Veg Friendly Phoenix Restaurant for Beer Lovers!

Sometimes you find vegetarian options at unexpected places.  One of our pre-vegetarian favorites was Yardhouse.    The food is really good and, more importantly for Carl, my husband, they have over 100 beers on tap.   Me, I despise the stuff!  But he loves it.  Unfortunately, after we became vegetarians, they didn’t have enough options for us to continue to go there for food.

Then one day my friend, and expert hair stylist, Lauren said “Hey, did you know that Yardhouse has a bunch of vegetarian options now?”.  To which I replied “WHAT???”.  So, we hightailed it down to the nearest Yardhouse to check it out.  Sure enough, we found a whole new section of their menu with some of their usual menu items made with Gardein.  If you click on the link and check it out you will see Gardein is a natural vegetable product that is in various forms to include “chicken”, “beef”, etc.  I have had it and liked it, and I have had it and not liked it so much.  But, at the Yardhouse, they are using it with delicious success.

So, unexpectedly, we can now go to one of our favorite places and get great vegetarian options and Carl can get his beloved beer options!  Take a look at the tubes that carry all of the beer to the taps!

We went there today and met our sons, Jared and Travis, for lunch.  I had one of my pre-vegetarian favorites, the Spicy Chicken sandwich made with Gardein.

Carl had the Orange Peel Gardein.

I’m not kidding here – you really cannot tell the difference between these dishes with Gardein and with actual chicken.

The food here is a little on the pricy side so some may need to save for a special occasion, but if you are looking for a place where you can meet friends, have some great beer (if you like that kind of thing) and eat vegetarian, you may want to check out Yardhouse!

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Chocolatey Indulgence!!

Hi friends!  I writing from a little different perspective today than my last few posts.  Every now and then you have to indulge!  Of course, my problem has been indulging a little too much over the past year or so and I am having to try to get that in check, but Tuesday it’s Valentine’s Day and I decided to make a special treat.  (I also made this for a pot luck at work recently and it was a big hit!).  We met our two sons for lunch today and since both of them LOVE these, I decided to make a batch to give to them for a Valentine’s gift.

Oh . . . .  what are they, right??  They are . . . . . wait for it . . . . . . brownies made with one of my favorite indulgences – Nutella.

Now, you will find about a gazillion recipes for various Nutella brownies online.  In fact, it’s overwhelming!  I first found out about these when one of those two sons, Travis, sent me a recipe.   That recipe was awesome but a little incomplete so I had to do a little searching and improvising.  That’s when I discovered the onslaught of versions out there.  I have made these with butter, I have made these with oil, I have varied the amount of Nutella, I have made them with and without chocolate chips . . . . . hmmmm . . . . I guess I have made these a LOT!  What follows below is my version I have settled on after trying so many and reading so many versions.  Unfortunately, I can’t really credit one particular recipe here since it’s evolved for me over time.

Now, as I said, this is an indulgent recipe.  However, for those of us trying to work in a Weight Watcher type program, I actually entered the recipe on the WW recipe calculator and came up with the points for these.  That’s the great thing about WW . . . you really can work in one of these if you plan right, even on a strict WW day!  The recipe below makes however many brownies you want to cut the large pan into, but if you cut them into 24 brownies, they will count as 7  points each.  That’s workable, right?? The hard part is eating just one!,

Today I even took pictures for you along the way!  Here’s the recipe.  Make them and share with your friends and family.  You will be VERY popular!

Version 1,231,456 Nutella Brownies (guessing on the version number!)

3/4 vegetable oil (or you can use 2 stick of butter, melted)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 salt
1 cup Nutella
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 °.  Spray non-stick cooking spray into a 13 X 9 baking pan. (or use oil or butter to grease – your choice).

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the oil or butter, sugar and vanilla until well combined (the longer the better).

Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.

Next, add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing well after each addition.

Add in the Nutella and mix well until combined.  Finally, add in chocolate chips and gently mix until they are incorporated into the batter.

Spread batter into the pan. Bake for about 35 minutes.  Baking time may vary by a few minutes but you are looking for brownies that have just started pulling away a tiny bit from the sides of the pan but are still kind of gooey in the middle (sorry for the lame baking term!).  The key is to not over-bake.  These should be very fudgy.

Cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.  Cut into desired number of brownies.  Might be 24, or might be 4!
I packed some into these cute little Valentine take-out boxes to give to my sons.
Hope you like them!  Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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One Day’s Menu for a Weight Watcher Veg-head

Hi everyone!  I promised I would start sharing some of my menu plans to show how being a vegetarian fits well into the Weight Watchers plan.  The plan below is the one I used for today.  Now, mind you, I am working toward eating less and less processed food.  However, you will note that I do have some below.  I don’t think I will ever completely rid my diet of ALL of these foods, as sometimes I like the convenience.  But, I am starting to experiment with some foods that can be almost as convenient, but using less processed ingredients.  That being said, I have some things in my kitchen I need to use up.

My “tuna” salad recipe originated from one at  I changed that recipe though.  I used Miracle Whip light (I know, I know, but it was in my fridge!) and sweet pickle relish along with onions, a little chopped red pepper and celery. I also omitted the soy sauce.  One thing I did use was granulated Dulse.  I had never heard of Dulse a few months ago bit I decided to buy it for another recipe.  It’s actually dried seaweed.  I really don’t like it in too many things but in this, it gave it kind of a briny flavor that worked.   The key is to remember that although it is similar to tuna salad, it is NOT, and it helps to remember that it is really an artichoke/chickpea salad.  It made a really good sandwich!  Here’s a picture of the finished salad (sorry – it’s not the best picture!!):

So, my menu for the day is below.  As you can see, I still have a few points left to play with.  Usually I want some kind of evening snack so it helps me to leave a few points for that purpose.   For dinner, I just used an entry for mixed vegetables since I usually just use whatever I have on hand as long as they are low point veggies.  I cooked my rice yesterday in my rice cooker.  I use brown rice so it takes a little longer to cook so I do it ahead of time and store it in the fridge to use during the week.  Also, remember, I don’t normally like tofu so much, but in this dish, I chop it up in small pieces and marinate it in the sauce for a bit before I add it to my stir fry.  It’s actually good that way!

Here’s my day of food!

Monday, January 30, 2012

1  cup(s) fat-free plain Greek yogurt


1/2 cup(s) fresh blueberries



1  serving(s) Kettle Potato Chips, Aged White Cheddar


2  slice(s) reduced-calorie whole wheat bread


1  “tuna” salad



1  cup(s) cooked brown rice


3 oz extra firm tofu


1/4 cup(s) teriyaki sauce


1  cup(s) Mixed vegetables, California blend



1  serving(s) Jell-O Pudding Snacks, Reduced Calorie, Dark Chocolate Flavor


1  small fresh apple(s)




Food PointsPlus values total used


Food PointsPlus values remaining

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Case for a Plant Based Diet

Hi everyone!  I watched a very interesting (at least to me) documentary last night.  It was called Forks over Knives.  Click on the link for more details and additional info.  It’s on Netflix instant streaming so it’s easy to find.  It is all about the benefits of eating a plant based diet and eliminating animal products from your diet.  I have been leaning toward veganism for a while, and this film compels me even more to do so.

Now, I know full well that people can slant their information to support their cause. This film however, to me, is a little more convincing and is full of good information and real life examples.  It can be a little slow at time but if you watch it, stick with it and just see what you think.   It is fascinating to think about how eliminating animal products from my diet may help prevent cancer, heart  disease, diabetes, or even reverse disease for those already suffering with these afflictions.

Coming soon . . . . I am working on my week’s menus and plan to STICK to them this week!  I have a little bit of cheese and milk products in my fridge that I need to use up but I am going to work on eating as few animal products as I can at home.  I am planning my menus to slant that way as well as work in my Weight Watchers plan which, to date, has gone awry but to which I WILL stick to! I have many cookbooks and several that I am going to use for this planning and which I will share with you.  As a sneak peek, take a look at this spaghetti squash recipe posted on the Hungry Girl website.  I am making this for dinner one night this week.  maybe tonight!  So, stay tuned . . . .

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Marathon (Slow)Cooking Day

Hi everyone!  Today I want to tell you about something I try to do every now and then – marathon cooking.  However, today I made it a little easier on myself and slow cooked everything using two crock pots and one pot on the stove.

If you know me or have been reading my posts, you know I started a new job last week.  So far, I really like the company and the team I am directing, but I am, as expected, on information overload!  I work in the health plan industry and have worked mainly in Medicare and TRICARE.  My new job includes a Medicare HMO plan but also, the Arizona Medicaid plan known as Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).  So, bottom line is I have a lot to learn and have been working fairly long hours to get up to speed.

As many of you also know, I am trying to follow the Weight Watcher plan.  However, due to the new job, and a lack of proper meal planning, my second WW week is pretty much a bust.  So, I had to think of some way to keep on track with the plan while learning my new job.  Today I decided that one way to help me this week would be to plan some meals ahead of time and do a lot of the cooking ahead as well.  I decided to go with some old standbys to get me through and one recipe I haven’t shared before.

The two you are familiar with if you have seen my previous posts are vegetarian chili and my spaghetti sauce.  I made a couple of changes to each.  For my chili, I added Trader Joe’s meatless ground “beef” and some chopped zucchini to my previous recipe.  To my spaghetti sauce I added some chopped onions and chopped mixed peppers I had left from the chili.  I doubled both recipes and cooked the chili on high for about 6 hours in my large slow-cooker.  I also cooked the spaghetti sauce on low, on the stove, for about as long. These two recipes are for later in the week and month.  I keep some in the refrigerator and freeze the rest to use another time.

The next recipe is new to you but, oh so simple.  It’s a winter vegetable stew.  All, I did was cut up various vegetables.  You can really use anything you have on hand, but I kept to winter type veggies.  My recipe is below.  I cooked this in a slow cooker as well. This one is for dinner tonight.

Finally I also baked a super easy loaf of whole wheat bread.  It’s a quick no-knead recipe.  Unfortunately, I have a chronic problem with my bread rising as high as I would like no matter what recipe I use.  I think My kitchen has some kind of curse that keeps bread from getting to the lovely height I would like it to!  Here’s the recipe I used for the bread.
It has a great texture and taste, I just need to work on the rising part!  It’s will go well with my stew tonight.  Thanks to the Baking Bites blog for the recipe!

All of these are pretty low in Weight Watchers points although I have not figured them for you here you since you can modify the recipes.  Also, I will use them either alone or with other additions to make a meal that I will need to calculate later.  Don’t want to mislead anyone.  It’s really easy to put everything into the recipe builder on the WW website and calculate the points for however you use these.  I will try to share what I do with these recipes and calculate points at that time.

So basically the main part of the work was the prep which, all together, took about two hours.  You could even start the day before with the prep and just cook everything on the next day.  For me, Sunday works great to do this.

Here are the results of this, not so hard work:
And, here its what the chili and sauce looked like a little while later:
I will share with you later in the week what I made with some of this bounty.  As you can see, there is plenty for several dinners and lunches in various forms!

Here’s my recipe for the stew.  It has a very mild flavor so feel free to spice it up any way you like.  This stew is also great pureed into a soup with a touch of milk of your choice.  I will probably do that with the leftovers.  Remember to feel free to use any vegetables you have on hand.

Slow-Cooked Winter Vegetable Stew
makes 4 servings

2 medium carrots, cut into one inch chunks
2 potatoes, washed but unpeeled, cut into chunks
1 large leek, washed and sliced one half to one inch thick
one half medium yellow onion, chopped
1 kobocha squash, peeled and cut into chunks (I cut slits in the squash and microwaved for a few minutes, then cooled in order to easily cut it open, remove the seeds, and peel)
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp herbs de provence (this spice is easily found in any store’s spice department)
1 tsp celery seed
2 cups of vegetable stock
2 cups torn kale leaves

Combine all ingredients except kale in a 4 qt. slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours.  During the last half hour, add the kale leaves into the stew and cook until they are tender. Depending on the moisture content of your vegetables, and your preference, you may want to add more stock at this point. (If you so, be sure to heat the stock first!).  This is really good served over couscous, quinoa, or rice.

So, I hope you enjoy this post and find it useful.  Until next time!

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Well . . . I was a former meat eater! Chili-dog craving!

Hi everyone.  First an update on the Weight Watcher progress.  Great first week – lost 4.5 pounds!  Lousy second week – gained a pound back!  So, this past week was a little crazy as it was my last week on my old job.  Much socializing in the form of lunches and happy hour got me off kilter.  But . . . I am back on track tomorrow.  I also start my new job tomorrow so hopefully that will go smoothly and I will be able to smoothly keep to the WW plan.  I will let you know!

Now, on to the chili dog craving.  I realize, first of all, that I blogged about chili last week.  Well, truly, I do not only eat chili!  You will see that later this week!  However, lately I have been craving a good old fashioned chili dog like I used to eat in the old days.  Even then, I had to really be in the mood for a hot dog and it had to be a “clean” hot dog, like Hebrew National.  I couldn’t stand the thought of what they put into the other brands.  Even that brand was slightly questionable, however, sometimes a chili dog hit the spot.

So, today I went to the store and bought my ingredients.  At Trader Joe’s I found Smart Dogs, by Lightlife.  They have a whole line of meatless “meats”.  I liked other things I had tried in this line so I decided to try the hot dogs.  Next, I had some Tasty Bites Madras Lentils in the pantry.  I got these at Costco and they taste amazing like the chili I used to put on my chili dogs.   I also picked up some Trader Joe’s whole wheat hot dog buns.

To go with my chili dogs I made my own potato salad.  I have my own favorite recipe which is simply cooked red potatoes,  chopped celery and green onions, a spoonful of sweet pickle relish, and then my guilty pleasure ingredient – Miracle Whip Light.  OK, I know, I know, Miracle Whip is a processed nightmare of a food, but I just HAVE to have it in my potato salad.  It just doesn’t taste right to me otherwise.

So, I put it all together and had my chili dog fix.  I have to say, the Smart Dogs were REALLY good.  The taste was exactly like a hot dog and the texture amazingly similar.  The big plus is that I know I was not eating any random, spare pig or cow parts!  The lentils on top were perfect and, with a scoop of my potato salad, this meal was a real treat.

Now, for the WW points.  The Smart Dog is a measly 1 point.  REALLY!  It’s only 45 calories, so that in itself was a bonus.  The chili was 3 points for the serving, and the bun was 3 points.  So, the chili dog was 7 points.  Not bad for the main course.  My potato salad is 3 points for a quarter of the recipe above made with 2 good sized red potatoes.  10 point sof the meal – not bad.  And it totally satisfied my craving!  Oh, and the pics I promised.  Well, I screwed up and my pics were blurry!  So . . .nex time!

In the coming week , I have to start my new job, start exercising again, and get my points back on track.  I will try to post some of my menus this week too.  Wish me luck – it’s going to be a busy week!

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Sunday lunchtime with Veggie Chili leftovers

Happy Sunday all.  My last Sunday as an employee at my current job.  Very weird to think I will start a new job on the 16th after being in one place for 12 years.  But onward and upward, as they say.

So, on the Foodie front, day 7 of new Weight Watcher plan and day 739 (or something like that) of being vegetarian. The two are melding nicely. I wanted to share with you today my recipe for vegetarian chili.  It is almost embarrassingly easy.  I came up with it after trying many others and this is the one I have pretty much stuck with.  Always remember that you can change or add to recipes to suit your tastes or what you have on hand. The recipe below feeds 4 with good sized servings.  I like it because it is very quick, very easy and makes great leftovers which, as my post title indicates, we had for lunch today.  I made the original batch Friday night.  Like a lot of dishes, this one is even better later on.  For those on WW it comes to 4 points per serving. Pretty low so it is a good meal for days when you may have had a little more points that you would have liked earlier n the day.

I like to serve this with homemade corn chips.  Those are so easy to make. You just cut each corn tortillas into six triangles and place on a baking sheet.  If desired spray with a light coat of olive oil spray, sprinkle it whatever seasonngs you like, and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Turn once during baking and be sure to watch them so they don’t burn. If you use just a tiny bit of spray or none at all, you can have 18 chips for 3 points.  I like to sprinkle with taco seasoning. These are good!

So here’s my easy chili recipe.  Unfortunately I was bad and forgot to take a picture again. Promise I will fix that!

Veggie Chili (4 servings)

1-2 cups frozen or fresh mixed pepper strips (red, yellow, green)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can beans of choice (I like pinto or black)
2 TB GarlicGarni (see previous posts) or garlic powder or minced garlic
2 TB ground cumin
1 TB mild chili powder or less if hotter chili power is used, but this it to taste

Using a large skillet on high heat, saute the peppers, onion and corn until all are tender. I don’t use any oil here because I find that the liquid from the frozen vegetables is enough.  Add tomatoes, beans and spices. Heat to boiling then turn heat to low and let simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Serve with the chips and any toppings you choose.  Just remember to count points for topping if necessary.   Store any you don’t eat in the fridge for a few dqys or freeze for lunches later.  Happy eating!

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