Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Kids coast to coast are throwing up a collective YIPPPEEEE!! as school lets out for the year. My daughters are enjoying their very last day today and I baked eight dozen of these addictive little babies yesterday as teacher gifts.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies + Pumpkin = OH MY GOOOODNESSSS!!!!

These cookies are unbelievably good. So good you will find yourself eating half a dozen within minutes if you’re not careful. Irresistibly chewy and fabulously flavorful, they’re soft and sweet and amazingly delicious. I seriously can’t say enough about them. Bake them and you’ll see!

Whole and ground flaxseeds are sold in many supermarkets and health food stores, often with the baking supplies or in the bulk bins. You can buy flaxseeds whole and grind them yourself in the blender or spice grinder; whole flaxseeds will keep for about a year if stored in an airtight container away from the light. Ground flaxseed meal is more convenient, but it’s also fairly perishable because of the oil in the seeds. After use, seal well and store in the freezer; ground flaxseed meal will keep for weeks to months this way.

Recipe adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance. (You ROCK, Isa!!)

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Hot Tamale Pie

Going vegan, like going low-sodium, is a challenge. Out the window goes convenience; in its place goes planning. But having spent the past 8 years reading box labels, scanning aisles for products I can enjoy, and cooking pretty much every meal at home, I can honestly say being plant-based is no different than living life without salt. As HARD as it seem (all caps) it really hasn’t been hard. Going vegan sounds like it would be crippling in its limitation, but in truth it’s the most freeing way of looking at food imaginable. Without meat on the menu, our plates have broadened to include a far more diverse array of foods and in far greater quantities than before. We’re loving it!

And frankly, with food like this, what’s not to love?! I’ve seen many versions of Tamale Pie in cookbooks and the internet, but I like this one the best. A hearty southwestern filling of pinto beans, onion, garlic, sweet pepper and corn, baked beneath a blanketing crust of cornbread. It’s absolutely delicious, not to mention cheap, easy, and healthy. I’ll be serving mine with sauteed collard greens and sliced watermelon for a fully balanced meal.

Adapted from Eden Foods.

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Meaty Portabella Burgers and Fries (Fat Free, Low Sodium and Vegan too!)

With Father’s Day fast approaching (it’s Sunday my friends, be sure to get those cards in the mail!) I wanted this week’s Meatless Monday to showcase an all-American favorite. BURGERS! Nothing satisfies a manly hunger better than burgers and fries. And today’s recipe proves you don’t need meat to make the best burgers of your life.

Portabella mushrooms are nature’s veggie burgers. Thick and perfect, patty-shaped, they’re even brown, for pete’s sake! When grilled, these large mushroom caps take on a great barbeque flavor and their meaty heft becomes tender and indescribably juicy. Sandwiched in a bun with all your favorite toppings, you won’t miss the meat. Besides their fabulous taste, portabella mushrooms are incredibly low in sodium, averaging a mere 10 milligrams or less per cap. Grill time will vary depending upon the size of the mushrooms; for jumbo mushrooms you may need to grill 10 minutes per side, whereas smaller caps may cook in half that time. Use common sense. You want the caps to release some of their juice, soften and tenderize – you don’t want them falling apart or charred beyond recognition!

Oven-baked fries are every bit as satisfying and delicious as those deep fried in oil, but they’re even better, because they’re also FAT FREE! Which means you can eat as many of them as you want and not gain a pound. Your skin will glow like a scrubbed potato. And you won’t need help getting out of your chair after dinner. If you’re a real fry junkie, add a couple extra potatoes to the mix. I used red bliss because I’ve been on a red potato kick lately, but truly any potatoes work well here. If your dad’s a real patriot, might I’d suggest the full-out all-American meal? Meaty Portabella Burgers with Red, White, and Blue Fries!

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Spicy Chickpea Tacos with Arugula

For my first post on Salt Free Vegan, I wanted to share a recipe I created especially for my upcoming Everything DASH Diet Cookbook (release date: November 18, 2012).

These truly are the tastiest tacos ever! A thick and spicy sauce dotted with meaty garbanzos, the peppery cool of arugula, and crunchy bite of corn. Spoon extra filling over cooked brown rice or salt-free tortilla chips if you run short of packaged shells. Adjust the pepper and pepper flakes to suit your taste; less if you prefer milder tacos, more if you like them spicy. I opted to use garlic and onion powders to make these table ready in 10 minutes, but you can of course substitute finely chopped fresh onion and garlic if you prefer.

Canned no-salt-added garbanzo beans are a great choice for busy lives, but if you find yourself eating beans multiple times a week, consider investing in a pressure cooker. You’ll more than make up the purchase price in savings. Some canned no-salt-added beans can cost upwards of $4 per can (!!) whereas dry beans typically run a couple dollars at most per pound. I bought a pressure cooker some time ago and use it to make beans once or twice a week. If you’re wondering which one to buy, I have a 6-quart stainless steel model from Fagor and can’t recommend it enough.

Whole Foods sells organic sodium-free taco shells in both yellow and blue corn. They’re very tasty and a super good deal at only $2.79 a package. Bearitos also makes great low-sodium taco shells; they’re sold in many supermarkets, health food stores, and online.

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