Edible lessons in satisfaction

If giving actual hugs via internet was possible I’d send one to each of you. For now, though, a simple thank you will have to suffice. When posting yesterday I didn’t know what to expect but reading all of your kind, understanding and supportive comment just makes me have to say it once more: my heart feels so full. All of you are awesome!

Like I said the initial struggle turned out to be a learning experience. Any kind of ‘slip-up’ I had used to be a fail in my eyes and made me feel I’d never make true progress in recovery. These days, I notice what happens, occasionally still feel disappointed by setbacks or repeatedly making the same ‘mistake’. But I also acknowledge them as lessons – and some need one or several repeats to fully sink in, right? At least I can say it took me multiple revisions to finally understand the citric acid cycle or analysis in school, too, so why would recovery be any different ;)?! Sorry for the lengthy intro. What I’m getting at was to say I’d share some more of my recent lessons [in satisfaction] while also loving my veggies on this What I ate Wednesday – and a side of chickpeas knowing Jenn will appreciate them. There we go!


Starting off with another recipe from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean found its way into my lunch box [and onto a plate for prettier pictures]. The Skinny Puttanesca jumped right at me when looking through the pasta chapter because I’m a huge fiend of green olives. Black ones? Keep them. Green, however, yes! Once more I tinkered the recipe to use what I had on hand. No storebought marinara but my usual quick from scratch recipe, kale instead of spinach. And though Lindsay lists chickpeas as an optional ingredient you know they are most definitely not optional for me.

Light & Lean_puttanesca

Two things about this recipe. First, if you read Carly’s [great] post on words that shouldn’t be used to describe food you’ll know that skinny is one of them. I’m using this here as it’s the original recipe title and that’s fine with me. Secondly: I honestly don’t like giving bad reviews. So let me start out by saying that yes, I did think the dish tasted good and I’ll probably have it again [given I’ll be able to locate another spaghetti squash – why, oh why is their season already over?]. However, I took it to the office with me where it served as a cold lunch. As mentioned before I’m not fond of cold main meals so this played into my rating. Also – and this once more might just be a subjective feeling – I wasn’t satisfied after finishing. Spaghetti squash is great but it’s not pasta. Next time I’d either add even more [and there already was half a cup in there] chickpeas or add some ‘real’ pasta/rice for a more satisfying dish.

Light & Lean_skinny puttanesca

Not all of my own creations are completely satisfying, either. More often than not a lack of creative cooking juices combined with special produce anxiety facing the question of how to use a new-to-me-ingredient best. Note that this was not the best way to try sunchokes for the first time. But it still was strange but good due to using a [vegan] cheezy broccoli sauce/soup as a base layer, topping it with all kinds of vegetables and – yes – cereal. Don’t knock it till you try it – they’re a great replacement for breadcrumbs when you’re out of the latter. And when the final dish wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped? Simple solution: eat more cereal. It was yet another sign I hadn’t eaten enough before and no reason for despair.

Strange but good_cereal topping

Making up for the unsatisfying – or: yet to be perfected – experience of that dish, however, was our last family dinner. With only a vague idea in mind and no recipe I simply hoped for a somewhat edible outcome – and was more than pleasantly surprised by the result. Some might assume I was on an ‘Eat more kale’ mission when serving my parents the blog world favourite at almost every family dinner. Actually, though, I’m not. Just being savvy when it comes to using up produce. Okay, maybe there’s a little newfound fondness for my parents had never eaten kale in any other form than as part of traditional German “Grünkohl” [kale stewed to mush with pork chop ribs and a specific type of sausage]. That’s why I was wary serving it to them as the main ingredient of a dish I created myself [read: that hadn’t gotten the approval of another blogger and his readership before].

Family dinner_kale pastry

I’m excited to share the recipe for this one with you on Friday. If you have yet to get into kale: this is the recipe for you. It’s approved by my dad and trust me when I say that says something.

Another sign of approval was received by this cake as my contribution to the buffet on New Year’s Eve. Though I was breaking two major rules of serving guests here: trying a new-to-me recipe and it being not just vegan but low-fat, too. It’s the Chocolate Cake from Light & Lean. Again an occasion of keeping my fingers crossed for the best but I didn’t expect getting rave reviews. Don’t you like when your expectations are exceeded?

HH Light & Lean_Chocolate cake

Seeing how long my post has already become I’ll leave it at that and wish you a very happy Wednesday!

Happiness inducing today: Treating myself to something I’d been eyeing for ages [will share it soon].


What were some of your latest recipe hits and misses?

Are you wary of serving guests healthier fare?

Kale: yay or nay?



Happy Herbivore Light & Lean Cookbook Tour

Look who’s posting on a Tuesday! Not sure if I ever did that before but today is a special occasion that is well worth breaking from my blogging habits. There’s an awesome surprise waiting in store for you, too, but more on that later.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Lindsay S. Nixon and her website Happy Herbivore before. Lindsay doesn’t just blog but is the author of several cookbooks, too, the fourth of which is Happy Herbivore Light & Lean. I’m thrilled to take part in Lindsay’s blog book tour – especially since I have the honour of posting on the official release day :).

Light and Lean_Tour blogger badge

While I’m by no means trying to loose weight I simply like Lindsay’s approach to create simple recipes using whole foods and everyday ingredients. Currently living in the countryside again with a limited availability of special vegan products – no silken tofu, no special flours etc.- I was glad to find the recipes hardly calling for any of these.  If – like me – you live in Europe and can’t find certain ingredients used in American recipes in general: Lindsay’s former intern Berta recently did a great post on living abroad as a vegan with lots of advice on how to adapt recipes.

Something else that stood out for me in the book was Lindsay’s relaxed attitude to not fussing when you can’t find the healthiest ever foods while on the road or at a restaurant. I’ve struggled with this before but now agree with what Lindsay says: you won’t always be able to find an option like brown rice on the menu so should just account for the situation you’re in. In the case of eating out white rice with a side of vegetables is still a healthier choice than something like a deep-fried spring roll. Though I personally wouldn’t mind going all out every now and then, either – it’s all about balance, right ;)?

HH Light & Lean Chili

Chipotle Harvest Chili from the book

There are many recipes I still want to try [hopefully soon]: Caribbean Chili, Nacho Bowl, Chocolate Surprise Frosting … to name just a few. In addition to those Herbivore Light & Lean is the first of Lindsay’s books also taking a look at the fitness part of healthy living. Working with the ‘100 factor’ in terms of losing weight by cutting just that number of calories from your diet per day Lindsay’s fitness approach is the same. Rather than suggesting readers to do strenuous workouts all of the time she lists many everyday tasks burning 100 calories and fun ways of exercising like dancing, raking leaves or vacuuming [see, that’s exercise, too!]. Additionally, Lindsay shows workouts – or ‘body recipes’ as she calls them – you need no gym membership or lots of equipment for but can just do at home. I really liked these, too.

As part of the book tour I got the chance to ask Lindsay as few question so here you go:

1.  Happy Herbivore Light & Lean is your most personal book so far sharing your own health story. You describe veganism as your turning point to an overall better health, appearance and fitness.  There are also many success stories of fellow ‘Herbies’ on your blog who greatly improved their lives by adopting a vegan diet. Do you feel veganism is the ‘best’ diet for everyone or can going mostly plant-based already make a difference?

I feel I should clarify that I don’t identify as a vegan, nor do many of the “Herbies” of  the week. Veganism is a movement rooted in animal rights — abstaining from animal products on a moral/ethical basis “for the animals.” Health or being healthy is not a core objective. That’s not to say some vegans don’t care about their health, but one need only looks at commercial vegan substitutes like Boca burgers, or most mainstream “vegan” cookbooks and see that they’re only marginally healthier than their animal counterparts. I picked up a vegan cupcake at the store the other day and the accompanying nutritional facts were starling — a far cry from “healthy.” Someone could very easily be “vegan” and live on colas, French fries, Oreos, faux meats and soy cheeses, and their health would not necessarily improve or see s benefit. This is where the whole plant-based distinction comes in. Yes it’s a diet (and lifestyle) free of animal products like meat, fish, cheese and eggs, but it’s primary focus is on health and eating whole, plant-foods.

In that case, yes, anyone can (and will) benefit from a whole foods plant-based diet. Science tells us it is the best diet for humans. You can prevent and reverse heart disease, type 2 diabetes, the majority of cancers, and most (not as fatal) medical issues like acne, migraines, IBS, fatigue, PCOS, hypertension, and so forth with a plant-based diet.

 2.  One feature on your blog are your Minimalist Monday posts. How did you get started with minimalism and what does it mean for your decisions and actions in everyday life?

My minimalism was sort of forced on to me initially — I was laid off from my job and had to move into a really small studio apartment (from a large two bedroom) thereby parting with the vast majority of my possessions. Unemployment also shifted my expenses quite considerably. Yet despite my new “meager” livings, I found I was the happiest I ever was. I had this breakthrough moment realizing less really is more and fell into minimalism with open arms. It has completely changed how I navigate in the world and in all the right ways.

3. What is your best advice for people who want to stay active and work out during the colder months but can’t afford a gym membership?

Bundle up and go outside. Get into winter sports and enjoy them — they’re seasonal! Buy some workout DVDs. Take a yoga class.

 4.  During the past years I’ve been able to show my family and friends that vegan food can be quite flavourful and much more than simple stir-fries or plain cakes. However, when vegan and low-fat collaborate they’re still super skeptical and I haven’t dared serving them anything matching those criteria. Which dishes from your new book would you share with doubtful people?

All of them 🙂

5.      5. A successful blog, four cookbooks and many loyal fans – congratulations on how far you’ve come with Happy Herbivore! What do you hope to achieve with your blog and brand in the future?

Thanks! I never really set out with a plan or grand vision. I just… do. My goal has always been to help people. Each day I get to do that, I win. I look forward to seeing what happens next. I’m just along for the ride!


Just so you can get a first taste of the food in Happy Herbivore Light & Lean I’m allowed to share a recipe with you. Given the chance to pick one I went with the dish that immediately jumped at me: the Soba Peanut Noodles – and really, who doesn’t like peanut butter?!

Soba Peanut Noodles
Serves 2

Gluten-free, Quick, Budget

Soba Peanut Noodles

All the taste you love in creamy peanut noodles but with less fat and calories thanks to a surprise ingredient: vegan yogurt! I call this a “cheater” recipe since I use a dab of peanut butter, but it’s still light compared to most peanut noodle recipes.

  • 4 oz buckwheat noodles (could sub spaghetti)
  • 2 green onions, sliced cubed tofu or edamame (optional)
  • vegetables, like broccoli or cucumber (optional)

Creamy Peanut Sauce

  • 2 tbsp plain vegan yogurt
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp sweet red chili sauce
  • few dashes garlic powder
  • few dashes ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1–2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • Asian hot sauce (e.g., Sriracha; optional)

Cook noodles according to package instructions, rinse under cold water in a colander, and chill in the fridge for a few minutes if you can. Meanwhile, whisk peanut sauce ingredients together. Taste, adding more soy sauce or tamari, garlic, onion, or hot sauce as desired. Toss noodles with sauce, then stir in green onion, tofu or edamame if using, and vegetables, if using.

Chef’s Note: Despite having “wheat” in the name, buckwheat flour is completely gluten-free. Just make sure your noodles are 100% buckwheat if you have an allergy or sensitivity.

Per serving

Calories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .274

Fat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6g

Carbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47.5g

Fiber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6.6g

Sugars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.7g

Protein. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10.4g

WW Points. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

If you’re curious to see some more recipes have a look at those shared during the first part of Lindsay’s book tour. All in all I think Happy Herbivore Light & Lean is a great cookbook for everybody interested in plant-based cooking even if – like me – you’re not looking to loose weight.

What about the surprise I mentioned in the introduction? You might have guessed it already and yes, I’m happy to be allowed to not only share a recipe with all of you but also give away a copy of Lindsay’s new book. For organisational reasons Lindsay’s publisher asked me to hold the giveaway no earlier than next week so if you’re interested in getting Happy Herbivore Light & Lean for yourself stop by again!

Happiness inducing today: An overall marvelous Monday.


Have you tried any of Lindsay’s recipes before or even own some of her books?

Peanut butter: yay or nay?

If you aren’t vegan: Do you still enjoy trying vegan recipes?

Happy dancing with cobbler, chili and cereal

Hey, hey. How about we do a little happy dance on Wednesday? Come on now, we should all get dancing more often for those sweet little endorphins jumping right at us when we do [clearly too much caffeine in my blood right now ;)]. Really though: Wednesday is a good day for everybody. If you don’t like your job/school: Rejoice – only two more days until the weekend. If you do like your job: well, awesome, two more days of fun! And for both groups: Wednesday means it’s What I ate Wednesday time again and if that’s not a reason to celebrate and do a happy dance I don’t know what it. Dancing or not let’s thank our host Jenn [thanks!] and jump quickstep into the food.

wiaw fall into good habits buttonTo all German readers: don’t forget to look at everybody’s delicious creations for Vegan Wednesday, either. Meal time inspiration to the max with two foodie parties in one – it doesn’t get any better.

One more dish to use up a clamshell of cherry tomatoes I’d forgotten in my eagerness to eat my way through my produce stash before moving. And what a fabulous dish if I dare say so myself. Blogging apparently isn’t doing me well in terms of modesty ;). Believe me, I’m honestly not one to toot my own horn in real life. Not to digress too much but does anybody else notice they’re “different” from their real life personality at times when writing their posts. Don’t worry: I’m not secretly a b*tch but just wouldn’t tell you I was proud of something I created instead having a hard time accepting compliments. Okay, okay, I am digressing so back to where I was: this recipe is delicious.

Tomato cob.

While browsing the internet for recipe inspiration I happened upon the idea of Tomato Cobbler. I got curious because I’d only heard of dessert cobblers so far and not even had any of those before. A quick search brought up many non-vegan recipes but I like a good challenge so started cooking. What can I say? I’m quite pleased with the outcome and because I’m sure many of you find themselves with an extra load of cherry tomatoes this time of the year 😉 I’ll share the recipe soon. It might not look like that but this is strange but good. Any guesses on its secret?


Promise: I won’t turn this blog into the weather show but it’s still freakishly cold so … chili weather! I got my copy of Happy Herbivore Light & Lean [more on that to come next week!] and the chili and stew section was the one I kept looking back at most. With my first bunch of kale in ages – what a bad blogger am I?!  – I prepared the Chipotle Harvest Chili. Naturally subbing around a lot but with a delicious result. It’s a bit unusual to work in a different kitchen and even running a lot of errands the day after my arrival I’m still out of many staple [to me, that is, not my parents] ingredients. How can there be no oatmeal or smoked paprika powder :)?! Funny to think how much my staples have changed since getting in contact with the blog world.

HH Light & Lean Chili

Above-mentioned errands – did I ever mention I’m a pro-buyer meaning I’ll plan to buy x number of things and come home with even more?! – might not hae yielded all of my staples. But I happened upon several new finds that I’m quite pleased with. One of them makes me feel a little more like a blogger …


Yes, cereal. Okay, it doesn’t look like much but a) we can hardly find any variety in terms of healthier non-sugar-laden cereals over here and b) it was just a snack. Almond milk joined the party post-shoot because I didn’t want the crunchy rings to get soggy. While I still don’t think I’ll break out the cereal for a meal any time soon [it’s just not filling enough] it’s nice to have a new easily portable snack. And talking about snacks depening on when you read this I’ll be at work and ready for a snack. So grab one yourself and check out what everybody else is eating!

Happy Wednesday!

Happiness inducing today: Reading a good book.

Do you have a favourite chili recipe? Which one?

Cereal fiends: what are your favourite kinds/brands?

Random non-food question(s): Did you ever take ballroom dancing classes? Do you still know the steps?