Low-Fat Zucchini Panini

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you constantly have to meal plan a month in advance, rack your brain, and make a mess in your kitchen in order to produce a flavorful, enjoyable, hot meal.  In fact, there are tons of delicious no-brainer meals that can be put together for a single, a family, or student with little preparation and planning.  This recipe is a great example.

A panini is a grilled sandwich typically made from a special type of bread, such as ciabatta, and pressed in a two sided grill.  Well, my panini is slightly different than what this definition implies: I use regular whole wheat loaf slices and I don’t press it to make it grilled.  I grill the insides and toast the outside, which helps cut the fat and calorie content.

By toasting your bread you are not pressured into oiling or buttering it.  After you toast it you can add a dab of non dairy non-hydrogenated butter to your bread, if you like.  Or you can enjoy the Zucchini Panini like me, with your toast plain.  It’s perfectly delicious, lower in fat and calories, and it hold up well with the savory grilled veggies inside!

What You’ll Need: (yields 2 sandwiches)

4 sliced whole wheat bread

1 cup spring lettuce

1 medium zuke, halved and sliced lengthwise into flat planks (6-8 slices should be produced) 

1 medium tomato, sliced medium thickness (in 4 or 5 slices)

1 large slice of white onion, rings separated

1/4 cup diced bell pepper mix (I used red, yellow, green)

cracked black pepper (and optional salt) to taste

2 T extra virgin olive oil (or water to make recipe even lower in fat)

1 T Dijon mustard

How You’ll Do It:

  Heat your grill pan on the stove top on medium.  Once heated, drizzle olive oil across it or pour water in.  Place zucchini, bell peppers, tomato, and onion rings all on grill pan.  Sprinkle the exposed side of the veggies withblack pepper (and optional salt). Grill vegetables for 3-4 minutes on first side, then flip and grill for 3 more minutes.  Continue flipping as needed until veggies are thoroughly cooked but be careful not to burn them.  

  While veggies are grilling put the bread in the toaster.  Once it’s toasted, spread dijon on the bread and put a small bed of lettuce down on two of the four pieces.  When your veggies are tender and fragrant, remove them from the grill with a fork and place them on the bed of lettuce.  Stack your sandwich as you desire and cut it in half.  


Why You’ll Love It:

   This sandwich is packed with nutrients.  Vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, B1, B2, B6, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, folate, just to name a few!  All of these nutrients are healthful and healing.  Getting your essential nutrients from foods as opposed to getting them from supplements makes a HUGE difference.  When you eat whole foods you are eating the perfect nutrient combinations in each food, causing a perfect synergy which facilitates healing and disease prevention (or reversal).  It is very important to get your nutrients from foods, the way nature was created.  Nature did not create a bunch of scientifically isolated nutrients isolated and then combined all with each other in form of a nasty vitamin!

  By eating all of these fresh veggies on whole wheat bread, you’re getting even more protein than you would from the veggies alone and you’re washing the meal down with a helping of fiber!  Fiber is ESSENTIAL to a strong immune system and a healthy person.  Fiber speeds up the time it takes for your food to pass through your body and decreased the likely hood of toxins and carcinogens being absorbed into your system.  Fiber is KEY to WEIGHT LOSS.  It is recommended that adults take in 25-35 grams daily.  Switching to a plant-based diet, or even incorporating mostly plant-based meals into your diet will definitely increase the amount of fiber in your diet.  

  So, how do you get more fiber?  Fiber is fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.  Where is fiber not found?  Animal products such as all meat, poultry, fish, and dairy.  So if you’re main course is an animal product (meat), or if it’s covered in animal products (think pizza, macaroni and cheese), or if you’re eating animal products here and there throughout your day (think yogurt, cheese on sandwich, fish at dinner, and dessert) then you’re getting a hearty helping of foods without fiber.  This means you’re likely embracing a diet low in fiber and therefore promoting disease.  If you aren’t sure, just keep an eye out on what sort of things you consume and ask yourself  “Is this full of fiber or not?”

  If you’re loving this Zucchini Panini because like me, zuke is one of your favorite green veggies, then you’ll love this recipe too!



Perhaps I should start out this post with the ‘Why You’ll Love It’ section, as clearly there are a lot of reasons you’ll love this recipe.  Those who have nut allergies, beware.  This recipe is not for you but I will put up a fabulous dessert recipe for you soon… to keep things even.  This is an equal opportunity site, after all. =)

D was writing music with his band last night and I had an idea.  I thought if I made some peanut butter cookies perhaps I could will him to come home early.  His band practices in our neighborhood and it was a breezy day so I thought maybe nature was on my side and would deliver the delicious smells and scents right out of my kitchen window, down the street, and to D.  Ok, clearly I was in a bit of a dreamy mood yesterday.  But he did eventually come home and he was delighted to see these treats on the cooling racks. 

What You’ll Need:

1 3/4 cup Unbleached All Purpose flour

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup plain raw sugar 

3/4 t baking soda

3/4 t salt

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

3/4 T vanilla

2.5 T soy milk (or nut milk)

1 1/2 t egg replacer powder + 2 T water (equivalent to 1 ‘egg’)

1/2 cup non dairy non-hydrogenated butter

1/2 cup non dairy semi-sweet chocolate morsels

How You’ll Do It:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl.  Then mix egg replacer powder and water in a blender or Magic Bullet (ideal for this) until fluffy (about 1 minute).  Next you’ll cream your non-dairy butter, sugars, vanilla, and peanut butter in a large bowl.  Once thoroughly creamed together, incorporate egg replacer and then flour mixture.  Once dough is formed, place evenly shaped dough balls onto an ungreased baking sheet 1.5″ apart from each other.  My recipe usually yeilds 20-24 cookies, depending on what size your dough balls are.  I usually shape mine into a small ping pong ball size.

Once cookie dough balls are all ready on baking sheets, press fork tines across the top of each cookie left and right and up and down.  At this point you can sprinkle some raw sugar on the tops of each cookie for a pleasant visual when finished, but it is totally optional.  Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, do not exceed 12 minutes.  

When the cookies are finished baking remove them from the baking sheet and place them on a cooling rack. If you’re going to add the chocolate dots, melt the chocolate morsels on stove top set to medium or in the microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval.  Use a small spoon to dab chocolate centers on each cookie or be creative with your design!


Why You’ll Love It:

   As if you needed me to tell you!  These cookies are to die for!  And they are just rich enough to keep you from devouring the entire plate yourself.  Each just one or two at a time and they’ll surely last you for days!

   Most people don’t know that peanuts actually have antioxidants in them!  In fact, they have the same antioxidant, resveratrol, as red wine and red grapes.  This is one of the many reasons why peanuts promote a healthy heart.  Many studies, including the Nurses Health Study (conducted with 86,000 women), showed that frequent nut consumption helped reduce heart disease risk.  The Nurses Health Study also showed peanuts significantly reducing the chance of gallstones.  Many people fear peanuts due to their high fat content.  What we need to remember is that peanuts are high in monounsaturated fat, which is a great fat to consume.  Eating nuts will not make you gain weight!  In fact, studies in Spain have shown that eating nuts will make you less likely to gain weight.  

If you’re eating a well rounded plant based diet you don’t have to worry about your daily consumption of fats.  The primary source of bad fats comes from animal produces.  As does deadly LDL cholesterol.  Many sources of good fats (avocados, nuts) are also great sources of protein.  Just keep this in mind while you indulge in this rick and savory dessert!  The wonders of living a guilt free plant based diet are amazing!

Marinara Squash

One of my all time favorite winter vegetables is squash.  There are so many different types, shapes, and flavors.  Including butternut, sweet dumpling, acorn, and spaghetti.  Yes, spaghetti is a type of squash.  It is named for the stringy noodly-like bulk of the inside of the vegetable.  This delicious vegetable is commonly served actually ‘Spaghetti’ style with a tomato sauce and everything!  If you’re imagining your basic yellow summer squash served with spaghetti sauce then you’ve got your head in the wrong place.  Spaghetti squash has a totally different texture and flavor.  It is savory, buttery, and just melts in your mouth!

 D had never had spaghetti squash before.  We both really enjoyed eating it from inside the squash because the more you dig in, the more and more spaghetti-like ‘noodles’ come from the squash.  We’re going to have this meal again before the stores are completely out of spaghetti squash.  We both really enjoyed have a light, vegetable based main course with lots of flavor!


What You’ll Need:

1 Spaghetti Squash

1/2 of THIS Marinara recipe (or whatever you fav. it)

1/2 T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 t pepper 

1/4 t salt 

Fresh Chives

How You’ll Do It:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.  Place on a baking sheet with the outer part of the squash facing upward, so both halves are laying flat and balanced.  Lightly spray or rub olive oil on the outside of each squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pierce the outside of the squash with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.  While squash is in the over, prepare and side dish and heat your marinara sauce.  

When the squash is finished, flip it over and use a spoon to lightly scoop out the inner seeds (similar in size as pumpkin seeds).  Once seeds are removed, use a fork to softly ‘rake’ out the fine noodle-like squash and place it into a bowl.  After you’ve removed about 80% of the inner squash from both halves, toss the ‘noodles’ into the marinara sauce.  Once completely mixed (be sure to be somewhat delicate while mixing) put the spaghetti back into the squash shell.  Garnish with fresh snipped chives.

p1030756Why You’ll Love It:

  Consuming foods rich in beta-cryprtoxanthin, may significantly lower ones chance of getting lung cancer.   Regardless of if you’re a smoker yourself of if you’re around secondhand smoke, a study done in China, published in Cancer Epidemiology , showed cancer likelihood being lowered 27%-37% by diets high in cryprtoxanthin-rich foods.  Additionally, winter squash being high in folate means it’s great for pregnant ladies or those trying to conceive.

If you’re looking to add more winter squash in your diet, try Hello Veggie Stew with Butternut Squash!

You may have picked up by now that I’m not the biggest fan of faux meats, tofu, or tempeh.  I cook and consume those items in strong moderation.  I don’t love tofu or tempeh and I prefer to eat whole foods, so the faux stuff is really sparse.  That being said, I love a hearty vegetable which is chewier than the average and has a durable shape and texture.  What else could I be referring to besides a Portobello mushroom?

D and I love the meals that do not consist of pasta, tortillas, or lots of gluten.  And it’s not because we don’t enjoy those types of meals on occasion.  It’s because nothing really makes you feel light, healthy, guilt-free, and satisfied the way a plate full of vegetables do.  You don’t feel weighed down or sleepy after your meal.  You actually feel happy and energetic.  And after all, feeling happy and energetic is one of the many reasons I advocate a low-calorie, plant based, whole foods diet.  


What you’ll need to make it happen:

2 portobello mushroom caps

2 T sesame oil

3-5 T soy sauce

1 baby ZUKE diced (or other veggie you have handy)

1/4 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 white onion, diced

2 cloveds garlic, pressed or mined

1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced

1 or 1/2 stalk of lemon grass, sliced finely (optional)

white pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees about 15-20 minutes before you’re ready to start because this is a quick meal.  Place portobello caps on a baking sheet and lightly spread the 2 T of sesame oil on the cap side of each mushroom.  Place mushrooms on the baking sheet, cap side up, and roast them for 10-15 minutes until mostly tender.  Meanwhile, heat a small pan on med-high and put a little water in it.  Once it starts to sizzle slightly, add veggies and cook for 60 seconds before adding soy sauce. Once all ingredients are added, saute for 10 minutes until all veggies are mostly or completely tender.  Finally, take portobellos out of oven, flip over to where they are stem side up, and fill them with the veggie saute.  Once filled, continue roasting for 5 minutes. That’s it!

And What You’ll Do for the Light Garlic Spinach:

Simply heat 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil and 1 T water in a large saute pan on med-high/high.  Toss in 1 or 2 sliced garlic cloves and 2-3 cups of fresh spinach.  While cooking, continuously toss and mix spinach until it reaches your desired doneness.  I went for about 4-6 minutes.




Why You’ll Eat It:

Mushrooms have powerful healing abilities.  They are technically not a veggie or a fruit, they are a fungus.  Not all mushrooms are amazing for you because some are poisonous! Stay clear of those and stick tight to the others because they are so good for you.  Portobello mushrooms are very high in potassium (higher than a banana) as well as many other minerals, such as copper, B vitamins and phosphorus.  They are very low in calories and especially low in fat, so they make an excellent main course.  They strengthen your immune system and promote weight loss. Double Hooray!

Try a Portobello Thick Burger, if you’re really wanting something hearty…

My Quick Marinara

Does anyone else out there shop at Whole Foods Market?  Well, the place is a sanctuary for me.  I would like to share a recipe for my favorite tasty marinara.  Typically, I make marinara from scratch, using my own spices and peppers et cetera.  But if I need something really simple and really tasty that only requires getting one dish dirty to make- this is it!

What You’ll Need:

1 large can 365 Organics brand Diced Tomatoes with oregano basil

1 small can 365 Organics tomato paste

1 small can filled with purified water

How You’ll Do It:

All you must do is mix these delicious items together with a fork or whisk and then they’re ready to go.  This makes a perfect vegan gourmet pizza sauce!  It’s scrumptious and effortless!  I have yet to try a Whole Foods Market 365 Organics Brand item that I was not fully satisfied with.  I go to Whole Foods Market 2-4 times a week and only have been disappointed when I walk by the meat section… 

Why You’ll Love It:

  This recipe is super quick, super versatile, and tomatoes are a super food!  When I say super food, I mean food with super powers! And that’s no exaggeration.  Due to the lycopene level in organic tomatoes, they are food that really fight hard to prevent disease.  Lycopene is very anti-cancer (over a wide variety of common cancers), plays a significant role in prostate health, and fighting cardiovascular disease.  On top of all of this, tomatoes are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, making them great strengtheners of your immune system.

Blueberry Griddle Cakes

When I ate these I thought I had died and gone to breakfast heaven!  Maybe it was because D made them for me, cleaned the kitchen first and then afterwards.  Maybe it was because I got to roll right out of bed and plop down at the kitchen table with the whole spread complete.  But what I’m think it equally was is the fact that these Blueberry Griddle Cakes were SO scrumptious and satisfying!  

Be advised, these breakfast cakes should be eaten with caution.  Eating too many of them will leave you with clothes that are a little too snug!  These are more of the every-once-in-a-while, for-a-special-occasion type of treat.  I would recommend having them with some beautiful fruit on the side.  That way, you can eat the fruit with the cakes and that will sweeten it up without adding syrup.  Or you can stuff your face with fruit before to eat your cake and that way you’ll fill up just a little sooner!


I’m not sure why every picture I took of these had multiple Blueberry Griddle Cakes stacked on top of each other as if the Jolly Green Giant was sitting down to eat.  Truth is, D ate one and a half and felt like he was going to pop!  I ate one and called it a day!  There is just something about vegan pancakes that fill you up like no other pancake did before it!

Side dishes don’t have to be fancy and they don’t have to include more than a few ingredients, including spices.  What’s important is getting your vegetables in every day. What’s not important is if the recipe or name sounds like it came from an up scale restaurant.  Fancy?   No.  Delicious, easy, healthful?  Yes. 

What You’ll Need:

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, diced

2 cups brussels sprouts, halved

1 yellow squash, sliced and halved

salt and pepper to taste


How You’ll Do It:

Saute garlic and shallot in a few tablespoons in water.  Once shallots become mostly transparent, add brussels and squash.  Saute uncovered for two minutes, then cover for three to four minutes until done.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Why You’ll Love It:

  You’ll love Brussels Sprouts if you love being free of cancer.  Brussels Sprouts are a member of the cruciferous family which means they are very high in effective phytonutrients.   The phytonutrients in the cruciferous family work even harder than the average vegetable phytonutrient to fight cancer cells, prevent free radical damage, and to actually repair damaged DNA in the body (which can cause cancer development).  On top of the disease preventing super powers, brussels sprouts have over 100% of your daily vitamin C and K in one cup serving.

Brussels Sprouts are such an amazing, healthful, and disease fighting food that you should really take interest in learning more.  And if you’re looking for other great veggie side dishes why not try some Classic Carrots?