Winter Delight: Easy Vegan “Beef” Stew

 With the weather cooling down here in the California desert (well, it’s only about 70 outside right now, downright chilly compared to the 85 of a few days ago), my mind tends to turn to comfort food. Soups and stews are among my favorite winter meals. And, because we are in the midst of the holiday season, the word “easy” becomes one of my favorites too. Not a whole lot of time to spare these days.

The “beef” in this vegan stew is seitan, which is made from wheat gluten. It has a wonderful meaty flavor and texture. You can either make it yourself (here’s a good recipe), or buy it pre-made.  I added a little spice to the stew by chopping up a Serrano chile, but feel free to skip it for a more traditional meal.

vegan stew


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 Jalapeno or Serrano chile (optional), seeded and chopped

2 cups seitan, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup red wine (optional, you can use more broth if you’d like)

1 teaspoon sea salt pepper to taste

1 cup kale, chopped or broken into bite size pieces

vegan stew


Preheat the oil in your skillet over med-high heat. Add the garlic and onion. Cook and stir for two minutes.

Add the yellow pepper and serrano. Continue to cook for several more minutes until the veggies are soft.

Add the seitan and potatoes, and cook until both are slightly brown (about five minutes).

Add the broth, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium. Add the kale and continue to cook until the liquid is reduced by about 3/4 and the kale is tender.

Makes four servings.

Serve alone or with some warm crusty bread, seated by a roaring fire…well you get the picture. Perfect for a winter’s meal.

Stop by my website, Live from La Quinta, for vegan recipes, workouts, reviews and more!

Crock Pot Cooking: Healthy Black Bean Soup

It’s winter in Connecticut and that means it’s soup time! I love soups and stews of all kinds, but bean soups hold a special place in my heart. I love a good bean soup. The only problem – most recipes require overnight soaking of the beans. And, let’s face it, I’m just not that organized. Planning a whole day ahead for a meal doesn’t always work for me. To solve this problem, I’m always in search of bean soup recipes that don’t require pre-soaking the beans. I found a great one for black bean soup, but the flavor wasn’t quite right. A few tweaks, and my favorite black bean soup recipe was born.

It’s a great recipe for a few reasons. First, it’s customizable. It can be modified to accomodate a vegan or vegitarian diet. The soup is Cuban style, but not fully Cuban. Spiciness and flavor can be adjusted. It also isn’t terribly sensitive in terms of time. Leave it in the crock pot a little long and it will just have slightly mushier beans. This black bean soup keeps nicely in the fridge and can be frozen. Finally, the same method works for making great black beans to put over rice (yum!).

Without further ado, Rachel’s Crock Pot Black Bean Soup:

1 bag (16-oz) black beans, sorted and rinsed (but NOT soaked, dry)

1 cup finely chopped ham (and I mean really, really finely chopped. It’s going to turn black and you don’t want big black lumps. Also, this is totally optional. Eggplant and some types of squash make a great substitution.)

1 cup (or more if you like onion) finely chopped onion

1 large tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 medium, yellow or red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups broth of your choice (I use beef, but vegetable works fine)

1 3/4 cups water

1/4 cup dark rum or apple cider (I use apple cider and have even used an apple juice box and it didn’t seem to matter)

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

If you’d like a spicier soup, add in 1 finely chopped spicy pepper of your choosing. I like jalapeño, ancho, and adobe, but all have slightly different flavors. If you’re pressed for time, you can also toss in a little can of chopped green chiles.

Mix all the ingredients together in a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Put the lid on. Cook on high for 6+ hours.

Simple, right?! I love it and hope you do, too.


4×4 Recipes for the Holidays

It’s officially November which means we are on the cusp of holiday season. Whether for your holiday party, your child’s coach, a cookie swap or just because, we all seem to enjoy baking during the holidays. As a very active person, I am always looking for ways to simplify my life, especially during this time of year. I’m guessing you are too, which is why I’d like to share with you my favorite four 4 ingredient dessert recipes. These aren’t just any desserts, though, they all have one added bonus for the health conscious.

Peanut Butter Cookies (Bonus: Gluten Free)

ingredients: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup peanut butter, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla


-preheat oven to 350

-line large baking sheet w/parchment paper

-mix the peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla on low speed (or by hand) until well combined

-scoop dough on baking sheet, flatten the dough balls w/fork, making a cross pattern on the cookies

-bake for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges

-let sit for 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Nutella Brownie Mini Muffins (Bonus: Great Recovery Snack)

ingredients: 1/2 cup nutella, 1 large egg, 5 tablespoons whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts


-preheat oven 350

-put liners in mini muffin pan

-combine nutella and egg in bowl, wisk until smooth

-add flour, wisk until blended

-spoon into muffin tin and sprinkle with hazelnuts

-bake 11-13 mins (tooth pick will come out w/ wet/gooey crumbs)

-cool on rack

Spice Cake (Bonus: Lycopene)

ingredients: spice cake mix, 10 3/4 ounce can tomato soup, 1/2 cup milk or water, 2 eggs


-preheat oven 350

-grease and flour 9×13 pan

-mix ingredients on low speed just until combined

-mix additional 2 minutes on medium to high

-pour into pan

-bake 25 mins or until tooth pick can be removed clean

-cool on wire rack for 10 mins

-frost (optional)

Three Musketeers Bars (Bonus: Vegan)

ingredients: 4 cups (diary free) semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 carton (dairy free) whipped topping-thawed, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 teaspoon flavoring of choice (almond, amaretto, mint, etc)


-line 8 inch baking pan w/wax paper

-melt 2 cups chocolate chips in microwave (1 minute, stir, continue at 15 min intervals until melted)

-whip whipped topping according to directions

-add whipped topping to melted chocolate and beat until combined and fluffy

-spread into pan

-put in freezer for 30 mins

-remove from pan, cut into squares, return to freezer for another 30 mins

-melt 2 cups of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl (as instructed above)

-add coconut oil and choice of flavoring, stir until smooth

-dip frozen chocolate squares into melted chocolate mixture

-place finished bar on wax paper lined baking tray

-put tray in freezer and allow to set


Vegan Recipe: Avocado with Curried Beans, Kale, and Quinoa

After recent blood tests revealed that I have hypothyroidism and an elevated cholesterol level, a dietician suggested some changes that I could make in my diet to improve my health. As a vegan who tries to eat healthily, and as an athlete who runs, rides, and strength trains on a regular basis, I had felt somewhat confident that I was doing everything I could to ensure my excellent health. However after a long consultation, where I was asked about my current diet, supplements, and my exercise level, I was encouraged to try a few things.

vegan recipe

The dietician suggested that I reduce starchy carbs in my diet (okay, I love my potatoes and pasta), and add more vegetables. In addition to adding a couple of supplements, the thing that really knocked my socks off was her suggestion that I try going gluten free for a few weeks!

Carbs and gluten all gone in one swoop. My cereal, my rye toast, not to mention my beloved seitan, a vegan meat substitute that is made from wheat gluten. But, the RD thought that trying a gluten free diet for three weeks might help my cholesterol level as well as my thyroid function. But what really convinced me was that she said that it might help my migraines. Sign me up, I’m in!

I’m only on day two since my consultation. I’m still researching and looking for good sources of information and recipes that are vegan and gluten free. I decided to take a first step by making  a few small changes, like cutting out the cereal, reducing the amount of bread, and starting to read labels. I mean, I always read labels, looking for hidden animal products, but now I’m also looking for wheat, rye, and the other grains that contain gluten. I need a dictionary!

This recipe is my first purposely gluten-free dish. It’s pretty simple, but it turned out delicious. I hope you enjoy it!

Avocado with Curried Beans, Kale, and Quinoa

vegan recipe


1 cup quinoa (dry), prepared according to package directions

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup kale, torn into small pieces, packed loosely

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 or 2 medium avocados, halved


While the quinoa is cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the beans and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the spices, then add the kale. If the beans seem too dry, add a little water or vegetable broth. Cook until the kale has softened and the liquid is absorbed.

To serve, spoon quinoa onto plate.  Place one or two avocado halves on top. Spoon the curried beans on the avocados, then top with the cucumbers and tomatoes.

vegan recipe

 Now my questions for you, since I’m really new to this. Do you have any resources for gluten free and vegan information and recipes? Those of you who eat gluten free, do you have any suggestions?

Rich Chcolate Ultimate ProFIT Brownies


Rich Chocolate Ultimate ProFIT Brownies!

-1 (16 ounce) jar creamy raosted almond butter
  -2 eggs
-1 ¼ cups agave nectar
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp sea salt
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 cup dark chocolate chips
-4 scoops (8 tbsp) Rich Chocolate Ultimate ProFIT

1. Preheat oven to 325°
2. In a large bowl, blend almond butter until smooth with a hand blender
3. Blend in eggs, then blend in agave and vanilla
4. Blend in Ultimate ProFIT, salt and baking soda
5. Fold in chocolate chips
6. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and pour batter into dish
7. Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes

Serves 24 brownies

Coffee Ice Milk

Coffee Ice Milk


2 cups boiling water

4 teaspoons instant coffee granules

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 (4-ounce) carton egg substitute

1 cup evaporated skimmed milk

1/2 cup 2% low-fat milk



Combine boiling water and coffee granules; stir well. Cover and chill.

Combine sugar, salt, and egg substitute in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Add coffee; beat 2 minutes. Add milks; beat well.

Pour mixture into the freezer can of a 2-quart ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for at least 1 hour.


Amount per serving: Calories: 103, Fat: 6g, Saturated fat: 4g,Monounsaturated fat: 2g, Protein: 4g, Carbohydrate: 21g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Sodium: 76mg, Calcium: 107mg

Tip – place 1 scoop of protein powder into the recipe and make it a protein ice cream.

Source: Cooking Light

Homemade Chocolate Protein Bar


2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

1 scoop Action Whey Protein powder (or other organic PP)

2 TBSP Natural Peanut Butter

3 large egg whites

2 medium bananas, mashed

1 TBSP honey

7 TBSP almond milk

1 tsp cinnamon



Pre­heat your oven for 5 minutes at 350.

Mix the oats, the whey and the cinnamon.

Add the peanut butter and stir in thoroughly.

Add the egg whites, mashed bananas and the honey.

Add the almond milk slowly, while mixing thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into a greased lined cake tin and level with a knife.

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting to reduce stickiness.


Cut into 8 bars.

Nutri­tional Info: Calories: 154 Protein: 10g; Carbohydrates: 21g Fat: 4g


 Source: Recipe: Total Body Fitness & Nutrition Photo: