Summer Squash and Lentil Soup

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Coming up with new recipes during the summer can be a challenge. I don’t have much of an appetite during the summer, so it’s hard for me to figure out what, if anything, would be appetizing. Other than coconut milk ice cream, of course 🙂

So when I’m stumped for recipe ideas, I ask myself these questions:

1) What’s in season, fresh, and available? To answer this question, I stop at the first thing that comes to mind. For this recipe, that thing was summer squash.

2) Which foods can I pair this with to maximize nutritional value? For me, the simplest way to figure out if a meal will be nutritious and filling is to ensure that it has enough protein and fiber. So I added baby kale and lentils to the mix. Obviously there are many more components to complete nutrition than protein and fiber, but I focus on those two for simplicity’s sake. 

3) How do I make this weather and/or occasion appropriate? Obviously a stew would be too heavy for a summer dish, so I decided against adding heartier elements like potatoes or other root vegetables. I decided a soup would be ideal, because it’s not as heavy. Plus, this week will be very busy for me, so I wanted something that I could make a lot of and keep in the fridge for leftover lunches and dinners.

4) What ingredients do I add to make this delicious? This is the fun part! If I’m using ingredients I’ve never cooked with before (or if I’m in a creative rut), I consult one of my new favorite books, The Flavor Bible. It has a huge database of almost every food you can think of, with lists of recommended pairings. For this dish, I relied not on The Flavor Bible, but  rather on my previous experience with lentil soups, summer squash, and kale. I rounded out the recipe with diced tomatoes, vegan chicken broth (yes, such a thing exists…click here for more info), garlic, onion, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaves.

If you follow that formula, it’s relatively easy to come up with new and original recipe ideas.

Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t visit my blog to hear me ramble on about how to come up with a recipe. So let’s get to the soup.

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Summer Squash and Lentil Soup

Serves 4-6 (as a main)

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


2 C dry green or French lentils

2 small summer squash of your choice (I used yellow straight neck squash and zucchini squash), sliced thin

6 C vegan chicken broth

3 C packed baby kale (or regular kale, with stems removed and leaves chopped)

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Juice from 1/2 large lemon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 bay leaves


1) Add 1/2 C broth to a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heated to medium-high. Add onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.

2) Add summer squash, and cook for about 3 more minutes. Wilt in baby kale, then add thyme, tomatoes, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Cook for about 2 more minutes.

3) Add lentils and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon and thyme garnish.

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Haute Salsas

haute salsas - conveganence blog

Summer is in full swing, which means many of us have weekends full of block parties, BBQs, and impromptu get togethers. We’ve had people over almost every weekend this summer (usually on short notice). It isn’t easy to plan a menu when you only have a few hours before guests are arriving, or before you have to bolt out the door to a party. Heaven forbid you have two social gatherings in one weekend. That would be this introvert’s worst nightmare.

If you’re one of those people who can bring a box of cookies from the grocery store and not hate yourself for it, then read no further. However, if you want to impress your guests (or hosts), then you have to go the homemade route. Homemade salsa is a guaranteed crowd pleaser–but you know what’s better than a salsa? THREE salsas. I know what you’re thinking: Three salsas, Jessica? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Just hear me out! The secret to making three salsas is to use the same base for all of them. Yes, you’ll spend a little bit more time chopping. But you can get all 3 of these salsas ready in under an hour (less if you use a food processor). This recipe is perfect for those weekends when you have more than one party to attend, as it makes enough for 2 gatherings. You don’t have to use the fruits I used here–get creative with whatever you prefer: mangoes, strawberries, rhubarb…the possibilities are endless.

I used mason jars to divide the ingredients. I gave half of the salsa to my neighbors and kept the rest for myself :)

I used mason jars to divide the ingredients. I gave half of the salsa to my neighbors and kept the rest for myself 🙂

Haute Salsa

Makes about 8 cups of salsa

Prep time: 1 hour


1 very large white onion

2/3 C finely chopped cilantro

5 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

juice from 3 limes


1 medium english cucumber, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, cored and diced

2 C fresh cherries, pitted and diced

2 C fresh pineapple, pitted and diced


1) While chopping the ingredients, keep each ingredient in a separate container or bowl.

2) Divide the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeno equally among 3 containers (0r 6 if you are making this for 2 separate gatherings).

3) Add the cherries to one container, the pineapple to the second container, and the cucumber and red pepper to the third container.

4) Squeeze the juice from 1 lime into each container. Add 1/2 tsp salt to each container as well. Toss ingredients thoroughly.

5) Optional: You might want to let the salsa chill in the fridge for an hour before serving.

Mercury Retrograde, Baby Bunnies, and Watermelon Gazpacho

First, I want to talk a little bit about Mercury in retrograde. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here is an informative link. In a nutshell, when Mercury is in retrograde, according to astrologers, it messes up everything related to technology, communication, travel, and logistics. I usually know when Mercury is in retrograde when I have two or three disastrous days in a row. Have you ever had a week where nothing seemed to go right? Maybe you missed appointments, experienced flight delays, your computer crashed, your cell phone broke, and the brakes went out on your car? Next time you have one of those weeks, check to see if Mercury is in retrograde.  It probably is.

I figured out Mercury was in retrograde about two weeks ago, when I knocked over my camera and the lens broke. Then, I had problems ordering a new lens. Then, there were some technical issues preventing us from getting the Conveganence website finished in time for the launch so I wasn’t able to do any of the promotional activities I had planned. Then, I somehow deleted several weeks worth of recipes (about 40 hours worth of work) for the August meal plan. Later that day, I had managed to recover or rewrite some of the recipes, but I lost them again when my power mysteriously went out. The following day, some of my subscribers noticed that a couple pages were missing from the July meal plan. I corrected the issue and sent out a new file, but gmail wouldn’t let me attach it. Finally I was able to send it out, but I noticed I sent out the wrong file type. Then my office chair fell apart.

By Wednesday of last week, I was so frustrated I just gave up. I decided to take a few days off from Conveganence and work on some projects around the house. After all, during Mercury retrograde, you’re supposed to take the time to revise, repair, rethink, reflect…basically anything that starts with a “re” 🙂 My plan was to REfurbish some 100 year old windows I got from Craigslist and REpurpose them into coffee tables. I bought a new workbench for this project, but noticed the screws were missing when I tried to assemble it. Of course they were!

I resisted the urge to scream and/or break something, took a deep breath, and turned my attention to another project: assembling a compost bin I bought a few weeks back. That endeavor took me several days and turned out to be a complete nightmare. After uttering several thousand profanities, I almost managed to finish assembling it. The lid doesn’t close completely, but whatever. I’ll fix it later.

I guess the purpose of this rant was to explain my absence from the blog recently. But now I’m back, with 2 great things: a photo of some baby bunnies that are nesting in our backyard, and a recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho.

Here are the baby bunnies. I took the photo in the upper left corner just 1 week ago. I snapped the remaining 3 photos yesterday. It’s amazing how much they have grown in just one week! All 8 bunnies have opened their eyes and their ears stand up. They are also starting to explore outside of the nest.



Aren’t they adorable??

Okay, now for a recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho! A variation of this recipe is in the Conveganence July meal plan. It’s one of my favorite things to make during the summer. I must admit I was skeptical the first time I tried gazpacho. Chilled soup was not my thing. I was in Madrid at a Flamenco theater/restaurant called Casa Patas (House of Feet). I was traveling alone, with only my dogeared copy of Rick Steves’ Spain 2006 to keep me company. Rick insisted that I give the gazpacho a try, and because he hadn’t steered me wrong yet, I ordered it without hesitation. Washed down with some sangria and flamenco, it was just the thing for a hot July night in Madrid.

Since then, I’ve made gazpacho at least once every summer. The watermelon in this version makes it extra refreshing and perfect for steamy Chicago summers.



Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes chill time)


2 large hothouse tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 1/2 C cubed watermelon, seeded

1 fresno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1/4 C cilantro leaves

2 limes, juiced

1/2 tsp sea salt


1) Place serving bowls or glasses in freezer and allow to chill while preparing gazpacho.

2) Combine the ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute.

3) Chill gazpacho in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Serve in glasses. Garnish with lime.


Blossoming Berry Sorbets

blueberry lavender and raspberry rose hip sorbets - conveganence

Just recently, I discovered the bulk looseleaf tea aisle at Whole Foods. In that aisle, you can find any type of tea that strikes your fancy, and you can buy as much or as little as you want. I like brewing my own white tea with chamomile, lavender, and rose hips. You can use the dried flowers and herbs in the tea aisle for other purposes too, like creating your own salt scrubs, essential oils, and other bath products. Today, I decided to try something new with my tea fixins by blending them into sweet, summery sorbets.

I combined the rose hips with fresh raspberries, and the lavender with fresh blueberries. The lavender and rose hip flavor came through subtly, neutralizing the tang of the berries. I was very happy with the way the sorbets came out. They were very easy to make too, so they’d be perfect for deceiving your friends into thinking you’re fancier than you really are.

blueberry lavender and raspberry rose hip sorbets - conveganence

blueberry lavender and raspberry rose hip sorbets - conveganence

Blueberry Lavender Sorbet

Serves 2


12 oz fresh blueberries, rinsed

1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried lavender

1/2 C vegan cane sugar

1/4 tsp salt

juice and zest from 1 small lemon


1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, and lavender with 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until sugar and salt dissolve. Set syrup aside and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

2. In a blender, combine the syrup, blueberries, lemon zest and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

3. Strain blueberry mixture into a bowl to get rid of the skins and any large chunks of lavender. Chill mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

4. Add mixture to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put mixture in freezer, checking every hour or so until it reaches the desired consistency.

blueberry lavender and raspberry rose hip sorbets - conveganence

Raspberry Rose Hip Sorbet

Serves 2

Follow recipe for Blueberry Lavender sorbet, only use 12 oz of raspberries (instead of blueberries) and 2 tbsp dried rose hips (instead of lavender).

I recommend that you serve the sorbets immediately so they don’t get too frozen. If you want to store them in the freezer, mix in a couple tablespoons of berry liqueur or corn syrup before storing.

3-2-1 Salad

3-2-1 Salads - conveganence blog

When I worked as an attorney, I ate lunch at my desk almost every single day. Most of the time, the food I ate wasn’t very healthy. It was heavily processed, high in sodium (think frozen lunches, canned soups,  or even chips and crackers). By the time 2pm rolled around, I would feel exhausted, bloated, and crabby. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about!

If only I had known that I could avoid the mid-afternoon doldrums with just a little bit of planning. (Actually I probably did know that, I was just too miserable to do anything about it.) Anyway, this recipe is something I think I will make every week for both myself and my husband, whose office eating habits are even worse than mine used to be.

I call this the 3-2-1 salad because the recipe makes 3 salads for 2 people in under 1 hour, AND for less than $15 (assuming you’ve got olive oil and vinegar or your favorite dressing on hand). This simple, budget friendly recipe is vegan (of course), gluten free, soy free and sugar free. Plus, each salad is full of my two favorite nutrients: protein and fiber.

3-2-1 Salad

Prep time: 45 minutes

Makes 6 salads


1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 small head of broccoli, chopped into very small florets

1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into very small florets

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 C red quinoa

1 can artichoke hearts

1/2 C kalamata olives

3/4 C julienne sliced sundried tomatoes

1/2 C shelled pistachios or other nuts of your choice (optional)

Dressing ingredients: (or use your favorite dressing)

1 C cilantro, chopped

1/2 C olive oil (probably less)

3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

juice from 1 lemon

3-4 cloves garlic

1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp ground cumin


1) Combine ingredients for dressing in a food processor (except for olive oil). Drizzle in olive oil, a few tablespoons at a time, while pulsing food processor. Taste test every so often and stop adding olive oil when the spice becomes milder. Chill dressing for at least 30 minutes.

2) Preheat oven to 400F. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toss with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, put quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

4) In a food processor, combine artichoke hearts and olives until minced. You could also chop by hand.

5) Create Salad #1 (left photo) by layering the quinoa, artichoke hearts, olives, sundried tomatoes, and half the kale. (This salad would probably be fine without dressing. I just put a bit of extra oil from the sundried tomatoes in mine.)

6) Create Salad #2 (middle photo) by layering the remaining kale, chickpeas, chopped red pepper, and pistachios.

7) Create Salad #3 (right photo) by layering the white beans, kidney beans, broccoli and cauliflower.

8) Refrigerate salads and dressing until ready to serve. Each salad should last a few days. When you’re ready to eat, just add a bit of dressing to the jar, close the lid, and shake it up!

3-2-1 Salads - conveganence blog3-2-1 Salads - conveganence blog3-2-1 Salads - conveganence blog

Portobello, Tempeh and White Bean Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Q: What’s the best night of the week?

A: Taco night. Hands down. Always.

The prospect of taco night has excited me since I was a young child. (Evidently my life has never been that exciting.) My mom would pick up an Old El Paso taco kit at the grocery store, which was a staple of any decent 1980s childhood. The kit came with about 5 too many taco shells, taco seasoning, and some kind of red sauce. She’d also pick up a packet of shredded cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, green onions, and a big tomato. When the taco filling was ready, we’d get to assemble our own tacos. I’m not even sure why I’m explaining this process to you, since you’re probably already familiar.

Sadly, taco nights were lost to me for a while when I stopped eating meat and animal products. But once I stepped outside of the culinary comfort zone of the Old El Paso taco kit, I was able to take taco night to a whole new level. No offense to my parents, but vegan taco nights have been the best I’ve ever experienced!

For example, these portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos. They are spicy, meaty (yet meat-free!) and have plenty of fiber and protein. They are gluten-free if made with corn shells. The pineapple salsa is a must for this recipe. The sweetness of the pineapple perfectly balances the heat from the tacos. In my opinion, this is what makes the dish, so don’t leave it out! If you’re not a fan of pineapple, you could probably substitute another fruit…maybe strawberry or mango.

portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos - conveganence blog

Portobello, Tempeh and White Bean Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Salsa Ingredients:

1.5 C fresh pineapple, chopped into 1/4″ cubes

1.5 C seeded and diced tomatoes

1 small white onion, diced

1/2 C cilantro, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, diced (leave seeds in for more heat, otherwise remove them)

juice from 1 lime

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Taco Ingredients

2 portobello mushroom caps, diced (be sure to scrape out the gills first)

8 oz tempeh, cut into dice

1 14-oz can white beans

1 medium yellow onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 8-oz can tomato paste

juice from 1 lime

2 C vegetable or vegan “chicken” broth

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp oregano

salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

olive oil


taco shells

vegan sour cream

sliced avocado

vegan shredded cheese (I recommend Daiya brand)


Combine all salsa ingredients into a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until onions begin to soften. Add portobello and tempeh and cook about 5 more minutes, until the mushrooms begin to give up their juices. Add the white beans and spices, cook for about 3 more minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken. When sauce is close to desired texture, stir in the nutritional yeast and add the lime juice. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Serve on taco shells and top with pineapple salsa and desired toppings. There will be plenty of leftover pineapple salsa, so store any remaining in an airtight container. It should keep in the fridge for a few days.

portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos - conveganence blog

portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos - conveganence blog

Cherry Vanilla Almond Smoothie

Are you in the mood for a breakfast that tastes like a dessert but won’t take up half your allotted calories for the day? If so, then give this smoothie a whirl! It’s got everything: protein, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, Omega-3s, and the triple-threat of all flavor combinations: cherry/vanilla/almond. (Edit: Did anyone else read that last sentence in Stefon’s voice, or have I just been watching too much SNL?)

I made this smoothie for breakfast yesterday, and I didn’t get around to eating lunch until 3pm, nor was I tempted to have a snack. Needless to say, this smoothie will become part of my regular breakfast repertoire.

Cherry Vanilla Almond Smoothie

Serves 1

Prep time: 10 minutes (plus 30+ minutes to soak chia seeds)


3/4 C plain or vanilla almond milk yogurt

1 C fresh cherries, pitted and stems removed (about 15 cherries)

1/3 C almond milk

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp almond butter

1/4 tsp vanilla extract (if you did not use vanilla flavored yogurt–otherwise, omit it)

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 scoop plain or vanilla plant-based protein powder (optional–I did not use any protein powder in this yesterday)

4-5 ice cubes


1) Soak chia seeds in almond milk the night before, or for at least 30 minutes prior to making the smoothie.

2) Pit the cherries. I recommend using a chopstick or a skewer to do this. Make sure to pit the cherries over a paper towel or plate, as it can get messy.

3) Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.


Strawberry Rhubarb Salad

This weekend was the official opening of the farmer’s market in my town. It was a little anticlimactic because there weren’t many vendors yet, and most of the vendors didn’t have much in the way of offerings. Fortunately, I managed to score some beautiful ruby red rhubarb.


rhubarbconveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb salad

I was too lazy to go grocery shopping or look for recipes that use rhubarb, so I just combined it with some ingredients I happened to have around the house.

This salad is on the sweet side, and it’s perfect for the hot weather we’ve had lately. If you can wait a while before eating it, I recommend serving it chilled. I ate it warm (I’m impatient like that) but that didn’t stop me from wolfing this down.

Strawberry Rhubarb Salad

Serves 4

Preparation time: 25 minutes (plus chill time)


For the Salad

1 C quinoa, cooked according to package instructions

2 large stalks rhubarb, diced (about 2 C)

2 tbsp vegan cane sugar

1 1/2 C strawberries, sliced

10 oz watercress or other green (spinach would work nicely here too)

optional: almond slivers (I didn’t use any but I thought it would go well with this salad)

For the Dressing

1 C  strawberries, stems removed

3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice from 1 lemon

1/2 tsp agave nectar

1/2 tsp ground ginger (or 1″ grated fresh if you’ve got it)

cracked black pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp)


1) Preheat oven to 450F. Toss diced rhubarb in a bowl with sugar until rhubarb is evenly coated. Let sit about 10 minutes. Arrange rhubarb in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before combining it with other salad ingredients.

2) Meanwhile, mix all dressing ingredients together in a food processor.

3) Toss watercress, sliced strawberries, rhubarb, and almonds, if using.

4) If you are chilling the salad, chill dressing, quinoa, and watercress mixture in separate containers for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, place quinoa in a salad bowl or on a plate, and top with rhubarb mixture. Drizzle with dressing and cracked pepper. (You could also mix it all together if you want.)

conveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb saladconveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb salad

salad1conveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb salad





Breezy Buckwheat Berry Breakfast

Say that 5 times fast!


I figured the first breakfast recipe I post on this blog should be the one I eat the most often. This breakfast rocks my world because there are so many different flavors (sweet, nutty, tangy) and textures (crunchy, creamy) that it’s impossible to get bored with it. Also, you can take the basic recipe and customize it a million different ways. The buckwheat and chia seeds are packed with fiber and will keep you full until lunch. Plus, this recipe is gluten and soy free. Breakfast doesn’t get much better than that!

This recipe was inspired by and adapted from one of my favorite vegan blogs, Oh She Glows. You can find the original here.


(serves 1)

1/3 C buckwheat groats

1 C fresh or frozen berries, thawed

2 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 C non-dairy milk (I’ve tried almond, coconut, and brazil nut milk–all work great)

A few drops of vanilla extract or stevia extract

Toppings (all optional):

– almond butter

– nuts

– carob chips

– goji berries

– nondairy yogurt

– cinnamon

– anything else that strikes your fancy!


1) Place buckwheat groats in a bowl and cover them with water. Place berries in a bowl with the milk, chia seeds, and sweetener. Place both bowls in the fridge to soak. You have two options here. Your first option is to soak them overnight before bed. Your other option is to start soaking them before you begin your morning routine. In any event, they must soak for at least 30 minutes (ideally at least an hour). I prefer the latter method, because I like when the buckwheat is a bit crunchier.

2) Place buckwheat in a strainer, rinse and drain out as much water as you can. Combine buckwheat with berry and chia seed mixture, and mix well.

3) Add desired toppings. The only topping I added today was almond butter. I got a little out of control with the almond butter (no surprise there) so you can see globs of it in the photo. Whoops.