The Real Food Journal

Try Palapa, Filipino Flavors Make Meal Prep Easy

Palapa on Sweet Corn

Try the Palapa on sauteed sweet corn!

I’ll tell you up front. I’ve never been to the Philippines. I’m not an expert on “authentic” regional cuisine of the Philippines, if there is such a thing. But I love trying the flavors of faraway places, especially when they are perfect for adding to plant-based dishes. So, when I saw recipe in Bon Appetit for a funky condiment called Palapa, I just had to try it. They were putting it on grilled shrimp, but it looked like the perfect topper for jazzing up rice, veggies, tofu, or anything that needs a burst of flavor and texture.

Condiments are Meal Prep

This toasty, spicy condiment is the perfect thing to prep and keep on hand. Once you have a tub of it in the refrigerator a plain bowl of rice or a quick vegetable saute can be transformed into an exotic Filipino treat. There’s more to the condiment than Ketchup and Sriracha.

Palapa is an Umami Bomb

Looking at the recipe, the palapa is made up of shredded coconut, some chiles and scallions and ginger and garlic, and ground dried shiitake mushrooms.The thing that jumped out at me was the ground mushrooms. They are key to adding umami to plant-based foods, and you don’t often see them in recipes. So, I made my own version of Palapa, with a few tweaks.

Because umami is the secret to making plant-based foods more satisfying and “meaty,” I wanted to amp it up. So, I added a little more dried mushroom. I also used dried chiles instead of fresh, because dried have more umami. If you really wanted to give it more fermented flavors, you could use tamari or coconut aminos instead of salt. I didn’t want to veer that far from the original, so I used salt. Maldon’s, to be exact, because good salt makes a difference, in something like this.


You can customize your Palapa

I used fewer chiles than the recipe in BA, and I liked the amount of chile in this recipe, but if you are not a spicy food fan, you can scale it back. Here in Minnesota I often cook for people who really can’t take heat, and I just dial it down to a hint of warmth. I also went a little lighter on the oil in mine. The Palapa in the photo in BA was quite moist and glossy, and I didn’t want it to be too oily. Theirs was also moister because they used fresh coconut and fresh chiles, which both have more juice than dried. I like the fluffy texture of this version.

vegan palapa

Crunchy, spicy dip for veggie slices

Once you have a bowl of toasty Palapa, you’ll be set to make easy meals. Roasted sweet potatoes, perfect with Palapa. Popcorn? Heck yes. A bowl of noodles and tofu? Yes please!

Give it a try on your summer market haul, and you’ll eat and enjoy more veggies.


A coconutty, spicy condiment from the Philippines, with tons of flavor and umami.

Keyword Palapa
Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell


  • 4 dried red Chiles
  • 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups dried shredded coconut
  • 2-4 tablespoons canola or avocado oil
  • 4 large scallions chopped
  • 8 large garlic cloves minced
  • 2 inches fresh ginger peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1 te coarse salt


  1. In a spice mill or coffee grinder, grind the chilis and transfer to a small bowl. Grind the mushrooms to a powder, and transfer to another small bowl.

  2. In the oven at 300 F, toast the coconut for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Alternatively, place in a large saute pan and swirl over medium heat until toasted. Transfer to a plate to cool.

  3. In a large saute pan, pour half of the oil and place over medium high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and as soon as it starts to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium low. Saute for about 5 minutes. When fragrant, add the chiles, mushroom powder, coconut and lime zest. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes, until all is fragrant and toasted.

  4. Stir in the sugar and salt and stir for another few minutes. Transfer to a bowl or glass storage tub and let cool. Cover tightly. Keeps for up to 2 months.

Refreshing Iced Tea will Cool You, Colorfully

turmeric iced tea

Refresh with iced tea, packed with good stuff

Give Me Iced Tea, with Extras!

It’s a thirsty season, Summertime. The heat, the glorious sunshine, and the sure knowledge that Minnesota summers are fleeting all conspire to motivate me to get outside. And with all that biking and gardening and relaxing strolling by the creek, comes thirst. Water is great, but now and then, I crave something a little fancier. Iced Green Tea with Turmeric is a tasty way to rehydrate, and to chug a hefty dose of healthy turmeric, ginger, and other good stuff.

It’s Iced Tea Month, if You Needed an Excuse

Yes, in the social media calendar, June is Iced Tea Month. If you are a tea drinker, like me, the switch to floating ice cubes in your brew is as natural as switching from jeans to shorts. The origin story of iced tea goes back to the World’s Fair in 1904, but who knows. It seems natural to cool your beverages when it gets hot out. But I do sometimes forget to take that extra step, and make something a little nicer than my usual straight, plain tea. Once you have some hot water, you might as well infuse it with antioxidants and brilliant color, with a few slices of fresh turmeric root. I always add some black pepper to recipes with turmeric in them, because it helps you absorb the active ingredients of the orange roots. A bashed stalk of lemongrass will give up a citrusy tang and fragrance that can’t be missed. Green tea is famously healthful, helping with everything from weight maintenance to memory.

turmeric iced tea

Green tea plus brilliant turmeric

Use Up that Rogue Spearmint Plant!

My garden is in danger of being overtaken by spearmint, garlic chives, and catnip, so I’ve always got to have some recipes ready to take advantage of the bounty. In this iced tea, I just threw handfuls of mint stalks and leaves into the hot tea and let them infuse. Then, they make a lovely edible garnish at serving time.

green tea with turmeric

everyone will want a glass

One Trick for Clear, Not Cloudy Iced Tea

Folks who make iced tea on the regular know that there is one step you can’t leave out, to keep your tea looking pretty. If you rush, and put hot or very warm tea in the refrigerator too soon, it will become cloudy. There’s nothing wrong with it, should you make this mistake, but you can avoid the faux pas by letting the brewed tea cool completely before chilling.

ingredients for green tea with turmeric

After steeping, the strained ingredients

Once you have this golden elixir in the refrigerator, you’ll have a quaffable, beautiful drink to get you through the summer heat. It’s just barely sweet, and if you like a little more sweetness, you can add more palm sugar. It will still be a better beverage than soda from a can.

So enjoy the summer, and drink golden iced tea. Your thirst will thank you.

Iced Green Tea with Turmeric and Mint

Refresh on a hot day with a lightly sweetened, antioxidant-rich glass of tea. 

Course Drinks
Keyword turmeric
Servings 6 cups
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 large lemon zest pared, juiced
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar or other sweetener
  • 4 slices fresh turmeric
  • 1 inch fresh ginger thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass split lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 6 green teabags or 2 tbs tea leaves
  • 2 handfuls fresh mint sprigs for tea and garnishes


  1. Pare the zest in a long strip, and juice the lemon. Place zest (not juice yet) in a large pot with the water, palm sugar, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 5, then take off the heat. Add tea and mint and steep for 4 min. Strain into a large pitcher, stir in lemon juice, and let cool completely before chilling.

Bake Some Purple Carrot and Blueberry Bars for Prince’s Birthday

Purple Carrot Bars with Blueberries

Purple Carrots and Blueberries!

June 7 is Prince’s Birthday

I’m a Minneapolitan, and let me tell you, we all felt the loss when Prince left us too soon. He was our home town musical genius, rockstar, and part of our personal soundtracks since the 80’s. He was also a quiet philanthropist, sharing his wealth anonymously with a host of good causes in our state and the world. The Sexy M’F’er was also a plant-based organism.

I even interviewed to cook for Prince, back in the day.

Prince the Vegetarian

The Purple one was famously vegetarian, leaning toward vegan. After his passing, his private chefs gave a few interviews, and shared the broad strokes of what he liked to eat. Ray and Juell Roberts cooked for Prince for several years, and he treated them well.

I’ve known a few of Prince’s chefs over the years, and had heard that he was a plant-based eater. My own near-miss was several years ago, when his assistant called me to see if I  would cook for him. We talked, but I had a steady gig, and the job was to go on a cross country tour with him, so I passed it on to others.

I sometimes wish I had gone, just to have the experience. But I was never good at being on call 24/7.

So, in his memory, I am posting this purple treat. He loved sweets, and the color purple. He might have thought his was a little too healthy, but it would be an energizing snack for someone who expended so much energy performing.

Plant-Based Purple Carrot Bars with Blueberries

A few violets make the colors pop!

This bar is completely plant-based, relying on ground flax to provide the structure that eggs would in a conventional bar. Non-dairy milk and lemon juice provide the liquid, and enough acid to activate the baking soda. There are a few different varieties of purple carrots, some are just purple on the outside, while some are purple all the way through. Either way, they add an antioxidant-rich purple hue to the bars.

Purple Carrots

Brilliant Purple Carrots at the Farmer’s Market

Whole Grains, Fresh Flour

I used my favorite freshly ground, locally grown flour from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread. It’s a flavorful, whole grain flour that hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse for months, losing nutrients. I know you might not be able to get a locally ground flour, so you can always use whole wheat pastry flour.

Plant Based Purple Carrot and Blueberry Bars

Moist and juicy purple carrots and berries

For a final flourish, I whipped up an easy “cream cheese” frosting that makes just enough to cover it lightly. If you want a thicker layer, just double it. I used Miyoko’s non-dairy cream cheese, but you can use your fave, or even dairy cream cheese.

The violets from my yard give it a sweet little kiss of color.

Happy Birthday, Prince, wherever you are. We’ll keep playing your music.

Purple Carrot and Blueberry Bars

These moist bars will disappear as soon as you put them out on a plate. With sweet berries and just enough creamy frosting, they pack a veggie punch in a cookie package.

Course Dessert
Servings 16
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup shredded purple carrots
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk plain
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 11/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries


  • 4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Lightly oil a 9-inch square baking pan, and preheat the oven to 350 F.

    Shred the carrots and reserve. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut oil and raw sugar and stir. In a cup, mix the non-dairy milk with the flax, lemon and vanilla, let stand for 5 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, ginger, baking soda and salt, and whisk to mix. 

  3. Stir the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, then stir quickly into the flour mixture. Don't over-mix. Fold in the berries and spread in the prepared baking pan.

  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bars comes out with no wet batter attached.

  5. Cool on a rack. For frosting, place the cream cheese in a food processor and puree, stopping to scrape down a few times and repeating until the cheese is creamy and has no lumps. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and process, stopping to scrape down as needed. Spread over cooled bars.

  6. Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to a week.

Make a Cheesy Veggie Wrap with My Vegan Meal Prep Cookbook

Vegan Meal Prep by Robin Asbell

Once you have the sauce, you can make all kinds of meals

Meal Prepping is the Answer

If you want to eat well, save money, and save time, you need to get into meal prep. Specifically, Vegan Meal Prep. Even if you aren’t full-on vegan, you can prep all the plant-based foods. You may find that it’s perfectly satisfying, or you may want to add a little bit of omnivorous food. No judgment, the meal prep plan still works, and gets plenty of healthy plants on your plate.

Vegan Meal Prep Cookbook

My latest book makes your goals attainable

The Meal Prep Plan Works

Do you walk into your kitchen, open the fridge, and find a jar of mayo and a few out-of-date leftovers? Meal prep is all about making sure you have really useful, delicious prepared ingredients, so you can walk in that door after a long day and get a meal on the table, fast. Just a few hours on the weekend, or whenever you have a spot open, and you can set yourself up.

Beans, Grains, Veggies, Sauces and Desserts, Prepped

Take this delicious wrap sandwich. On my prep day, I made a batch of Cheesy Cashew Sauce, shredded some veggies with my food processor, and cooked some chickpeas. During the week, I can make mac-and-cheese, cheesy broccoli or cauliflower, or this super easy wrap. If you crave the ease of boxed mac-and-cheese, this is just as fast, because you made the sauce on the weekend.

Meal Prep Saves Money

Instead of grabbing takeout, you have saved lots of cash by making your own. Because you planned ahead and cooked the chickpeas yourself, you shaved the costs down even more. Even if you use canned, you will be spending less than you would at a restaurant. Cooking a pot of quinoa is a smart way to keep meal prep in the fridge.

Cashews Make Great Sauce

For this sauce, I used the best non-dairy cheesy ingredients, including raw cashews, almond milk, and nutritional yeast, known affectionately as nooch. Nutritional yeast is the brilliant yellow, inactive form of yeast that adds cheesy flavor and B12, so it’s a win-win. There’s a bit of turmeric to give the sauce a cheddary, orange look, but if you want to go more Alfredo with it, just leave it out.

Meal Prep for Life

Even if you don’t buy my book, Vegan Meal Prep, A 5-Week Plan with 150 Ready-To-Go Recipes, you can start prepping today. Cook a big pot of whole grains or beans, and make some sauces and dressings for the week. You’ll thank yourself at dinnertime!

Vegan Cheesy Sauce Veggie Wrap

Course Main Course
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons red miso
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric


  • 4 large whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups shredded veggies
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • dijon mustard


  1. Place the soaked and drained cashews in the Vitamix, and add the remaining ingredients. Secure the lid and blend, starting on low speed and raising the speed to high to puree completely.

  2. Transfer the contents of the blender to a small pot, and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir until the sauce thickens, then take off the heat.

  3. To serve, keep warm and add to the wraps, pasta, or cooked veggies. To save as prep, let cool, then transfer to a storage container and chill. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

Make Taco Rice for a Japanese-Mexican Bowl

Take two foods we love, put them in the same bowl, and you have Taco Rice. It may sound like an American invention, like the Korean Taco, or the Pizza Bagel, but it’s not. No, this delicious bowl-ification of the tender rice we love in sushi and the spicy filling we love in tacos was invented in Japan.

Taco Rice, the Taco of Japan

Like some of the best food fusions, this one came from an occupation. In 1984, a restaurant owner named Matsuzo Gibo wanted to serve more of the American soldiers living on a nearby base, so he created a dish that used ground beef and taco seasoning mix from a packet, a favorite comfort food that the soldiers craved. It was a big hit, and was soon copied in other restaurants. It was designed to be quick and easy, making Taco Rice a dish you can make at home, too.

A Taco Without the Shell

If you’ve ever found the taco shell to be a little tricky to handle, this dish solves your problem. Just eat all the goodies you love on a taco, on soft rice. Instead of that crispy fried shell that shatters when you bite it, or the soft corn shell, that gets soggy if you aren’t eating fast enough, you’ll use a fork, spoon, or chopsticks to move little stacks of rice and “meat” to your mouth.

Sushi Rice is Perfect Under Taco Toppings

I love sushi, and the slightly sweet and sour seasoned rice is designed to be a supportive player under fish and vegetables. That flavor and texture is also a great foil for the savory, spicy taco filling we all love. My Beefy Seitan Taco Meat, in a mash-up with soft sushi rice is a match made in culinary heaven.

Top your Taco Rice To Your Hearts Content

If you look at taco rice menus in Japan, some of them even go so far as to offer bowls with ketchup on top, because, you know, Americans put it on everything. I wouldn’t go that far, but if you like it on a taco, it’s fair game. The usual lettuce, tomato and cheese work, or you can use the avocado and microgreens that I did.

Comfort yourself with this tasty food fusion, and enjoy the best of both worlds.


Beefy Seitan Taco Meat

Copyrighted and reprinted with permission from Plant Based Meats, Hearty, High Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians and Curious Carnivores (Countryman Press)

Yield: 1 pound, 1 3/4 cups

20 minutes

1 1/2 cups ground seitan

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons sherry

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked salt

2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce

8 hard or soft taco shells

Lettuce, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos


Prepare or thaw seitan. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds, then add the onions and stir. Saute, stirring, until softened. Add the tomato paste and sherry and stir to mix well. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, smoked salt and tamari and mix. Add the seitan and stir to mix and coat the crumbles thoroughly. Keep stirring until thick and browned, and heated through.

Taco Rice

Use your taco meat to make a bowl of Japanese-Mexican comfort food.

1 cup sushi rice

1 1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 large avocado

1 large tomato, chopped

1/2 large yellow bell pepper, chopped

microgreens or pea shoots


Sriracha sauce

First, cook the rice. Place the rice and water in a small saucepan and put over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 12 minutes. Check to see if all the water is absorbed, then fluff and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, before scraping out onto a plate to cool.

In a cup, stir the rice vinegar and sugar and drizzle over the rice, fold to mix.

Scoop the rice into 4 bowls and top with taco meat, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, greens, lime juice, and Sriracha sauce.

Best New Vegan Foods at the Farmers Markets of Minneapolis

The Farmers Markets of Minneapolis are Ready for Summer!

Minnesota is coming alive, and our vibrant market community is ready to bring you a slice of our local bounty. Let me say, up front, that I love so many of the markets that I can’t play favorites. There so many solid, high-quality vendors at all of them that I won’t even try to list them all. So I’m going to focus on new, plant-based products today.

Hope's Vegan Kitchen

All Vegan Bakery!

Exciting New Vegan Products Coming to a Market Near You

Minneapolis has such a wealth of great produce, prepared foods, crafts and beverages at our markets, it’s hard to keep up. I try to visit several of them, and fan-girl over my fave vendors. But today, I’m singing the praises of some up and coming new foods, all of which will add to the shopping experience at your market, and maybe even tempt you to make a little trip to a market a neighborhood or two away. I’ve included website and instagram links, since some vendors move around and you’ll want to have the latest info.

Vegan is Growing at the Markets!

At this year’s First Look, organized by the Farmers Markets of Minneapolis, I was wowed by some tasty new vegan foods, so I’m just going to rave about them here.

Minneapolis Farmers Markets offer Vegan Treats

Abby from Bakery Box, Posing with her Treats!

Laminated Vegan Sourdough Doughnuts? Bakery Box Has Them

I’m not a doughnut eater, I lean toward smoothies in the morning. But these amazing doughnuts are mind-blowing. Abby Kastrul makes conventional doughnuts, cakes, pies, cookies, and other treats. But what got me excited were the raised, layered, puffy vegan “Brown Butter” Doughnuts. Abby is actually making her own recipe for vegan butter to layer in with a fermented dough, so there is so much depth of flavor and texture that you will swoon. She’s offering them at pop ups and farmers markets, and planning more vegan products as time goes on. Bakery Box is worth a trip to Midtown, Kingfield, or wherever she ends up.

Click to follow on instagram.

Vegan Doughnuts

Look at the Layers, So Puffy!

Hope’s Vegan Kitchen

The photo at the top is of the spread of all vegan treats from Hope’s. I tried a cookie and a bar, both of which were delicious. Check out the website, with an extensive menu of everything from croissants and cheesecake to cookies and muffins. I asked her about ingredients, and she is using Earth Balance vegan butter and organic sugar, so expect these treats to taste just like the conventional ones, minus the eggs and dairy.

Click to follow on instagram.

Jamaican Veggie Patties! Wha’Jamaican Brings Authentic Island Flavor!
Wha'Jamaican Serves Veggie Patties!

Angelo Williamson Serves Veggie Patties!

You may know, I love Jamaican food. I’ve written about my visit there here, and here. Angelo Williamson has brought the authentic tastes of the Island to Minneapolis

Wha’ Jamaican is a successful food truck and catering company-serving up the traditional jerk chicken and other omnivorous foods. Their newest product is a Veggie Patty, to make the plant-based community very happy. Angelo has made the veggie patty with no animal products, and when we spoke was looking for an alternative to a coconut product that was marked as possibly containing dairy products.

Click to follow on instagram.

Fermented Veggies Are Hot, with Topos and the Pickle Witch
vegan fermented foods

Topos ferments all kinds of veggies, and makes miso!

Topos Ferments, the passion project of Jim Bovino, has been letting bacteria go nuts in their vats of veggies since 2017. I’ve been a fan ever since they launched, bringing tasty probiotics to the Linden Hills Market. Jim pickles whatever moves him, following the seasons to bring something new to the market every time. I had not tried his miso before, and it was fantastic. Click to follow on instagram.

fermented veggies at Minneapolis Farmers Markets

Meet the Pickle Witch!

The Pickle Witch has been bringing fermented veggies to the Midtown Market since 2017, and she’s also an LGBTQ and environmental activist. It’s fitting, to ferment ideas along with the food, isn’t it? Try her tasty, lively pickles at the Midtown, and check out her website to get her ‘zine and find out about events. Click to follow on instagram

Pure Vegan Soups, Dips and Sauces in Jars!

Jen's Jars

Sample some pesto and hummus, take home in a reusable jar

I met Jennifer Alexander last year at the market, where she was selling her all-plant-based, all organic, all delicious food in jars. She’s in it for more than just a business, she started making her soups because she was having health problems and needed clean, pure foods. That mission carries over, the products are flavor-packed, packed in reusable mason jars, and contain real, natural ingredients. So, if you want to pick up some prepared food to eat on the busy nights of the week, you can’t go wrong with Jen’s Jars. She even gives you a dollar off when you bring back the jar!

Click here for the website, here for instagram.

Quality Teas, too


Young Mountain Tea

Ingrid Remak, Sales and Outreach Manger for Young Mountain Tea; Really Good Tea Makes Life Better

Young Mountain Tea is a small, woman-owned company buying teas direct from the growers. You can even travel with them to India or Nepal, to tour the tea plantations and processing plants.

Click to follow on instagram.

Jirik Family Farms-Not Just Meat!

When you walk up to the Jirik Family Farms booth, you might see all the meats for sale and just keep walking. But they also tap maple trees for amazingly good syrup. But it gets better. Then they make it into COTTON CANDY. Pure maple cotton candy. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a photo.

I ate it.

See you at the markets!

Eat Curry, Feel Better, Try Fonio

Curry and Fonio

Indian Curry with an Ancient African Grain

Butternut Squash Curry is Comfort Food

Sometimes you just need comfort. A gentle, easy Butternut Squash Curry is just the ticket. Tender, sweet squash cubes, bathed in just enough coconut milk and spice to make it creamy will make you feel warmed and nourished from the inside out.

I’ve needed a little comfort lately, after a life-changing loss that has knocked me off my feet. Like every human who is lucky enough to have a mother, I ran smack into the wall of her mortality. I know it’s a natural thing to lose a parent, but it’s left me with a big hole in my life, nonetheless. I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with her for the last weeks, and comfort her as she made her last transition. I posted many of the dishes I cooked for her in the last weeks on my instagram account, to share the love.

The Self-Care Prescription

Grief is universal. But your reaction to it is your choice. A part of me wanted to drown my sorrows in wine, junk food and sleep. But I know better. Now is the time to be gentle with myself, and keep my mind clear. Movement, meditation, and good food are the only balms that aren’t just punishment in disguise.

Of course, one glass of wine is ok, right?

Plant Based Comfort Food

The kitchen is my comfort zone. So, for a kitchen meditation, try this exercise in peeling and cubing butternut squash. It takes a few deep breaths and some concentration, and if you let it, can give you some space. Stop thinking about whatever is buzzing around your head and think about how wonderful it will be to eat this healing food. Butternut Squash Curry will give you a break from what troubles you.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry with Fonio

Creamy Curry with Tender Squash Cubes and Fonio

Fonio is Comfort Food

Many of you have never had Fonio. It’s the ancient grain of Senegal, and I hope that it will become more available here, soon. I’ve written about it here. If you don’t have any, try this with quinoa.

You don’t have to be grieving to need a delicious, comforting curry like this. Maybe you just had a tough day at work, or a overwhelmed by our shared existential predicament. Feed yourself.

Good food makes everything a little better.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry over Fonio

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups butternut squash cubes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cilantro leaves


  • 1 cup fonio or quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • dried currants


  1. Peel and dice the squash. 

  2. In a large saute pan, drizzle the oil and place the pan over medium-high heat. Warm the oil for a few seconds, then add the onion and stir. Stir until the onions start to crackle, then reduce to medium-low. Cook for at least 10 minutes.

  3. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds, then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and pepper flakes and stir. Cook until the spices are fragrant, then add the squash cubes and stir to coat with spices.

  4. Add the coconut milk, chickpeas and salt and raise the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and cover tightly. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife.

  5. While the curry cooks, rinse the fonio carefully in a bowl, swirling with cold water to wash away any dust. Carefully pour off the water. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small pot, then add the rinsed fonio and salt and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover, cook for 2 minutes. Take off the lid, and use a fork to fluff the grain, stirring it up from the bottom of the pot. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

  6. Serve fonio sprinkled with currants, if desired, and topped with curry and cilantro.

Vegan Meal Prep, In Bookstores Now!

Vegan Meal Prep Cookbook

My latest book makes your goals attainable!

Vegan Meal Prep, the Cookbook

I was talking about meal prepping to a young person, at some point while testing the recipes for Vegan Meal Prep, and she said, “It’s adulting.” Vegan meal prepping is, in fact, a very special form of “adulting.” Meal prepping is the smart practice of planning your kitchen time efficiently. It’s about deciding what you want to eat and buying, preparing, and storing the foods you need to meet your needs and goals.

My 11th book, Vegan Meal Prep;A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes is a really useful, practical book that will save you money. It makes it easy to be as vegan as you want to be. If you have wanted to eat a plant-based diet, and thought it was going to be a challenge, this book will lay out the steps for a very do-able, attainable, and dare I say, tasty plan to reach your goals.

Vegan Meal Prep Takes a Plan

If you’ve ever cooked a big pot of beans, or made a batch of spaghetti sauce to eat all week, you were meal prepping. Most of us do it occasionally, just because it’s easier to make the full recipe and use it up later. Take that up a few notches, though, and you can follow my carefully engineered system, then prep for a few hours on the weekend. The work of organizing the recipes and making the shopping lists is already done, so you can just copy the list for that week and make a quick run to the store.

Meal Prepping Tofu Burgers

Make a batch Of Tofu Quinoa Burgers for dinner and a lunch!

A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes

Taking charge of your meals with a prep plan is the way to set yourself up to succeed. Instead of coming home from work to gaze into a bare fridge, you’ll walk in that door to find your meal all set up. Instead of ordering take out, or eating the same packaged foods over and over, you’ll have healthy, plant-based, whole foods ready to go.

Meal Prep Tofu

Marinated and Baked Tofu, for a week of meals…

Whole Foods Meal Prep

When I built this book, I built it on a solid foundation: whole, real foods. Every week you’ll prep beans, tofu or tempeh, whole grains, and vegetables to use in delicious dishes. Instead of relying on pricey packaged foods, you’ll be eating the most healthful plant foods, and saving money as a bonus.

Dressings, Sauces, and Treats

Once your beans and grains and veggies are in play, all you need are some delicious sauces and dressings, breakfasts, and should you choose to make them, treats! A plant-based life is much easier when you have Creamy Cheesy Sauce, Cashew “Parmesan,” Aquafaba Mayo and Avocado Green Goddess or Creamy Cashew Dressing ready to go in the fridge.

You may notice all these shots of delicious brownies, bars and cupcakes: I took all of them while I was testing the recipes.

Life’s too short to give up your sweet treats!

Meal Prep brownies

Plant-based, fudgy brownies for the week!

I hope you’ll give my book a try, whether you are a new vegan or just dipping a toe in the plant-based waters. Everybody should be eating more plants, even if you don’t go all in.

Here’s a recipe from the breakfast section of the book, using some chickpeas and roasted sweet potatoes that you prepped on the weekend.

Happy Prepping!


Vegan Meal Prep

Tasty Cakes!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes

These delicate cakes will take the place of a sausage patty, without trying to pretend to be meat. Chunky chickpeas and tender sweet potato combine with earthy sage for a fragrant and satisfying breakfast. Delicious with your favorite hot sauce, mayo, or even ketchup.
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup mashed, baked sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can, drained
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • canola oil for frying


  1. 1. In a medium bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes and mashed chickpeas. There should be rough chunks of chickpeas throughout the mixture. Add the crumbs, flax, sage, salt and pepper and mix well.
  2. 2. Use a 1/4 cup (60 mL) measure to portion 8 cakes, placing each on a plate. Form each cake into a 3 inch wide by 3/4 inch thick disk. 
  3. 3. Heat oil in a large saute pan. When the oil is shimmering and hot, carefully slip the cakes into the pan. When all the cakes are in the pan and the oil is sizzling around them, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 4 minutes, occasionally using your spatula to carefully separate each cake from sticking to the pan. 
  4. 4. Turn the cakes at 4 minutes, they should be golden brown. Cook for 4-5 minutes on the other side, and carefully lift the cakes with your spatula to drain on the paper towel lined plate.

    Serve hot with desired condiments.

Make Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi for a Colorful Bowl of Comfort

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Technicolor Comfort Food with Purple Sweet Potatoes

Gnocchi are pillows of joy. I’ve been teaching gnocchi-making classes for over 10 years, to sold out crowds. People just love the idea of making their own gnocchi, and we all get to roll up our sleeves and make mountains of tender dumplings. What few people realize before coming to class is that you can make gnocchi out of just about anything. Take these Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

Purple Sweet Potatoes Make Beautiful Gnocchi

You eat with your eyes, before a single bite is taken. And when you take a look at these brilliant purple, bite sized dumplings, you are taking in a visual feast. Their beauty is more than skin-deep, too, with a sweet, nutty flavor that gives a plain potato gnocchi some real competition.

The Stokes Purple is Perfect For Gnocchi

I’ve written before about my obsession with the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato. Like here: Purple Sweet Potato Fries with Avocado, and in these Quesadillas, or a Wrap Sandwich or even this recent post about Hasselback Purple Sweet Potatoes.

But there’s a very good reason to make gnocchi with this particular variety of sweet potato. It’s perfect for gnocchi because the texture is relatively dry and meaty. The more moisture a vegetable contains, like say, a butternut squash or an orange sweet potato, the more flour it takes to make the gnocchi dough. The more flour, the tougher and less flavorful the gnocchi will be.

purple sweet potato gnocchi

Everyone will love it

Purple Means Antioxidants

So, not only are they show-stoppingly pretty, but they are extra flavorful and tender. The same pigment that makes them so gorgeous is also an antioxidant. Anthocyanins, the pigment that makes blueberries blue, gives the sweet potato superfood status. So far, scientists think that eating plenty of it will keep you a little safer from heart disease, cancer, dementia, and vision problems. So you might as well enjoy a delicious treat while keeping diseases at bay.

purple gnocchi dough

Brilliant and beautiful

A Good Gnocchi is a Tender Gnocchi

Gnocchi are such a simple, elemental food. A mash or puree of a vegetable or bean, bread, cheese, or grain, mixed with just enough flour to make a dough, then made into bite-sized dumplings and poached in simmering water. The dough pictured above shows the secret- just enough flour will make a dough without diluting the color.

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

It’s like playing with clay

Always make the dough a little on the moist side and then cook a tester gnoccho, before adding more flour. If the dumpling doesn’t fall apart and is tasty, you can go ahead and shape the rest. You can shape the gnocchi and wrap the whole tray, then refrigerate for a few days before cooking, too. Once cooked, any leftovers can be microwaved for a delicious second meal.

Once you try purple gnocchi, those plain white potato gnocchi will seem, well, pale by comparison.

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Herbs

Get your purple food while enjoying a tender, pillowy gnocchi.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 cup yellow grape tomatoes halved
  • vegan parm or parmesan if desired


  1. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and steam until very tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely before stripping off the skins and pureeing the flesh in a food processor. Place the puree on a clean countertop. Put on a large pot of water to boil for the gnocchi. Get a sheet pan and lightly flour it, and get out your spider skimmer, or a slotted spoon for catching the finished gnocchi. Place a large colander in a large bowl and reserve.

  2. Add the chickpea flour, unbleached flour, and salt. Gently knead the mixture together until well mixed and smooth, don't over mix. Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a gnocchi, roll it into a ball, then drop it into the simmering water. It will drop to the bottom. When it bobs to the top, scoop it out with a spider strainer or a slotted spoon. Test the gnocchi by biting it in half. If it's holding together and tender in the center, you are ready to shape the rest.

  3. Divide the dough into four pieces. Lightly flour the counter and roll each piece out to a snake about as wide as your finger. Use a bench knife or a chefs knife to cut the snake into 1/2 to 3/4 inch long pieces. Use a fork to press ridges in each gnocchi and place on the floured sheet pan.

  4. Once all the gnocchi are formed, you can cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

  5. To serve, drop about 10 gnocchi at a time into the simmering water, and as they bob to the top, scoop them out. Place in the colander and drizzle with olive oil, shake to coat. Keep going until all are done.

  6. To serve, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and herbs and bring to a sizzle, just until fragrant. Add the warm gnocchi and tomatoes and stir over medium heat until the gnocchi are coated with oil and herbs. Serve immediately.

Warm Up with Tasty Scones Made From Freshly Ground Flour

Vegan scones

Share a warm scone

Fresh Flour Makes a Great Scone

Nothing makes a snowed-in morning feel cozier than a batch of scones, still warm from the oven. Scones are so simple, simple enough that little shifts in technique and ingredients can make the difference between a decent scone and one that makes you stop and pay attention. To make my scones the best, I choose freshly milled flours. These Tender Scones with Currants and Orange Zest are made with freshly ground, locally grown Baker’s Field Flour and Bread flour. I also often grind my own flour, in either a mill or my trusty Vitamix.

(Try my Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies or Apple Galette with freshly ground flour if you want to delve into grinding your own…)

Vegan Scones

A Perfect Breakfast

You Grind Pepper, Why Not Flour?

There was a time when everyone bought pre-ground black pepper, filled a pepper shaker, and put it on a table to sit for months on end. That pepper lost most of its flavor long before anybody sprinkled it on their mac and cheese. The culprit was oxidation. All the volatile oils and nuanced taste and aroma either dissipated or went rancid, leaving the pepper stale and flat. It’s the same thing with coffee beans, and yes, flour.

Did you know that in industrial flour milling, every kernel of wheat has the germ and bran removed, so that the creamy white endosperm can be ground to make white flour? Whole wheat flour is then made by adding some of the ground germ and bran back into the white flour. It’s called fractionating.

There’s a revolution brewing, with stone millers opening up shop and spreading the word about a better process, and the superiority of freshly milled flour. Baker’s Filed Flour and Bread is one of the new breed of millers, sourcing grain from close by, and grinding flour to bake bread the same day.

Stone Ground flour is best

In stone grinding, a kernel of wheat is crushed and mixed with all the components that were held separate in the berry. The germ and bran contain most of the nutrients and the healthy fats of the grain. Because the stones don’t heat the grain as it grinds, the oils don’t start to cook and degrade in the flour. In the milling process, the nutrients and oils are spread over all the particles, even the endosperm that would be used to make white flour. When a miller like Baker’s Field makes flour, they can grind a whole grain, then use a sifter to remove the chunks of bran and germ, producing an all-purpose flour that is more healthful and flavorful.

If you try Baker’s Field freshly milled all-purpose flour, you’ll notice that the flour seems almost clumpy, and when squeeze it in your hand the flour holds a soft shape when you let it go. That’s fresh flour, with natural oils and moisture intact.

Vegan Scones

Butterfly Scones with Raisins

The whole wheat flour, whether from a stone miller or from your own mill or blender, will also have a less powdery texture. It will also have a brighter, more interesting flavor. You’ll be amazed.

Start tasting flour!

For this scone recipe, I started with a scone recipe on the Baker’s Field website, but made it vegan for my plant-based readers. Instead of butter, I used Melt solid spread, and instead of cream and half and half, I used an almond milk creamer, and used less. I zazzed it up a bit with orange zest and currants in one version, and did another batch with raisins, cut into butterfly shapes with a cookie cutter. Both gave the flours a chance to shine.

Try a comparison of fresh flour and old flour

If you don’t think flour makes a difference, make a half batch with grocery store flour and half with freshly ground. Then compare. If you can’t taste any difference, you don’t have to listen to me. But if you do, you are on the way to becoming a flour conoisseur. Even if you don’t care about the taste, fresh food is better for you.

Baker’s Field Flour and Bread sells their flours in Coops around the Minneapolis area. If you live in another state, it’s worth doing a google search to see if somebody is doing small batch milling in your area. You can buy a grain mill, too, I’m told that the Mock Mill is one of the best.

Once you sink your teeth into a meltingly tender, tasty scone made with fresh flour, you won’t want to go back.

(If you made it this far, you might be interested in taking a class from Steve Horton, the miller and baker behind Baker’s Field, or from me, on how to make great scones with fresh flour. Both will be auctioned off for a great cause at the Minnesota Les Dames D’Escoffier Dame It benefit on March 31st. Click here for tickets!)

Tender Scones with Currants and Orange Zest

Freshly ground flour from my local miller makes these scones especially flavorful and tender.

Course Breakfast
Servings 22
Author Robin Asbell


  • 240 grams all-purpose flour about 2 cups
  • 240 grams whole wheat flour about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or Melt Spread chilled
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups almond creamer plain, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup currants or raisins
  • Turbinado sugar for topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two sheet pans with parchment.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk to mix. Use a grater to shred the oil or spread into the flour mixture, tossing to coat. Add the orange zest and creamer and stir just until almost mixed, then add dried fruit and gently mix until all the flour is incorporated.

  3. Spread a little flour on the counter top and scrape the dough out onto the flour. Pat the dough to 1 inch thick and use a 2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut rounds. Transfer each to the baking sheets. Pat the scraps together and form with the biscuit cutter, place on the baking sheet.

  4. Brush the tops with enough creamer to moisten, then sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. 

  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the scones are firm when pressed. Transfer scones to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container.

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