Tess's Top Ten Picks for Family Movie Night

So, you've got the night off and want to enjoy delish (yet healthy) snacks and a family movie that's actually good (unlike most "family films"). What do you do??!! You check out my blog, of course! I've got you covered with my top ten favorite family movies and fabulous snacks. You probably already suspected I love you, but this confirms it.

What to watch?? Here are my Top 10 Family Films That Both Kids and Grown-ups Will Love (in no particular order):

1. A Little Princess (the 90s remake, not the Shirley Temple version): Love this. LOVE it. Don't ask me to explain, or I'll burst into tears.
2. The Education of Little Tree: A beautiful true story about a Native American boy who was raised by his grandparents - so moving and sweet, I can barely stand it!!
3. Megamind: I was prepared to hate this, but ended up watching it twice. Will Ferrel is comedic genius as the voice of the main "bad" guy who you can't help but love. (oh, and I'm sneaking in a plug for "Elf" here as another super fun family film that also stars WF)
4. Ratatouille: Foodie rat-loving fun for the whole family.
5. Little Manhattan: So freaking adorable!! It's about a pre-teen boy who experiences his first crush. Very clever, good-hearted, and engaging. We love it.
6. Enchanted: Amy Adams is perfection in this - also perfect in this is my secret boyfriend, James Marsden. (even he doesn't know he's my boyfriend)
7. True Muppet Movies: This includes anything during the Jim Henson era, and also the newest "Muppet Movie" (2011). Forget about anything in between. Muppets = Love.
8. My Dog Skip: Super cute film about the pure, devoted love that exists between a boy and his dog.
9. The Secret Garden: Magical, inspiring, and endearing. Love this one!
10. The Black Stallion: This was my favorite movie as a child. Directed by Frances Ford Coppola, this film is strikingly beautiful, quiet, and enchanting.

My Top 10 Healthy & Delish Things to Munch on Movie Night:

1. My newest creation - BBQ popcorn! You know you want to.
2. Raw veggie sticks dipped in vegan ranch or creamy hummus
3. Hello, delicous! Spoon up some of this fat-free banana ice cream and feel the love!
4. "Everything Nice Popcorn" from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth - it also happens to be here on my blog.
5. Any of the other yummy, healthy popcorn recipes from my books - our current favorite is the sweet and spicy turmeric popcorn from Radiance 4 Life. YUM.
6. Sweet potato fries - even picky eaters usually munch these beta-carotene-rich yummies right up!

7. VEGAN PIZZA. Here's an example on my blog, and there are several others in my books.
8. Here's a great way to get your VEG on while still feeling like you're munching fun stuff. This recipe for rosemary roasted cauliflower is so sinfully delicious, you'll swear it's made of evil.
9. Check out my blog post on Ten Healthy Snack Ideas for another ten within this ten. The mind boggles!!
10. These "No Will Power Cookies" are super easy to make and also totally satisfying. Peanut butter chocolate love shall reign supreme!! OK, I know I'm being a little dramatic...but hey, this is a movie blog post after all! ;-)

So, I hope this post inspires you to have some wholesome, awesome, delish fun on your next family movie night! Oh, and of course you can enjoy these suggestions even if you are all growed up and gots no wee ones...a truly good family movie is one that anyone can enjoy, no matter what your age! So please let me know what you think...and also I'd love to hear what YOUR favorite family movie is!

BBQ Popcorn

Sure, it's a little "out there." But, yeah, so am I! I've had this odd craving the last week or two for BBQ popcorn. Out of nowhere. And I'm not sure it's even a real thing. But hey, it is now! And it only takes about ten minutes to whip up a batch! Be sure to use smoked paprika, though, as it's very important to the overall flavor. For those of you not familiar with the stuff, it's also divine on my Hungarian Chickpeas (from Radiance 4 Life and also here on this blog). Enjoy!

BBQ Popcorn

1 tablespoon oil (coconut or olive)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon EACH: sea salt, garlic granules, and onion granules
1/8 teaspoon (or more, you spicy baby!) ground cayenne powder

1. Pop the corn in the oil - I use the old fashioned stovetop method, over medium-high heat. Make sure to shake often, keep the lid on, and remove from heat as soon as the popping slows.
2. Drizzle with the agave nectar and sprinkle with the remaining ingredients. Stir well and serve!

Makes 3 servings

How To Pack An Awesome Healthy Lunch for Your Child!

Hey friends! I snapped this (truly stunning) photo last night to answer the question I'm so often asked: "What DO you put in your daughter's lunch every day?!" Well, that often varies, but I figured that this was as good a lunch as any to photograph as an example.

From top left, clockwise, here's what I packed last night:

* Dehydrated kale chips (I used my recipe for "Krazy Kale Chips" from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth that work great either baked or dehydrated as a very healthy snack)
* Nancy's soy yogurt (I like this particular brand as it's very fresh and nutritious, unlike so many of the other brands that seem overly processed)
* Homemade applesauce (in a pinch, you can purchase pre-packaged organic applesauce cups)
* "Wacky Apple" wild berry fruit leather - I like this stuff because it's one of the few brands that still makes organic fruit leather - so many other brands are using conventionally grown fruit, which is too bad, especially when they include heavily sprayed fruits such as apples and grapes. Of course, the best fruit leather can easily be made at home if you have a food dehydrator! We do that often, but don't have any on hand at the moment.
* "Carrot pennies" - these are simply thinly sliced carrots, made into an exciting snack by the addition of the word "pennies."
* Nori strips (we buy these pre-packaged in strips - kids love them and they're very high in minerals!)
* Manna bread (cinnamon date) - this stuff is sooo nourishing! It's made of very simple, nutrient-dense ingredients and baked at low temperatures to preserve the nutrients. This particular flavor only has three ingredients, I believe - sprouted wheat berries, dates, and cinnamon. The "carrot raisin" variety is also really good, btw.

So, now that you have an idea of what we put in our lunches, you might be asking what we put them IN. Well, as a matter of fact...as of today, Imma have to rush out and get the awesomest lunch box I've ever seen in my life! This morning, I was at Carre Otis's home (pu-leeze check out her amazing book Beauty, Disrupted - it will move you to tears and inspire you!) and she showed me these environmentally friendly and non-toxic wonders, Go Green Lunchboxes, that she uses for her daughter's lunches. I love that you can put a variety of foods in all the little compartments and also write a love note to your little one on the dry erase board inside. They've really thought of everything! Here's the one I want:
And last but not least, I wanted to leave you with some other lunch ideas for the kiddos. These are all things I've had success with in my daughter's lunches.

My TOP TEN Ideas For Healthy Kid Lunches:

1. Nori rolls: My daughter loves these and they can be made with short grain brown rice for extra nutritional benefits. She likes hers filled with carrots and seasoned tofu strips, but you can use any veggies your kiddo likes. I sprinkle them with a little tamari and lemon juice and top with sesame seeds.
2. Fresh fruit: Enough said.
3. Ants on a log: Cut celery into segments, fill with peanut or almond butter, and dot with raisins. Classic.
4. Sesame Tofu (pictured above, photo by Olga Vasiljeva and recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth) or any other fun little tofu bizness. The recipe for this is also on my blog here, btw.
5. Peanut Butter and jelly sandwiches: See, I knew you'd learn something fresh and new from reading this blog post!! In case you've never heard of these, they're pretty much cutting edge. They involve peanut butter, some sort of smooshy fruit substance, and hopefully a whole-grain bread of some sort. Oh, but wait, there's more! Have you ever made a...
6. Rainbow PB&J?! Trust me, you want to know about this. Take a whole grain slice of bread and top with peanut butter and a thin layer of jelly. Then, make a rainbow open face sandwich happen. I make my rainbow out of sliced strawberries, mango, banana, kiwi, and blueberries. So fun, healthy, and pretty!
7. Fresh spring rolls! My daughter loves these bad boys filled with seasoned tofu, carrots, sesame seeds, cabbage, and mint....with a lil peanut sauce on the side. You can find the exact how-to on spring rolls in any or all of my books.
8. Sesame Peanut Noodles: Toss udon (or soba, linguine, rice, etc.) noodles with peanut butter, toasted sesame oil, maple syrup, tamari, and tahini. Add whatever Asian-style veggies your child will go for (edamame, carrots, peas, cabbage, and cilantro are good choices).
9. Bean burrito: My daughter loves these in her lunches! I simply fill a sprouted grain tortilla with vegan cheese and beans, wrap, and pan-fry until both sides are crisp and browned. From there, I wrap it up and serve with a little vegan sour cream. Surprisingly delicious even when served cold, the next day!
10. Don't underestimate the magic of liquid sustenance! Smoothies, shakes, and even green smoothies are a great way to keep your child fueled and energized throughout the day. Here's a green smoothie recipe that I've made at kid's cooking classes with rave reviews.

So, there you have it! Lots of ways to make your kid's lunches something fun, special, and uber-nutritious. Enjoy!

Rosemary Mushroom Strudel

photo by Olga Vasiljeva

Mushroom lovers, this dish was made for you (us)! There is nothing like a medley of well flavored mushrooms to delight the palate and nourish the body. If you are gluten intolerant, you can substitute pan-fried polenta for the puff pastry. However you end up, this is a delicious, easy, and impressive way to begin a meal. Oh, and yes, this is a great side dish for Thanksgiving!

Rosemary Mushroom Strudel

½ lb. frozen puff pastry dough (thawed according to the package directions)*

Mushroom Mania:

1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps

1½ cups (3 oz.) sliced or chopped portabella mushroom caps

1½ teaspoons fresh rosemary leaf, chopped

½ teaspoon each: dried thyme and fresh lime juice

¼ teaspoon each: organic sugar and ground black pepper

5 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon each: balsamic vinegar, tamari (or shoyu or soy sauce), and olive oil (or rosemary-infused olive oil)


1 tablespoon olive oil or rosemary infused olive oil

1 teaspoon each: dried minced onion and fresh rosemary leaf, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Sauté all of the ingredients for the mushroom mania medley (mmm...) over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed.

2. Cut the puff pastry into 3-inch squares. Alternatively, you can opt for fun shapes, made using cookie cutters. Place the pastry pieces on lightly oiled cookie sheets, leaving just a little room in between so they can puff out. Top them evenly with the mushroom medley.

3. Drizzle the additional olive oil evenly on top of them and sprinkle with the dried onion and rosemary. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Serves 4; 30 minutes or under! GF (with polenta)/Purple (according to the health guidelines in my books)

*To substitute polenta for the puff pastry, simply follow the directions for making polenta on page 94 of RHIW. When the polenta is firm (after chilling overnight), cut it into squares or shapes and pan-fry it until golden browned on both sides. Top the hot, pan-fried polenta pieces with the cooked mushroom mixture, sprinkle with the garnishes, and serve.

The Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving Menu

Hey sweet peas! How's November treating you? If you're like me, you've already begun to think about the deliciousness that is Thanksgiving. Mmmm, nothing satisfies like a well planned Thanksgiving dinner! And in my world, that dinner has been a vegan one for the last 20 years. Granted, I didn't always host my own vegan dinners, but over the last 10 years (ever since I moved to Colorado), I've had a vegan Thanksgiving dinner at my home. Most years, we invite good friends over and they all bring vegan dishes to share. Many of my friends aren't vegan (or even vegetarian!), but they're all cool enough to be psyched to have a delicious meal with friends and not care that it's animal-free.

So, what does a vegan eat on a day that is usually all about eating turkeys? PLENTY. We eat a-plenty. In fact, I always try to get in a good workout the morning of, so that I can give myself room to enjoy all that amazing food!

On Thanksgiving this year, there will be a dozen of us gathered at my home. Several vegetarians, three vegans (myself, my daughter, and a friend), and a few meat-eaters. We don't really do much other than talk, laugh, and eat. For us, it's a day of homey kitchen fun, warmth, laughter, and damn good food.

So, I know what you're thinking now... "Enough talk! Tell me what you eat! I want details. Specifics." Yes, I hear you, and I shall comply! Here goes...

Our Vegan Thanksgiving 2011

* Tofurky: Yes, tofurky. I do realize many people mock the idea of having a "fake turkey" but really, I don't think of it that way. First of all, it's DELICIOUS. And secondly, it's REAL food, not fake. In fact, if it tasted like turkey, I personally wouldn't like it! But it's made from real foods like tofu and garbanzos, and makes for a great main dish that's easy to put together. I like to baste my tofurky roasts with a mixture of orange juice, olive oil, and tamari and add lots of trimmings to the pan - potatoes, lots of garlic cloves, sliced onions, and carrots. And oh mama! When the roast is done, you have all those yummy caramelized veggies on your plate.

* Some kind of warming winter soup must make an appearance, and this year I think that soup needs to be my Carrot Ginger Lime Soup from my newest book. But, since I love this recipe so insanely much, I also shared it here. You must try it! Pictured below.

* Garlic Mashers: Basically, my yummy mashed potato recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth

* What goes on the mashed potatoes and tofurky? Why, none other than my pride and joy, Scrumptious Shiitake Gravy. Seriously, even if you eat meat and hate mushrooms, you'll want to eat this stuff with a spoon! The recipe is also from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, but also on my blog here.

* Another huge crowd-pleaser is my recipe for phyllo wrapped asparagus. Trust me, you'll have stalkers if you serve these (pictured below). Again, this is a recipe from my first book that I also shared on my blog here.

* This year, I'll be making the Roasted Rosemary Butternut Squash from Radiance 4 Life. I made this for a cooking class last weekend, and everyone wanted seconds (and thirds, but at that point, it was gone!)

* Cranberry sauce of some form must happen. I'm sort of traditional that way. Sometimes, I cheese out and buy pre-made organic cranberry sauce, but this year I'll be making this recipe from VegWeb. I've tried it before, and it's really unusual and delish!

* My recipe for Roasted Cauliflower actually won an award! It's CRAZY good. It's in the sides chapter of Radiant Health, Inner Wealth and also here on my blog.

* Warm bread of some kind is a must, so this year I will be making a whole grain cornbread. YUM.

* My friend Elaine is bringing one of her magic salads (her salads are unreal!) this year, but normally I make either my Spinach-Strawberry Salad (pictured below and SO good!) or something along those lines.

* This year, a friend is making the citrus beets with maple glazed pecans from my book Radiance 4 Life. SO glad I invited her! I'm literally drooling, thinking about this one.

* Finally, we always make sure to have some ridiculously delicious desserts on the table. I'll be making a pumpkin pie (using my recipe from RHIW) with the beautiful local organic pie pumpkin I picked. Woot! Also, I think we'll make some Apple Puffs with Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce (also from RHIW and pictured below) just to round things out. They're easy to make, but sooo impressive and delish!

Well, that's about it! I feel like I'm forgetting something, but if so, I have a feeling we'll somehow have enough to eat! So, howzabout it? Let us know what's on YOUR menu this year!!

And THANK YOU to Olga Vasiljeva and Michelle Bebber for their beautiful photographs!

Scrumptious Shiitake Gravy: A Vegan Gravy That Even Omnivores Flip For!

Oooohh…how decadent and delicious is this gravy? Very. The last time I included this in a cooking class, the students were actually eating it by the cupful! This is divine served over baked or mashed potatoes, crunchy tempeh, noodles, grains, pan-fried tofu, or an empty cup. Don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you—this is actually quite simple to make. And soooooo worth it!

P.S. Slather this on your entire Thanksgiving. Except for the cranberry sauce....wait, I take that back. This is craycray good on every. Single. Thing. Recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth

Scrumptious Shiitake Gravy

1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
One medium yellow onion, minced
½ cup non-hydrogenated margarine (1 stick)
¼ cup tamari, shoyu, or soy sauce
8 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ cup EACH: white wine or sherry, rice flour, and nutritional yeast powder
1 cup water
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaf
3 cups nondairy milk, plain and unsweetened
4 teaspoons dried onion granules
2 teaspoons organic sugar or sucanat
2 tablespoons vegetarian chicken seasoning or “Chicky Baby Seasoning” (recipe in my books)
1½ teaspoons sea salt (or less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (or freshly ground to taste)

1. In a large saucepan, sauté the mushrooms and onion in about 3 tablespoons of the margarine over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and just beginning to brown. Be sure to stir often during this process. If the pan becomes dry, add more margarine as needed.

2. Add the tamari, garlic, and wine and stir well. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the rice flour and nutritional yeast and stir well to make a smooth base (aside from the lumpy mushrooms and onions, that is). This is your “roux.” Add the water slowly, stirring constantly, until the base is as smooth as possible.

4. Add the remaining items, one at a time, stirring well to combine. Simmer gently over medium-low heat to marry the flavors for about 15-20 more minutes. You will want to stir the gravy often during this time to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan. Serve hot or warm. Enjoy your gravy, you lucky baby.

Makes about 6 cups; 30 minutes or under! GF/Purple (according to the health guidelines in my books)