It’s now Week #5 of our kitchen renovation, which has turned our back porch table into a prep/dining/cleaning space. Armed with a mini convection oven, Vitamix, crock pot, hot plate, electric kettle and a faucet, we’ve been trying to find simple recipes we can make with as few pots and pans as possible. Some meals have been very simple, and to our surprise, we’ve quite enjoyed them!

“How do you cook without a microwave?” many people have asked. Given my technology background, you may find it ironic that we’ve not used a microwave since we married, but it has always worked for us. I wouldn’t say this is “cooking the hard way,” but rather a way to connect to my immigrant family’s roots, and to my dear teachers, “Gramma” and Auntie Emma, whom I miss terribly. For me, cooking is a sacred art.

To prepare recipes with many ingredients, my girls and I prep and/or cook some items over two days (e.g., rice, beans, garlic, spices), completing the dish on the second day, usually making enough to last us 2 or 3 meals. We have simplified, and we intend to practice this more often when the kitchen is done!

Cooking has become a meditative practice for us, as we focus on mincing, slicing and dicing. My children have learned about mindfulness in a most creative way. Our prepping and cleaning up, while arduous, have also given us the gift of great family quality time. My girls (Gracie, 13 and Sylvia, 10) are nurturing their resourcefulness, learning about healthy eating, picking recipes they want to try, and are discovering their families’ cultures as they learn how to cook. This time also allows me to share stories about their ancestors, so they will somehow “get to know them” — and learn something about themselves in the process.

Although this renovation has been stressful at times, it has taught us some valuable lessons about unpredictability, and the importance of simplifying, togetherness, letting go, and centering while staying committed to a healthy and green lifestyle. This has been the best “Summer Mom Camp” ever!

With school starting as this renovation continues, I wanted to share with you a few great recipes we’ve found from some great whole foods bloggers we follow. They’re healthy, tasty, and relatively simple to make. Please share your comments!

Recipes that are Unexpected: Chocolate Hummus

Hummusapien blogger Alexis Joseph, a registered dietitian, whipped up this protein-packed recipe to fill gluten-free cookies. My spin on this recipe:

  • *Reduce maple syrup and/or replace with dates.
  • Add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Like coffee, it enhances the chocolate flavor!

Not keen on cookies? Try this dip with sliced apples and bananas. MMM.

*Why the dates? I try to replace any added/refined sugar product (even if it’s low glycemic) with fiber or roasted fruit. In functional medicine, *any* type of sugar is viewed as inflammatory, so why not fight it with a bit of fiber?

Chocolate Cannellini Ganache

The Happy Healthy Long Life Librarian created a slightly different variation of chocolate hummus, made with cannellini beans. I doubled the dates in lieu of stevia, but still faced a tart finish.  Hmmm, this may need a bit of tinkering, like lessening the cocoa and *maybe* adding a bit of stevia or maple syrup. Let me know which recipe you prefer! It’s a battle of the chocolate hummuses!

Inspired by Middle Eastern Recipes: Eggplant “Meatballs” with Za’atar and Kale Pesto

The First Mess created this Lebanese-inspired recipe. MMM, lemons, Za’atar, pesto. You can find Za’atar at Middle Eastern grocery stores, Wholefoods, and Amazon. To make the recipe gluten-free, simply leave out the bread. If you are unsure that the meatballs will bind, you can substitute 2 – 3 TBSP of chickpea flour in place of the bread.

“Sidekick Recipes:” Vegan Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese

Although this technically isn’t a snack or meal, recipes like this are important add-ons to your meals. In addition to bread and bagels, this “cream cheese” also works for rice cakes with a slice of avocado and tomato, lox, or roasted veggies. Cooking with Plants includes a recipe converter (Metric, American Imperial) so Americans can figure out her recipes.

You may be surprised just how nutritional these little seeds are. Sunflower seeds are high in Vitamin E, Copper and B1, and are low on the glycemic index. Who knew you can make a creamy delicious nut-free spread from them?

Two Recipes in One: Blueberry & Mango Smoothies

Sick of the same old smoothie recipes? My New Roots’ Sarah Britton combines the best of summer with a fresh and protein-packed blueberry/mango smoothie. Shhhh – the “secret” protein source comes from cashews and chia! Avocados add healthy monosaturated fats while creating a really creamy consistency to the mango recipe.  If you’re not sure about mangos, peaches are a great substitute, plus they’re in season! Although the recipe calls for maple syrup, I simply rely on the sweetness of the fruit. Try this sweetener-free — I dare you!

Based on Thai Recipes: Veggies and Lentils in Peanut Sauce

I love making fresh beans and lentils rather than relying on their canned cousins. Lentils are high in fiber, folate, magnesium, and phosphorous and protein. Though packed with nutrition like beans, they cook in less time and offer a different consistency to vegetarian dishes. Vegan Richa combines the delicate texture of lentils with Thai ingredients in this dish. If you like peanut sauce and Thai recipes, you’ll love this dish.