Satisfying Flavor-Festival Soups!

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Soup Season

Comfort foods that are naturally filled with flavor and nutrition are exactly what we need as cold of fall and winter looms.  Pleasant to the eyes and nose before the first spoon full lands on our tongue, and so economical and easy to prepare. I am going to share with you the keys to making a great soup.

I’m not going to recreate the wheel since there are hundreds of good soup recipes online. And I am going to be honest, I use those recipes for inspiration but do not follow any one recipe.

I purchase my arsenal of herbs and seasonings and keep them on hand. I always have frozen vegetables and odds and ends of fresh vegetables and canned beans here. That way I am always ready to cook up any soup that fits the mood and occasion. I cook up everything from pea soup to vegetable soup, bean soup, tomato soup,  cream (vegan) of cauliflower with broccoli soup, to chili.

Have you priced healthier soups at the store these days? You will easily spen $3.00 to $5.00 for a can or store made small tub of soup.  I do keep a few cans on hand but the last time I went to make use of a sale I saw advertised for Progresso soups, none of the healthier vegan ones were on sale.

I noticed there was a tremendous sale on good quality low sodium organic vegetable broth and stocked up.  There was an equally good sale on frozen organic vegetables as well. Of course I loaded up. I purchased thyme, rosemary, fennel to properly season an array of soups.

At home I already had an ample supply of dried and frozen peas. Lots of cans of organic low sodium beans and lentils. Dried lentils are always a staple as well. There was a sweet potato waiting to be used in something. I had garlic and onion at home as well. Soup is great for using up these sorts of left overs.

So a couple days later, in my multi cooker (not a presser cooker), I sautéed some cubed sweet potato until they were semi cooked. I added 64 oz of the vegetable broth, 2 bags of mixed vegetables, a can of rinsed black beans and a can of rinsed chickpeas. Also added a cup of finely/pureed tomato with garlic, onion, chili powder, fennel and thyme, crushed red pepper.

Dont ask me how much of the seasonings I used, I never measure. I taste and adjust how much is in. Since you can easily add but can’t easily remove, I would suggest layering in small amounts of seasonings and add more as you taste.

You can use the stove top, slow cooker or multi cooker. Because I can’t stand for long due to my disability, I do the fast way and just chuck all the ingredients in my multi cooker. I bring it to a boil and then I reduce it immediately to slow cook. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a way to do that in the same cooking container, just start it off on your stove top and then pour it into the slow cooker once it has reached boiling.

A really well made soup is a soup made while the cook tastes it throughout its cooking and adjust seasonings. Forget recipes and season it with what you prefer and to taste.

Once the soup has been placed in bowls that is the time to add to each bowl your choice of greens. The temperature of the soup will allow you a hot enough cooking temperature even after it is in the bowl, to cook the spinach enough to release the vitamins you can only digest from spinach when slightly cooked.

I prefer adding the greens fresh just before serving it to who eats it, instead of to the whole batch in the pot. That way I can make the dish as fresh as possible each time the left overs are served.

Other thoughts

  • Add leftover barley, farro, quinoa or brown rice to the soup to get your serving of grains as part of the dish.
  •  Use bread such as a good german make of thinly sliced dense German rye bread, as croutons or for a side sandwich.
  • Add a piece of fruit with the meal

Very little effort and you can fill your tummy with food that will nourish your body and soul.

Soup Season

 

Other Ideas For Whole Food Plant Based Meals

WFPB back in the saddle

Whole Food Plant Based Please (That Doesn’t Include The Impossible Burger)

WFPB back in the saddle
Examples of Healthy Whole Food Plant Based Foods that help me be at my best. Low Glycemic Index grains, vegetables, and fruits, minimally processed. Just keep the typical fast food version of vegan food away please!

I had amazing success going Whole Food Plant Based, Low Glycemic Index and Low Fat. in 2018. Then during 2019 life garbage hit the same time all these trendy vegan fast food options hit and I only half heartedly followed the WFPB plan. I packed on 20 lbs because of that mistake.

In June I had a hysterectomy and I even brought my food with me to the hospital so that I could eat clean.  I started off with no weight gain at all.

Once home, there was no peaceful recovery awaiting me. Life just isn’t like that sometimes. All the cooking fell into the hands of my husband. When he would ask me what we should eat, I would look at his stressed out, exhausted face  and here the suggestion of him just going through a fast food drive through for the Impossible Burgers and I would just nod my head.

“Tomorrow will go better and then we will eat better,” I would think to myself.

But life demands didn’t run smoother for a long stretch.I went from over a year of solely eating beans, greens, vegetables and fruit,  to the last few months dining on Beyond Meat Burgers, Impossible Burgers and vegan Big Mac’s at a wonderful local vegan restaurant.

Not only did my symptoms of my chronic illness worsen, I regained 20 lbs in a few months time. I avoided my scale and all mirrors.  I really think something happened in my head after surgery that I doubted I was worth the effort.

It all changed when I woke up recently in the middle of the night and snapped out of it. I got online and placed an order to be delivered to our home from a couple of local groceries.

I pictured in my fridge my large Tupperware container stuffed with fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh vegetables. I pictured fresh low glycemic grains, a couple types of fresh fruit. I pictured my pantry filled again with all varieties of bean and lentils.  Then I made it happen.

From the delivery services for Aldi, Target and Whole Foods came the bags of leafy green and beany redemption. My husband was all for it. I told him no more of the stuff we had been eating. No more Impossible Burgers. He could bring into the home whatever he wanted, but no more fast food versions of vegan foods for me.

Day one: did fine but had a bowl of cereal that evening, shredded wheat. That was one more serving of grain than I needed. Still woke up the next day with a four pound loss *I have lipedema, lymphedema, and Dercum’s Disease and they all cause as one of their symptoms, rapid gain so if treated right you can lose some of it fast too.

Day two: lost another pound!

Day three: lost two more pounds

Day five: lost another two pounds!

In vegan circles the Impossible Burger, and other similar sorts are being declared the salvation of those who wish to eat less meat and to protect animals. There is merit to that. All I want to add is that for some of us, it is harmful as are many ultra processed, mass produced vegan foods. Once a month and special occasions, eating those tasty treats isn’t going to hurt anyone, but the average American tends to eat fast food more than that. Talk to your medical professionals and get their take on it. I just know what such food did to me.

My non medical advice? When you talk to your doctor, ask about Whole Food Plant Based.  Maybe find a good bean burger recipe (I list a few of my own in this blog if you search the archives) and make them. If you are lucky to have a Whole Foods Market close by, Engine 2’s Black Bean burgers are also really very good.

 

 

Hospitalized: Negotiating A Whole Food Plant Based Diet No Oil, No Sugar

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Having a hysterectomy was inevitable. My mother and twin sister both needed to have one done in their 40’s. I was in the 82nd percentile for having the same issues they did..  Here I was 56 and it was time for me. I knew a few years back that I was headed that direction with the need of repeated D and C’s, due to thickening uterus walls and bleeding that should never be happening. Seemed like a crossroads.

I found it a little depressing because like for all women, my uterus and it’s attachments had been a big part of my life for many years.  A pain in the neck, yes.  Just not sure how losing those parts would impact me overall.

Then I realized how ridiculous I was being and decided to be even more ridiculous but in a more fun manner.  We turned it into a celebration! We took this life event and made it our own.   I made a meme and invited my facebook friends to celebrate the end of an era, the parting of me from my uterus. We all got a good laugh out of it.

Uterus good bye

While laughing about it helped, I also wanted to give myself the best chance of being my healthiest going into the surgery and during recovery. Maintaining my whole food plant based diet has been very important as a tool to being my healthiest.  It’s the one thing I have control over.

One would assume that since a hospital is a place of healing that they would serve healthy foods. Reality is that in the mix are class one carcinogen. Translation would be to say that it’s the same as smoking cigarettes. Sausage is considered a processed meat so picture them being sold in cigarette cartons as well. Then there are eggs which I simply refuse to eat.

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Eek! Avoid The Processed Foods!

 

So seemed counter productive to have my uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix removed and enduring a hospital stay to improve my health, but at the same time eat the typical hospital food offerings.

My healing depended on continuing to eat whole food plant based no oil, low fat, low glycemic index, no added sugar low glycemic index. So no white flour, no animal product and no processed foods.

I phoned  in advance the dietician responsible for the meals served to see what was possible. There were some great options they had available. They invited me to bring any shelf stable foods of my own to use with what they could provide. I took them up on their offer.

I brought in some foods from home including fortified nutritional yeast, brown rice, a pull top can of chick peas, an envelope of prepared, shelf stable baby beluga black lentils, and WASA crackers.  I used them with a modified version of a couple of their menu selections they prepared without oil and other items I asked them to alter.  I enjoyed delicious water sautéed stir friend vegetables with black lentils. Their pasta with marinara sauce and chickpeas, broccoli,cherry tomatoes and spinach with a side of orange sections was lovely.

Mercy Hospital even sautéed  vegetables for my breakfast

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Hospital dinner
Mercy Hospital in St. Louis Missouri water sautéed a mixture of vegetables and then I added black lentil and nutritional yeast to make it balanced. Very healing.

My surgeon, Dr. Cory Wagner did a wonderful job on my surgery and fully supports my eating Whole Food Plant Based Oil Free and Low Glycemic Index.  My labs were perfect for surgery and all went well.

I am now home and have a freezer and fridge filled with my favorite berries, greens, fresh vegetables, apples and oranges, homemade bean burgers, a shelf with my favorite crackers, rolled oats, garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils and dried peas.

As I continue to recover I won’t stop continuing to evolve as a healthier person. Each chapter of life is ours to safeguard and enjoy. We have power in selecting what we eat and to work with the world around us to make it happen.

I want to thank ‘St. Louis Mercy Hospital for being open to bending their menu selections to meet my needs. It kept my blood sugars level, my blood pressure healthy, and kept me from blowing up like a balloon.

I also want to thank my husband Tim for coming up to the hospital at night and rubbing my feet and making me feel like a special woman. He even made a special trip just to bring me an apple to snack on.

 

Thank you to my son Eric who held down the fort at home so well and gave me such a wonderful homecoming.

I love my family and I love my life, every stage of it and every challenge I come across. Lots of changes for the better. I am grateful.

 

Gourmet Black Beans Burgers Using WFPB Spinach Artichoke Dip

Bean Burger ala Dippy Plate 2

We hadn’t been there in 10 years. We went back to Fitz Root Beer Bottling Company and Restaurant as part of our 10th anniversary week.  Heard they now serve a mean black bean burger. It was delicious but when I enquired as to what was in it, I learned that the secret ingredient was their spinach-artichoke dip. Drats! It had animal products in it.

Looked online for simple spinach-artichoke dips that didn’t use oil or animal products. They may be out there, but I didn’t find any.  I have these stupid extremely painful Dercums Disease tumors all over including my arms and along my spine.  So being on me feet, using my arms for any length of time without arm rests and so on, was a no go. So that took away most options. I knew my husband and son would not be willing to do all the work on new recipe like this. Ii was going to have to wait until I had a good day and play with this and just pray it didn’t get too involved. They had enough on their plates. I would need to be the one to at least do parts of it. So it had to be simple.

This was one of those situations where having convenience appliances like a Vitamix makes all the difference. And my husband took care of the more taxing parts of it. Love, love, love the results

So with Fitz Root Beer Bottling Company and Restaurant’s bean burger as inspiration, and guidance from reading multiple recipes online, I came up with this recipe. My husband and I just love it and we swear it’s every bit as good as what we had at Fitz, but without the animal products. It is still 100% compliant to a WFPB No Oil or added Sugar, Low Glycemic Index and Low Fat and Sodium Way Of Eating.

Both recipes have also been geared to be exactly the amounts needed to make exactly 7 to 9 large burgers or 14-18 smaller burgers. If you want dip to spare for the days to come, just double that recipe.

The recipe for the dip is at the end of this article. Highly recommend it as a dip on it’s own.

Black Beans w/WFPB Spinach-Artichoke Dip Burgers (Wowzer Burgers)

Makes 7-9 large burgers or 14-18 smaller burgers

Preheaat oven at 400 degrees F

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed..

1 can of any kind of lentils OR my favorite, 1 packet of Target’s Simply Balanced black beluga lentils (if you can’t find these and don’t want to cook lentils, just skip them and maybe use less of the dip sauce)

* 1 cup of the Spinach-Artichoke Dip (recipe at the end) combined with 1/3 cup salsa of your choice

2/3 cup or more compliant crumbs, 100% oil free white flour free, 100% whole grain options such as whole rye crackers, whole wheat bread

1/2 tbl. garlic powder

Step 1. Combine the ingredients in the order listed. Will be meatloaf consistency.

Step 2. For the burgers  and stick them covered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

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Step 3. On parchment paper lined cookie sheets, bake the burgers for 10 minutes. Remove and allow them to cool enough to be easier to flip over. Then bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes. Serve or cool off completely and freeze.

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Vegan Oil Free Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip

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It gets incredibly thick when it bakes. That’s what you want so it helps the beans hold together in the bean burger recipe.

Preheat Oven 425 degrees

3/4 cup raw unsalted cashews (either soak in water for 4 hours or use quick method of bringing them to a boil in water with a good size squirt of lemon juice, then cover and let sit for 20 minutes) drained

2 cloves of garlic sliced

1/2 small diced onion (or you can add in onion powder to taste later on)

3/4 cup unsweetened non diary milk (plant milk)

1/8th cup (or more) nutritional yeast

1 Tbl lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

2 cup loosely packed fresh spinach

One 14 oz can oil free artichokes

optional vegan parmesan cheese

Combine all the ingredients except vegetables in a high power blender and pulverize until very smooth. Add the vegetables and blend until smooth (If you are making this as a dip only, you may want to leave it chunky).

Pour into a small baking dish, sprinkle if you desire a little additional seasoning or nutritional yeast on the top.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until browning and thick.

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Healthy “Fried” Cauliflower W/ Dipping Sauce

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air friend cauliflower in oven
Air Fried or Oven Fried, No oil needed for a delicious result
cauliflower air fried
Whole Rye, oil-white flour-sugar free breading that is held to the cauliflower by a light coating of salsa. Dipping sauce in the top left corner uses garbanzo beans, salsa, garlic and salsa with crushed red pepper.
Air Fried Cauliflower zoodles with lentils and mushrooms berries
Jazz up any meal . Dipping Sauce used with Air Fried cauliflower for a delicious Au Gratin style dish minus the cheese! Served with left over zoodles with mushrooms, black lentils and oil free sugar free marinara sauce.

People who still include animal products in their diet have this pre-conceived notion that either all Vegans are “fat vegans” meaning they eat unhealthy…or that my eating whole food plant based (WFPB) must leave me starving or eating salad all the time.

Well what if I told you that the photos you saw above are examples of a way of cooking and eat that have helped me eat healthy. Do you see any salads? I never go hungry. My husband and son both help with meal prep which is great. But it’s simple for even one person to pull off. I am disabled so sometimes I do need assistance by them doing the cooking for me.

First of all, Everything about how I eat is satiating because of all of the fiber in the food. My meals are never sparse, they are filled with delicious, colorful and enjoyable options.

Not all vegan food especially in restaurants is healthy though, so I prefer our family make our food at home. It’s not difficult to make our favorites in a way that is healthy without losing the textures and tastes we love.

Recently for our anniversary we ate at a vegan restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cauliflower sounded delicious but it was coated with white flour and not at all crisp. It was soggy from both the oil it was cooked in and the oil based buffalo sauce it was doused in. I did not enjoy it. The endothelial cells of my lymphatic and cardiac system didn’t need all that fat and overly processed grain.

So we came up with this way of making the dish so that it is low glycemic index,  oil free, low sodium, low fat Whole Food Plant Based.  All it takes it takes is typical, homemade or store bought oil-free salsa is used to coat the cauliflower . Then coat it with 100% whole grain crumbs. Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet or use an air fryer.

Because I try to keep it low glycemic index, I prefer using authentic, European style whole rye bread or crisps. I use a hard dark version and a light softer version. I keep it no oils or sugars white flours in the ingredients, lower sodium. Whole rye breads down in our system slower, giving a slow steady stream of energy without spiking blood sugars.

Dipping sauce is easy and can also  be used as a sauce for macaroni and un cheese or as a hummus like dip.

Healthy “Fried” Cauliflower

cauliflower air fried

1 smallish head of cauliflower or  12 oz bag of fresh cauliflower florets

1/2 cup salsa or hot sauce of your choice

2/3 cup whole rye/pumpernickel bread or crackers/crips crumbs(oil free, sugar free, no white flour)

optional to taste :garlic powder, onion powder, low sodium curry powder, turmeric, dried crushed red pepper

Directions:

Step 1: If using traditional or toaster oven, preheat at 425 degrees.

Step 2: Divide the clean cauliflower into reasonably small pieces. (make sure pieces are not wet)

Step 3: With your clean hands, toss together the cauliflower and salsa until thoroughly but lightly coated.

Step 4: Sprinkle crumbs over the coated cauliflower, and toss with your hands until thoroughly but lightly coated.

IF BAKING:  Place cauliflower pieces on parchment paper lined cookie sheet, bake for 15-20, turn each piece over and rotate pan at the 10 minute mark.  Each oven varies, keep an eye on it the first time so you don’t over bake.

IF USING Air Fryer: We have owned two different air fryers. My first one was a basket style air fryer and the one we use now is like a small toaster oven but it is an air fryer as well (Black N Decker).

-Air Fryer that looks like oven style 10-15 minutes, no flipping needed. One single layer, the pieces can be close together.

-Basket style air fryer may be better to keep it one layer, but experiment.
air friend cauliflower in oven

Dipping Sauce:

Play with this. You can create whatever suits you.

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup unsweetened plant based milk

2/3 cup salsa or 4Tbl or more or less hot sauce (depending on your preference)

1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast (I like B-12 Fortified and Trader Joes is very tasty)

Garlic Powder to taste plus others you may like to add (suggestions would be same as the cauliflower coating)

optional: add 1/8th cup ground cashews with a splash of lemon (cashew cheese base for added creaminess)

Also a splash of apple cider can make it tangy.

We use a high power blender (Vitamix) to blend all ingredients until smooth. Feel free to add enough liquids to make it blend smoother.

The Dipping sauce can be added directly to the cauliflower or used on the side just for dipping. Great on pasta or for dipping fresh veggies, or used in burritos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Food Takes On The Wrong Role

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silhouette photography of people on theater
Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the role of Cinderella in “Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”.  Meryl Streep cast in “Grease” as Danny Zuko.

Can you imagine going to a play and being handed a playbill and seeing that level of miscasting?  I would find it fun at first, but personally I would want to see more logical choices or the roles.

I would be asking myself, “With the means to hire a well known actor to play the lead, with so many other options available, why make such a poor choice?”

The producers and directors have a list of parts to cast and a list of available options for actors to play those parts. Auditions are many times held, trying to find the right one for each role.

We make “casting choices” in the form of life choices every day. Imagine each day we get out of bed, we walk out onto Life’s Stage in a production of “A Day Of Living”  Each of us are our own producer and director of a significant part of our own story.  

 What options are  you going to select in your life today?

I speak from experience like so many others. Foods can be so addictive especially  chocolate, cheese, meat, plus other processed sugars and animal proteins.  Many of us are taught from a young age to have these and similar addictions to help us deal with our needs. Those serotonin levels rise with all of it. Life can be complicated and eating processed sugar and fats are so very easy and handy. All that immediate gratification is enticing and potentially life shortening.

I use the analogy of a stage production and the playbill that is the official accounting of each day’s “performance”. The playbill shows who plays what role.  For me it’s helpful to be able to visualize and pinpoint the questionable “casting”, if you will, of how by habit in the past I coped with life. It keeps me on top of things. Many times food is the go to for needs that really are better handled by other options. Sometimes we learn it young.

 

I still remember to this day being 4 years old and it was a miserable time in my family with deaths, stress, my grandparents being in the hospital for months due to severe injuries from a car accident. My mother, sister and I lived with them.  My poor Registered Nurse mother had to work some horribly long hours and oversee the care of my grandparents. They had different people taking care of my sister and I. Those caring for my sister and I would give us ice cream at night as something in which to look forward.

An evening snack was called “a party” and it was always something wonderfully sugar and fat filled.

The pattern had begun.

To make things more annoying I have 3 fat disorders that, since childhood , made me large and misshaped. What I eat and how I exercise had made no positive impact on those. No doctor realized I had those. Dercum’s Disease, lipedema and lymphedema went overlooked and mistaken for obesity for decades.

I was so worn down as I struggled with the lack of impact of dieting and seeing that it made no difference if I ate or starved myself. Those fat disorders are fairly painful.  I was in misery for decades. I remained large and misshaped, it made it easier to make some pretty unhealthy choices. Why not have a piece of Dove Chocolate when anxious? Why not eat a Big Mac when hungry?  

Playbill Chocolate red flag

After decades of feeling helpless, and low carb diets doing nothing for me,  life handed me the path I had sought my whole life. Over a year ago I got violently sick on animal products with horrible blood sugar and cardiac related lab results. I discovered WFPB No Oil, Low Fat, Low Glycemic Index, Low Sodium. I started to see better labs, weight started dropping.  There has also been a bit of a budge on some of the symptoms associated with my fat disorders. 

Sure I will always have three painful, annoying fat disorders. That’s how the ball bounces. I have fibromyalgia and like all other humans, I have a variety of stresses. I can’t do a whole lot to change some things, but I can empower myself and do what is possible. Some of those symptoms for those health issues have improved. Some remain the same. I enjoy taking far fewer medications than before.  I enjoy having heathy coronary and blood sugar numbers. I find joy in what is possible as I continue to learn to coexist with the rest.  The power is in making good choices and lovingly holding myself accountable.

As I sit here finishing this, my husband came home from the grocery store. To this day my mind wants to ask him if he brought home chocolate. I have to remind myself of that playbill. Chocolate is no longer a regular on my playbill. It’s been replaced by strawberries or an apple or watching a good movie. 

Playbill Healthy Blue
I don’t do all these, but it gives you an idea. When I struggle, I literally picture someone announcing a change in who is playing what role.
Before After 3
It’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

YUM! Healthy Vegan / WFPB Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes on rye

High in protein, fiber and iron, lentils are wonderful. The key to a great healthy whole food plant based sloppy joe is a combination of  meat-free meaty textures and low sodium spicy tangy seasonings. 10 minutes is all it took and the leftovers tasted even better than it did first time around!

Use in sandwiches, on top of low glycemic index grains,  whole grain organic pasta, in whole grain organic wraps, taco shells, or on top of salad!

It’s fine if you use only one type of lentil or bean, but for a meatier texture you  want to use a combination of two different size cooked or prepared lentils/beans. Finely and coarsely chopped vegetables can also be great in the mix. Taste along the way to get it seasoned just how you like! (Something you can’t do that with meat!)

Easy and Delicious  Healthy Whole Food Plant Based Sloppy Joes

-2 cups of black mini lentils I believe they’re called Beluga lentils. In this case they were already prepared with no added salt and so I just reheated them in the microwave I purchase them from Target.

-One can of red lentils already prepared no added salt I purchased them from Whole Foods.

-One small can of tomato paste

-A can of water using the can of tomato paste was in

-optional ingredients 1/2 cup of any chopped sautéed in water vegetables such as onion, celery, tomato, peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.

Here are the seasonings that you could possibly use any combination of

-Splash of apple cider vinegar

-Fennel to taste

-Garlic powder to taste

-Chili powder to taste

-Onion Powder to taste

-Garlic Powder to taste

-Oregano to taste

-Dried crushed red pepper to taste

-Turmeric to taste

 

Instructions: Combine all ingredients and simmer until heated. Do not overcook. Great as leftovers.  Serves 4-6