Chickpeas Rice and Gravy

When we were growing up, we would take these excruciatingly long road trips from Houston to south Louisiana to see my Mom’s family. As a reward for enduring my brother’s proud farts the whole way there, my Mawmaw and Pawpaw would cook each of our favorite meals. Mine was always Chicken Rice and Gravy which was my simplistic name for Chicken Stew. It’s a roux and cajun trinity based stew with dark meat chicken (skin on!). I would also request this meal for most birthdays. My brother, who has mastered many of the family’s cajun specialities (despite his atmospheric assaults), will make it for me as my Christmas present. And it’s a fact-based family joke that whenever my mom makes it, I sneak into an empty room to have some alone time with my Chicken Rice and Gravy.
This weekend, I woke up with a craving for biscuits and gravy but didn’t want it bad enough to go out for a cheat, so we made the Happy Herbivore version. While the biscuits need a lot of research and development, the gravy was awesome! We found ourselves making mashed potatoes that night just so we could eat more gravy. It reminded me of chicken stew so much that it spawned an idea – Chicken-pea Stew. I adapted the gravy recipe to work with a trinity, thinned it out, and added chickpeas.
As I right this, the Cheatgans are texting me to say how good it is (even my Dad!).
This recipe makes a ton. I suggest cutting it by at least half if it’s only for a couple people.


Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 45 mins | Makes: 15 | Difficulty: Medium


  • 1.5 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1.5 c nutritional yeast
  • 10 c vegetable stock
  • 3/4 c soy sauce
  • 6 cups total of equal parts onion, green bell pepper, and celery (our HEB sells a pre-chopped mix of cajun seasonings that we use)
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1/4 c minced parsley
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • Liberal amount of black pepper
  • Cooked brown rice


Get the onions, bell pepper, and celery going in a pot over medium heat until they are soft. Keeping it covered with help prevent burning.

While that’s happening, gather the rest of the ingredients and measure them out. You’ll need it ready because you won’t be able to do much else for a while.

Add the flour and nutritional yeast to a big pot. Put it on medium low heat and stir almost constantly until it’s a light peanut butter color (it will burn very easily). This seems to take forever but it’s probably about 20-25 minutes, depending on how high the heat is. I like to use a whisk for this part.

Add all the other ingredients, bring to a simmer, turn it down and cook about 20 minutes.

Serve over brown rice.

Source: My Brain

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

Meal Plan August 27th 2013

We were down a Cheatgan this week so I tried to design a simple menu, but I had to try at least one semi complicated dish because I just couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. I’ll write a separate post about Chicken-pea Stew.
In retrospect, the kale dish and the spinach dish are a little too similar. I think I was overzealous because we hadn’t had greens in a while. And I know the coconut is a cheat, but I had a specific craving and this was better than getting a big bowl of coconut curry from a thai restaurant.
Remember to check back later for feedback about what we liked and didn’t like. Just because it’s on the menu doesn’t mean I endorse it. Sometimes things are just gross but I like to post the menu right after Cook Day before I forget.
  1. Chicken-pea Stew (from Christy’s brain)
  2. Brown Rice Bowls with Spinach, Shiitake, and Sweet Asian Chili Sauce 
  3. Corn Pudding (Happy Herbivore book)
  4. Coconut Curry Kale
  5. Vodka Sauce with Pasta (The Great Vegan Bean Book)
Snacks, lunch stuff, and breakfast:
  • 2 cups bean dip – White Bean and Pecan Pate (The Great Vegan Bean Book)
  • Half a gallon bag of sliced raw veggies, carrot, jicama and fennel, cucumber for snacking, salads and wraps
  • Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
  • 3-5lbs whole roasted yukon potatoes for snacking or lunches
  • 10 ears corn on the cob for snacking or lunches
  • brown rice
  • Thousand Island dressing 
  • Chopped green onions, 1 bunch, for salads and wraps
  • Fresh fruit for breakfast and snacks
  • The vodka sauce had WAY too much vodka! We couldn’t really eat it.
  • The Chicken-pea Stew was a hit even when I cooked it for my husband’s family.
  • The pate wasn’t anything special but if you spread it on a piece of toast with a thin layer of the Thousand Island Dressing it… and I know this sounds crazy… but it kind of tasted like fried fish!?!

Walnut Butter

Since walnuts are one of the few plant based sources of omega 3s, we try to eat them a lot. And since The Powers That Be say that children below the age of three shouldn’t eat nuts, we eat a lot of walnut butter.

I couldn’t find a store-bought walnut butter that wasn’t suspiciously cut with other less expensive nut butters, so I just started making my own. It’s ridiculously easy and cheaper! Seriously.

Try to use the small bowl of your food processor because the bigger the bowl, the harder it will be, and you don’t want to make a ton of this stuff at once because it’s a delicate fat that can go rancid fast. I’ve even done small batches in a spice grinder.

Process the walnuts a lot, until it forms a sand-like texture, scraping down the bowl as needed. If it won’t move past the sand stage you might need to add a few drops of water (the bigger the batch the more likely you’ll need to do this). Eventually it will form a thick paste and then a dough-like ball. Add fine salt to taste. Even if you’re on a low salt diet, add some salt. High fat substances need a LITTLE bit of salt to go from wall paper paste to awesome!

Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. I don’t know how long this keeps because we run out of it so fast.

It’s wonderful in sweet and savory applications. I eat it every morning on toast with fig preserves. It’s also a key ingredient in my Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing with Walnuts as well as my Miraculous Roasted Chicken Mashed Potatoes.

Nothing can replace the taste of real butter, but it’s the closest I’ve found.

Caramelized Onions

I use a lot of caramelized onions in my recipes. They pack an unparalled flavor punch that’s hard to get outside of the animal kingdom. Some people might be confused as to how you caramelize onions without using oil or butter, but it’s pretty much the same. Low and slow is the key, you just have to be a bit more careful about burning.

This is how I do it.

Slice an onion into very thin quarter ring slices. Put in a non stick pan on low to medium low heat. In stead of adding water right away, I like to leave on the lid to utilize their own water first. Try to use a glass lid if you can, that way you can keep a better eye on them.

Stir occasionally, using your ears, nose, and culinary sixth sense to make sure they don’t burn. Add water as needed. They’re done when they’ve reduced a lot, are totally limp, and are a caramel color. Depending on how many you’re doing this can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. I’d say it’s about 20 to 30 minutes per onion depending on how high your heat is and how closely you watch it.

I’ve heard that you can caramelize onions in a slow cooker too. We might try this since we do such large batches.

Souped-Up Strawberry Cake with Macerated Balsamic Strawberry Topping

I don't need no stinkin' icing!

I don’t need no stinkin’ icing!


I made this cake for my son’s second birthday party. Believe it or not it was the first real cake I’ve ever made. Truth be told, he would have been happy with anything, but I had wanted strawberry cake for my birthday a few months earlier and didn’t get it, so I selfishly made him what I wanted to eat. (He’s only two, I can’t get away with that kind of deception much longer so I’m enjoying it while I can!)

I’ve yet to find a plant based, no oil cake icing recipe that isn’t just a glaze masquerading as an icing. And I can see why it would be hard. Without the body of some kind of congealed fat, the icing just drips down the side, even the tofu based icings; especially if there’s any kind of heat in the atmosphere. So I said, “screw it” and decided to ditch the icing. I don’t like icing much anyway and I’ve already admitted that the cake was mostly for myself.

In lieu of icing, I did strawberry jam between the layers and jam and fresh strawberries on top. The time and effort I would have spent trying to perfect messy icing was spent artfully arranging strawberries, and honestly I liked the aesthetic and flavor results better.

The Cheatgans liked it so much we made just the plain cake for our next week’s meal plan.

I started with the Happy Herbivore cake recipe, reduced the sugar, and souped it up with powdered freeze dried strawberries and imitation strawberry flavoring. You could probably ditch the imitation stuff, I think most of the flavor comes from the freeze dried strawberries.

The balsamic topping was just something I did at the end because I had time. If you’ve never had balsamic with strawberries, give it a try. Even the ones who scrunched up their faces admitted to liking it.


Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 20 mins | Makes: 10? servings | Difficulty: Easy


  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t fine salt
  • 1/4 c apple sauce
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 c almond milk
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1 heaping cup Freeze dried strawberries
  • 1 t imitation strawberry flavoring (You can stop here if you just want to make a plain cake)
  • Strawberry jam
  • 1lb fresh strawberries
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sugar


Preheat oven to 350.

Put freeze dried strawberries in food processor and process until it is a powder. A few chunks are fine.

Mix strawberry powder with all other dry ingredients.

Mix all wet ingredients (sugar is a wet ingredient).

Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients in 3 or 4 batches, stirring until just combined. If the batter seems a little dry add a splash on almond milk.

Pour into the pan of your choice. I use a 9″ round spring form pan. Cupcakes or mini cupcakes are good too. Takes about 15-25 minutes depending on the pan.

Transfer to cooling rack.

To make a two layer cake like the one pictured, double the recipe and make two 9″ cakes. Slice a thin layer off the top of each cake so it is flat. Put a layer of strawberry jam between the layers of cake and a thin layer of jam on top. Hull and thinly slice the fresh strawberries then carefully place them on top of the cake in a circular pattern starting in the center.

Add balsamic vinegar and sugar to the leftover sliced strawberries and stir. (I never measure this, all I can say is you don’t want a ton of balsamic that it pools a lot on the bottom; otherwise you have to add a lot of sugar to get the right flavor.) Let them sit about 20 minutes. The vinegar will macerate the berries, leaving them soft, and the sugar will dissolve in the vinegar leaving you with a thin syrup to drizzle on top of the cake.

Serve the balsamic strawberries alongside the cake, letting people spoon them on top of their slice if they are feeling adventurous.

Lastly, a tip about serving – the jam between the layers is a lot more slippery than icing so take your time slicing and serving.

Source: My Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager



This dish was inspired by my parent’s love of the Amy’s frozen black bean enchiladas dinner.

It’s kinda of a complicated recipe so make it for a special occasion. I’ve also come up with an easy version of this that I’ll post after a little more research and development.

The trick to this recipe is the sauce. You can make your own but then it would really get involved and dirty a lot of dishes. I was able to find an oil free sauce at Central Market and we ordered a case of it from Amazon.


Prep Time: 30 mins | Cook Time: 25 minute(s) | Makes: Number of servings:4


  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 12 ounces patty pan, zucchini, or yellow summer squash, diced (about 2 medium squash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder (or mild chili powder)
  • 1/8 -1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, well rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Amy’s Refried Beans
  • Happy Herbivore Nacho Cheese sauce
  • Casa Corona Red Enchilada Sauce (or 10 ounces homemade sauce)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • chopped green onions, for serving


1. Saute the onion in a medium-sized saucepan until it begins to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the bell pepper and squash and cook, stirring, for about two minutes, until squash is just beginning to become tender. Add the cumin, chile powders, black beans, and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and lime juice. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray one large rectangular baking dish or 4 individual baking dishes with olive oil. Place a thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of each dish, reserving most of it to go on top. Microwave the tortillas for about 20 seconds to soften them. Place a tortilla in front of you coat with refried beans and arrange about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture across the center. Roll up and place seam-side down into the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and beans. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and drizzle with nacho cheese sauce.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and cilantro to serve.

Nutritional Info:

Yield: 8 enchiladas

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I love soup! And this is my new favorite soup. It’s so good. I didn’t change much from the original source except to add a little Sriracha and combine a step to make it more streamlined.

There is something about this combination of flavors that had me playing the pregnancy card and forcing it on the menu two weeks in a row. I think I ate it for every meal the first two days.


Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 55 min | Makes: 6 | Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sriracha to taste


1. Sauté the onion 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Mix in the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot, and continue to cook and stir about 5 minutes.

2. Pour water into the saucepan, and season the mixture with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

3. Remove the soup mixture from heat. In a food processor or stick blender, blend the soup until almost smooth (I like to leave out some chunks so my toddler can eat them). Season with cayenne pepper. Return to the saucepan. Whisk in the peanut butter, and cook until heated through. Serve warm topped with fresh cilantro.

Nutritional Info:

Nutrition Amount Per Serving (6 total) Calories 221 cal 11% Fat 8.6 g 13% Carbs 32.7 g 11% Protein 6 g 12% Cholesterol 0 mg 0% Sodium 494 mg 20% Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

Miraculous Roasted Chicken Mashed Potatoes

Miraculous Roasted Chicken Mashed Potatoes


Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins | Makes: 6 | Difficulty: Easy


These mashed potatoes are miraculous because they somehow smell like roasted chicken?!? And they are crazy good!

I chalk it up to the magical umami powers of caramelized onions and walnut butter.

There’s no need for gravy, and if you still think of mashed potatoes as just a side dish, try a big bowl of this and see if it changes your mind.


  • 5lbs russet potatoes
  • 1 lg yellow onion
  • 2c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 c walnut butter
  • 3 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T kosher salt (or to taste)
  • Liberal Black pepper
  • Dash of Worcester sauce (optional)
  • Cilantro (optional)


Boil potatoes, drain, and mash. (Leave the skin on or off. For a super silky texture, peel the skin and use a ricer instead of mashing.)

Caramelize onions. Add remaining ingredients to onions and heat through, don’t boil. Pour most of this liquid onto potatoes and mix (but don’t over mix or the texture might become gummy). You might want to hold back some liquid if you’re serving them right away. But if your planning to refrigerate and reheat, add all the liquid. They will be a little wet but will dry out when refrigerated and reheated.

Mix with some cilantro for a bit of freshness (optional).

I’m Back!

I’ve been on hiatus from posting for about six months now, but I’m finally getting back to a place where I have the time and energy to put into Tasty Leaves and Twigs again. Since this is a recipe blog more than a life blog, I won’t go too into it, except to say that I don’t recommend moving homes during soul-crushing early pregnancy illness with a toddler in tow. It was pretty rough for a while there. But it’s over now, and life is pretty much back to normal.

Surprisingly, I mostly kept up this way of cooking and eating during that time. It got easier when my sister joined the band wagon because she shares in the shopping sometimes and is a workhorse in the kitchen. So once a week, my mom, my sister and I get together to cook all our food for the week (my sister’s husband is eating the food too, so in total we’re feeding six people, five adults and a toddler). Now that we’re tripling recipes it’s quite the operation! It’s helped by the fact that we often have a helper who chops and cleans. We call ourselves The Cheatgans. it stands for Cheating Vegans, because none of us do this diet 100%. In fact, during my first trimester, I was so nauseous I went from my usual 90% compliance down to 70%. Some days I just couldn’t stand the thought of anything other than a frozen pizza; considering how sick I was, I cut myself some slack.

At first, I tried saving all our weekly menus to post later, but I don’t want to bomb this site with a trillion posts at once so I’ll just post some of my favorite new recipes from the past six months and start the weekly menus from scratch.

A note about the weekly menus – now that my sister is part of our team it’s thrown a new dynamic into planning meals. You see, each of us does this diet for a slightly different reason. My mom does it mostly for cardio vascular health, I do it for general health, and my sister does it for weight loss. I’m currently at a normal weight but I’m eating for three (I’m pregnant and nursing) and therefore need some calorie density in my diet to avoid the inconvenience of having to eat a gajillion times a day. Thus, finding a balance in the meal planning is sometimes tricky. That’s why you might see some back and forth with calorie density. If you’re strictly doing this diet to lose weight I wouldn’t follow these meal plans 100%. Or you could follow them, but eat less of some meals and throw in lots high water content foods like brothy soups and salads before each meal to help feel full. Just remember that some of these meals are planned for someone who is TRYING to eat more calories!

A housekeeping note, I’ve reorganized the site a little to make things easier to find. I’ve added categories for meal plans and recipes and I’ve added subcategories for the recipes. Hopefully this makes it easier navigate the site, but don’t forget you can always use the search box if you’re looking for something specific.

It’s nice to be back. 🙂