Why did I become a Pampered Chef consultant?

Recently I was invited to a Pampered Chef party. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The consultant handed out catalogs and I suddenly got much more interested. There were so many great kitchen tools that would make cooking plant-based fun and simple. The catalog includes colanders that can wash my quinoa and lentils without everything falling through.

Then it was time for cooking. We were separated into  groups. I was in the group that chopped up vegetables using the manual food processor. It made it so easy to create a simple salsa. I was already hooked. How could I not have this great tool?


One of my favorite toppings is salsa. I love to make my own salsa to top just about any recipe. Salsa doesn’t always have to be super spicy. You can add fruit like mango or pineapple to make it sweet.

I created a simple salsa recipe last summer when my mangoes and tomatoes were bountiful at my local grocery store. As I looked at the manual food processor I realized how much easier makinMango salsag my favorite salsa would be. Just add all the ingredients and chop once.

Usually I add sweet or red onion, tomatoes, mangoes, jalapeno, and lime juice. Sometimes I’ll add some chopped cilantro too.


My goal is to make plant-based recipes easy for everyone. You shouldn’t need to spend a lot of time and energy creating fancy recipes every day. Most of the time I make my meals in 20 minutes or less.

As I looked through the catalog I realized that these tools can help to make prep easier and reduce clean-up. (Personally I hate washing dishes so I will do anything not to clean multiple tools.)

It was an easy choice to become a consultant. I want to share these great tools and my recipes so you too can see how easy it is to be plant-based. Preparing quick recipes with tools that make it easy are how you make cooking fun. You shouldn’t need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen to make healthy and delicious food.

You can check out my Pampered Chef website any time. Please check out my Facebook Page to find out about upcoming online parties.


Posted in Food, Gluten-free, Nut-free, Pampered Chef, Recipes | Tagged | 1 Comment

Super Munchies for Super Bowl Sunday

I’m a big football fan. Even when my team isn’t having a good year I will still watch all the games. This year was particularly bad as my team not only lost but moved to a new city. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy Super Bowl Sunday.

The last few years I’ve had a bit of a tradition. I like to make cauliflower buffalo wings. Every year I try a slightly different recipe. I’m still working on the perfect buffalo wing.

A new tradition I’m starting this year is to add french fries. These are very special fries. They convinced me that I no longer needed to eat greasy fries ever again. My friend Chuck Underwood from Brand New Vegan has the ultimate recipe. Check out his Crispy, Oven Baked, Fat Free French Fries. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Back to the cauliflower buffalo wings. Now if you’re not into spicy stuff you might want to try a different sauce. Personally, I try to make these as spicy as possible.

I’ve tried a few different kinds of flour and found that rice flour works best. If you want to be a little lazy you can use frozen cauliflower. Let it defrost a little before you start working with it.

Now you can’t have spicy wings without a good ranch sauce. My favorite recipe is super easy and quick to make especially if you have an immersion blender. Morgan’s recipe for Plant Strong Vegan Ranch will change your mind about ranch sauce. Don’t forget to top it with chives. They make this recipe special.

A few more munchies that go well with the wings and great with the ranch sauce are mini-cucumbers, baby carrots, celery, and jicama. Nice and crunchy fresh vegetables contrast perfectly with those spicy wings.

Super Bowl Sunday is always a little bit sad for me. It means the end of the season. Now I have to find something else to do every Sunday until the next season starts. Maybe I can work on perfecting my wings.

Before you start you’ll want to get everything ready. This is called mise en place. It makes cooking so much easier.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 450°.
  • Gather all ingredients.
  • Set out two medium bowls.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Super Munchies for Super Bowl Sunday
Recipe Type: Snacks
Cuisine: American
Author: Ilene
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 – 2 servings
Ready for the big game? Enjoy wings and fries with ranch sauce that healthy, vegan and gluten-free.
  • 1 head Cauliflower broken into pieces (or 1-2 bags of frozen cauliflower defrosted slightly)
  • ½ cup Brown rice flower
  • ½ tsp. Garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. Onion powder
  • Plant-based milk (I use unsweetened soy milk)
  • 1 Tbsp. Corn meal (optional)
  • ½ cup Frank’s original red hot sauce
  1. In the first bowl do the following: Mix garlic powder, onion powder, rice flour and plant-based milk together until somewhat thickened. Add cornmeal if using. Add more flour or milk as needed to get to the consistency you like. You may need to add a little more seasoning if you add a lot more flour or milk.
  2. Add a few pieces of cauliflower at a time to the bowl.
  3. Stir so the cauliflower is completely coated with the flour mixture.
  4. Place the cauliflower on the baking sheet.
  5. Once all the cauliflower is coated, place in oven for about 15 minutes. Test with a fork to make sure it’s tender. Cook another 5-10 minutes if not tender.
  6. In the second bowl add some Frank’s hot sauce.
  7. Take cauliflower out of oven. Carefully put a few pieces in the bowl with the hot sauce, stir to cover each piece.
  8. Put cauliflower back on baking sheet.
  9. Bake another 5 minutes.
  10. Let cool for at least 10 minutes! This is important.
  11. Dip in ranch sauce and enjoy.


Posted in Food, Gluten-free, Nut-free, Recipes, Snacks | Leave a comment

Eating healthy when life is crazy

My life is a little crazy right now. Maybe a whole lot of crazy. I hope you’ll excuse me for not including any recipes in today’s post. I promise a bunch of recipes are coming your way very soon.

I’m getting ready to make a major move. My house sold last month and I’m staying with a friend. As you can guess my friend doesn’t eat the way I do. So how am I managing to stay healthy during this crazy transition time?

I’ve got access to a kitchen which is a major help. All I’m really using is the microwave and refrigerator. Once or twice I’ve used a pan to saute some vegetables.

My first thought was to prepare some food before I left my house. I made a lot of chili and veggie burgers. The chili is gone and I’ve got 2 burgers left. Next time I’ll have a little more variety. I ate a lot of chili the first two weeks.

Breakfast is pretty easy, I make oatmeal with fruit and ground flax in the microwave. Then mix in a little soy milk and pumpkin seeds over the top.

Lunch has been a mix. Sometimes I go out. One place that’s worked well for me is a local grocery store that offers a burrito bowl. They have brown rice, black beans, and salsa over a bed of lettuce. At the house it’s usually a bowl of black bean or lentil soup with crackers.

A great afternoon snack is brown rice and edamame. I found a few Japanese fast food places that offer this option for a very reasonable price. You can also buy all of it ready to go at the grocery store.

Dinner can be as simple as a veggie burger and sweet potato. Get fancy and add some steamed vegetables.

As you can tell I’m not doing much cooking except for warming up food in the microwave. Pretty much anyone could follow this simple menu. 20161115 184606

Don’t try to create fancy dishes when you just want something simple.

Let me know how you simplify things when your life is a little too crazy.

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Sun Bites

Do you ever feel like you just want something sweet but you only want a bite? I’m always trying to eat healthy, whole food avoiding candy and sweets. Despite that I love baking and making sweets to give away. Planning to give them away ensures I don’t eat them all. That would not be a good plan.

Generally, for breakfast I eat oatmeal with fruit, ground flax and cinnamon. Recently I bought some ground flax at Trader Joe’s and every morning I would look at the bag and read this recipe for “Energy Bites”. Eventually I decided I had to find a way to make them. The original recipe used peanut butter so I needed to find a good substitute.

Looking in my pantry I found an unopened jar of sunflower butter. Hmm… I wondered if this would work in place of the peanut butter?

Using the following ingredients, I made my own version of the Trader Joe’s Energy Bites.


They are vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and delicious. Although it would be easy to eat them all, I consider them a treat so no more than 1 or 2 at a time. An even better idea is to share them so I can’t eat too many.

The SunButter sunflower butter needs to be on the thin side. You’ll find that it’s thicker at the bottom. One trick is to heat it in the microwave gently or put the jar into a bowl of hot water. Then you can mix the butter and it should be easy to stir.

I like to use Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips for this recipe. They are just the right size and easy to work with.

First, gather all your ingredients. Get a medium sized bowl and a metal pan that fits on your freezer shelf. Make some room in your freezer for the pan.

Measure and pour all the ingredients into the bowl. Use a spatula to mix everything together well.

Wet your hands. You’ll need to keep your hands a little moist so it might be good to be near the sink.

Using 20161029_194436a tablespoon scoop out a little of the mixture and roll it between your hands into a small 1” ball. Place the ball on the pan. Continue until you’ve used up all the mixture. I got 24 bites out of mine. Place the pan in the freezer.

When ready to eat, take out of freezer and let sit for 5 minutes. This avoids breaking any teeth.



Sun Bites
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Ilene
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
Simple, quick dessert that’s gluten-free, nut-free and vegan.
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
  • 1/2 cup sunflower butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Wet hands.
  3. Measure about 1 Tbsp of mixture into hands.
  4. Roll mixture into a ball and place on pan.
  5. Freeze at least an hour to set.
  6. Recommend keeping in freezer until ready to eat.
Posted in Dessert, Gluten-free, Nut-free | Leave a comment

Eating My Greens Soup

Lately I’ve been tracking what I eat using Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app on my phone. (Check it out on iTunes or Google Play.) It appears I’m missing out on cruciferous vegetables and greens. So I came up with a strategy, make a bag of frozen vegetables (cruciferous, of course) and have them with lunch and dinner. So now I’ve tackled one problem but not the other. It’s not that I don’t like greens, well maybe that is it. Anyway I have to trick myself into eating the kale staring at me every time I open the fridge. So I thought why not throw all the leftover vegetables into my Instant Pot and see what happens?


It turned out I had a few items clamoring to be used. A bunch of semi-wilted kale, half an onion, zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms. I added some garlic and tamari and about 1 cup of my favorite broth mix from My Plant-Based Family.

First I had to clean and chop everything. I sliced the onion and left them in pretty large pieces. The mushrooms were already sliced saving some time. I diced the zucchini and squash small so they would cook quickly. Also, after cleaning the kale I chopped it into a mix of ribbons and smaller pieces.

Then I began by setting the Instant Pot to sauté and adding the onions.


After they cooked for about 3 minutes it was time to add the mushrooms and garlic.


It took about 3 minutes of cooking and stirring for the mushrooms to cook.




Then it was time to add the zucchini and squash.20160721_130800





After stirring everything really well I added the kale, tamari and broth over the top. Closed and set the Instant Pot to 3 minutes. I did a quick release when it was finished.

Time to test the results! It’s delicious. Maybe next time I should add my cruciferous vegetables and get two checks with one recipe.



Eating My Greens Soup
Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: Vegan
Author: Ilene
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Gluten-free, vegan, nut-free vegetable soup
  • 1/2 Medium Onion sliced
  • 1-2 Cloves Garlic
  • 8 oz. Mushrooms sliced
  • 2 Zucchini chopped small
  • 1 Yellow Squash chopped small
  • 1 Bunch of Kale chopped
  • 1 tsp Tamari
  • 1 cup Broth
  1. Slice onions and mushrooms.
  2. Chop remaining vegetables small.
  3. Turn Instant Pot (IP) on saute.
  4. Add onions and saute for about 3 minutes or until translucent.
  5. Add mushrooms and garlic. Saute about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Turn off Instant Pot.
  7. Add zucchini and squash, mix well.
  8. Add kale, tamari and broth on top and close lid.
  9. Set IP on manual for 3 minutes. Quick release.
  10. Enjoy!


Posted in Gluten-free, Nut-free, Soup | Leave a comment

Making Ratatouille with Lentils

I love eating eggplant. It’s gotten me in trouble before. But that’s a whole other story. Whenever I go to the grocery store I check to see if any of the eggplant look edible. Lately it’s been very sad. The eggplant looks like it was in a boxing ring and lost. Bruised and battered eggplant is not edible. Last week I was very surprised to see happy looking eggplant at the store. Of course I had to buy it. This meant I needed to come up with a recipe.


Earlier in the week I was making a recipe that required brown lentils. Unfortunately all I had were red lentils. So I used them instead. Now I had lots of leftover red lentils. (You might see where this is going…)

I’ll warn you now this recipe makes a lot. Lucky for me I was going to a vegan potluck so I took most of it with me. The bowl was empty by the time I got through the long line to get food. Glad I saved some for myself at home!

I found a great broth mix at My Plant Based Family.


Making Ratatouille with Lentils
Recipe Type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Ilene
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10 servings
Ratatouille with Lentils
  • 2 Eggplant, peeled and chopped in 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 Zucchini , chopped in 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 12 oz Mushrooms
  • 2-4 cloves Garlic
  • 1 cup cooked Lentils (red are best)
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp broth mix
  • Bay leaves
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano (or other spices) to taste
  1. Use 1 tsp broth mix to make 1/2 cup of broth.
  2. Cook lentils according to package.
  3. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  4. Clean and chop eggplant and zucchini. Leave mushrooms whole.
  5. Chop onion and put aside. (It doesn’t go in the oven.)
  6. In a large bowl mix eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms with broth.
  7. Place on cookie sheets. (You can use parchment paper to keep them from sticking.)
  8. Sprinkle spices on eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms.
  9. Bake veggies 20 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t overcook. The mushrooms will probably be done first.
  10. Chop mushrooms after they cool a bit.
  11. You can do the next part on the stove or in your Instant Pot. I used my Instant Pot.
  12. Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and cook for one more minute.
  13. Add roasted veggies, lentils and red wine vinegar to the pot. Mix well.
  14. Add 1 cup of water if using Instant Pot.
  15. On top of the vegetables, place the tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaves. Do not mix.
  16. Set Instant Pot to 3 minutes using Manual with natural pressure release.
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Thanksgiving – Vegan Style

I had two Thanksgiving celebrations this week. Both vegan. Both potluck. That meant cooking even though I wasn’t hosting. The first celebration was the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Since I live close to Portland (sometimes known as Vegan central) there are a lot of people interested in a vegan celebration. Every year the Northwest Veg group prepares a very large potluck celebration. This year they only had 300 seats. It filled up quickly. Lucky for me I signed up early and got a spot. Last year I waited too long. The hall where it took place is actually a large building in the middle of an amusement park. It was 45 degrees out with a brisk wind so there was no chance anyone was interested in the park. As I’d never been to that part of town I headed out extra early. It actually was easy to find, right off the Sellwood bridge.


After finding a spot for my sweet potato spiced muffins I decided to check out what everyone else brought. The nice thing about vegan potlucks (well the ones I’ve been to anyway!) is that everyone includes a note with the ingredients by their dish. This helped me plan out which dishes I could eat and which table to hit first.

Here I am with my muffins.


I make these muffins about once or twice a month. They are pretty easy to make as long as you have fresh sweet potatoes. That’s the key to making them delicious.

1122151542I took a few pictures as I was walking around. It’s an amazing variety all made from plant based food.
table 1



So back to the muffins. I found the recipe at Savvy Vegetarian. I’ve incorporated a few of her tips to make these oil free. Make sure you check out her site as there are plenty of plant based recipes.


Sweet Potato Spice Muffins
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Ilene
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Delicious and easy to make.
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup oat floor
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened soy milk or other non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Cook and mash the sweet potato ahead of time. I usually do this a day ahead.
  2. You can make the oat flour by grinding quick or rolled oats in your food processor.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F
  4. Add the cider vinegar to the non-dairy milk and set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.
  6. In a second bowl whisk together non-dairy milk mixture, mashed sweet potatoes, and applesauce.
  7. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. If you are using raisins (I recommend this!) add them as well. Stir everything together until just mixed. Don’t over stir as this will make your muffins heavy.
  8. Spoon batter into a full sized non-stick muffin pan. You can grease the muffin pan if it’s not non-stick or look for some silicone muffin liners.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  10. The muffins are done when they are firm and a little brown around the edges. I usually test them with a toothpick to see if they need a few more minutes.
  11. Enjoy them warm or let them cool. You can freeze them once they’ve cooled. Just take a frozen muffin to work and it will be perfect when lunchtime comes around.
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Some of my favorite allergy free foods

I try to cook most of my food from scratch to eat healthier and avoid allergy issues. But there are some foods that are a liitle more difficult to make yourself, plus on a busy work day sometimes I need something in case I miss lunch. I’ve found a few good items that work well when we travel. You never know if you’ll find something when stuck in an airport for hours.

One of the most difficult items to find is bread. I have a breadmaker… somewhere. It would be great if I was inspired enough to use it. Instead it’s a search for the impossible. Bread that has no dairy, egg, sesame or nuts and isn’t made on a line with tree nuts. Oh and it would be nice if it tasted good too. I’m searching for a good rye bread that meets that criteria. Haven’t found it yet. However I did find an Ezekial type bread (these have multiple grains and are usually sprouted) that fits the bill. Alvarado bakery makes a nice loaf of bread that is now at my local Safeway. Don’t ask me the price. I just close my eyes and buy it anyway.

A few years ago on our way to a cruise in Florida (yes, that happens often) we stopped at Epcot for a day. The Land pavilion is a very large dining room with lots of food stations. There’s an area with all kinds of allergy free/special diet foods. This is where I learned about a company called Enjoy Life. They make all kinds of fun foods like chocolate bars, chocolate chips, and cookies. I’m definitely a fan. Mostly I buy the chocolate chips to make pudding or cookies. I promise those recipes are coming soon.

When we travel I always take food with me. This usually means my bag is lighter when I arrive than when I leave. Enjoy Life items like the seeds & fruit bag or candy bars are a few favorites. There is a kosher cup of soup that is “chicken flavored” that seems to not have any real allergens or much flavor. But it’s filling and not terrible. For some reason I can’t find any oatmeal cups not made on a line with nuts anymore. That used to be my favorite snack. Occasionally I’ve made some oatmeal bars to take along, This really helps when on business travel so I have a snack at the office.

A local company makes a fruit bar called “Just Fruit” with apple or pear as the base and other fruits as the second flavor. There is almost always one of these in my purse unless I just finished eating it. In case you live in the NorthWest, check New Seasons for it.

When you have a lot of food allergies it’s nice to find a few items that are easy. Luckily I like to cook but sometimes you need a little snack or a treat. It’s nice to know there are a few safe treats tucked away in my bag wherever I go.

What are your favorite allergy free foods? What do you take with you when you travel? If you could have any food made allergy free, what would it be? Add a note in the comments or visit me on Facebook.

Posted in Food, Snacks, Travel | Leave a comment

Carnival Liberty

Heading home from a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean on the Carnival Liberty and thought I would share my travel adventures with you. We boarded the ship at Port Canaveral which is about an hour drive from the Orlando Airport. Breakfast was a cup of noodle soup I brought with me from home. I was definitely looking forward to the lunch buffet.

We went up to the Lido to check out the buffet. There were some plain vegetables on the salad bar along with a variety of cold salads with meat and dairy and a variety of hot dishes. I noticed that many of the dishes were marked as vegetarian which was something I hadn’t seen before. Most of them clearly had dairy so definitely not for me. I took some of the salad and plain veggies before moving on.

Besides the main buffet there was a Mongolian grill. Lots of great veggies to add to my salad. I didn’t try the grill as they reused the pans which included a peanut sauce as one of the options. It would have been nice if there had been a tofu option along with the meat and seafood. They had lots of steamed broccoli and green beans which I enjoyed all week.

Outside by the pool was the Blue Iguana Cantina which quickly became my favorite. All the beans and tortillas were vegan, but the rice had butter. I had a burrito with beans and veggies adding lots of goodies from the nearby salsa bar. There was fresh pico, cilantro, watermelon and various levels of spicy salsa that went well with the burrito and made an excellent salad dressing.

If you made it to the other end of the buffet and went outside there was a pizza place open 24 hours. One afternoon I went there and asked for a no cheese pizza with mushrooms. Usually they gave out slices, 4 slices in a pizza. Since no one else wanted mine I had the whole pizza. It was a thin crust with tomato sauce and lots of mushrooms. It was delicious and I finished about half of it.

I’ve got lots more to share about the dining room and special restaurant in my next post.

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Introduction to Vegan with Allergies

As this is my very first blog post, let me introduce myself. My name is Ilene and I’ve had food allergies my entire life. Before everyone knew about food allergies like they do now it seemed like I was the only one around. Occasionally I’d meet someone allergic to one or two foods but rarely did I find anyone with multiple food allergies. With a very limited diet, I did well and avoided major issues until I left for college. Then I discovered anaphylaxis. It turns out I really was as allergic to nuts as we thought. And chickpeas too – who knew you could be allergic to them?

About 3 years ago I decided to try a plant-based diet for a week to improve my overall health. The first week was magic. No food allergy issues at all. So I just kept going. It’s not always easy but then I was already used to the difficulty in eating out. I definitely cook a lot more and have even tried a few new foods.

The idea for this site came to me as I was reading posts on Facebook from people who said they’d like to try a plant-based diet but had too many food allergies. Since I have more allergies than anyone else I know I thought this might be a way for me to help others who are interested in a plant-based diet.

I hope that you find value in my site and decide to try a plant-based diet. This site is open to all with no prejudices. It’s about “progress not perfection” as Lindsay Nixon of Happy Herbivore will tell you. We are all on a journey together.

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