GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living

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Sunday Comfort Food

Most meals at this house are fridge to table in 30 minutes or less.  It is out of sheer desperation for lack of prep time that I have read about, implemented and even come up with my own time hacks. (Things like pre-making big pots of brown rice and freezing in portions; slow cooker everything and 20 minute soup 3 nights a week!)

Sometimes, when I have the time and an extra set of hands to keep the kiddos from running in the street, I like to make stuff that requires more than “chop, cook, serve.”

I give you: Colcannon Topped with Kidney Bean “Meat”balls and Mustard-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Comfort Food Made Vegan!

Comfort Food Made Vegan!

This whole meal was about an hour of prep/cook.  WAY more time than I usually spend in the kitchen, but as I get the luxury of blogging this my boys are busy loading the dishwasher. ❤ them!

So here’s the details:

Kidney Bean Meatballs

Make the meatballs first, they take the longest. (Make this your own by adding hot sauce, steak sauce or liquid smoke if you want. All would be great!)

1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 onion

2 cloves garlic

Handful of baby carrots

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 tbsp ketchup

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

3/4 instant oats (or regular oatmeals pulsed a few times in the food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In your food processor put onion, carrot and garlic. Pulse a few times until well chopped and mixed. Add rice, pulse a few more times. Add beans and pulse until most are smashed. This should be chunky-ish though, you don’t want a paste. Scoop it out into a bowl and add ketchup, sauces and oats. Mix really well and using hands to form into balls, place on cookie sheet. (I made about 20)

Bake 20-30 minutes or until outside gets firm and golden. Let cool for a bit (they firm up as they cool).

While those are baking, prepare-


Colcannon= Irish side dish consisting of mashed potatoes with cabbage (or in this case, kale that was taking over the garden) Make this dish as big or small as you need!

Potatoes , quartered

Kale or cabbage, de-stemmed and chopped

Dijon mustard

Green onions, sliced

Boil the potatoes till soft. Turn off heat and throw in the greens. (Let them steam for 10 minutes while you prep the Brussels Sprouts.)

After greens have softened, drain the whole pot and mash well with non dairy milk, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. Add in green onions and still well.

Agave and Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts

2 cups Brussels Sprouts

2 tbsp agave

2 tbsp yellow mustard

1/2 tbsp olive oil


Slivered almonds (garnish)

Whisk agave, mustard and oil together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts. Place them in a skillet with enough water to move them around a bit and steam them until bright green and tender. As water is getting low and evaporating, pour in mustard mixture stirring until nicely glazed, about 2-3 minutes. Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with slivered almonds.

If you timed it all right, everything should be ready when the almonds go on! The meatballs had cooled enough to be firm and the husband and son had theirs with gravy (but it wasn’t vegan so I skipped that) but if I make this again, I’m doing it up with gravy too. Total Iowa comfort food, veganized (and gluten free!)

Enjoy friends, Aloha.

(Credits: Recipes adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas and Happy Herbivore Abroad by Lindsay Nixon)


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The Bits and Pieces Bowl

My basic recipe for quick easy dinner is this: put it in a pan, add taco seasoning & eat. Tonight was one of those nights! Leftover beans, mushrooms, baby kale from the garden &some three-day old rice: done.


Cook altogether in a large skillet with some water & seasoning.


Top with avocado & salsa for a yummy mexi-mushroom kale bowl.


Enjoy! Here’s to easy plant-based living!


Zesty Thai Basil and Kale

Sometimes when I’m walking through the grocery store (though it is a whole lot less often these days) I stop to read processed food labels.  I admit, there is still a part of me that is so drawn to the convenience of it all.  And I see other parents, toddlers in tow, carts piled high with boxed dinners, and I think, what the hell is wrong with me?  They are nice, normal, families who have many of the same struggles I do and they are eating this stuff.  What could be so bad?

So, I re-read labels.  The same ones I’ve read a dozen times, just to make sure the shit is still there so I steer clear.  Fake sugars; led me to chronic headaches.  Red #40; possible link to ADHD in children.  Corn/soy oil; probably GMO with unknown long term health effects.  Fake flavors I can’t pronounce; it’s just not food.  And the packaging!  My neighbor commented to me that we only put our trash out once a month- for a house feeding 3 adults, 1 child, 2 dogs and 2 chickens, that’s not very much.  It’s because we don’t eat much that comes in a box= no trash.

But there’s some good that comes from all this label reading: I get inspired to try new flavor combinations from the garden.  This throw-together dinner was inspired by one of those boxed dinners, the kind you just “add water” and the complete meal appears on your plate.  Mine took longer, but I must say, was pretty darn tasty.  And we got to eat all the cherry tomatoes, kale and Thai basil that was overgrown in the garden.

Zesty Thai Basil & Kale with Tofu


Bunch of cherry tomatoes (at least a cup)

Large bunch of kale, washed and chopped

Large bunch of Thai basil, leaves only, washed

Garlic, crushed

Ginger, grated


1 package extra firm tofu, with water squeezed out, cubed

Prep the kale, basil, garlic, ginger and tofu before getting started.  Cooking goes pretty quickly.

Place small amount of oil into a heated wok.  Toss in the tomatoes.  If they are big, you can cut some in half, but smaller ones get a nice “pop” texture by not cutting them.  Stir constantly so they don’t burn.

After a few minutes, toss the kale in.  Stir until it cooks down a bit, then add the garlic and ginger.  We like strong flavor, so I used heaping spoonfuls of both.

Then add the Thai basil.  It will start to smell really yummy now.  Add a pinch of salt to taste.

Put the cubes of tofu in and stir gently so as not to break it all up.  Pile the mixture on top the cubes so flavors go into the tofu.  Reduce heat on the wok now and let it set, covered for a few minutes.

We had this with seasoned rice, which was cooked and prepped already.  (Brown rice cooked with vegetable broth and seasoned with a pinch of hot red pepper flakes.)


Cruelty-Free Happy Meal

It continues to be a journey away from junk.

It’s not always easy, especially when I’m tired, busy, didn’t think about what to pack for lunch or make for dinner and the Little Boy peanut-voice says, “Maybe we go to McDonalds?”  “No, not tonight,” I say gently, “Mommy will make something.”

(Which begs the question: How does he even come to suggest this? We have NEVER eaten there. It just happens to be in our neighborhood and he sees other kids there- I can’t shelter him from evil forever!)

I don’t want to be that parent who forbids anything- that just makes them want it more, right? But if I can effectively avoid, dodge, do circles around and make a mockery of the Golden Arched-Enemy (and all his Allies) then it’s one more day I haven’t let it creep into our organic-vegetarian-sustainable life.  This will get more difficult as time goes on, I’m sure of it; not just avoiding fast-food, but helping to guide our son to good choices of all kinds for his health and for the planet.  This is a task I’m willing to take on: his physical health and how he lives his life after he leaves our home someday depends on what we do now.

I’m not sure why, but it is also surprising to Joe and Jane Schmo Public that my preschooler eats vegetables, and even enjoys them. He especially liked this meal, which included kale chips, because he got to help pick the kale from the garden, wash it up and then put the fixin’s on his bean burger.  Also, the kale is sort of purple, and vegetables that are cool colors are much more appealing.  Involving him the process, though sometimes it takes FOREVER to do something, is totally worth it.  (Cooking with a three-year old is a special kind of joy/torture/comedy.)

Bean Burgers with Kale Chips

There is no “recipe” for this bean burger, because I make them different every time, depending on what is in the fridge that needs to be used.  But here is a basic layout:

  • Beans: these pictures use white beans because that is what was cooked and needed to be eaten. They are also good with black beans (my favorite) or lentils.
  • Rice or other grain: These photos are with cooked brown rice, mixed with quinoa. It was in the fridge and needed to be used.  Quinoa cooks quickly and also mixes well with lentils.
  • Firm vegetable: Again, whatever needs used. This time it was half a zucchini. I have also used bell pepper or shredded carrots. Just make sure it doesn’t add too much moisture to the mix. You don’t want soup-burgers.
  • Egg: For vegans, you can skip this and make a flax-egg to hold it together. But we have happy productive chickens so I use 1 or 2 brown eggs.
  • Bread crumbs or crackers: A large handful usually does it, just to keep it sticky and not too gooey.

Pulse it all in the food processor until you get a good consistency.

Once you get the consistency that is thick and not too runny, you can either cook the burgers on a cookie sheet (about 375 for 40 minutes) or you can use a skillet.

Both are good, but I think the skillet method might be a bit faster.

Skillet cooking also gets them nice and brown, with a bit more “crunch” on the outside.  They look like pancakes, right?

Once the burgers are cooking, you can prep the kale, by cutting off all the stems, cutting into bite size pieces and tossing with a bit of olive oil and salt.  Spread it out on a cookie sheet as close to single-layer as you can- I don’t have a sheet or oven big enough for as much kale as we get but we do our best!

After about 10-15 minutes the kale chips are done, and were lovely and crunchy. I put the bowl on the table for small hand nibbling while the burgers finished cooking and then cooled.

And even though I sized it down for a toddler, he still asked for more, so he got the other half of his burger and more kale anyway.

This was a tasty, easy dinner on a night when we also had other children visiting and everyone had seconds.  Take that, McCrapolds.


When Kale Takes Over: Eat it.

It was getting out of hand. The plants were so big they were shading the cilantro. It was time to do some damage to the kale.  And it was one of those tired nights when I didn’t feel like measuring, reading, or getting particularly creative. Just cook it and eat it. So here it is:

Kale with Shiitake Mushrooms & Couscous

Chop and wash the kale. It seemed like so much at first, but it cooks down quite a bit.

I use dehydrated shiitake mushrooms, so soak those while everything else cooks.

Saute the kale with a little oil, adding more as it shrinks.

Start the couscous. I do this now so they will be cool enough for a toddler to eat.

After mushrooms have soaked for at least 15 minutes and all the kale is in the pan, I added rosemary, thyme, and garlic.  Then tossed in the mushrooms with a bit of the water and covered on simmer for a few minutes.

Easy, fast and now the other plants in the garden can breathe!