Raja Ampat Indonesia: vegetarian eating aboard the MV Pindito

I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when it came to Indonesian food.  I did some very last-minute research on the matter and knew I’d have rice, tofu, and plenty of hot spices:  that was enough for me!

The market in Banda Neira, Indonesia

When I travel, food is not my foremost concern.  Yes, I want to be able to fuel myself for the activities ahead, but I’m not overly concerned about where or what we’ll eat.  As long as there is a grain and vegetable offering, I’m in business!  My main concerns are weather, diving, and alcohol in no particular order.

When we booked the trip, I was able to give the crew of the MV Pindito my dietary needs:  No beef, chicken, seafood, but I do eat eggs and dairy.  While I don’t eat a ton of eggs regularly, they are the easiest and most available source of protein when abroad, so I usually eat them for breakfast daily on vacation.  The last dive live-aboard boat I was on did a great job of catering to my dietary needs so I had no doubt this trip would be the same.

I was pleasantly surprised to find I had a few fellow vegetarians of varying levels on board so I didn’t feel like I was the only person requiring the chef to go out of her way.   I never once had to remind the stewards that I required a special meal it simply appeared in front of me daily.  I later noticed a cheat sheet on the refrigerator in the common area that noted the varying dietary needs of the guests.  I can always appreciate an efficient and organized operation!

By far breakfast was my favorite meal of the day, in fact it was my favorite two meals of the day!  You heard me, we had first AND second breakfast every day!  For a hungry girl like me, this was awesome!  Depending on our dive times, first breakfast was a lighter, continental style offering and I always had peanut butter toast and a banana (peanut butter has always been a staple for me and it was a welcome touch of home) AND it wasn’t the sugary shit-peanut butter I would have expected: BONUS!  Second breakfast was more of a proper warm breakfast and as soon as I discovered the noodle soup option, I was set!  It was similar to ramen, but not the foul packaged salty swill, IT WAS HOMEMADE AND FUCKING AWESOME!

After the second dive of the day, lunch magically appeared.  I always happy to have rice and the hot sauce of the day along with a curry offering containing eggs or tofu or a veggie filled soup.  Was I burned out on curry and eggs by the end of the trip:  hell yes!  Was I about to complain when there was a woman working hard in the hot belly of our ship to provide me with the fuel I needed:  hell no!  At least I can say I tried quail eggs too.  You never know if you’ll love something unless you try it!

After the last dive of the day, it was time for a Bintang beer and dinner.  Again I had plenty of rice and spice, and a substantial portion of protein in the form of eggs, tofu, or tempeh.   I had no idea that Indonesia is the home of tempeh either!  I have to admit that I got abnormally excited when I’d peek in the dining room and see chopsticks because that meant a noodle offering for dinner, YUM!  Fried noodles and fried rice were by far my favorite dinner options.

My waistline was pleasantly thankful that there were not a ton of dessert offerings after each meal.  Dessert was typically fruit, which was perfect considering I was drinking my body weight in Coca Cola daily.  Yes, sugary coke is my dark mistress!!  We were always offered fresh cake that was usually still warm after the 3rd dive every day, so dessert after each meal was really unnecessary.

In true vacation form, by about day 6 we were all longing for our “at home” favorites.  The one thing that I really missed daily was legumes.  I didn’t realize how many beans I ate until I had none to eat!  Dairy was practically non-existent except for milk in coffee which was just fine by me.  Although I won’t lie, I was moderately obsessed with the idea of a pizza at this point too.  I was ready for a big salad and my favorite vegetables as well when I got home.

As usual, when I return from a travel adventure I’m reminded of how truly fortunate we are in the US.  We don’t have to eat seasonally or locally, or ever truly want for something.  In fact we treat local and seasonal eating as a trend, go figure!  More than a few times we discussed how a local Indonesian would react if they walked into any of our mega grocery or wholesale stores and if they would even recognize our foods that have been so processed and far removed from what they once originally were.

The market in Banda Neira, Indonesia



Roadside stand in Banda Neira, Indonesia

Roadside stand in Banda Neira, Indonesia

The market in Banda Neira, Indonesia

The market in Banda Neira, Indonesia


Grilled Vegetables

Pasta and grilled brussels

Grilled Brussels and Pasta


The weather is finally warming up, and that means one thing:  IT’S TIME TO GET YOUR GRILL ON!!  As I transition from winter eating to spring and summer eating, my vegetables go from roasted in the oven to grilled.  Grilled vegetables are perfect on their own, but also great to add to pasta or rice to make a complete meal.

A staple meal in our home is grilled vegetables and pasta.  With a few ingredients and 30 minutes, you can have a healthy and delicious meal with plenty of leftovers for lunches or another dinner that week.  You’re really only limited to your imagination and taste buds on the type of vegetables you select.  I try to stay seasonal in my selection of vegetables so I’ve been enjoying plenty of grilled Brussels sprouts and asparagus.   (shhh, I just grilled some tomatoes too even though they’re not in season locally yet!)

Grilling vegetables follows the same rules as other forms of cooking.  Cut into uniform pieces for even cooking, don’t crowd them on the grill pan, don’t constantly peek and lose heat, etc.  If you don’t have a grill pan, metal grill skewers are a great way to grill vegetables as well.

As mentioned on Facebook, this is a pretty loosely put together recipe so feel free to experiment and make this your own.  We eat an obscene amount of garlic and spicy things in our house so if that’s not for you, by all means scale it back!   Just remember that grilling will mellow the “bite” of garlic, onions, and greens so you can get a little brave and go for more!  You can never be too safe in the event of vampires, so eat your damn garlic!!

Grilled Brussels and Pasta

Serves 4

4 servings of dried pasta (a large and short cut works best, gluten free substitution if desired)

1 lb Brussels sprouts (cleaned, halved/quartered to uniform size)

1 sweet yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

6 mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces

15 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 TBS plain olive oil

1 tsp-1 TBS Cayenne chili oil (any spicy flavored oil will work, or a dash of crushed red pepper to taste)

1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 cup white cooking wine

1/3 cup nutritional yeast, I use Bragg’s brand

Parmesan cheese, to garnish (dairy or non-dairy:  your choice)



Preheat grill to 400 degrees.

Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  This will vary based on the cut of pasta you’ve selected.  Before pasta is finished, reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water for later use.    Rinse pasta with cold water, and set aside.  You’ll use the pasta pot again too, so no need to wash it just yet.  Depending on your multitasking comfort, you can also cook your pasta during the grilling phase.  You’ll be running in and out of the house a bit, so If you are new to cooking, I suggest cooking your pasta before grilling so you don’t stress out and ruin any of your food.   Nothing pisses my off like wasted food!

In large mixing bowl, toss cut Brussels, mushrooms, onions, and garlic, plain olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper until vegetable mixture is evenly coated.  Place vegetable mixture on oiled grill pan (or cheat like I do and cover the grill pan with foil and then oil it for easy clean up!)  Depending on your grill and pan size, you may need to cook the vegetables in two shifts.  If this is the case, just put the first batch in an heat tolerant container and cover it with a lid, plate, or foil to keep them warm.  Grill the vegetables for 5-10 minutes based on your preference, stirring a few times.  We like them a bit brown in our house, especially when it comes to Brussels!

Place your set aside pasta pot back on the burner over medium heat.  Add white wine, basil, and thyme and heat for 2 minutes.  Add cooked pasta. cayenne oil, and nutritional yeast.  Stir to evenly combine, adding small amounts of the reserved pasta water to achieve a saucy consistency.  When pasta is warm, add grilled vegetables, stir to combine, adding more reserved pasta water as needed.   Salt and pepper as needed, and you’re done!

Portion onto plates, adding Parmesan if desired.





Vegetable Loaf

Vegetable Loaf

This is a staple in our home and is simply referred to as “loaf.” It’s great to make ahead, and will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Here’s my version of meatloaf.  It’s a filling comfort meal and pairs well with roasted vegetables, mashed cauliflower, or mashed potatoes.  This is a simple way to cut down on meat while adding vegetables to your diet.  I like to roughly chop my vegetables and let the food processor finish the job.  If you don’t have a food processor, don’t fret!  Just finely chop the ingredients by hand.

Vegetable Loaf

Makes 4-6 servings

1 cup walnuts

1 cup instant oats

3 cloves garlic, peeled

3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1  onion, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp celery seed

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp lemon pepper

2 eggs

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1/4 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

In food processor, combine walnuts, oats, and garlic.  Pulse until finely ground.  Transfer walnut mixture to a large bowl.

Combine celery and carrots in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add green pepper and onions and pulse just enough to finely chop.  You don’t want to liquefy the onions.

Combine with walnut mixture.  Add salt, celery seed, oregano, basil and lemon pepper.  Mix well.  In separate small bowl, beat eggs, mayonnaise, and ketchup until smooth.  Add wet mixture to dry, and mix well.

Turn into pan and press evenly. Bake for 55 minutes.

Nutritional superstar:  Walnuts

Eating Seasonally in Wisconsin: Golden Nugget Squash

In my efforts to eat seasonally, I’ve been trying every squash I can get my hands on.  Golden Nugget Squash has been my latest find.  At first glance I thought only about the seeds I could roast, but knew it would be a great new variation on my Butternut Squash Soup recipe or any recipe calling for pumpkin or winter squash.

It was a bitch to cut, and the seeds are much larger and thicker than a pumpkin or winter squash.  I’ve got them roasting right now and I’m dying to know how the turn out!  My squash was a bit larger than pictured above, so after cutting in half and removing the seeds, I cut into smaller sections for roasting.

Roast at 350 for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool enough to handle and scrape out flesh.

Roasted Golden Nugget Squash

The squash is now ready to go.

Winter squash is a great source of Vitamin A which beneficial for immunity, reproductive health, inflammation, skin and eye health.

Getting Back On Track


I’m not even going to beat myself up by figuring out when I last made a blog post.  There has been so much life happening for the past few months, that stepping away for a moment to blog seemed selfish at times and impossible at others.  I’ve lost my healthy routine and learned that I need to be better able to adapt to what life throws my way.  Life carries on and we must move onward and upward!  Change is a good thing!

I’ve really taken the last week to slow down and enjoy the day.  I’ve had the entire week off from my job and it’s been so nice to wake up and have a slow morning in the kitchen.  I’ve baked pumpkins, desserts, (yes I’m dabbling in the sweets now!) made applesauce, beans, lasagna, soups, and loved every second of these harvest season foods.

I won’t lie, it’s been a very gluttonous week of sweets, cocktails, and comfort food but that’s the beauty of vacation!  Next week will be ugly, but that’s next week and I won’t ruin this week worrying about next.  I’m eating cold pizza for breakfast as I type this.  I’m not sure if this is better or worse than the coffee and pumpkin pie bars I ate for breakfast yesterday?   The rationalizing side of my brain is trying to write this off as calorie cycling, but it’s really just a vacation week without restrictions!

All is not lost, and those extra 4 lbs I’m now carrying around will be gone before I know it.  So how do I come off a week of gluttony?  One word:  PREPARE!  Prepare food so you make healthy choices, prepare mentally so you don’t cave when those sugar cravings appear, and prepare physically to get back in a workout routine.  The younger me would have attacked the detox week like a soldier, but the older and hopefully wiser me views it as a transition week to get back into my more disciplined and rigorous routine that will be coming the week AFTER detox.  My body is not the enemy that needs to be punished, it just needs to be guided back in the right direction!

I refuse to start winter with these extra pounds and bad habits.  A 2 week vacation of living in a bikini will be here before I know it in April and I want to look and feel my best!

Here’s how I will get it done next week:

  • Water, water, and more water!  Flush the toxins, hydrate, and trick your belly into feeling more full.  What feels like hunger on a detox week is usually just a craving or dehydration.  Your body wants that sweet sweet sugar back and you must flush!  Herbal tea in the afternoon will also trick your belly when the mid afternoon snack attack hits.
  • Plan your meals and stick to the plan.  While a wild week may seem fun, your body wants a healthy routine and it will quickly fall back into one if you allow it.
  • Eat plenty of fresh, raw foods.  This again will flush and hydrate you.  Make a large container of salad that you can eat from for a few days.  Think of a salad as nature’s broom, and every salad is cleaning out the indulgences of the previous week.
  • Make a large pot of healthy soup.  Low in fat and calories, high in nutrients, comforting, and again hydrating!  Plenty of fad diets involve eating large quantities of soup as a detox for these very reasons.
  • EXERCISE!  The first few days may feel brutal as the detox headache sets in, but keep this in mind:  the faster you sweat out those toxins, the better you’ll feel!   Don’t worry about crushing your workout this week, just commit to getting back in the routine.  Push yourself, but pace yourself.

So how do you get back on track after life throws you a curve-ball or going on vacation?

Homemade Potato Chips

Chips close

We have a football season tradition of making wings.  Since I don’t eat meat, I was experiencing some deep fry envy on game day and decided to start experimenting with potatoes!

Once you have fresh, handmade potato chips, you’ll never look at that bag of chips at the store the same way!  Making chips isn’t difficult, but there is a process if you want them to be crispy.

You’ll need a mandoline slicer or a food processor so your chips the same thickness.   Once your chips are sliced, soak them in cold water for up to 8 hours.  This helps remove the starch and will give you a crispier chip.

Soaking wedges

After soaking, drain potatoes, and pat dry.  Deep fry for 4 minutes, place on cookie sheet with paper towels, and season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and garlic powder.   Don’t burn yourself trying to snitch a few right away!!


Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash

This soup is the cure for what ails you! It’s the perfect combination of spices to cure a hangover or the winter blahs! These bowls are 2 quick lunches and 1 dinner. The soup does not recover as smoothly once frozen so plan to eat within a few days if you make a double batch.

Butternut squash soup is a regular in our meal rotation from fall to winter.  It’s simple, quick, and comforting.  I’m not going to kid you, peeling a butternut squash is a bitch, but the results are well worth it.  A favorite blog of mine gives a great tutorial.  Don’t you dare through out those seeds either!   They are delicious roasted.  Prepare these just like in my Spaghetti Squash With Lentils and Tomato Sauce recipe.


I’m hopelessly addicted to roasted seeds. Good thing they’re very nutritious!

Butternut Squash Soup

Makes 3-4 generous servings

3 tablespoons butter of choice

1/2 chopped white onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups vegetable stock

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)*

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cumin

2 cups cubed butternut squash (this is approx. ½ a squash making this an easy recipe to double.)

3 potatoes, cubed

¼ -3/4 cup plain milk of choice

¼ tsp dried ginger
Sauté onions and garlic with butter on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Do not allow to brown.  Add vegetable stock, bay leaves, and all seasonings but ginger.  Stir to combine.  Add squash and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.  Test potatoes for softness, boiling for longer if needed.  Remove from heat and add ginger.  Puree the soup using a hand or traditional blender.  (Hand blenders work best.)  Add milk as needed, ¼ cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Garnish options:  croutons, chives, green onions, or cilantro.

*Some of my older taste testers thought it was spicy. Cut cayenne pepper in half if you have a tender palate.

Always use caution when pureeing hot liquids!

Nutritional Superstar:  Butternut Squash