manage.

I think these steps toward more and deeper engagement in various aspects of my life will begin to converge at some point. As my passions become more focused, a path toward taking on my part, however small, in reshaping our world will become apparent.

My engagement with food and the environment developed over the course of 45 years, not so much through academic or professional expertise but through hands-on involvement. I had the opportunity to create a large organic garden in 1972 following the birth of  my first son, the same year that hippies tore up the turf in Berkeley, California. I think part of their impulse probably matched my own, a reaction against Big Food, Big Ag and Big Brother, who don’t always know best. I felt that packaged foods, pesticides and our alienation from nature were somehow an assault on our physical and spiritual health.

I read as much as I could put my hands on at the time. One little book in particular drove my decision to become vegetarian, a path that has had its zigs and zags. That book was Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. Her message still resonates with me today, that there is a social justice connection to what we eat.

Until I worked in the food industry, though, I didn’t make that connection at a gut level. Then one day I was writing a post and came across an article that mentioned the life expectancy is lower in Mississippi than in the rest of the country and related it, at least in part, to food culture — and to the non-availability of truly nutritious food.

As Michael Pollan pointed out, yams in the produce aisle don’t have health claims attached to them since that won’t make money for Big Food, and our government subsidizes things like corn, that produces cheap high fructose corn syrup. And as that article pointed out, large food deserts force people into gas stations for food products, and gas stations are even less likely than supermarkets to feature nutritious life-sustaining foods. Something clicked about the relationship between food, social justice and public policy, and I really got it.

There was another milestone two or three years ago, well after I began my exploration of veganism. As I expanded my understanding of justice beyond the human realm, I worked hard to adjust my cooking practices, to separate from well-loved recipes, to find my new cooking philosophy or adapt my old one (real food) and to represent myself through food passionately and deliciously among family and friends already wearied from my years of vegetarian experiments with them. Then one day I looked down and noticed my leather shoes and realized with some shock how segmented my own thoughts are. I grew up in a world in which animal products were pervasive. There was simply a disconnect for almost all of us between the lives of our fellow creatures and the food we ate and clothes we wore. Despite my efforts to resolve that disconnect, there it was.

It’s curious how  we can think we’re fully conscious, making choices based on our values…and then discover our own human frailty, the ways we are embedded in cultural perspectives. And that took me to a path of reexamining another cultural perspective, our deeply held belief that we are superior to other creatures.  My husband’s offhand comment started me along my thought path. My biblical studies are guiding my next steps.

My studies and cooking are one avenue to focus my thoughts, prod myself to examine my cultural assumptions and modify my course through life. My work at the farm, something I had time to take on once I sold my cafe, is another.

I love the beautiful, fresh real food sparkling in the sun with drops of moisture. I love having my hands in the dirt that produces the food. I love experiencing the rhythm of the seasons in my body as I work out in the fields. I love the little lessons I learn in each moment that I work. I imagine the deep wisdom I find in the Bible comes in part from its source in a more agrarian world.

But it is the complete exhaustion at the end of the time I work in the fields, especially at the beginning of the season when I’m rusty after the cold months when my exercise levels drop, that takes me back to Diet for a Small Planet and the lessons I learned from Frances Moore Lappe about social justice. Considering those who do this work for long hours every day, struggling to support families on little pay and with no recognition or appreciation, living with insecurity and worse, brings me back to her themes.

This connection, this social justice theme, connects me to biblical themes of justice within communities and among nations, justice for all life on the planet, environmental justice. It reminds me that every area impacts and influences the others. It is all interconnected.

I was struck this week by this line from Leviticus 18:28 following a set of moral injunctions: “…that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” Like human beings, like our fellow creatures on the planet, the land itself has moral consciousness. It is all interconnected, and our sins against one impact the other.

Cooking and digging in the dirt along with biblical stories, then meaningful study of this text, have had a significant role throughout my life in shaping and reshaping my consciousness about creation, my place in it and what I need to do at this time in our history.

And so I arrive at how cooking and working the fields became my political activism.  First, my work encouraged me to lift the veil, to look at what is behind the things I see in front of me, whether on my plate, in the claims on commercial foods, or in the pages of the Bible.

Each breath I take with clarity of consciousness, each bite of food, each interaction with another person or with a community of people, is activism. Only with clarity of consciousness about the reasons for my own choices can I have a larger role in shaping my communities.

And there are many ways for me to do that, to be active, including:

  • cultivating the habit of looking behind the veil,
  • sharing ideas about the implications of what we eat
  • sharing the specifics of delicious, healthful, affordable eating,
  • supporting local, sustainable agriculture, and
  • supporting other community efforts directed toward food and environmental justice.

I continue to learn about so many aspects of my world, so many things I didn’t know or that I kept from coming to full consciousness. I’ve lived long enough to see how the action of many individuals can change things and to learn that ONLY the action of many individuals can reshape the culture. And I have Trump to thank for intensifying my effort and compelling me to find the political meaning in my work.

From Bob’s Fresh and Local website:

“But the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” ~ Wendell Berry – The Unsettling of America
For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Inch By Inch And Row By Row…

Today was my first day back at the farm for the season. Although it was my first day, others have been hard at work, installing a new greenhouse (greens through December! yay!), planting starter plants, getting in leeks and garlic and greens and more.

It was a beautiful, windy day, and I enjoyed the sunshine along with the fast-moving clouds. It’s an exciting time as we all look forward to those food boxes starting to fill up with wonderful things to eat.

I learned to use a stirrup hoe today — and another kind of hoe, one to run down the middle of the bed to pull a wider swath of weeds, one to run over the little leek plants to remove weeds on either side. When I finished weeding with my hoes, I walked over to take a look at our new greenhouse and then back to the fields to weed a few rows of garlic.

By the time I finished up, I was exhausted but oh so happy. Here are some highlights from this beautiful place where I work! If you are in the Algonquin/Dundee/Cary/Geneva/Crystal Lake/Woodstock area and would like to enjoy a weekly or bi-weekly box of beautiful, fresh, organic produce, check out Bob’s Fresh and Local and sign up for a share.

Compost pile where I get to take my veggie waste every week.
The leeks I hoed.
Garlic rows for hand weeding.

The old greenhouse…and our big beautiful new one.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A Falafel Feast for Israel Day

This past weekend, I prepared (with a little help from my friends at MCJC) a Falafel Feast for 100 on Israel Day.  The pictures, with the exception of one my son took a while back of the finished product, are from an iPhone so not the best.

We served up Falafel two ways, in a tray with Moroccan Eggplant Salad, Israeli (Jerusalem) Salad with Tahina, Hummus, Muhammara, Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Red Cabbage Slaw … pickled turnips and for the daring, Harif or Z’hug — or in a wrap with Lebanese Pita (from my friends at Sanabel Bakery in Chicago), Hummus and Israeli Salad with Tahina (or any other choice), pickled turnips and Harif or Z’hug on the side.

All the recipes are in this blog except for the Tahina, which I now see I never posted. I’ll do that soon!

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

I focus on food because…

What we eat shapes ethical consciousness. It is a key to social and environmental justice and to restoring harmony in our relationships with our world and with G-d. It has the power to dull our senses or stir our sense of joy and gratitude. What we eat contributes to vibrant spiritual and physical health or burdens us with illness and an unnamed heaviness and dread. I focus on food because it’s something I can do. With every mouthful, we have an opportunity to choose life for ourselves and for all sentient beings.

“…choose life, that you may live, you and your children…” (וּבָחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים–לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה, אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ).  Deut 30:19

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

I needed this kale and quinoa salad today…

After making soups and soft foods for weeks for Andy, I had a serious longing for something crunchy…and spring made me think of greens and other good garden veggies. A family member served up a wonderful salad yesterday, which I’ll share another time after I make it, but it had carrots, quinoa and chickpeas in it, which inspired my cooking session this morning. When I was at Costco the other day, they served up a quinoa tabouleh that had mung beans in it, which I’ve never cooked with before, and that added a little more inspiration.  Here’s the result:


  • Quinoa, 1/2 cup dried
  • Chickpeas, 1/2 cup dried
  • Mung beans, 1/4 cup dried
  • Carrots, 1-2 good-sized carrots
  • Apricots, 6 dried, organic, unsulfured
  • Olives, Green Mediterranean, 8-10
  • Green onions, 3-4
  • Kale, 6-8 leaves
  • Romaine, 6-8 leaves
  • Red cabbage, 1/8 small head, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1 TB or less
  • Lemon, juice of 1 to 1-1/2
  • Salt, sprinkling, to taste
  • Szeged hot paprika, sprinkling, to taste


  1. Cook the quinoa, chickpeas and mung beans separately. For 1/2 cup quinoa, I use 1 cup of water and 1/4 tsp. salt, and it takes about 15 minutes. For the chickpeas, I use 1/2 cup chickpeas and 2 cups of water, and it takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. For the mung beans, I use 1/4 cup mung beans, 1 cup of water, and it takes about half an hour. You’ll need to keep an eye on these — they should remain firm. These can all be cooked ahead and set aside or refrigerated.
  2. Wash, cut up and cook the carrots until just tender.
  3. Wash the kale, Romaine, red cabbage and green onions and chop roughly. Wash and dry, then sprinkle a little olive oil over them and rub in.
  4.  Chop the apricots and olives, and toss into the greens with the cooked and cooled carrots.
  5. Add the lemon juice, salt and hot paprika to taste and toss again.
  6. Finally add the cooked and cooled quinoa, chickpeas and mung beans, taste, and adjust seasoning.

The salad is a wonderful blend of textures and flavors with the slightest hint of Middle Eastern sweet and salty from the apricots and olives. A lovely entry to spring.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

My favorite Passover vegan main dish

These delicious vegan stuffed mini-peppers are a variation of a dish I sometimes make when it’s not Passover using regular size yellow bell peppers, couscous and vegan pesto. For Passover, I replaced the couscous with quinoa. Happily raw pine nuts aren’t kitniyot, so if you don’t eat kitniyot during Passover, you can use these in the pesto. The rich flavor of the pine nuts replaces the cheese in pesto very nicely!

Prepare the Peppers

First prepare your peppers, about 35 minis for the amount of pesto in the recipe. Wash them, rub the outside lightly with oil and place them on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees until they are softened but still holding their shape.Usually you’ll see a spot or two starting to brown.

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool. With a small, serrated knife, slice each one “from stem to stern” on one side — don’t cut through the back side.  No need to de-seed. Just place back on the tray until you’re ready for them.


Cook quinoa as you usually do. I used about two TB of extra virgin olive oil, 2 cups dried quinoa, 1-1/2 tsp. salt and 4 cups of water and cooked it in a rice cooker until it was done. Set aside.

Vegan Pesto Recipe

Make the vegan pesto according to the recipe here: Mix this entire amount of pesto with the quinoa you cooked and set aside.


You have several options for the sauce. You can use my Matboukha recipe (Moroccan salsa), or you can use some reduced leftover tomato and red bell pepper soup (as I think I did for the picture of my regular couscous-stuffed peppers). Because I had a lot to do for Passover, I took the easy path and used some kosher for Passover bottled marinara.

Assembling your peppers

Using a clean pan, spread the marinara thinly across the whole bottom of the pan. Take a pepper, drain any liquid that collected in it, fill it with a teaspoon (a “table” teaspoon). Place in the pan on top of the sauce. Repeat this process until all the peppers are used.

All the parts of this dish are cooked, so you really don’t need to reheat them for use in a meal unless you choose to do that. I’m taking them to a seder tonight where there will be LOTS of people and lots of commotion, so we’ll just serve a couple of big trays of them as they are. They are for the vegans in the crowd, but I’m pretty sure most of the folks there will want to have at least one with their meal, so I made a lot.

And now I’d better get moving with the vegan matzah ball soup before the chag!

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Moroccan Soup With Butternut Squash & Swiss Chard

I loved making this soup from The Green Panda’s Kitchen. The story that went with it was just as delightful. It was great fun and inspirational to watch The Green Panda’s group in Kenya put together this beautiful soup outdoors. I’m looking forward to trying that myself during the warmer months here! The flavors on this one are wonderful, and I simplified the procedure a little.



  • Chickpeas, 1 lb., rinsed and cooked until just tender
  • Butternut squash, washed, remove seeds and fibers, cut into 1.5 inch cubes (Don’t peel – I tried this! It really works!)
  • Carrots, 1 lb., washed and cut into medium dice
  • Onions, 1 lb., cut into medium dice
  • Tomatoes, 1 lb., cut into medium dice
  • Swiss Chard, 1 large bunch, remove leaves from stems, finely chopped
  • Garlic, 1 head, peeled and chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Smoked paprika, 1 TB
  • Cinnamon, 1 TB
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, washed and coarsely chopped
  • Lemon, 1/2 – 1, juiced
  • Cumin, 1 tsp.
  • Coriander, 1 tsp.
  • Salt, to taste (I usually use about 1 TB per gallon of soup)
  • Water to cover


  1. Prepare the chickpeas by rinsing, covering with plenty of water, and cooking covered on low heat until tender (1-2 hours). Check periodically to make certain there is still sufficient water. Set aside with the remaining water.
  2. Prepare the veggies (squash, carrots, onion, tomatoes chard, cilantro) and set aside. Note: you can replace the fresh tomatoes with a 19 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes if you’re in a hurry)
  3. Mince the garlic.
  4. Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil to a large soup pot. Saute the garlic and onion until softened.
  5. Add the squash, carrots and tomato (or 19-oz. can petite diced tomatoes) and the reserved chickpeas with their water.
  6. Add additional water until all is cover — less for a more “packed” soup, more for a brothier soup.
  7. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until the veggies are tender.
  8. Add the seasonings and lemon juice and check the taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  9. Stir in the cilantro and chard.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, aromatic soup.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.


I broke my small mortar and pestle a few months back. This week they had some nice granite ones at Costco, larger than what I had before. Thinking longingly of my three very ripe avocados at home, I decided to get one and enjoy guacamole for lunch. When I got home, I took it out of the box to get started right away and found, much to my dismay (being an instant gratification type), the mortar and pestle require seasoning, and the process takes several days. Oh well.

By Sunday I was up and running, though, and those avocados were just as good today, probably even better. Here’s how I made it, quick, basic and very easy:



  • Avocado, 3 very ripe
  • Jalapeno, 1
  • Tomato, 2 very small
  • Green onion, 2-3
  • Cilantro, a few sprigs, chopped (should make about 2 TB)
  • Lime, juice from half of one juicy lime, more to taste
  • Salt, 1 tsp.


  1. Mince green onion, jalapeno (you can start with 1/2 jalapeno if you’re heat sensitive), chops cilantro and petite dice tomato.
  2. Cut around avocado, take out seed, scoop flesh into a seasoned mortar with a spoon. Add lime juice and salt.
  3. While holding the mortar on a slight tilt, mash the avocado/salt/lime juice mixture into the sides of the mortar with a swooping motion. Push avocado to side of mortar.
  4. Add the minced green onion and jalapeno to the other side of the mortar, and press a bit with the pestle, then stir into the avocado using the same swooping motion up the sides of the mortar.
  5. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Add diced tomatoes and mix in fairly gently. Do not mash the tomatoes. If you’re not serving right away, hold out the tomatoes ’til serving time.
  6. The best way to store avocado and prevent browning is to spread onion across the top of it, and cover with plastic wrap. When ready to serve, remove the wrap and pit, stir gently, check again for seasoning, and fold in tomatoes.

I took the picture out in back on the first sunny, slightly warmer day than we’ve had. As we were eating, I was reminded of picking avocados off the trees in the back yard in Arizona and in Israel for breakfast. Even on our best days, we can’t grow avocado around here.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

It’s Time For A Recipe! Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

Andy needs smoothies and smooth soups these days and likes broccoli, so I thought I might try a Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup. I figured I would use coconut milk as the “cream,” but since it’s much thinner than milk and certainly than cream, I decided to add some potato to thicken it. This is a really easy soup to make, simple ingredients, and it was delicious. Andy was very happy. 🙂



  • Broccoli, two large bunches, lots of stem included
  • Onion, Spanish, one large
  • Idaho potato, 2 small or 1 large
  • Coconut milk, 5 cups
  • Water, 5 cups
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Salt, 1 TB
  • Hot paprika, 1/4 tsp.


  1. Prepare the veggies: wash all, then peel and petite dice the potato, petite dice the onion (chunks are ok too since this part of the soup will be blended anyway), and remove all stems from the broccoli and chunk, setting the florets aside.
  2. Add the extra virgin olive oil to a soup pot, add the onion and broccoli and saute briefly.
  3. Add the potato to the pot, and add 2-1/2 cups of water and 2-1/2 cups of coconut milk and stir. Turn down heat, cover and simmer until all is cooked and soft.
  4. Cook the broccoli florets in the remaining 2-1/2 cups of water and 2-1/2 cups of coconut milk in a separate covered pot until soft.
  5. Add the potato, broccoli stems and onion mixture to a high-powered blender (regular blender will work as well). Blend until very smooth, at least 1 full minute. Remove from blender to soup pot. This might take a few loads.
  6. Add the cooked florets with their liquid to the blender (might require a couple of loads). Pulse 5 or 6 times so all is regularly processed but you can still see the green buds.
  7. Add the blended florets to the stem/onion/potato puree in the soup pot.
  8. Season to taste. I usually use 1 TB of salt for a gallon of soup, which is about what this makes. I also used 1/4 tsp of hot paprika.

This soup is along the lines of comfort food, nothing complicated here to make or to eat. It’s very creamy, and the potatoes make it just the right consistency. Enjoy!

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Cauliflower-Plus Rice

Cauliflower-Plus Rice

“Cauliflower Rice” is a big deal these days with pictures all over the internet. Most often it’s used as a rice substitute — I’ve even seen it used for a pizza “crust.” I had some leftover pieces of cauliflower and broccoli that I wanted to use up so thought I might give it a try as a dish in its own right. My challenge was to come up with a preparation that would fly with those who like to cover cauliflower with cheesy sauces.

This simple little dish turned out to be delicious, very filling — and a great way to use up those parts of a cauliflower head or broccoli bunch that I didn’t use when I made earlier dishes with the florets.

So easy! I just chunked a forlorn-looking left over (raw) carrot, the broccoli stems and the section of cauliflower I had. I put the broccoli stem chunks and the carrot chunks into my food processor first and pulsed until they reached an even, gravelly texture and set aside. Then I did the same with the cauliflower. The cauliflower is softer than the broccoli, so it’s easier to get an even texture with separate processing.

I mixed my veggies together and steamed them briefly in a pot, turned them out into a bowl and contemplated them for a moment trying to figure out how to serve them up without cheese. I decided to salt the dish and add a chipotle-mayo mix I like to make up with Hamilton Creek’s Just Mayo (vegan) and some excellent dried chipotle seasoning I keep on my shelf. That met with everyone’s approval, including mine, both warm and cold. Nom…nom…nom.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.