Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad


Hooray, it’s picnic season! Who doesn’t enjoy packing a picnic basket full of delicious summer foods and heading to your favorite park, or beach, or a secluded hilltop to enjoy the great outdoors and break bread with friends and family or maybe even spend some alone time to destress from a busy week? It is easy to work up quite an appetite when enjoying the outdoors: swimming, building sandcastles, hiking, playing games etc; so the temptation to fill up on empty calories from salty chips, sugary sodas, and fat-filled sweets is very strong; however, taking good care of your health by eating nutritious foods is just as important on a picnic as it is every day at home. Yes, your choices need to be fairly portable, easy to prepare and serve, and packed safely to prevent food-bourne illness; but this is pretty easy to accomplish with a little preparation.

There are many great recipes available for simple yet nutritious picnic fare. One I particularly love is my Sweet & Peppery Summer Salad.  Should you want to “cook” while enjoying the outdoors, my Black Bean Burgers are a great choice. They will sizzle in no time on a grill or outdoor cooktop and I know will be a big hit with everyone. A delicious staple of picnics everywhere is a potato salad but it can come with some hefty calories and often unhealthy ingredients.  Here is my recipe for a delicious but healthier, plant-based version of this picnic favorite that is truly easy to prepare.

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad



  1. Wash, halve and steam potatoes until just fork tender (about 25 minutes) Drain and rinse gently with cold water to stop cooking process. Cut potato pieces in half again. Let cool.
  2. Use the Healthy Saute method to slightly soften and bring out the flavor of the chopped peppers (Healthy Saute: bring 3 Tbsp of vegetable broth or water to bubbling, add peppers, cover and cook for no more than 3 minutes. Drain.) Let peppers cool.
    For Dressing:
  1. Combine Just Mayo, Yellow Mustard, smoked paprika, dill weed and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to blend into potato mixture.
    To Pack or Serve
  1. In a large bowl add potatoes, celery and sweet peppers. Add dressing. Mix gently.
  2. When serving, sprinkle potato salad with small amount of dill weed and paprika.


Keep all picnic foods cold with ice packs/bags of ice in your picnic basket/cooler until ready to serve. Serve only when ready to eat. Do not let foods sit out in the sun/heat.


Plant-Based Nutrition Information

potatoesPotatoes are the stars of this recipe.  Often considered inexpensive comfort food and frequently consumed as unhealthy fast food; potatoes can actually provide awesome nutrition if they are prepared in a healthy way! This recipe calls for steaming the potatoes rather than boiling them.  This prevents the nutrients from being boiled away into the water and ensures the potatoes do not become too soft. Leaving the skins on the potato also increases the already high fiber content of this important food.

Potatoes are a very good source of Vitamin B6 – the cell-builder vitamin. B6 is very important for keeping our brain cells functioning and for supporting our nervous system. Our body’s production of serotonin (happiness), melatonin (sleep), epinephrine and norepinephrine (for stress management) needs vitamin B6. B6 also supports our cardiovascular system by helping to keep homocysteine levels low (homocysteine damages our blood vessels). Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, copper, Vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Sweet Bell Pepper

Sweet Bell Peppers are AWESOME! One cup of these incredible veggies has only 29 calories – pretty incredible for a food that tastes so good, right? Sweet Bell Peppers are an outstanding source of Vitamin C – just one cup will give you 157% of your recommend daily intake of this important vitamin.Sweet Bell Peppers are also a very good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, and folate. BONUS: these peppers have 30 different carotenoids that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support to our bodies. Good things do come in small packages!

The nutrients we derive from these delicious veggies are at their peak when the peppers are fully ripe.  How do you know if they are ripe?  Your best evidence is in their color: when the color is deep and vivid they are likely ready to eat.  Another bit of evidence is if the pepper feels heavy for its size and if the pepper feels firm but yields very slightly to pressure.

celeryCelery is an awesome veggie that adds great texture (crunch) to my potato salad and a lovely color against the white flesh of the potatoes. Celery has been a go-to veggie for anyone trying to keep their caloric intake in check; but I wonder how many people really understand how valuable this veggie is to our daily nutritional requirements!

Celery is an excellent source of Vitamin K – a vitamin necessary for blood clotting. Vitamin K is also very important for our bone health.

Celery also has very special anti-inflammatory benefits – particularly for our digestive tract.  Celery is an important source of molybdenum – a mineral that helps our bodies detoxify by keeping the sulfer in our system in balance. Celery is a good source of folate, potassium and manganese as well.

I’ve talked a lot about the need to stay hydrated – especially in the summer – and celery can play a role in this essential task. Celery is 95% water – and while just eating celery won’t keep you hydrated, every little bit helps.

NOTE:  If you are unable to find Just Mayo from Hampton Creek for this recipe at your grocery store, Veganaise from Follow Your Heart is a very good alternative. In fact, I use both these products regularly.

The Best Gravy Ever and It’s Vegan!

Gravy Your Guests Will Love

Mushrooms in a Gravy Boat

I love this recipe for gravy. It is low in calories and the sodium level is completely controlled by you.  Store bought gravies are very high in sodium! Who needs that much sodium, really? Today, many grocery stores and especially farmers markets offer a wide variety of mushrooms so have some fun and try a mushroom variety you’ve never tried before.  The produce manager or grower know all about their mushrooms so ask questions.

I use mushrooms every day.  I love the flavor and texture they add to meals – whether it be a tofu scramble for breakfast, a salad for lunch, or a portobello mushroom burger for dinner. Mushrooms are incredibly versatile! One of my very favorite mushrooms is the Oyster Mushroom. It makes an unbelievably great chowder that is out of this world.

Mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, riboflavin, copper, niacin, tryptophan, potassium and phosphorus. They are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin C and iron too. AND, mushrooms are delicious.  Not a fan of the texture of mushrooms – just blend them well into your favorite meal and you’ll still get all of the flavor and the nutritional benefits.

BONUS FEATURE OF MUSHROOMS – they are very low in calories. Awesome, right?


The Best Gravy Ever (and it’s vegan)!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 6 servings


The Best Gravy Ever (and it’s vegan)!

Mushrooms come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Experiment with mushrooms you might not have tried before if you can. This recipe works great with "the usual suspects" too, so use what you have and like.

For additional flavor, feel free to add 1 Tsp of dry sherry or a full-bodied red wine. These "additions" will add to the depth of flavor and richness of this gravy.

Refrigerate any unused gravy and reheat when you serve leftovers the next day. Everything is better with gravy, right?


  • 1 medium onion - minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms - I use a variety of mushrooms: Enoki, Shiitake, Clamshell, Oyster but you can use any mushrooms you like. This is a great opportunity to try something different!
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegan vegetable broth (not all vegetable broth is vegan - check the ingredients or make your own broth)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (1 tsp if you are using dried)
  • 2 Tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp if you are using dried)
  • 1 Tsp fresh sage (1/4 tsp if you are using dried)
  • 1 Tbsp Bragg nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
  • 2 Tbsp unbleached organic flour (or use arrowroot flour for gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, cashew)
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Wash mushrooms gently in water. Remove a small amount of ends.
  2. Slice/chop mushrooms including stems
  3. Saute onions until translucent
  4. Add mushrooms and 1 Tbsp water to onions and cook for a few minutes
  5. Add garlic and saute until garlic is softened and flavor is blended
  6. Add vegetable broth, herbs, yeast, and soy sauce.
  7. Blend non-dairy milk and flour well in small bowl using hand blender
  8. Add flour/milk mixture to mushroom mixture and simmer, stirring several times.
  9. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve hot.
  12. For a very smooth gravy, blend mixture until smooth if desired. If you like it somewhat smooth, blend just half of the mixture. I like mine with pieces of mushroom so I don't blend at all. Definitely a personal preference kind of thing.


I recommend using homemade cashew, soy or almond milk. If you use store bought non-dairy milk I recommend unflavored and unsweetened versions.