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Breakfast
  • Sourdough Bread Pudding

    I knew that I had found "my people" at work when farm-fresh eggs, homemade sourdough, granola, raw milk yogurt and bundt cakes showed up at work. Ooh, also, garlic. Yep, homegrown garlic. And beans! One of my co-workers gave me a sample of his heirloom beans he grows. How cool?!But honestly, the thing that excited me most...like, I literally lost my shit, was when one of my co-workers brought in freshly baked sourdough bread. With almond butter and homemade jam. I mean, come on! A chilly late-March morning can't get much better than a freshly toasted slice of sourdough bread, adorned with a little organic butter, some almond butter and homemade jam, all with a cup of hot coffee. If you can't get on board for that, I just don't know....maybe you shouldn't be reading this? 

    Long story short, I managed to get a blob of sourdough starter from my co-worker. I was over the moon. The blob was accompanied by some instructions, and a book recommendation.

    That night, I downloaded the book onto my tablet (tbh I forgot you could do that...ha), and dove right in.I fed the starter. I fed it some more. I got some locally milled wheat and rye flours, I swore a little, and yeah...I did cry once (But it wasn't from the starter/bread, really). I found the warmest spot in my kitchen (above my fridge, by my kombucha), and let the sourdough cultures to there thing for 3 days.And then, there was bread. Glorious bread. I was so goddamn happy. 

    But then, there was bread. Two loaves. Too much for one person....so...bread pudding. But bread pudding with sourdough? After a search on the internets, I found that this was kind of a rarity. Everyone was using challah, brioche, or shitty white bread. What about those non-enriched, sans dough conditioner-rich breads?? I mean, come on, people. How boring?

    So, I am very pleased to report that sourdough makes a fabulous pud. I would even venture to say that the heartier crust and crumb allows you to be more flexible in how long you soak it, without fear of the bread cubes disintegrating into custard oblivion. A soak overnight, or for two nights, is perfect here. 

    And mix ins? Endless options. I went simple, with raisins...because I secretly love raisins. Blueberries, cranberries, hunks of apples, pears, banana...any sturdy fruit, I think would work. Dark chocolate (duh), nuts, toasted coconut....you get the idea. Be creative. Indeed, using brown sugar, coconut sugar, or even using some honey or maple syrup for sweetener would be a fun idea. I mean, this is bread pudding...not rocket science. I think you could get away with using 1/2 to 3/4 liquid sweetener instead of 1 cup of granulated. If you like it less sweet, I'd suggest cutting back, and using only 1/2 cup liquid sweetener, and scant 1 cup of granulated. Whatever your heart desires. And yes, brioche and challah will work just fine here too. The key: use what you have! That is what bread pudding is all about, am I right? Use this recipe as a template, and, shout out to Food52 for their no-fuss guidelines. Get at it. 

    Cheers to chilly spring mornings, and sharing carbs! Pssssst: this would be fabulous Easter Sunday treat!



    Bread Pudding // makes one 9"x13" pan of bread pudding // soy-free; nut-free; oil-free //

    • 1 lb (16 oz) bread cubes (a generous 5 or so cups), about 1” in size
    • 4 large eggs, using locally raised and/or organic if possible 
    • 3/4 cup granulate sugar, or 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, etc)
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • Sea salt*
    • 2 1/2 cups milk of choice, such as half & half, coconut milk or almond milk
    • 1 to 2 cups dried fruit, sturdy berries like blueberries or cranberries, or chunks of apples, dark chocolate, nuts, etc.

    *Salt: for my sourdough, which was fairly salty, I did NOT add any additional salt. If your bread is on the less-salty side, as a standard brioche or challah is, feel free to add in a pinch of salt if desired.

    1. Mix everything, except the bread, in a large bowl. Dump in bread cubes, and stir with a spatula to coat the bread crumbs. Let sit for a few minutes, and then stir again. Add in dried fruit if using, or other sturdy fruit like berries or cubes of apples, and stir.

    2. Oil or butter a 9”x13” pan. Pour in the bread/custard mixture, and pat into an even layer. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    3. To bake: preheat oven to 350F. Give the bread pudding a quick stir, and redistribute any fruit, nuts or chocolate pieces that have sunk to the bottom. Place the covered bread pudding in to bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the cover off and bake for another 20 minutes, checking at the 15 minute mark. Add or subtract baking time based on how the top is browning. If it is browning too much but needs more baking time, put the cover back on. The pudding is done when you stick a fork in, and see very little or no residual custard mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. 

    4. Remove, and cool slightly. Serve warm, or room temp. I wouldn't tell anyone if you had a scoop of ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream, with a bowl of warm bread pudding. 



     

  • Fig, Walnut + Oat Bars with Orange & Black Pepper

    Happy spring! It has arrived. All wet, rainy, and cloudy. But! April showers bring May flowers (I just typed  "flours"...ha!). They also mean more activities outside. Yes! Finally. I am really excited to explore the Driftless as the conditions become less...muddy. I did attempt a hike in Duck Egg Park in February, during one of our warm streaks, but the mud got the best of me and my shoes. With spring comes warmer weather, and also a renewed motivation on certain levels. However, this past week was...draining. Work is starting to ramp-up, and last weekend I had a hectic visit home. I played hookie from a potluck a co-worker hosted this weekend. As much as I wanted to go earlier this week, I really just needed some time to myself to re-charge this weekend. I have earned the nickname "Grandma" at work, since more often than not lately, chilling at home has been my favorite weekend and after-work activity. Indeed, I am still finding myself doing some mental spring cleaning of sorts, and not going to lie: I found myself worked up, upset, sad, angry and yep, you guessed it, crying in my kitchen a few times this weekend. This morning, as I sat with my second coffee, eating some toast (from my first *successful* loaf of sourdough bread...more on that later), some memories hit me. The guilt, anger, sadness and empty feelings that really don't suit my life anymore (but still try to creep in, damn them!) hit me out of nowhere. Does that ever happen to you? Maybe the caffeine brought it on, but I always feel better if I let the feelings run their course, and remind myself to be strong all the while. So, not surprisingly, I find myself really sensitive to the presence of other people lately. Their opinions, their timeliens, their values, their priorities. So, with that said, sorry family and friends for not calling this weekend...trust me, it is not you, it is surely me! I talked with my sourdough starter all weekend, so don't worry-I had contact with a life form of sorts...heh...As I mentioned, reminding myself that I am strong, resilient, and that I can truly take care of myself, has been really important this past week. I nearly laughed my dinner out the other night, because during an episode of Grace and Frankie (you gotta watch it, if you Netflix...and yes, I sometimes plop myself in front of Netflix while I eat dinner), Grace gets stuck driving Frankie's car, all the while Frakie's "self affirmations" are on repeat in her car. And yes, I think our gut reaction to this exercise is "really? Do we need to repeat these things, this hippy-dippy stuff, to make ourselves feel better??". But, to those people, as resistant as you are to this (I used to be, too), and as much as you want to make fun of it, I encourage you to try it sometime. It is powerful, on a sub-conscious level, that I am stil trying to figure out. But that is life, right? Enjoying the journey, learning from it, learning about myself (yourself) and others. Be gentle with yourself, and others. Have compassion. Carry love in your heart for those that you love, for those that you don't understand, and for those that have hurt you. All of that stuff, ya know...it really is an art, a practice, a work-in-progress. Ok, ok, ooook....time to share this recipe, becuase these fig bars are so damn good. Perfect for a snack with coffee or tea, awesome as a quick breakfast, really tasty with tangy plain yogurt (started to eat dairy yogurt again a few weeks back, and I am so glad I did! Shout out to all the dairy farmers in WI, we salute you).

    Dried figs. Kinda like prunes, but a bit more...sexy? I dunno. My nickname at work is Grandma, so this should not be surprising, my love for dried, high-fiber fruits. My obsession with dried figs started a long time ago, when my journey with natural foods started, perhaps out of what now I see as some serious self-image issues. Out of sheer curiosity of what the hell a dried fig was, I went to our local co-op, bought some dried, wrinkly, almost black mission figs. A love the sweet, earthy flavor developed at first bite. Soon after, I discovered some magical fig bars at the Willy Street Co-Op. Alas, it was a short love affair, as the bakery team there stopped making them because they were "too hard" to get out of the pans (pssssh) after baking...something about too much crumbling and sticking. I was so upset that I called, super sad, and asked the baker manager "WHY, BUT WHHHHHY??". She did email me the recipe, but, it was for a HUGE pan of fig bars...and also called for some ingredients that I didn't ever have on hand (apple juice concentrate). WTF.

    So, a few meh-level attempts over the years left me still longing for my beloved, very lost fig bars. My attempts were too sweet, too crumbly; the filling was always a pain in the ass to spread over the bottom crust, and they weren't thick enough, blah blah....Until....Sara's book. I had a hunch that the fig and walnut bars she has in her first book just miiiight be a worthy contender. After a few tweaks and making them several times, and also coming to the life-changing conclusion that I could use similar flavor's (orange, sea salt, black pepper) in the fig filling as Deb's amazing fig challah for the filing of these bars, my quest....was over. This is it, folks. Fig bar dreams realized. This recipe is a keeper. And yes, you read correctly: I called the bakery at the co-op about fig bars. I AM THAT PERSON.

    My major changes to the original recipe include:

    • First: Used mashed banana instead of apple sauce that the crust/topping calls for, since I never have apple sauce on hand (and when I do, it is from my Mom or Grandma, and I like to enjoy it plain or with yogurt, with lots of cinnamon). I could see pumpkin puree working, too. I also tried using ground flax instead of the chia seeds, and it worked perfectly, but either work.
    • Second: I omitted the walnut toasting that Sarah includes, since I feel the baking of these bars provided plenty of heat to toast the nuts. 
    • Third: I have found that coconut oil, sunflower oil and olive oil all work for the crust/topping. I won't tell if you use melted butter, either. Just maybe use a organic, cultured variety? Please?
    • Fourth: I stewed my figs with freshly squeezed orange juice, orange zest, black pepper, and a pinch of sea salt. I did this because I find that simply pureeing dried figs gives a really thick, really sticky filling that is a pain in the ass to spread over the bottom of the bars. I dunno about you, but here in WI, I can only find dried figs that are DRIED and pretty....hard, so, they need some lovin' before being converted to a speadable bar filling.
    • Lastly, I also made a version that included one whole peeled, chopped apple in the filling, stewed along with the figs. Awesome decision, if you want to go that way. I could see a ripe pear being tasty, too. This adds a bit more sweetness to the filling, and also amps-up the volume of the filling if you want more of it. 

    In fact, if you just want to make the fig puree, I would endorse that decision 110%. I could see it being used as a spread for toast, used in oatmeal, swirled into yogurt, included on a cheese board for a sweet contrast....it really is quite tasty. It would for sure keep for a few weeks in the fridge, stored in a jar or other covered container. OR you can hop on over here, and make Deb's amazing challah. No regrets, people.Notes: I like to store these in a tin in the freezer to keep them fresher for a longer period of time. The filling is moist, the bottom and topping aren't...so...cooler temperatures mitigate moisture migration,(mitigate moisture migration....wow, say THAT 10x fast). A quick re-heat in a warm oven or toaster oven, or even a microwave, brings the bars back to life. You could also just forget about a (wrapped) bar(s) in your purse/bag/lunch box for a few hours, and be surprised by a sweet, gooey, not-full-of-crap or hard-to-find-ingredients treat. Cheers!



    Fig and Walnut Bars // Makes 9 ~1.5"x1.5" bars, or 16 ~1"x1" bars // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; soy-free //

    Base and Topping:

    • 1 ½ TB chia seeds or ground flax seeds*
    • ¼ cup (63g) water
    • 2 cups (280g) walnuts
    • 2 cups (200g) oats, using certified gluten free if ya need to
    • ¼ cup (60g) mashed banana
    • 2 TB maple syrup
    • 1 TB melted coconut oil, sunflower oil or olive oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ¾ tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp baking powder

    Fig Filling:

    • 2 cups (300g) dried figs, stems removed
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • Pinch sea salt
    • Pinch black pepper, freshly ground is best here
    • Zest of 1 orange
    • Juice of 1 orange (about ½ cup)
    • 1-2 TB water, if needed
    • optional: 1 peeled, chopped apple or pear

    *I grind flax seeds in my coffee grinder. I like to freshly grind my flax, and use right away, since these little dudes are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids; I sometimes store smaller quantities in the freezer in a jar.

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8”x8” pan, or line with parchment paper. Start the fig filling by simmering all the ingredients in a pan, adding a TB or two of water if needed. There should be about 1” of liquid in the bottom of the pan, but this doesn’t need to be exact, and will depend on how large your orange is. Cook until the figs plump up, and are soft enough  to puree, about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Most of the liquid should be absorbed by the figs.

    2. Meanwhile the figs are simmering, prepare the base and topping mixture: in a food processor, pulse 1 cup (100g) oats until a coarse flour is made. Add in 1 cup (140g) of the walnuts, along with the salt, baking powder and sea salt. Pulse to make a medium-fine meal of walnuts. Set aside.

    3. In a large bowl, mash the banana. Add in the chia/ground flax, water, oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add this wet mixture in the food processor bowl, and mix thoroughly. Transfer this to a bowl, and add the remaining 1 cup (100g) oats, and mix thoroughly. 

    4. Pat about ⅔ of the mixture into the lightly greased 8”x8” pan, taking care to have a relatively even layer and compact mixture to prevent the bars from crumbling while cutting and handling. You can wet your hands to help with the dough sticking to your fingers.

    5. In the bowl, of the food processor (no need to rinse it out), puuree the warm figs, scraping the down the food processor as needed until smooth. Spread the mixture over the dough layer in the pan, spreading as evenly as possible.

    6. Crumble the remaining dough mixture over the top of the fig layer. Crumble the remaining 1 cup (140g) of walnuts over the top, gently pressing the crumble and walnuts into the fig layer.

    7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until browned on top. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.


    Blitz the oats, walnuts, baking powder and sea salt together. You want a semi-coarse meal, small enough particles so the this dough can stick together, but still with enough texture for your tongue to be happy when eating these. You do not want to pulse to a point where the oils of walnuts are coming out.Mash up the chia seeds (or ground flax) with the banana and water...the mixture will be thick. That is what we want! Meanwhile, while this is all happening, you're getting your fig filling all simmered...right? This particular batch had 1 large peeled apple thrown into the mix. Totally optional, but also very tasty.Back to the bottom and topping: mix the wet mixture of chia and banana with the dry mixture in the food processor. Plop into a bowl, and mix the remaining 1 cup oats...mix thoroughly!Pat about 2/3 of the batter into the bottom of a greased 8"x8" pan, or parchmnet lined pan....up to you...just don't skip that step! This batter a little on the sticky side. To help pat it out, you can wet your hands, too.Back to the figs: plump, they are ready to be pureed! You want the dried fruit to be soft, and to not have  a ton of extra cooking liquid left. But, don't sweat it, doesn't need to be perfect, just soft enough to easily shovel into your mouth, erm, I mean spread onto the bottom dough you just patted into the pan...You will have to scrape down the food processor a few times along the way, but it is worth it. Truly, it is. Spread it...evenly as possible. Again, not looking for pefection, just go for it. ......you got this...the fig filling can smell fear, so just dive in. Trust me. Crumble the remaining batter over the top, followed by the other 1 cup of walnuts. I like to simply crush the walnts in my hands a bit. Gently press into the fig filling. Admire your handy work. The layers. Love it. Notice the generous layer of fig goo? And prominence of the walnuts? Yes. These are indeed fig and walnut bars..so...that should be no surprise. Into the hot oven, to bake until the edges are golden brown, and topping is set. You'll smell the mild, earthy aroma of the filling and oats, mingling with the nuts, orange and a hint of spicy black pepper...it is indeed a good thing. Let this slab of delicious cool alllllll the way before cutting, as these bars are a bit delicate when warm. Cut into bars, stash away. Come breakfast or afternoon snack time, your tummy will be super happy you made these-trust me! 

  • My Go-To Coffee Cake (with coconut butter drizzle)

    This week has been a challenge for me. And honestly, from the pit of my stomach, I feel a little whiney saying that. But this morning, as I wrote in my journal, I realized that I need to be what I am in the present moment, and try to not "force" my way out of feeling a certain way.

    Being compassionate and loving yourself is hard. And for me, I struggle with that on the daily. Feeling guilty about not getting up and working out (becauase that is what you did last week and it felt awesome!), feeling bad about declining co-workers offers to go out and do things (you are new at your job, you don't want them to think that you are a hermit!), feeling tired at the end of the day (but you didn't really run around, did you?).So today, and this weekend, and moving forward, I am going to try my best, my darndest, my all, to tell those words in the parenthesis as spoken by my insecure, attention-loving ego to STFU. Deep down, we all know what it best for us in the present moment. Listening to your innards, your guts, your intuition is HARD. Well, at least, it is hard for me. 

    I was talking to my sister about this earlier this week, and I think we both agreed on the fact that WE ARE TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT. And by "shit" I mean "allowing our egos to push us around, feeling guilty and not worthy". Becuase goddamnit, you ARE worthy. You are AMAZING. And you ARE trying your very best with what you have right now. 

    So, with that, you are worthy of a treat. You made it through the week, and March is in sight! Warmer wearther is on the horizon, and honestly, I cannot wait. There are amazing nature things (haha, "nature things") in the Driftless area, and I am really excited to explore. Nature always calms me and makes me realize how small we really are in this world we call home. Which is really also kinda overwhelming, but mostly humbling. Ya know?Now, a little about this coffee cake: I have been making a variation of this for about 6 years now. It all started when I was living in Murfreesboro, when I truly started to fiddle with nourishing, yet tasty, treats (because after seeing how Mr. Poppin' Fresh handles his treats, you would probably do the same). I stumbled upon Ellie's recipe, and gave it a shot. Annnnd, I loved it. Wasn't too sweet, the ingredients were simple, and it was light. With more fiddling, I realized that different flours (amaranth, spelt, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole wheat pastry.....) could be used, and different fruits could also be used. Heck, I even had success with using honey and maple syrup to sweeten the batter. My most recent update: using frozen raspberries in place of the blueberries, and drizzling the entire coffeecake fresh out the oven with homemade coconut butter. Notes: If you'd like to turn this into a vegan coffee-cake, simply use 2 flax eggs (2 TB ground flax mixed with 6 TB water) in place of the eggs. Similarly, use any type of plant-based milk mixed with 2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice or a plant-based yogurt in place of the yogurt. Lastly, I have not tried a fully gluten-free version of this, but suspect a combination of buckwheat flour (I would try 1 1/3 cups) and almond flour (I would try 2/3 cups), along with a little tapioca flour (I would try 2 TB or so), would do the trick. I will update with results as I continue to experiment!

    Such a treat. Not terrible for you. And it tastes like a warm hug with your coffee at 6AM (or whatever time you want to eat it, or whatever you want to eat it with...you get the idea). 



    My Go-To Coffee Cake // makes one 8"x8" cake, or similar sized in whichever type of pan you have on hand // plant-based, vegan option, soy-free, nut-free option, gluten-free suggestion (see notes above)//

    For The Batter:

    • 2 cups flour of choice (my favorite thus far has been 1 cup organic whole spelt + 1 cup organic all-purpose)
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar of choice, or, use 1/3 cup of liquid sweetener of choice (such as honey, maple syrup or agave)
    • 3 TB melted oil or butter, or liquid oil at room temperature (avocado oil, canola oil, coconut oil, olive oil all work!), or use a combination of whatever you desire
    • 2 eggs or two flax eggs (2 TB ground flax plus 6 TB water)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract or other extract as you see fit (almond is sometimes nice if you are choosing to use raspberries or cranberries in the filling)
    • 1 cup yogurt, or 1 cup milk of choice mixed with 2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
    • optional: zest of 1 lemon or orange (especially tasty when using blueberries!)

    For The Middle & Topping:

    • 3 TB granulated sugar of choice
    • 1 tsp cinnamon (I sometimes double this, so do that if you are a cinna-holic like I am)
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • plus any other spices you'd like, such as ginger, cardamom or garam masala
    • heaping 1/2 cup of walnuts, pecans, chopped almonds, or other nut/seed of choice 
    • heaping 1 cups of berries or other fruit of choice, using fresh or frozen (if using cranberries, chopping them a little or blitzing in the food processor is recommended; blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, ~1" chunks of pear or apple...they all work here)
    • Coconut butter for drizzling on top (see recipe here for homemade, OR use purchased)

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8"x8" glass or metal baking pan. Make the mixture for the middle and topping by combining everything except the berries together in a bowl. Set aside. In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and sea salt together and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and yogurt/milk and acid together, as well as citrus zest if using, until thoroughly combined. Note: if ambitious, and if using granulated sugar and zest, you can massage the zest with the sugar first to really get the essential oils out, and then mix everything up as noted...but this is totally optional.

    2. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and mix with a spatula until just combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl to make sure no large clumps of flour remain (but some small flour lumps are a-ok!). Spoon a generous half, or up to 2/3's of the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it, using the spatula, as best you can to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the berries or fruit, and about half of the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture on top. Spoon the remaining batter on top, spread it around as best you can with the spatula (doesn't need to be perfect!), and sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture.

    3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester from the center of the coffe cake comes out clean. If using frozen berries, the coffee cake may take a few extra minutes to bake. Cool slightly, then cut and enjoy. Leftovers can be kept in the same pan, covered, and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Or, freeze individual slices for up to 1 month, and re-heating in a warm oven.



    Pre-bake...layered raspberries, walnuts, cinnamon, sugar...you really can't go wrong here!Post-bake. So proud. Now, drizzle at-will with coconut butter. Or not, up to you. But highly recommended that you do! Cut it, share it, stuff it in your face...enjoy!Cheers my friends...cheers to you for being amazing!

  • You Have the Power! Banana-Oat-Flax Energy Cookies with Homemade Coconut Butter

    So, in efforts to not let the cold weather get to me, I have been holding informal dance parties (usually after my at-home workouts). Typically to whatever songs show up in my Daft Punk or AC/DC Pandora stations, I sometimes really resonate with one that comes on. Recently, Tom Petty's Runnin' On A Dream really did it for me.

    The past few weeks have been pretty crazy, and if I were my (now I can feel ok saying this, I think?) "old self", I would be panic-ridden and still stuck, or well on the road to another rut. But after foraging on, I think I am going to be settling into a groove that is *just* comfortable enough to keep me happy, but also to keep me moving. Because I can feel the wind blowin' me in all directions in 2017, and I am ready. So, break out of the "box"? Check. I think I have, or at least have maybe stood up in the box, and can now see the horizon that is ahead of me. Still blury, but it is there. I know we all have dreams, aspirations, desires. And I think it is high-time that we start to take steps, even if they are small and even if we end up taking a few steps backward after a few forward, towards making our dreams, goals and aspirations a reality. 

    Who knows, maybe I am talking straight out of my ass here, but I am really starting to believe in the power of positivity, listening to my intuition and going with my gut. They are serious power-sources within you! The tricky part is calming down enough and giving yourself the time to listen, and act accordingly. But if there is one thing I have learned about myself in the past few weeks, it is that if I truly desire something...an outcome, a goal, a piece of chocolate...the more I internalize it, the more it seeps out into reality. Crazy stuff, right?To keep you energized and nourished on your powerful, intuition-driven adventures, I present to you some "healthier" cookies made up of bananas (over-ripe ones work perfectly here!), oats, ground flax, cinnamon and sea salt. To keep you extra energized and nourished, I present to you homemade coconut butter...because really, why not? Not only is it an indulgent, but healthy, addition to these cookies, but it is also really wonderful scooped into smoothies, eaten on toast, and also just by the spoonful. Something about the natural richness and butteriness of coconut....mmmm....These cookies, topped with a date half OR your favorite jam (I used some of Bushel & Pecks Cherry Lavender Jam, and was really happy with the flavors!), and then drizzled with warm coconut butter? Yeah....that is correct...healthy food CAN taste good, and be indulgent! 

    Notes: These are largely inspired by Angela's version over here, with my edits being topping mine with date halves and then smothering them in homemade coconut butter. I think she would approve! You can store extra cookies in the fridge in a bag or container for up to 1 week. Frozen, these will last for up to 1 month. You can pre-drizzle the jam filled or date-topped cookies, and store in the fridge or freezer in a container for a super quick or grab-n-go snack. Perfect with hot coffee, or for your drive down the interstate at a grueling 75 MPH (ps: WTF Scott Walker...WTF...).



    Banana, Oat & Flax Cookies //plant-based; vegan; gluten-free (use certified GF oats); oil-free; nut-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free (if using dates as toppers or jam made with un-refined sweeteners)// makes 10 cookies //

    • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
    • 2 or 3 large ripe or over-ripe bananas, or about 1 cup (this isn't super exact and does not need to be for this recipe, so RELAX!)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 3 TB ground flax seeds or flax seed meal*
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg
    • for topping: your favorite jam, date halves, coconut butter (recipe follows)

    *I make my own flax seed meal by grinding flax seeds in my spice/coffee grinder. You can also purchase pre-ground flax sees. Chia seeds would probably work as well, but I have not tried it.

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, process the flax and oats until the oats until they are coarsely pulverized, leaving some whole oats for texture. Place processed oats in a bowl. In the food processor bowl, add the bananas, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (if using), and puree until smooth. 

    2. Pour the banana mixture over the oats/flax mixture, and stir unti combined. Drop the batter into 10-12 mounds, using heaping table spoon measures. Using the back of the spoon or you thumb, poke an indent into the center of each mound, flatening the cookies slightly. 

    3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the are slightly dry on the outside and lightly brown on the bottoms. Out of the oven, place 1 tsp of your favorite jam or 1/2 of a date in each indent. Enjoy right away, drizzled with coconut butter or plain. Cookies can be stored in a container in the fridge for up 1 week, and in the freezer for up to 1 month. 


    Coconut Butter // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; oil-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes 1 cup of coconut butter //

    • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut 

    1. In a clean, completely dry food processor or blender, place the coconut. Blend until smooth. This may take some tiem in a conventional blender, or a lower-powered food processor. 

    2. Store the coconut butter in a container at room temperature or in the frdige. Coconut butter will harden, and to soften, place in a bowl of hot water or microwave for a few seconds. 



    The goods, pre-baking:Post baking + snacking ASAP:Excellent with coffee to start your day!

  • Bourbon, Pecan and Salted Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

    You get all that in the title? Bourbon. Pecan. Salted Dark Chocolate. Banana Bread. 

    "Bread". Becaus let's be real here: this loaf is verging on a cake. Which, in my book, is just fine!

    This loaf came about when I was feeling a little (ok, a lot) down and sad. And for some reason, baking in general made me feel whole and happy. Sharing also made me feel good. I mean, when does it not? But it was that much better. This loaf, or cake, is not complicated, but the pay-off is great. Yes, you do need to get out your cutting board and a sharp knife to chop the pecans and dark chocolate (and yep, feel free to nibble away while you do, because....I know I am not the only one who does that). But I assure you, this is worth it. Also, lately I have been LOVING the heck out of my dough whisk. It truly does a wonderful job in thoroughly mixing quick breads, but not over-beating them to produce a tough, tunnel-ridden loaf. I got mine on Amazon, and highly recommend this tool for anyone who, like me, struggles to not over-mix quick breads! Game changer, for sure.Now, if you are looking for a more wholesome, more in-tune with your perhaps upcoming 2017 New Years Resolutions to Not Eat All the Sugar, check out the following: Gluten Free (but not full of weird flours) Banana Bread and/or Best Banana Bread for a vegan loaf. If you are looking to sabotage your health goals in a more gentle way, check out my Browned Butter Banana Bread! See, I got your back, whatever your goals may be! Heh...

    However, if you are in need of....

    • A sweet treat to go with your coffee early in the morning, when drinking all the hot things flood your mind as soon as your feet hit the cold kitchen floor
    • An easy, but special, host or hostess gift for an upcoming Holiday gathering
    • A relatively quick and fuss-free dessert, made even more indulgent covered with a quick chocolate ganache
    • A feel-good baked treat, to shove in your face by yourself or to share with others
    • Using up those overripe bananas languishing in your fruite bowl alongside that pomegranate you think is too beautiful to open, and those super sweet clemintines that come around this time of year
    • Something to bake to make your new apartment smell less like weird cleaning chemicals that the cleaning crew used to sweep your apartment of all traces of human DNA 

    Bonus round: this loaf smells like banana heaven while baking. All bananas go to heaven. Yep. Gather your bananas. Treat yourself to a bar (ok, or two!) of your favorite dark, salted chocolate (my favorite is Theo's Salted Dark Chocolate). Rummage your liquor cabinet for your bourbon. And splurge on those pecans in the bulk aisle, because this is soooo worth it. Happy baking, and stay warm!

    Notes: My first trials of this bread were using walnuts instead of pecans (see above picture of slices), but the pecan version overwhelmed me with the power of pecans to stand up to the robust flavors (like dark chocolate), and the sweetness in this loaf. But, feel free to use walnuts if you can't find or don't want to use pecans. As for the chocolate, I guessssssss salted chocolate is not required, but is a really, really lovely touch here, and also balances the sweetness of this loaf. Additionally, I have a weakness for the shards and chunks of chocolate that result when you chop the chocolate, rather than simply using chips, in this loaf but either work. Finally, the bourbon is not required, but strongly encouraged. If you don't have bourbon, a dark spiced rum (like Meyer's) will work beautifully, as would any other spicy, dark alocohol. If you don't have or don't want to add the booze, just add another dash or two of vanilla extract, and carry on! And finally, a word on sweetness: invariably, the ripeness of your bananas will influence this. You can bump up or knock down the brown sugar accordingly (using less for riper bananas, and vice versa). Similarly, if you want to verge more on cake territory, use the full 3/4 cup sugar. 



    Bourbon, Salted Dark Chocolate and Pecan Banana Bread // makes 1 standard 9"x5" loaf // certainly not gluten free, for sure not vegan, not a hint of plant-based, and full of refined sugar //

    • 4 large very ripe bananas
    • 1/3 cup (75g) melted virgin coconut oil or butter
    • 3/4 cup (145g) brown sugar, or use 1/2 cup (100g) for a less-sweet loaf
    • 1 egg, using locally sourced and/or organic when possible
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB bourbon
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
    • 1 1/2 cups (190g) unbleached, all-purpose flour 
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped dark salted chocolate, such as Theo's Sea Salt bar
    • 3/4 to 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9"x6" loaf pan. Chop the chocolate into small to medium chunks/shards, and do the same with the pecans. Larger pieces are ok, as this makes for a lovely texture and visual appeal as the loaf is sliced. 

    2. Smash the bananas in a large bowl using a fork or potato masher. Add the melted coconut oil or butter, the egg, the vanilla, the sea salt, the bourbon, the cinnamon, the nutmeg and the ginger, and mix well. 

    3. Sift the flour directly into the wet mixture in step 2. Stir breifly, then add in the chopped chocolate and pecans, stirring just to combine. 

    4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top if needed. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until the loaf is deep golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool for 10-15 minutes, and then carefully slide a knife or off-set spatula around the edges, and release the loaf from the pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to throughly cool, if you can, before slicing. If you wish to pour a chocolate ganache or glaze over the top, you must let the loaf cool all the way before doing so. Loaf may be stored, covered or in a container, in the fridge for up to 1 week, or be frozen whole or in slices, for up to 1 month.



    1. Chop chop chop....Measure/weigh, mash, crack that egg, add the booze and vanilla...re-assure yourself that this is going to be amazing, because you are amazing!Sift, gently stir, then add the chopped goodies...briefly stir once more to bring the batter together.Pour. Admire the textures and colors.Bake, enjoying the lovely aromas!And you've done it. Look at you, all on top of your banana bread/caking skills! Go you. Enjoy as desired, either plain, sliced in thick pieces, or drizzle with your favorite chocolate glaze or ganache once cooled. 

  • Bourbon & Browned Butter Apple-Pear pie

    The days are getting shorter, almost as if the sleepy eyelids of the sky are dosing off earlier and earlier as the season progresses. Mornings are darker, the air is cooler, and the trees are sloooowly changing into their fabulously fire-colored fall frocks.

    We are looking FORWARD these days (I mean, that is not the Wisconsin motto, right?), not backward. And by doing this, we arrive (always fashionably late) at the bourbon & browned butter apple-pear pie party, draped in flakey, tender pastry doused in cinnamon sugar. Yes, full of butter, both in the filling and the pastry. And for sure packed full of locally grown apples, organic pears, spices (cinnamon! ginger! cardamom! nutmeg!), and a measure of bourbon. Because booze coats will keep you warm, and cozy, as the mercury falls. Yep, booze coat. I distinctly remember the occasion in which my friend Kendra shared this expression with me, and to be expected, we were out for a night of well-earned schenanigans in Madison, during a colder month, whilst we were undergrads at UW, full of good intentions (sarcasm, right there). 

    The filling was adapted from two of my favorite sources, Joy and Deb, to which I got the inspiration to brown the butter for the filling from day dreaming about browned butter, white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. The apple and pear combination, in my opinion, satisfies the best of both worlds the flavors of each compliment, and enhance, each other. The all-butter pastry, being a relatively standard recipe with the proportions, can be found many places on the internets in various (and slight) permutations, but I provide my ideal measurements just in case. Becaus you see, the trick to a really good pie is to not use a pre-made pie pastry! You get one shot at this life, people, and don't waste it on sub-par pie crusts. And, what type of fat you use is up to you, so you can tailor your pastry to suit your needs/dietary mantra: butter, coconut oil, Earth Balance, lard, non-hydrogenated shortening, straight-up plasticized crisco, nitrogen votated vegetable oil, whatever (but maaaybe don't use the last 3, cause no...just don't).  I opted for using Organic Valley's award winning cultured butter, because life is too short (again!) for sub-par pie crusts (and really, we are so lucky here in WI to have amazing farmers who love their animals, and produce excellent products). I have had great success with a 50:50 ratio of quality butter and virgin coconut oil, as well as 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil and Earth Balance. Naturally, varied results are to be expected with what type of fat you use, but as far as I am concerned, if you make the effort to make homemade pie pastry, it will taste good.Real Life Example (and don't act like you haven't done this before, or seen it happen): you are at a party/gathering/social function that requires knives and forks, and someone walks in with/presents/proudly states that "they" brought the "pie". Your ears perk up in curiosity, and before you know it, you spin on your heels so fast, that you blurt out ("ask") "hey, what volume proportions of fat to flour did you use for the crust?!". And ladies and gentlemen, this is where the fine distinction of "pie" and "Oh, PIE!!". If you get a blank stare back, just walk away from that pie (and the person who brought it)....just walk away. Good pie does not used pre-made pastry, found in the cardboard box-a mere lifeless baton of fat mixed with flour. I don't care if you are Betty Crocker, or Poppin Fresh; the truth hurts, and that is it. 

    Homemade pastry=love. Pre-made, store bought pastry=sad, sad excuse. 

    The filling requires you to brown butter. Requires. The toasty, roasty Maillard browning that occurs as you gently heat butter to transform the milk solids (i.e. lactose, whey) to a golden color really does lend a magical, warm, cozy flavor to anything it comes into contact with (and honestly, I think we all deserve alllllll of the warm, cozy flavors during the colder months...right?)

    Bonus: you can make both the pie pastry, and filling, a day ahead of time. Heck, you can make several batches of the pie pastry, and freeze them for future pie making. Look at you, all prepared for the holidays and stuff...Just be sure to thaw your pastry out, either overnight in the fridge or on the counter.

    And final note: I urge you, no, BEG you to please utilize the amazing powers of tapioca to thicken the pie filling. You can make tapioca starch by grinding tapioca in a spice/coffee grinder, or you can buy straight-up tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour). A filling thickened with tapioca, in contrast to flour and cornstarch, is freeze/thaw stable, will not be cloudy, and will not be suseptible to acid hydrolysis on heating (i.e. will not result in a runny, un-set filling). 

    Happy Pie'ing! This one is worth it-from the homemade pastry, to the browned butter. So get on it!



    Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple-Pear Pie (with all butter crust) // makes 1 9" to 10" pie // nut-free; soy-free; makes your soul happy, espeically when shared with others //

    All Butter Pastry for Bottom Crust + Lattice/Top Crust:

    • 2 1/2 cups (340g) all purpose flour (I love Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 cup (2 sticks, 16 TB, 8oz) quality butter, such as Organic Valley Cultured Butter, OR fat of choice (coconut oil, Earth Balance, etc)
    • 2 tsp sea salt
    • 2 TB sugar
    • 8 to 12 TB ice cold water, mixed with 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

    1. Sift the flour, sea salt and sugar together in a large bowl. 

    2. Be sure your fat is cold, regardless of type you are using. Cut butter into small-ish cubes. For coconut oil and Earth Balance, I like to scoop out dollops directly onto the sifted flour mixture, and place the whole works in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the pieces of fat to cool. This ensures that the fat will not be too soft, and won't mix all the way into the flour mixture, resulting in a mealy or tougher crust (but no biggie if this happens!).

    3. Using your finger tips (with clean hands, people), break the fat down into smaller pieces and flakes, until you get sizes that average the size of peas, with some pieces of fat being bigger or smaller being just fine. If using coconut oil, this may be more of a involved process due to its more solid nature below 76F, but be patient and have faith!

    4. Sprinkle the acidulated ice water over the flour/fat mixture, starting with only 8 TB. Then, bring a shaggy, loose dough together by mixing with a fork. If there is still a good amount of crumbs/dry pieces not adhering to clump of dough, add in more of the water 1 TB at a time, sprinkling over the drier areas. Mix again with a fork, or your hands, until a shaggy, somewhat composed ball is formed. Dump onto a clean surface, and using your hands, gather it all up neatly, form a rough disc ~6" in diameter, and wrap/put in a ziplock bag. 

    5. Allow pastry to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight. Alternatively, you can wrap the pastry really well, and freeze for up to 2 months. While you allow your pastry to rest, carry on with the filling.


    Bourbon + Brown Butter Apple-Pear Filling 

    • 3 TB butter, the best quality you can find
    • 4-5 small, or 3-4 larger ripe, but not mushy, pears (I used Bartlett), peeled, cored and sliced into ~1/3" thick slices
    • 4-5 small, or 3-4 larger apples, whatever variety you wish, peeled, cored and sliced into ~1/3" thick slices
    • 3 TB bourbon (I used Four Roses Single Barrel)
    • 2 TB tapioca starch
    • 2/3 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed (can be made by combining scant 2/3 cup white sugar and 2-3 tsp molasses, mixing with your fingers to thoroughly combine)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger (or you could use 1/2 tsp freshly grated)
    • scant 1/4 tsp cardamom
    • 1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

    1. Brown the butter: melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Continue to heat the butter, which will foam, and then begin to brown, usually after 7-10 minutes. Swirl pan occasionally, keeping at eye on it during the last few minutes. The milk solids will brown, and the liquid fat portion will also become darker. Take off the heat once the milk solids are golden. Optionally strain the browned butter through a fine sieve or nutmilk/sprouting bag to remove specks. Set aside to cool slightly.

    2. Peel, core and slice apples and pears. Toss with the remaining ingredients, as well as with the slightly cooled browned butter. You can either cover and refrigerate the filling for up to 12 hours, allowing the fruits to macerate, or proceed with baking the pie right away.

    3. Bake the pie: preheat oven to 425F. Take pastry out of the fridge (or freezer), allowing it to come to room temperature (if frozen, take it out to thaw up to 1 day in advance in the fridge, or at room temperature). Cut the pastry disc in half. Roll, going from the center outwards to the edges, one half on a lightly floured surface, taking care to gently lift the pastry after every few rolls of the pin to make sure it isn't sticking. Add a touch more flour as needed to the rolling pin and surface. Once you have a ~12" diameter circle-ish piece, transfer to a 9" or 10" pie plate. You can either fold the pastry in half, and transfer to the pie plate, OR you can roll the entire pastry circle up on the rolling pin, and unroll into the pie plate. Gently nestle the pastry into the plate. Trim the edges to leave a ~1" to 1 1/2" overhang, using a sharp knife, scissors or pizza cutter. Patch scraps into place as needed to get the overhang. Place the bottom crust in the freezer while you roll the rop crust in a similar fashion as the bottom (starting from the center of the pastry, rolling outwards, until you have a ~12" circle-ish shape). If you wish to lattice your top, cut into strips of desired width. Take the bottom crust out of the freezer, and add the filling. Lattice your top crust, or, simply top the filling with the second piece of rolled pastry, following the same motions with the overhang to get ~1" to 1 1/2" overhang (same with the lattice strips, aim for a 1" to 1 1/2" overhang). Gently press the bottom and top overhangs together, and fold under to make a smooth-ish edge. Crimp as desired with your fingers or with a fork (my method is to use my thumb pressed between my fore and middle finger). If using a full top crust, poke a few vent holes to allow steam to escape.

    4. Place pie on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet (or not, up to you, I just don't like to deal with boiled over pie filling). Brush the top crust with milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond), or egg wash for a darker, shinier crust (1 egg beaten with 2 tsp water). Optionally sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling throughout. Allow to cool as long as you can muster, then enjoy! Serve with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cow or coconut cream (optionally spiked with bourbon and maple syrup). Also great for breakfast with coffee, but I don't need to really tell you that...do I?



    My idea of an exciting Saturday evening: peeling, coring and slicing apples/pears, making brown sugar, browning butter aaaand bourbon!12-ish hours later....pie pastry all rested and ready to roll. The patience and time for this is worth it, trust me.Roll, plate, fill....showing the pastry no fear (it can sense fear). But don't sweat it if you tear or rip the pastry-just patch it up and carry on with confidence. More rolling, cutting, lattice-ing (or just top crust-ing and vent hole poking). You are a pie champion!Trim, fold, flute....brush with milk of choice (or egg wash), sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake...waft in the wonderful aromas...pat yourself on the back....you are awesome, and now you have pie. What more could you ask for?

  • Buckwheat Waffles + Stewed Apples

    Autumn is in the air! Crisp, dried leaves, damp...grey skies and rainy days. Summer is officially out of the picture in the midwest, so in with all things apple, pumpkin, and cinnamon, out with the flip flops, berries and floppy straw sun hats. In a way, we are bidding farewell to the easier days, and heading into colder, more trying months. But, lucky for us, we know how to handle this transition, and will find the joys of each season with or without grace. Lately, grace hasn't been easy for me, and I find myself being more harsh and blunt with people, as well as with myself. So chances are, if you've interacted with me the past few days OR if you're handling the season change like a pro, you deserve a treat. Comfort comes in many forms, but lately, carbs have been the go-to. Weekend morning (or afternoon, becaues sleeping in needs to happen sometime, people) waffles, therefore, are on the agenda! We have the time to heat up the waffle iron, the patience to measure out ingredients for batter, and the inspiration to stew some market-fresh local apples with brown sugar (or maple syrup, for a refined sugar-free version) and spices. Bonus: making the spiced apples will fill your kitchen with the sweet, spicy smell of fall. The buckwheat flour lends a nutty flavor to the waffles that pairs so, so well with the sweet, spicy apples. Don't let the type of flour intimidate you-it is easily found at most grocery stores now, and also bulk aisles of natural food stores/food cooperatives (i.e. Whole Foods, The Willy Street Coop).Just in case you're feeling lazy, or can plan ahead like a champ (go you!), the waffle batter annnnnnd the stewed apples can be made the night before. In fact, the waffle batter will age with nicely, and produce an even better waffle after chilling in the fridge. Simply take your batter out when you pre-heat your waffle iron. Ditto with the apples: simply re-warm, and you're on the road to Waffle Town! For easy mid-week waffle action: make all the batter into waffles, thoroughly cool, and then store in a container or plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 days (or freezer for up to 2 weeks). Simply re-thaw in a toaster or a quick zap in the microwave. Top as desired, enjoy, and pat yourself on the back for winning at breakfast. Just don't try to eat a waffle, precarioulsy topped with sunbutter (sunflower seed butter), banana and maple syrup, while driving to work. It will not end well for you, or the waffle. And especially don't attempt this feat of waffle eating when you are fresh out of "just learned how to drive my recently purchased manual car 101" class. Waffles + clutching + braking + accelerating + shifting = not good. 

    Get your maple syrup, butter (cow or otherwise), bananas, coffee....whatever else you need for proper waffle-ing....ready, and enjoy! I especially loved these waffles with homemade sunbutter, the stewed apples, banana and pure maple syrup. Annnnnnnd GO!



    Buckwheat Waffles with Spiced Stewed Apples // plant-based; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free option; refined sugar-free option // makes about 4 standard sized waffles & 1 1/2 cups stewed apples // 

    Waffles:

    • 1 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk or cultured milk, OR 1 1/2 cups milk of choice (I used soy*) mixed with 1 TB apple cider vinegar
    • 4 TB melted coconut oil, or other fat of choice (butter, Earth Balance...)
    • 1 TB maple syrup or brown sugar
    • 1 large egg, preferrably locally sourced and/or organic
    • optional: walnuts or pecans (omit if needed)

    Spiced Stewed Apples:

    • 3-4 medium to large apples, washed, peeled and cut into ~1/2" pieces
    • 1 TB brown sugar or maple syrup
    • 1 TB coconut oil, butter or Earth Balance
    • small pinch sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • pinch dried ginger

    Other Toppings: sliced bananas, walnuts or pecans, maple syrup, butter, jam, etc...

    *after re-testing this recipe with almond milk, I noticed that the batter made with soy milk was thicker (due to the apple cider vinegar lowering the pH of the soy milk, causing it to thicken). So, if you use soy milk, you may need to add a few more TB of liquid-either more soy milk or water-to think it out just a bit (I ended up using 1 1/4 cup soy milk + 4TB water). 

    1. In a large bowl, sift the first 5 ingredients together. In a smaller bowl, combine the milk, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup or brown sugar, and egg. Whisk to combine. 

    2. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir to incorporate. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes (while your waffle iron heats up), up to overnight in the fridge in a covered container. Allow batter to warm up for 10-20 minutes if using it out of the refrigerator. 

    3. While the batter rests, start the apples: combing all the ingredients in a 4-cup sauce pan. Heat on medium-high, until the apples release their juices and the mixture slowly bubbles. Turn down to low, place a lid on and cook for 10-15 minutes, checking once or twice and stirring. Cook until apples are tender, or to desired texture. If your apples are watery, simply cook on low with the lid off to cook off excess moisture. 

    3. Cook ~3/4 cup batter for each standard size waffle, cooking until golden brown and crispy. Optionally sprinkle on a small handful of walnuts or pecans on the batter before closing the waffle iron. Top waffies with apples, and whatever else your heart desires: butter, maple syrup, nut/seed butter, walnuts, bananas....etc.!



    The batter. The apples. The giant container of cinnamon you purchased when you moved into your new place, and are now wondering how the hell you are going to use it all before it goes stale. The best peeler in all the lands (It is a Rada brand peeler, is sharp, sturdy, affordable, and made in the good ol' US of A).Peeled, cubed apples, fat, sugar, spices. You CAN have it all!While the waffle batter sits, allow the waffle iron to come to temperature, and also let the apples stew. Revel in the spicy apple aromas! Drink some coffee! Relax!About 15 minutes later. Now is the time to start making a waffle (or two, or three), and assembling your toppings. Pro Tip: apply butter to waffle BEFORE taking off the hot iron, allowing the fatty goodness to really penetrate into the waffle.You kow what to do now....

  • On Moving + Gluten Free (and not full of weird flours) Banana Bread (or muffins)

    Summer...we are in the last month of it. It is almost time to buy new mechanical pencils, you can just almost...faintly...smell the pumpkin spice craze on the horizon, and the urge to organize/optimize is strong. We just moved from Madison, our beloved little 1 bedroom loft on campus, to Beloit...our...large...."modern"...cave-like...2 bedroom apartment that overlooks what is quite possibly the most entertaining mainstreet in Wisconsin.

    Now, questions arise: where to grocery shop? Running...where do I do it?? Coffee....how to acquire it at a moments notice around here? And questions are being answered as we explore...It is a luxury to have more space, and I am grateful for the next phase of my life, but adjusting is sometimes...a bitch.

    Anxiety, stress, fear, doubt, negativity are all things that creep into my mind when big changes happen. On the flip side, dreaming, optimism, thoughts of endless opportunities and new routines also pop into my mind when my life is mixed up. It is a battle of sorts....good vs. evil...positive vs. negative...I am still a grab-bag of emotions, still trying to figure out my place....both physically here....right now...and where I want to be in the next 6 months, 1 year, 5 years...dreaming, scheaming, planning...exploring...

    But here we are, as time marches on, and we must enjoy our moments as much as we can! To bid our little, under ventilated loft apartment in Madison farewell, I made banana bread! Classic, comforting, familiar. But, this version is gluten-free, with no use of weird ass flours or gums/hydrocolloids/thickeners (side note: acacia gum is used for envelope adhesive, and has no place in food, mmmk?). Rather, the loaf is full of bananas, as it should be (see also my version of gluten-full, vegan and delicious banana bread, as well as some other tips on my banana bread making process). My quest for a buckwheat banana blueberry muffin recipe a few weeks back lead to me develop this recipe, which I thought was going to be a total flop, purely because it was a total experiment. I heavily modified the muffin recipe, mixed the batter up, got really lazy and decided to plop the batter in my loaf tin instead, and boom...a total success! Carbs, and coconut oil for healthy fats, to fuel moving all those damn boxes (or moving whatever or just living...). We thorougly enjoyed slices, slightly warmed, slathered with homemade sunbutter. Sooo good!And BONUS: the batter also makes great muffins...go figure! Simply bump the oven temp up to 400F, and bake in muffin tins that have been greased/floured or lined. Mix in nuts, berries, chocolate...whatever you fancy, and bake for 18-25 minutes, or until a tester comes our clean when poked into the muffins. I got a perfect 12 standard sized muffins from this when I mixed in 1 1/2 cups blueberries and 1/2 cup walnuts. I could see pecans also being fabulous, as well as chunks of chocolate (or even cacao nibs), in either the loaf or muffin. Recipe Notes: I have not tried this recipe without the eggs (my aunt gave me two dozen beautiful eggs from her hens a few weeks ago!), but surely believe that a flax or chia egg would work to make this loaf vegan (mix 1 TB ground flax or chia with 3 TB water for each egg replacement), or, you may be able to leave any egg/egg substitute out due to the bananas being a great egg replacer in themselves (I'll update this if I do try any of those). In my testing, I used brown rice syrup for the sweetener, but my sister had great results with maple syrup. If using agave or honey, beware of the higher fructose content and therefore a darker loaf upon baking; I suspect this to not be a huge issue in the muffins as their baking time is considerably less than the loaf. Also, if your bananas aren't quite over ripe, you can bump up the liquid sweetener up to 1/2 cup. And lastly, the arrowroot can be replaced with tapioca starch (or sometimes called tapioca flour), which is simply tapioca ground into a powder (you can make your own by grinding tapioca pearls to a find powder in a coffee/spice grinder). 

    Another note, on the flour measurements: I double checked the weights with the volume measurements, and they should be on point as long as you moderately fluff your flours with a fork before scooping in your measuring cup, and level the top off with knife or other straight edge without compacting the flours. But seriously, don't stress too much about this....I find that banana bread is pretty forgiving! 

    And finally, a note on the buckwheat flour: you can find either "sifted" or "unsifted" buckwheat flours, and either will work in this recipe. However, the sifted variety will yield a lighter loaf, both in flavor, texture and color since the outer fiberous layer of the buckwheat groat has been removed prior to milling into flour. The unsifted buckwheat flour will be darker, almost blueish, in color, and will yield a darker, but still delicious, loaf. Regardless of type of buckwheat flour you use, I urger you to still actually sift your dry ingredients, as this lends a lighter texture. I love Lonesome Stone Buckwheat flours, as they are locally produced here in Wisconsin, and have a fabulous flavor. BUT, be sure that, if you do have a legit gluten allergy, the buckwheat flour you use is 100% gluten free, since cross contamination with gluten-full flours is a possibility with certain mills that produce more than one type of flour.



    Gluten Free Banana Bread (Or Muffins) // plant-based; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; soy-free option // makes 1 9"x5" loaf  or 12 standard muffins//

    • 2/3 cup (75g) almond flour or almond meal (I used Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 cup (100g) oat flour* (I used Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 cup (100g) buckwheat flour*, using either sifted or unsifted (see above for explanation)
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger (optional)
    • 2 TB arrowroot powder or tapioca flour/starch (see above for tips)
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp soda
    • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (optional, but I like the buttermilk-like taste))
    • 2/3 cup plant based milk, using soy and nut-free when needed
    • 2 or 3 large, very ripe bananas 
    • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup or maple syrup
    • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil
    • 2 eggs, using locally produced when possible OR 2 TB flax/chia meal + 6 TB water
    • Opitional add-ins: 1 to 2 cups of any the following: walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips or chunks, cacao nibs, fresh or frozen berries...etc. (I used 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries and 1/2 cup crushed walnuts)
    • *update 11/7/16: after two successful trials, I am happy to report that using 200g of buckwheat flour, and omitting the 100g of oat flour, produces a moist and delicous loaf. Ideal topping for this loaf has been several large handfuls of walnuts, slighlty crushed, and a hefty sprinkling of cinnamon sugar (made by mixing 1/2 cup organic cane sugar with 2 tsp cinnamon. Just like my Mom does, I like to mix and store in a shaker for future uses since you won't use all of this mixture in one go! And really, cinnamon sugar on anything is tasty, right?).

    1. Preheat oven to 350F (or 400F for muffins). Grease and flour (I used the buckwheat flour) a 9"x5" loaf tin (or 12 standard muffin tins). I used a metal tins, but glass will work too in the case of the loaf. Set aside.

    2. Mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher in a large bowl, then whisk in the apple cider vinegar, plant based milk, brown rice syrup (or maple syrup or whatever liquid sweetener you use), coconut oil and eggs (or chia/flax egg). Thoroughly whisk the mixture, making sure it is all combined.

    3. Sift the dry ingredients directly into the wet mixture. Thoroughly mix the batter to incorporate everything, adding any of the optional add-ins if desired, but take care to not overmix the batter (I really love using a dough whisk for delicate batters like this). Pour batter into loaf tin, or, use about 1/2 cup per standard size muffin. 

    4. Bake for 55-65 minutes (or 18-25 minutes for muffins), or until a tester comes out clean when poked through the center of the loaf. If using frozen berries, the batter will likely be cooler and therefore take longer to bake. Allow to cool 15 minutes in the pan, and then run a knife around the edges to release, and place on a cooking rack. Cool completely before slicing or serving. Store loaf or muffins in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month. Enjoy plain, or with your favorite butter (we love it with homemade sunbutter). 



    Never underestimate the power of quality, fresh spices. Never, ever. Muffins or bread, whatever you choose....grease it up, flour it up, whisk whisk...you know what to do.Add blueberries if that is up your ally...it was mine. I scored some beautiful Michigan blues last weekend! Mix in all up...plop into pan...Put a few extra berries (or chocolate chunks, or walnuts....whatever you want!) on top for show and flavor...cause you deserve it!

    Bake bake bake...the muffins will be lighter in color than the loaf, purely due to the fact that you bake the muffins at a higher temperature for shorter time!Super tasty with nut or seed butter, or just plain butter...cow or otherwise!Enjoy with coffee, and a comfy chair. 

  • Favorite Buckwheat Pancakes

    Lately, I have been loving breakfast. And by that I mean, lately, I have been loving getting up, making coffee, and whipping up a batch of these pancakes. Making a few (eating the first one I make, hot off the pan!), sticking the rest of the batter in the frdige (it keeps for 3 days!), slathering some homemade peanut butter in the middle of two that made it to the plate, slapping on a few banana slices, topping with the second pancake, a few more sliced bananas and a drizzle of maple syrup. Heaven on a plate. Seriously. You would never guess by the texture that these are 100% made with buckwheat flour, a gluten-free pseudo grain that is related to rhubarb. Cool, eh? Buckwheat is easy to digest, but also may have a mild laxative effect in some folks. I personally have never had this happen, but I'd say it is worth the risk for these delicous, easy, good-for-you pancakes. And! These are 100% FODMAP friendly (with 2/3 cup buckwheat flour being the serving size recommended, you are in the safe zone with 3 pancakes made with 1/3 cup batter). If you want to make these vegan, you can a) try to leave the egg out, b) try your favorite egg substitution, like 1 TB ground flax or chia mixed with 3 TB water, or c) try one of those cool egg replacers found in the cooler section along with the real eggs! For mine, I use 1 locally produced, organic egg that I get at our local farmers market...but when I am lucky, I use eggs from my aunt! But do what works for you, and your food mantra. Just note that I have NOT had success with vegan pancakes on my traditional pancake pans (seasoned cast iron, All-Clad stainless), so I would recommend using a non-stick pan if you go this route. Did I mention that these are amazing with fresh blueberries and/or strawberries?? Yeah. Done deal, people! Get your spatulas ready, pans hot, and appetite ready. Enjoy!

    Note: you can easily double or triple this recipe. This recipe was adapted from the buckwheat pancake recipe in Honey and Spice, my first natural foods cookery book that I snagged from a used book store about 12 years ago! Good stuff...indeed. You can easily make the whole batch in one go, cool panckes, then wrap and refrigerate for easy breakfasts or snacks. I like to toast mine, and top as desired. 



    Favorite Buckwheat Pancakes // gluten-free; low FODMAP; refined sugar-free; soy-free option; nut-free option // makes 7 to 8 pancakes made with 1/3 cup batter //

    • 1 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 cup plant-based (I use almond or hemp/coconut milk), or other milk of choice, using allergy friendly where needed
    • 1 1/2 tsp melted virgin coconut oil, olive oil or other neutral cooking oil, plus more for the pan
    • 1 1/2 tsp maple syrup or organic cane sugar
    • 1 large egg, free range/local/organic when possible, or use 1 plant-based egg replacement to be vegan friendly
    • Optional: you can stick on a few blueberries, fresh or frozen, on the pancakes as they cook for blueberry pancakes. 
    • Toppings: maple syrup, sliced banana or seasonal fruit like blueberries or strawberries, granola, toasted walnuts, nut/seed butter, yogurt of choice, etc. 

    1. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup/organic cane sugar, egg/egg replacer, oil and milk. Add the buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the mixture, and whisk until no lumps remain. Allow the batter to sit 5 minutes, in which time you can ready your cooking pan, spatula and serving (plate).

    2. Cook the pancakes, using 1/3 cup batter for (what I think) perfect sized pancakes, in a lightly oiled pan (or non-stick pan). Top the raw batter size with a few blueberries while the pancakes cook, if desired. Serve immediately. Really tasty topped with seasonal fruit, bananas, nut/seed butter and maple syrup. 



    You know what to do! Mix that batter!Get toppings ready as you let the batter sit for 5 minutes. Procure your favorite pancake making pan, and get ready!Look at you! Making pancakes...on a Thursday morning...wow...you even added blueberries. Go you!Stack, pile...top...shove in face. Smile, drink coffee, be happy. Repeat.I said repeat! 

  • Papaya, Banana + Hemp Smoothie & The low FODMAP diet

    With all my efforts to not be super crabby about the fact that I, after having several weeks of really weird bloating and other super awesome digestion issues, am still a bit sour about all these amazing fruit smoothies and bowls and nice-cream concoctions I see on the daily in my instagram feed. Let me explain my angst...and why seeing all this amazing produce at the store really made me crabby...After much thought, I decided to take the plunge into the low FODMAP diet last week. I have been doing lots of research, and felt that my symptoms could be due to the FODMAPS overloading my system. Afterall, I have been hitting the smoothies and fruit pretty hard lately....just out of sheer feelings of being rushed, stresed and under pressure. And, SUMMER BERRIES! They are EVERYWHERE. And really...I do eat a lot of produce in general, since it is my jam...and I though it was also doing my body good...but....maybe I need to take a step back.

    So here I am...7 days into this low FODMAP journey. And I really think it is paying off! I have noticed considerably less bloating (I mean, I was like super, super bloated before...I think the term for this is distension?), and things are moving along more happily now, if you get my drift! :) My goal is to stick with this "elminiation phase" for 2 weeks: this stage is essentially one in which you avoild all high FODMAP foods, and really watch your portions on low FODMAP foods to keep them low FODMAP, since nearly all foods have carbs/fermentable sugars in them. 

    I think the BIGGEST learning curves have been the following:

    • Preparing sit-down meals consistently 2 or 3 times a day, and TAKING TIME to sit DOWN, relax and eat. Enjoy, breath and not just chug or shovel food in. 
    • Having a snack when I feel I truly need it, and waiting 2-3 hours between meals to ensure my stomach is completely empty. 
    • Taking it easy on the portions of the low FODMAP foods. I am currently staying away from all high FODMAP foods, but quickly learned that on the low FODMAP diet, espeically the stage in which you avoid all foods that are high in FODMAPS regardless of how small the portion is, that portions and variety are KEY. Example: eating 1 banana is an acceptable, low FODMAP, great snack, whereas eating banana nice cream made with 3 bananas is NOT low FODMAP, even if the banana itself is a low FODMAP food....got that? Ok! 
    • Understanding that it is OK to prepare meals on the fly, and not have a pre-set plan. Based on what is in the fridge, what I have to use up, and what I can eat right now, sometimes randomly (but carefully portioned!) meals are the best! Low stress, people, low stress!
    • TRACKING what I eat and WHEN I eat it. Yes, a PAIN, but I have a Google sheet that I can quickly access on my phone, type things in, and be done. I also track symptoms, like bloating or if I feel good. 
    • Also, NO HUMMUS. Sigh. Garbanzo beans, garlic and tahini are all not recommended for a low FODMAP diet in the "elimination phase" in which you are cutting out all high FODMAP foods.
    • And, one last thing, I am not drinking booze, am limiting myself to 1 cup of coffee (ok a BIG cup of coffee!) a day, and am really making an effort to get in 1 gallon of water to keep hydrated. I will likely treat myself to some wine and/or beer on my birthday on Sunday, but for now, keeping it clean!

    So what is a girl to do? Forge on, and figure out a way, dammit! I came up with this smoothie for happy digestion, and found this guide to be really helpful in keeping low FODMAP guidelines! It is good stuff, all around. But quick, let us talk about PAPAYA! Also called paw paw, this fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes to help digestion. The enzyme papain, present in papaya in higher amounts when fully ripe, is thought to help break down foods, especially protein-rich ones. The fruit is high in fiber, and is a beautiful color to boot. It isn't overly sweet, but has an almost creamy quality....kinda like an avocado in my opinion, but more...fruity....k? Ok. What else is a bit...fruity? Vintage contact paper, turned wallpaper, compliments of my grandma, likely back in to mid 70s to early 80s...my family is full of creative nuts, I tell ya!

    Let us get to this good-for-you smoothie! Happy Blending!



    Papaya, Banana & Hemp Smoothie for Happy Digestion // plant-based; low FODMAP; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; oil-free; refined sugar-free; nut-free option // makes 1 8 to 12oz smoothie, depending on how much spinach & milk/water you add //

    • 1/2 cup papaya, cut into small pieces, frozen if desired
    • 1/2 frozen ripe banana
    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup plant-based milk (like almond or coconut) + 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
    • 1/4 cup to 1 cup spinach
    • 1 TB hemp seeds
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 to 1 tsp maple syrup 
    • a few ice cubes, if desired

    1. The night before, cut up papaya and freeze. I cut mine into small 1/2" to 1" cubes. Also, freeze bananas! I like to freeze a bunch at a time. 

    2. Add all ingredients to blender, and blend well! Add a few ice cubes if you did not use frozen fruit to help cool the smoothie. Note: use less liquid for a more frosty, thick smoothie. If you want a sweeter mix, instead of adding a date (not low FODMAP!) or more banana, simply add a bit of maple syrup, as this is a low FODMAP friendly sweetener, just be sure to not exceed using 1 to 2 TB! I only added 1/2 tsp for my tastes. But, if you aren't low FODMAP, add another frozen banana, more papaya or even a soft date or two! 



    All the ingredients, in all their natural glory!Blended and served! Does that sound like an insult? Hmm...Optionally top with a few raspberies (I think ~10 is 1 serving for them FODMAPpers out there)...and enjoy!

  • Strawberry + Raspberry Crisp with Fresh Ginger

    The sun is out. We are breathing. The sky is blue, and we have plenty of tea/coffee/kombucha to fill our cups. Full or not, sometimes it is a challenge to keep ourselves positive and happy...

    Does anyone else feel like that sometimes? Maybe it was the whirlwind trip I had with a few of my best girlfriends to New Orleans (uhh, that city has some major spooky magic and cool vibes going on), or the pressure of adulting, or the fact that I think I have to majorly revamp my diet to cure my recent mega-bloat attacks, but I am feeling the feels. All the feels. And I just kinda want to be left alone. 

    Take a walk around the block. Go for a run (ps: I may or may not have started to train on a 6 month long marathon training plan). Wander around a few blocks I haven't been on. Get lost. Try to focus on the small things that make the world go 'round. Like crisp. Crisp, so...sweet and crispy and juicy. And easy...so very easy. The doctor (ahem, me) orders you to go out to a market this week, find some amazingly ripe raspberries and strawberries (and also buy yourself some flowers, ok?), head home and bake up a crisp for you, your lover, your friends, your parents, your sister or brother. You cousins, your aunts, uncles, grandparents....anyone. Nothing about this crisp cannot make you happy: pink, sweet, tart, free from weird ingredients, and perfect for breakfast the next day (or just for breakfast) (with or without your favorite yogurt or on ovenright oats).

    Just do me a favor and make a crisp, and send happy, positive vibes into the world. Oh, and maybe plop on some of your favorite ice cream or whipped cream situation. Just do your thing, be you, don't overthink it, and enjoy.



    Raspberry and Strawbery Crisp with Ginger and Almonds // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free // makes 1 9 or 10" pie plate full of crisp, or one 8x8" pan full of crisp

    Filling:

    • 1 quart (4 cups) strawberries, hulled and cut into halves or quarters
    • 1 punnet (1 cup) raspberries
    • 2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch
    • 1 TB coconut sugar*
    • 2 TB maple syrup
    • 2 tsp lemon juice
    • ½ tsp lemon zest
    • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1/2 tsp high quality dried ginger
    • Pinch sea salt
    • optional: small sprinkle of freshly grated black pepper

    Topping:

    • 1 cup rolled oats
    • ½ cup oat flour
    • ½ cup slivered almonds or almond meal/flour*
    • ½ tsp cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp sea salt
    • 4 TB melted coconut oil and/or earth balance
    • 2 TB maple syrup 
    • 2 TB coconut sugar

    *Ok, so after I have written up this post, I have discovered that coconut sugar (dehydrated coconut palm nectar) is rich in a prebiotic, readily fermentable fiber, inulin. So, replace with another sweetener of choice for a true low FODMAP crisp. Also, almond flour can also effect some people, as can too many almonds. In that case, simply omit the almonds or replace with 1/2 cup of walnuts, which are super FODMAP friendly :) 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.

    2. In a large bowl, mix up all the filling ingredients, and then plop into a 9" or 10" pie tin, or an 8x8" pan. 

    3. In the same bowl, mix together all the topping ingredients. Using your hands, squeeze the mixture to form a handful, and then gently break apart the handful into chunks and crumbs over the filling.

    4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until bubbly and topping is golden brown. Serve right away or serve slightly cool. Crisp will keep for 4 days in the frdige, covered. 



    Baked up and ready for some lovin'

  • Date, Cacao & Peanut Energy AmazeBalls

    That is correct! Amazeballs. Amazing Balls. Get it? Feel free to laugh, snicker, turn up your nose, or go into a 2nd-grader laughing spree and come up with other ball-like jokes. Seriously, I did and still do...and I probably won't be growing up anytime soon.

    But, wait...yes, maybe I will, but just a little bit! And I forsee these future adult-like endeavors needing food...energy...dates...cacao (or chocolate/cocoa) and crunchy things with lotsa plant protein and fructose for fast-fuel. I mean, don't we all need that in our lives??

    And we also need treats. Lots of them. Because rewarding yourself shouldn't be hard, it should be easy. And sometimes, maybe nourishing (but not alllllll the time, cause pie! beer! tasty coconut caramels dipped in chocolate!). I rest my case. These amazing balls (haha) were inspired by a low blood sugar craze while at Trader Joe's (ps: don't go to there after a long run, starving, eyeing up every carbohydrate in the store). I picked up an energy bar, and then like 5 more, and mumbling to myself threw them back on the shelves because inulin (aka: chicory root), cane syrup (wtf?), palm oil (come oooon!!). But there was one...ONE bar that fit my criteria: whole foods, nothing overly processed and, NO INULIN (does anyone else have gut bacteria that just go NUTS for this pre-biotic soluble fiber???). 

    The bar was essentially dates, cacao, peanut butter, pea protein, and crunchy peanuts, along with some puffed rice for more crunch and texture. It was amazing. Simple ingredients, but so, so good. As I stuffed the bar into my face on my walk home, I resolved to re-create this bar in ball form because balls just seem easier to make and eat than dealing with pressing bars our, and cutting them. Don't say anything about that...cause I am not hitting the delete button...we've gone too far....So I resolved the main players in these energy balls to be:

    • soft medjool dates for their caramel-like sweetness, and sticky binding properties
    • raw cacao powder for the energy-boosting, bitter, chocolate-y flavor, and crunch! I don't usually have puffed rice cereal on hand, so this was a natural replacement for this
    • cacao nibs for CRUNCH
    • roasted and salted peanuts for more CRUNCH, as well as plant protein...and chocolate/cacao + peanut = so good. Also, peanuts + dates + chocolate/cacao = a better, not nasty version of a snickers bar.
    • peanut butter because...see above (I used freshly made, since I am on a nut/seed butter making kick lately, but feel free use your favorite all natural variety, making sure the ingredients are only peanuts and maybe some salt)
    • virgin coconut oil because our bodies can absorb MCTs like birds. As in: our bodies can process medium chain triglycerides quicker via the portal vein, which bascially means these fats are available for metabolic processes sooner after we consume them than regular longer chain fatty acids. Hooray, right?
    • hemp hearts for plant protein, great flavor and becaue they are really pretty, in my opinion
    • chia seeds for fiber and plant protein, both of which mean we will be feeling fuller for longer after enjoying a few of these treats
    • sea salt because flavor. Also, cinnamon because it helps to control blood sugar and it tastes amazing. Win-win!

    And that is it. Whole, real-food ingredients that aren't overly processed and do not taste like crap. In fact, far from it. Blitzed into a sitcky mess, rolled into balls and then coated in cacao powder, hemp hearts or just left plain. And there you have it: my perfect date energy amaze-ball. (see also cherry-cacao-almond energy balls, also which are also pretty darn perfect as well).

    Notes: The dates really do need to be soft, and not hard. I do not recommend soaking them in water since that often times makes them too soggy, so get yourself a fresh pack of dates! And, yes, you CAN substitute the peanuts with almonds. You could also try sunflower seeds, but I have not tried either, but assume they will work just fine. Try to roast them fresh yourself for maximum flavor. Similarly, in regards to the peanut butter, you can replace it with your favorite nut or seed butter, with freshly made being the best for flavor (but totally not required). I chose to roll my balls (haha) in hemp hearts and raw cacao powder, with my chocolate addict swooning over the almost gooey-like chocolate coating created by the cacao powder after the balls sat for a while in the fridge. You could also roll them in crushed peanuts (or almonds, or sunflower seed), chia seeds, or just leave them plain. 



    Date & Cacao Energy Bites // plant-base; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free // makes about 12 to 14 golf-ball to walnut-sized balls // 

    • 2 packed cups soft medjool dates, pitted
    • 1 cup freshly roasted peanuts, or other nut or seed of choice
    • 2 TB peanut butter, or other nut or seed butter of choice
    • 1 TB virgin coconut oil
    • 1 TB maple syrup, agave nectar or honey
    • 2 TB hemp seeds
    • 2 TB chia seeds
    • 2 TB raw cacao, or cocoa powder, using Dutched (alkalized) of for a more oreo-like flavor and a darker color, or natural for a more acidic chocolate flavor
    • 2 TB cacao nibs (or sub with some really dark chocolate, I would recommend at least 70% cocoa solids, chopped into small pieces)
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
    • 1 or 2 TB water to help bind, if needed (I did not need to add any)
    • 2 TB of any of the following: hemp seeds, chia seeds, chopped nuts/seeds or cacao or cocoa powder, to roll balls in

    1. Add the peanuts and cacao nibs to a food processor. Pulse a few times to chop up into a coarse meal. If using dark chocolate instead of nibs, add it now and pulse to break into smaller pieces.  

    2. Pit all the dates, making sure EVERY pit is out. Firmly pack into measuring cup, and then place into the food processor, along with all the remaining ingredients, keeping the peanuts and nibs in the processor bowl. 

    3. Pulse until the ingredients are all incorporated, and the mixture can be pressed into a ball. Add 1 or 2 TB water to help bind, and pulse again to incorporate, if needed. 

    4. Roll all the balls into golf ball or walnut sized balls (roughly 2 or 3 TB each), and then roll them into hemp hearts, chia seeds, finely chopped nuts or seeds, or cacao powder. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.



    The peanuts + nibs all chopped up. I find that doing this first really got the best texture in the final balls, with not too big of pieces preventing the balls from holding together! That my friends, is science. Not really, but you know...Dates, peanut butter, cacao nibs...what else could you ask for in a high-energy snack??The supporting players, equally important but also high-energy!

    Now, add the rest of the stuff, and blitz!

    Roll into balls, and then roll each into hemp hearts, cacao powder, chia seeds....whatever tickles your fancy! I personally (ahem, the chocoholic in me) loved the ones rolled in cacao powder, but the hemp hearts also stole my plant-protein-loving heart.And you're done! Place the balls in a covered container in the fridge. These are so easy to grab and enjoy, whether you are at home relaxing or are on the go...grab and enjoy your balls, I say! Bahaha...sounds so bad! But really, these are such a tasty, great-for-you treat. Win!

  • Homemade Toasted Coconut Milk + Chia Bowl

    Friends! It has been a while. I hope that lentil salad held you over...I sure enjoyed mine! Hmm, I have been on the hunt for a job, spent some time in a tiny cabin in the woods, enjoyed some fires, looked at the starts, drank a lot of kombucha (check out my new tab above for more on that new hobby of mine....), and have been otherwise enjoying my "bohemian" time to myself. And maybe talking to my SCOBYs when no one is around. Maybe. 

    I hope you have also found some time to nestle into your warmer-weather routine. I am feeling lighter, happier and more eager to move to my next steps. The first few weeks of April were tough for me, for whatever reason...be it the cooler weather snaps we had, the changing seasons, the pressures of finding a job. At any rate, I have concluded that a) the weather will warm, b) spring is amazing for starting new routines and c) I will figure out my future in due time. It is all just a matter of keeping my eyes set on my goals, and staying positive. Oh, and making/eating great food! I just feel so, so, SO much better when I do. Hence...this entire blog! But there is a balance...some days, I really don't want to be in the kitchen...I want to prep food for the next few days and be done. Other days, I want to hover over projects (uhh, ever try using a crockpot to ferment almond milk yogurt? HA!). Lately, it has been a challenge to find that balance, but a girl has got to eat!

    Enter: easy peasy breakfasts. When the weather warms, I find I have more energy, but am antsy. Enter: quick breakfasts like smoothies and overnight oats and chia "pudding". I know we've all read and/or tried and/or made one rendition, but here is my recipe for something a bit more...spectacular? After a mild obsession with Califia Coconut Almond Milk, I decided I should try to make my own. The result was amazing...and seriously tasty in this chia pudding recipe. Beyond making the milk and straining it, this comes together quickly. Want to make a double batch? Go ahead. You'll be happy you did, since you can top it with whatever you please: homemade or purchase granola, nuts/seeds, berries, cacao nibs, fresh fruit (hey-berry season is approaching!)...change it up each morning and you're belly will thank you. If you are rushed in the mornings, you can throw the pudding into a jar along with whatever toppings you want, put a lid on and go! See, NO EXCUSES for not eating breakfast, people!! PS: the milk, when strained, is perfect for iced coffee or teas...just sayin'.Three cheers for spring, chia seeds and toasted coconut!



    Homemade Toasted Coconut Milk + Chia Seed Pudding // makes approximately 4 cups of milk; chia pudding serves 2, or 1 very hungry human // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free; oil-free //

    Toasted Coconut Milk:

    • 3/4 cup large flake or 1/2 cup small flake unsweetened dried coconut
    • 1/2 cup raw cashews or almonds
    • 1/2 cup coconut cream or coconut milk, either canned or refrigerated will work
    • 3 cups filtered water
    • small pinch sea salt (optional)
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

    Chia Pudding:

    • 1 1/2 cups toasted coconut milk
    • 1 ripe banana*
    • 4 TB chia seeds
    • pinch sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla
    • optional toppings: berries, banana slices, whipped coconut cream, maple syrup, date syrup, granola, nuts/seeds.

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Pour dried coconut onto a baking sheet, and toast for 7-10 minutes until deeply toasted but not burnt. Place the toasted coconut in a bowl or jar, and pour in the coconut cream or milk, and 1 cup of filtered water. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, up to overnight, to allow the toasted coconut flavor to infuse the coconut milk and water. *if you do not have or like bananas, you can simply omit but do note that this pudding will not be sweet; simply add a drizzle of your favorite liquid sweetener, like date syrup or maple syrup, if desired. Alternatibely, the banana can be substituted with 1 grated apple (use the coarse hole grate on a box grater), 1 peeled and mashed ripe pear, or 1/2 cup of your favorite sweetened yogurt variety, plant-based or moo-based, as desired. 

    2. Soak the cashews or almonds in filtered water for at least 4 hours, up to overnight, at room temp or in the fridge if it is hot in your kitchen. 

    3. Drain and rinse the cashews or almonds, and add to a blender. Pour the toasted coconut/coconut milk mixture on top, and then add 3 cups of filtered water, the sea salt and vanilla. Blend on high for a few minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Strain through a nutmilk bag, if desired. If using this milk for smoothies, chia pudding, and oatmeal, straining is not necessary. If using for drinking or in coffee/tea, I recommend straining the particulates out. 

    4. Milk will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge in a covered container or jar. 

    5. To make the chia pudding: in a medium bowl or container, mash the banana with a fork until smooth.  Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the toppings, and whisk vigorously. I like to mix with a whisk, let the mixture sit for a few minutes, and then mix again to make sure the chia seeds don't all sink to the bottom. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If the mixture is too thick in the morning, or whenever you decide to enjoy it, simply stir in a splash of the toasted coconut milk. Top as desired, OR layer like parfait into a jar for an easy to-go breakfast or snack. Repeat as necessary and enjoy!



     Toasted coconut...obviously:Don't forget to soak your nuts. Har, har...

    .....Toasted coconut and cashew (or almond!) milk:

    And, a little mixing...waiting, then topping. Look at you...all...healthy and stuff! 

  • Blueberry, Sunbutter + Cacao Smoothie

    This smoothie! Perfect for the morning, afternoon or late-day snack. The combination is quite unexpected, but trust me...it works. My sister is actually responsible for this creation, and thanks to her, I really do believe in the power of the blueberry + cacao/chocolate combo. Not only does the color get a pretty purple hue, but the fruity flavors really do enhance the chocolate. Hemp seeds give this a protein and healthy fat boost, as does the sunflower seed butter ("sunbutter"). A note about that: if you can, make your own sunflower seed butter. Not only is it more economical, but it is so much more flavorful. Simply roast 2-4 cups raw sunflower seeds at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until toasty, and blend the dickens out of them in a heavy-duty food processor or blender. I use my Vitamix with the tamper, and have also used a food processor for the job. I like to add in a good pinch of sea salt, and sometimes a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil to help the blending process. On some occasions, a touch of coconut sugar helps with the sometimes bitter note of the sunflower seed butter. Don't have a heavy-duty blender or food pro to make homemade sunbutter? Then purchase a jar of your favorite nut or seed butter to substitute. 

    My addition to this smoothie: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite coffee (*cough* for those of us who leave a few dregs of coffee in their mug and walk away from it before running out the door in the morning and come back to it a few hours later, this is a perfect use). It is totally optional, but it makes the whole thing like a decadent mocha-like affair...really. Try it. Speaking of, if you want to avoid the caffeine, replace the cacao with carob-boom! A caffeine-free treat suit to fit any morning, afternoon or late-day snack attack. I mean, this smoothie is packed with awesome ingredients...just look! How can you resist?!For an extra special treat, sprinkle the top with cacao nibs, or blitz a few in the smoothie towards the end of blending for a crunchy treat. If you want to enter milkshake-like territory, add in another frozen banana plus another date or two...the creamy, thick result is such a treat! I won't tell if you top it with coco whip, or your favorite whipped cream variety. 

    And yeah, I guess you could add a handful of spinach...but not every smoothie needs spinach, am I right? And don't even think about adding kale to this-it just doesn't work here! Yes, I said it: NO KALE ALLOWED!

    And that is it for today! I am working towards organizing my recipe page, as well as updating another page with a fun new project I have been working on. Stay tuned!



    Blueberry, Sunbutter + Cacao Smoothie // plant-based, vegan, soy-free, refined sugar-free, oil-free, gluten-free, nut-free // makes one 16-20 oz smoothie // 

    • 1 cup almond or other plant-based milk
    • 1/4-1/2 cup brewed coffee, room temp or cold, black or with milk added if using leftover coffee (optional)
    • 1 heaped TB sunbutter or other nut/seed butter
    • 1 TB raw cacao powder or carob powder
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 or 2 frozen bananas, using 2 for a sweeter, thicker smoothie
    • 1-3 pitted soft dates, using more for a sweeter smoothie
    • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
    • 1-2 TB cacao nibs (optional)

    1. Toss all ingredients into a blender, and....BLEND! If needed, add another splash or two of almond milk to help blend. Add the cacao nibs, if desired, towards the end of blending for smaller, crunchy bits OR simply sprinkle on top of smoothie once poured into a glass. 



    The stuff (I used a non-frozen banana...so you can get away with that in a pinch if needed):The end:

  • Citrus + Spicy Root Smoothie

    I just inhaled 4 madarin oranges. I am eyeing another, but in efforts to save a few for tomorrow, I am distracting myself with this post!

    I did have plans to share an iced matcha latte for St. Patty's Day, with matcha being that vibrant green and all, but that fell through since my ice was not ready (!) this afternoon and I lack patience! Also, this smoothie is delicious and totally worthy of the tail-end of citrus season. I enjoyed many of these smoothies this winter, so thought sharing this combination was necessary, even though I am aware that we are all capable of producing delicious smoothie concoctions ourselves. Inspiration is always good!Ginger and turmeric are root rockstars, being good for just about everything. Don't believe me? Do 5 minutes of research on the interwebs, and I bet you'll be running to your grocery, ready to hoard all the ginger and turmeric roots. Beware: turmeric, dried or fresh, will stain EVERYTHING a cheery shade of yellow. Side Note: NATURAL TIE DYE!! 

    If you cannot find fresh turmeric (it CAN be a pain in the ass to find), use a quality ground variety. However, no excuses for the ginger. It is readily available in many stores now, so seek it out. I purchase my fresh turmeric and ginger root at the Willy (Williamson) Street Cooperative, and I do believe that it is produced locally. Win win!The homemade cashew milk below is super simple to make, and is also delicious in coffee, iced or hot. I highly recommend making it, as a batch will make you ~3-4 cups for future smoothies or other delicous nut milk adventures. Yep-I did say that. But the BEST part of using cashews for nutmilks? You don't need to strain it! Just be sure to thoroughly soak your nuts overnight :) 

    PS: if you just cannot muster to make your own cashew milk, simply use your favorite plant-based alternative. If you want, you may easily double or even triple the recipe. For extra protein-boost, add you favorite plant-based protein powder (I really like this one!). 

    PPS: random, but I STARTED MY FIRST BATCH OF KOMBUCHA, using this kit!!! Named my scoby Scooby. Don't judge. Overall, really happy with the kit, and the fact the NessAlla Kombucha is an amazing kombuchery (I made that word up) here in Madison. A friend and I went on a tour of their brewing facility, and I was totally inspired. I'll let you all know how my first batch turns out!



    Citrus and Root Smoothie // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; oil-free refined sugar-free; soy-free option; nut-free option // makes 1 16oz smothie + 3-4 cups cashew milk //

    Cashew Milk

    • 1 cup raw organic cashews, soaked overnight in room temperature filtered water
    • 3-4 cups filtered water
    • 2-3 medjool dates or 1-2 TB liquid sweetener, like maple syrup or agave
    • Pinch sea salt

    Smoothie:

    • 1 cup cashew milk (or your favorite plant-based milk, using non-nut or soy milk if needed)
    • 1 whole orange, de-seeded if necessary and chopped into small pieces, OR juie of 1 whole orage if you do not have a high-powered blender and don't want to chunky, pulpy smoothie
    • 1/2" hunk of ginger, peeled
    • 1/2" hunk of turmeric, peeled
    • 1 frozen banana
    • big squeeze lemon juice
    • 1-2 TB hemp hearts
    • 2-3 handfuls organic spinach or 
    • Optional: Orange slices to garnish, 1 TB chia seeds

    1. Make the cashew milk up to 2 days ahead of time by soaking the cashews and dates in filtered water overnight. The next day, rinse and add to a blender, along with 3-4 cups filtered water with more creamy results by using less water. Add in a pinch of sea salt, if desired, and liquid sweetener if you choose to use it instead of dates. Blend until completely smooth, and pour into a container or jar with a lid. Refrigerate until needed, or use right away.

    2. To make the smoothie, simply combine all the ingredients, except any slices of orange for garnishing. Blend until completely smooth. Serve immediately.



    We came, we saw, and we made a SMOOTHIE!Which means...you blend. And drink. Enjoy!

  • Best Banana Bread!

    Yes! Best Banana Bread! As I type this, I realize I am being quite lazy, as I have an entire 10-day California trip to re-cap...but it is just too soon. I miss my sister, so in efforts to not be over emotional and commence chocolate-eating-for-breakfast/lunch/dinner, I will be sharing the trip + photos in a week or so. Not that I have been regularly updating this little space, but lucky for you, I have been busy making many tasty things, taking pictures of said tasty things, and (not lucky for you) eating those tasty things. I do intend to share many of them, so stay tuned!

    In the meantime, I have (finally) perfected my banana bread recipe. I say "a recipe" because have you seen how many "vegan banana bread" recipes pop up when you search the internets? A bazillion. I counted, exactly a bazillion. So, I am adding my version, since it has taken a few years (!!) and trials and tears to get this loaf right where I want it: not too sweet, lots of banana, no weird ingredients, and adequate shelf life (i.e. it will last in your fridge or room temperature for about a week). Turns out, you need a lot, on the order of 5-6 super duper ripe (the blackest, spottiest, near-to-fermenting) bananas you can muster to a) leave out of a smoothie/not freeze and/or b) get your hands on (I am NOT sharing where I find my stash of over-ripe bananas in Madison...EVER). But, I promise you, regardless of where you procure your bananas, all of them and the wait are worth it. Put a big bunch in a brown or plastic bag, let that ethylene gas build up and ripen those 'nanas ASAP.

     This recipe is great for a variety of reasons. No need for a ton of fat, eggs or other nonesense, thanks to the power of mased banana. You don't even need add-ins (unless you like those, then walnuts and/or dark chocolate chips would be fabulous, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and flaked almonds on top are fun, tasty and decorative....yep...fun, tasty AND decorative). Be sure to cut this loaf into thick pieces, and enjoy with a steamy hot cup of your favorite coffee early in the morning. Getting up has never been so easy....no? To reheat, simply place a slice (or two...) in a warm oven (350F) for 5-7 minutes, or warm in a toaster on a low setting.

    Recipe Notes:

    • You could replace half or all of the melted coconut oil with your favorite fat, such as Earth Balance or butter, if you're into that kind of thing.
    • I have included weight measurements because I have started to use my scale much more (you should snag one, too, if you're remotely serious about producing more consistent baking/cooking results-I have this one here). In case you need to know (you do!), the volume measurements are taken as fluffed flour in the bag with a fork, which is then scooped with the cup measure, and then leveled with the back of a butter knife. I have made the loaf with entirely unbleached all-purpose, entirely whole wheat pastry, as well as a 50:50 combo of both with great results (FYI: Bob's Red Mill is what I use).
    • Baking this in a glass pan will tack-on a few more mintues of baking, so just monitor the loaf every 7 minutes during the last 15-20 minutes of baking. I use this loaf tin and LOVE it to bits.
    • Lastly, if you want to verge on a banana cake-like loaf, simply up the fat to 1/2 cup (90g), and up the sugar to 3/4 cup (150g). Heck, bake in a bundt or other fancy-ass pan, pour some chocolate fudge on top of the cooled bread, sprinkly with toased and crushed salted hazelnuts/peanuts, and call it dessert. For breakfast and snacking, I really prefer the less rich, less sweet version as I share below, but both are damn tasty in their own right. 


    Banana Bread // Plant-based; soy-free; nut-free option // makes 1 standard loaf //

    • 5-6 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (2 cups, or 500g of mashed banana puree)
    • 1/4 cup (45g) virgin coconut oil, melted (for a richer, more cake-like loaf, up to 1/2 cup
    • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
    • 1/2 cup (119g) room temperature almond or plant-based buttermilk (1/2 cup milk + 2 tsp apple cider or other vinegar)
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 3 cups (365g) unbleached all-purpose flour and/or whole wheat pastry flour 
    • 1/2 to 1 cup walnuts finely chopped (don't add those if you're allergic to nuts, yo!), or your favorite dark chocolate chips
    • Optional: cinnamon sugar (1 TB cane sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon) for topping and/or handful flaked almonds

    1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a standard loaf pan. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Melt the coconut oil in a small bowl, and add to the bananas. To this add the room temperature almond buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, mixing with a whisk to thoroughly to combine. Be sure the almond buttermilk is room temperature, or else it will cause the fat to solidify once added to the mixture. If this does happen, place the mixture in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to re-melt the fat, and whisk to incorporate.

    2. In a large bowl, or directly into the banana mixture, sift the flour and baking soda. Gently mix the wet and dry together using a rubber spatula, gently mixing in the walnuts and/or chocolate halfway through mixing. Be sure to not over-mix, as the loaf will be tough if you do. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and top with cinnamon sugar and/or flaked almonds if desired. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If using a fancy-ass pan or glass loaf pan, baking time may vary, so just check on it near the last 15-20 minutes of baking. Cool for 15 minutes, scrape around the sides, and invert out of the pan to cool completely before cutting and/or storing. Enjoy within 1 week, storing either at room temperature or in the fridge in a sealed bag or container. 



    These bananas should really ripen a bit more for this recipe, but I really, really wanted banana bread.Mashing the bananas, using my favorite under-utilized kitchen tool.Puree, spices, sugar, oil...mix them all together, in a larger bowl, unlike what I have pictured below. Also, the Oaktown Spice Shop >>> Penzey's. Everything all mixed, ready for the pan. I left out the add-ins, cause I was in the mood for plain-jane banana bread. Into the pan, and optionally adorned with cinnamon sugar and/or sliced almonds (or not!). I baked one loaf with and one without. Also, shout-out to my grandma for the vintage salt/pepper shakers, one of which I exclusively use for cinnamon sugar. Shake shake shake....the sugary topping makes for an aromatic, delicious top to your loaf.Into the oven to bake. Let this loaf cool before trying to pry it out, and please...for the love of banana bread gods, please let it cool as much as you muster before slicing it, as freshly baked, it may be a bit too gooey...but whatever-you baked it, you do what you want.

    Mmm...the taste of victory. It is indeed banana-y. 

  • Simple Cacao (or Cocoa) Oat & Date Bars

    So, here we go! I am taking off today to visit my sister in California! I can't wait to get out of the cold WI weather, and to hopefully soak in some sunshine! Either way, I am really looking forward to seeing my sister and spending time with her!

    But, WTF to pack for snack and entertainment during travels? After our Vegas adventure (read: O'Hare airport terrible TSA and the slowest *EVER* security line resulting in a missed plane and a super-duper fun 8 hour wait in the airport), I am going prepared...not to assume shit will go wrong, but...shit happens. Am I right?I am sharing a quick recipe today for those bars in the picture above. Initially, I was looking for a quick no-bake bar recipe that was full of dates, since I love dates (who doesn't??). Then, I found runningwithspoons.com, and stumbled on this recipe that called for chocolate. Uhh, DONE! The filling is simply soft, caramel-y dates and bitter, chocolate-y cacao pureed together (with a splash of vanilla and sea salt if you wish), with the "crust" and crumble topping are mainly oats and almonds. Sounded like a winner to me! It took me about 20 minutes to whip these together...I mean, I think wrapping them in plastic wrap (which I usually don't do, but traveling called for it) took longer. I plan on eating a few during my travels, and then sharing the rest wtih my sister and her boyfriend upon my midnight arrival. See, not only do they get the gift of my presence for 10 days, but also these chocolate date bars!!! I am so sweet, and also good for your health just like these bars. Well, they are't overly sweet (also like me....), and I found them to be just perfect for that "I want a sweet treat but don't feel like going into a sugar coma" moment we all seem to encounter when traveling....

    I hope to post when I am California, but no promises. But, when I am back....game on!! Cheers!!



    No-Bake Cacao Oat Date Bars // plant-based; vegan option; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free // makes 12 1.5"x1.5" bars //

    Crust & Topping

    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup almond flour
    • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds or walnuts
    • 2 TB shredded unsweetened dried coconut 
    • 2 TB melted virgin coconut oil
    • 2-3 TB honey, agave or maple syrup (I used 2 TB, but use 3 if you like it sweeter)
    • pinch sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

    Filling

    • 1 cup soft medjool dates, pitted
    • 1/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder (either alkalized/Dutched or natural would work, using alkalized for a more "Oreo-like" flavor)
    • pinch sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2-4 TB warm water

    1. To make the crust and topping, simply combine everythig into a food processor, and process until a fine meal forms. Stop every 30 seconds or so to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The mixture should hold together when squeezed between your palm, but it will still be a bit crumbly. Reserve ~1/2 cup of the mixture. Firmly pat the remaining into an 8"x8" pan that has been lined with parchment, or plastic wrap. Place in the fridge while you make the filling.

    2. To make the filling, combine all the ingredients and only 2 TB of the water into the rinsed food processor bowl. Puree until smooth, adding 1 TB more water at a time if the mixture does not want to mix. I added a total of 3 TB.

    3. Using a spoon or small offset spatula that has been greased with coconut oil, spread the mixture on top of the crust, using more coconut oil to grease the spatula or spoon if needed. I found that the filling stuck to the spatula too much without greasing it, and I assume using a small amound of water would also help prevent sticking. Spread the filling in the most even layer you can muster, and then crumble the rest of the oat/almond mixture on top of it, pressing down to help it adhere to the filling.

    4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze until firm, before cutting. Store in an airtight container, or wrap as needed. Keep refrigerated or in the freezer, and enjoy straight from there or at room temp. 



    The crust and crumble stuff, in a bowl. Here we go! Note: my coconut oil was very soft, so I called that good enough in terms of melting.The mixture after it has been blitzed in the food processor. It will still be a touch crumbly, so don't be alarmed. You will be compacting the mixture for the base crust.Now, the filling. Simply place all the ingredients in a food processor, starting with 2 TB water to help mix. Puree, scrape, add 1 TB water until it is a fudgey, smooth, thick delicious mess. Now, the hardest part...smearing the date filling on top of the crust you have firmly patted down into an lined 8"x8" pan! I greased an small off-set spatula with coconut oil to help prevent sticking. If it is not perfectly smooth, no worries, since you are sprinkling over ~1/2 of the crumble mixture anyways. Press down gently on the crumble you have sprinkled over the filling. Cover the pan, chill or freeze for at least 30 minutes. Cut, and enjoy! Store the bars in a container or wrapped in the freezer or fridge. I am guessing they will last about 1 week in the fridge, and up to 2-3 in the freezer as long as the don't dry out.Yes...airport snacks! 

  • Oh, Hey! + Plant Based Food on the Fly

    Oh, hey there! I know, it has been what, 2 months? I guess I should apologize...but sometimes, life happens. School happens. Writing a thesis and defending said thesis happens...and then you go to Vegas for a week...and yeah. How were those holidays? New Years? Have any resolutions? 

    I hope everyone is well, and enjoying their 2016, as well as goals they have set forth for themselves. I happy to report that I am *almost* done with school: I have to make edits to my thesis before submitting, and then...who knows what. I may be writing a manuscript or other publications (with my my advisor/principle investigator overseeing my research) after finished my thesis, but for now, I am focusing on one thing at a time.

    Not going to lie...I had a bit of a freak out this week. After being offered a job at a local confectionery company, and jumping on it (yes! yes!! Job! You did it! This is what you do after you graduate!)...I took a step back. Proceeded to freak out after I did some research on how to get health insurance on my own. Ended up on the phone to a government agency, and felt so....alone, and quite frankly, pathetic. I had just graduated with my Masters, and didn't feel any sort of accomplishment. What the heck? This isn't the way I should feel. I had to re-cap: I went back to school to prepare myself and skill set for bigger, brighter things...but sometimes, saying "no" is really hard for me. How about you? I like to be prepared, and to take care of my own shit. I am also a people-pleaser. So, the thought of not having income freaked me out, but honestly, after talking it over with my sister and partner, I knew I would be ok. And, most importantly, that I needed (deserve!) a break. I need time to figure out who I am without my school routine, what I want to do with my life, and I just need some time to relax! It is totally healthy to reflect and feel good about your accomplishments, and I truly believe that is what I need to do (and let it all soak in!) before taking the next step. You know? Yeah...ok. I am glad I have that off my chest! And seriously, I need some time to get back in the blogging routine! Being away from it made me appreciate it, and I am looking forward to being back around here at a more frequent basis!

    So, how did I survive writing my thesis? Well, for one, if I could take a step back, I would have been more organized on the food/snack front. I am the type of person who, even thought I LOVE to eat and LOVE food, tends to shun food when I am stressed out. Eating? Psssh. I have better things to do! I found myself slipping into the get-up, make coffee/tea + lemon water, chug smoothie, and work through lunch (as in, skip lunch or have a piece of toast or poke at some reheated leftovers...), and then have a major energy drop-off around 6:00 (when I would then either keep working, or slug myself to the gym for a quick workout). I would come home starving, frustrated, anxious and stressed out about making dinner. Let me just say that I am happy to have time againg to prepare food, and have the mental space to allow for creativity in prepping meals!

    Now, as dramatic as that sounds, I did have a few key staples that helped me get through, and I thought it'd be fun to share them. The pictures may not be the prettiest (all from my phone!), but you get the idea. I hope to re-visit some of the things I made and share them in a more organized fashion on the blog! 

    PS: As I mentioned on my last post, my dear friend and her team of fellow talented media students did a rad video project on a few foodies in the Madison area. I was honored to be a part of the project, and the video is HERE! Check out my nervous tendancies, as well as why I love a plant-based diet. You can find the pumpkin pie recipe HERE (<----it is a good one!).

    Cheers!!



    1. Smoothies!! Wow. I love smoothies (See herehere, here, and here for some of my favorite go-to recipes, with some being more of a treat!). Knowing that I could jam-pack my Vitamix with greens (usually spinach, sometimes kale), fruit and other superfoods like chia seeds, hemp hearts, coconut oil and my current favorite protein powder made me feel good about skipping eating the next 10 hours. JUST KIDDING!! But having a solid smoothie gave me an energy boost each and every morning. I at least get points, right? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

    2. Lemon + Turmeric + Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic: I snagged inspiration for this easy tonic from Oh She Glows. It is super easy, and doesnt' require fresh turmeric root which is usually hard to find here in WI. I would sip on this with my smoothie in the morning, and it really helped my motivation in keeping hydrated throughout the morning/afternoon.

    3. Tofu Scramble!! Made with my sister's homemade curry powder, tofu scramblin' was a quick and easy meal, either for breakfast or dinner...or lunch leftovers. Paired with a baked sweet potato (or steamed in the microwave), and sauteed kale, this made for a nourishing and filling staple. I did not press the tofu for any of the scrambles I made, and honestly...didn't notice a difference in the overall outcome of the dish. Time savers for the win!! 

    4. Coffee! Ok, not a food, but I need to share my most favorite coffee or tea creamer. It is simply 3/4 cup overnight soaked cashews, 2-3 soft pitted dates, 2 cups water and a small pinch sea salt. Blend until smooth, no straining required with the soft, soaked 'shews. Enjoy in your favorite hot beverage, including: rooibos tea, chai, matcha lattes, French press coffee, hot chocolate or even by itself for a decadent treat alongside a cookie or what have you. Inspiration credit for this creamer goes to York & Spoon. She is a rad lady-check out her page!!5. Banana + Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies: Filled with chia jam (I used strawberry) or topped with half a soft pitted date, these babies are oatmeal on the fly! Eating two of these supplies you with 1/2 cup oats, lotsa ground flax seeds, and a 1/2 of a banana! Yes! Great with nut/seed butter, Earth Balance or coconut butter. I followed this recipe, adding cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract. Note: add dark chocolate next time. Win!!

    6. Hummus. Need I say more?? I made countless batches of hummus to enjoy on toast, with veggies or crackers or tortialla chips, or to pile on a baked sweet potato covered in tofu scramble. Hey, it may not be pretty food, but it tastes damn good. The red swirl is red chili paste...I picked it up on a whim, and am really loving it swirled in hummus...

    7. Pureed soups. So easy...and a great way to pack in the veggies! Check this one out (still one of my favorites-try adding butternut sqaush cubes for a fun winter twist!). I also love me a good butternut or kabocha or kuri (or a mixture thereof) squash soup, topped with sauted kale and vegan sausage (Field Roast Italian is what I used below). A quick and simple meal that leaves you with leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. 

    8. Homemade nut and seed butters. I would make 1 batch per week, using 3-4 cups whatever nuts and seeds I wanted: usually a mixture of Spanish peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews and/or almonds. I would toast them until they are brown and fragrant in a 350F oven, and then puree (i.e. tamp the shit out of the mixture in the Vitamix) with a pinch of sea salt. Wonderful snacking on with toast, apples, using in smoothies, or even making this rediculously delicious salad dressing (ps: almond/sunflower butter worked beautifully in that dressing!). I also discovered that if you roughly chop almonds, the roasty flavors in the final butter are enhanced...so if you're into that kind of thing, try it out!

    9. Fruit! A no-brainer. I munched on my fair share of apples, oranges, grapefruits and even managed to crack open 2 pomegranates. Candy from nature....along with chocolate. I ate a lot of dark chocolate...we won't go there...but I will share with you that I love the dark chocolate with sea salt from Theo. Yes, yes I do. You should probably get some...now. Oh, and dates+ homemade nut butter = heaven. Add in a sprinkle of sea salt on top, and you've basically have natures way better version of a Snickers bar.

    10. ICE CREAM!!!! Ok, ok. So I waited to treat myself with a pint of Lunay & Larry's (Chocolate Walnut Brownie = BLISS!!) until I was done with my defense. I am in love with Coconut Bliss products, and treated myself after having a celebretory Thai curry dinner the evening after my defense. The chocolate walnut brownie flavor is probably my second favorite thus far, with the ultimate favorite being the chocolate and salted caramel. Note to self: get more STAT!!!

    And that is it!! Thanks for checking in...I hope to be back soon. What are you favorite go-to foods when you are busy or stressed??



  • Happy Halloween + Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

    Happy Halloween!! I hope everyone is either carving pumpkins (we did for the first time in a loooong time), drinking lots of cider (spiked with bourbon/whiskey if needed), and soaking in the last day of October. What month! It flew by. That is scary. Kinda like how today should be!! Boo!

    I am taking the morning off from school. First, I'll be having a breakfast with my bestie: pancakes, mimosas, homemade hashbrowns if I am ambitious enough/can convince my boyfriend to peel and grate the ptoatos, bloody Mary's for those who like tomato juice (i.e. not me), coffee, etc...you know the drill. I'll probably make a scary green smoothie, too, cause that's how I roll. After that, we'll be hauling our full bellies to the Badger game!! My friend, Shannon, is usually awesome enough to drag my sorry bum to a home game once a year. She rocks at school/Wisconsin spirit, I do not. But, I will be wearing a cute vintage red sweater....so that counts right? Go Badgers!! After the game, I'll be doing some sort of movie marathon and stuffing my face with chili and cornbread with my boyfriend. I mean, it is a holiday....

    I wanted to share this super tasty, excuse-to-eat-chocolate, crunchy and great-for-you CHOCOLATE granola today. It seemed like the right thing to do, on a holiday that is usually full of candy. Not that there is anything wrong with that on a day like today, but maybe give your body some lovin' with some nourishing and tasty granola while your at it. This granola does contain sugar, but hey, you're already eating granola...so live a little. I am usually a purist when it comes to granola, but the strong cocoa or cacao powder really needs a sweet backdrop to shine. You may be able to use more liquid sweetener, but be careful, as it may burn due to its higher fructose content (especially agave and honey!)...and as you may have guessed, this granola is already dark, it is hard to tell if it has burned. If you do substitute the sugar for a liquid sweetener, I'd love to hear about it!

    This stuff is SUPER easy to throw, erm, mix together! To make it even more speedy and reduce dishes, I used the weight measurements for most of the ingredients (but feel free to use your volume measures if you don't have a kitchen scale, both are included!). I initially planned to send the lot of it to my sister for her birthday last week, but decided against it. I thought some gluten-free and vegan brownies, choc full of walnuts, dark chocolate and topped with Maldon were a better brithday treat...no? Well, at any rate, the hardest part about this recipe is waiting for it to bake. 

    ps: this stuff would still make a great gift. Pour some in a jar + ribbon + label = insta gift!! 

    And the BEST part? You get chocolate milk after you eat a bowl of this stuff! Kinda like a hippy-dippy version of Cocoa Pebbles! I enjoyed my first bowl with a fresh batch of homemade almond milk, but do your thing, and use whatever type of milk is your jam. The original recipe is from Sarah over at My New Roots. I recently picked up her book for a gift for my sister, and after reading through the copy I shipped to her, I HAD to order myself one! So glad I did, because that book is amazing, and full of creative, delicious looking recipes. I can't wait to use it more!!

    So happy Halloween, or just Saturday. Enjoy your day, and revel in October's last stance! Happy Granola'ing!!!

    Notes: as mentioned, this recipe does contain cane sugar. Feel free to experiment with liquid sweetner, but be cautious of burning. Indeed, this granola is dark, so you'll want to keep a close eye on it and taste it towards the last 10 minutes of baking, as Sarah mentions in the original. The buckwheat groats are NOT kasha. Kasha=toasted buckwheat, raw buckwheat groats=raw not toasted buckwheat groats. Get the latter, not the former, since you're toasting your own! Look in the bulk aisle of a well-stocked grocery store, co-op or Whole Foods. And please don't skip them, their crunch is integral to this recipe, and they are super good for you and your digestive system! To help boost the fiber even more, and lend binding power, I added 2 TB ground flax seeds. After munching on the finished product, I could see replacing chia seeds with ground flax entirely, but up to you. To also help bind this stuff and make it more easy to digest, and other granolas, I always process a portion of the oats and all the nuts in my food processor for a few seconds. Feel free to not do this, and stick to the original's recipe instructions, but I find that the final granola is so much more aromatic and delicous if I give some of the hearty ingredients a quick blitz in the food pro. And last, but most importantly: I had to resist the urge to throw in some chopped super-dark chocolate or even some high-quality chocolate chips. I suggest you strongly consider doing this...or just add some of your favorite dried fruit as you eat it. Noms all around!



    Chocolate + Buckwheat Granola // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free // makes about 8 cups of granola //

    • 3 cups (300g) gluten-free rolled oats 
    • 1 cup (200g) buckwheat groats (not kasha, see note above)
    • 1 1/2 cups (65 to 80g) shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut (I used finely shredded, but the big flakes work too)
    • 1 cup (125g) hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, or combination thereof (I used 50:50 hazelnuts:walnuts)
    • 1/4 cup (30g) chia seeds (or sub with ground flax)
    • 2 TB (15g) ground flax seeds (optional, don't add if you use 1/4 cup ground flax above)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar, sucanant, or coconut sugar
    • 1/3 cup maple syrup, agave or honey
    • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 cup (120g) raw cacao powder (I used this one) or good quality cocoa powder (either Dutched/alkalized or natural would work here)
    • Optional Add In's Post Bake: dried fruit, like cherries or cranberries or apricots would be delish, or even some extra dark chocolate chunks or chips. Note: I like to add my dried fruit as I eat granola, not mix in the entire batch as it tends to dry out and get too chewy for my taste. 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking tray with parchment. In a small bowl or sauce pan, melt the coconut oil in the microwave or stove. Stir in the sugar, liquid sweetener, sea salt, cinnamon, vanilla and cocoa/cacao powder. Stir until completely smooth and set aside.

    2. Measure or weigh out the nuts and half of the oats into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the nuts and oats until you have medium pieces. Dump into a large bowl, and measure or weigh out the remaining ingredients.

    3. Pour the wet chocolate mixture over the dry mixture, and stir well to combine. Taste, adjust cinnamon, sea salt and sweetness if desired.

    4. Dump onto prepared baking tray, pressing down firmly with your hands or the mixing tool you used. Bake for 20 minutes, give it a good flip/stir, and firmly pat back down onto the sheet using your stirring tool. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, stirring a few times during these last minutes to ensure the granola isn't burning by tasting it and smelling. Once done, shut the oven off, crack the oven door at least half-way, and allow the granola to sit undisturbed (I like to let it sit overnight-I keep it in the oven to allow the residual heat to firm it up and to also keep it out of my sight to avoid eating a ton of it out of the oven-you can also cool it on a cooling rack). The granola will firm-up and get more crunchy once cooled. Break up and store in an air-tight container. Lasts for a few weeks at room temperature, or for up to 3 months in the freezer. 



    With everything in your pantry now in this granola, you can feel like a superhero! A granola superhero. Boom!I always pulse half the oats, and all of the nuts for my granolas. I really love the texture, and find that the final granola is much more aromatic and well...nutty!

    The chocolate goo holding this stuff together. Mmmm...chocolate goo....Everything all mixed, ready to bake. This mixture itself tasted pretty rad.

    Ok, now using the mixing tool or your hands, pat the granola down firmly onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake! Taste towards the last 10 or so minutes of baking, to make sure this stuff isn't burning.And after baking! This stuff smells like a brownie baking. No joke.Put into an air-tight containe or jar, and enjoy! With homemade almond milk, this was truly a hippy-dippy spin-off of cocoa pebbles. Yessss!And chocolate milk after!And plenty more for later!!!

  • Pumpkin Pie: Two Classic Recipes

    As I mentioned earlier in the week, my grandma was a liar. Your grandmother probably is too. Juuust kidding. That was to get your attention!

    Now that I have it, let's talk about pumpkin pie. Traditional pumpkin pie is made with custard: a creamy, dense base of eggs and milk. The proteins from the eggs lend stand-up properties, while the fat and flavors from the milk make the custard sweet and rich. The lecithin (an emulsifier) present in the egg yolks make the filling satin-smooth, save any gritty bits or fibers present from the pumpkin/squash puree. Side note: some people like that sort of texture in their pumpkin pies!So, how do we replicate a custard, plant-based style? We rely on another type of suspension (truly a colloid) or gel: a starch-based gel. Now, this could get complicated...but it is pie, so I won't make it so. Essentially, I am telling you one thing: you will get close to the classic custard texture, but you will not mimic it 100% and fool your grandma. A starch-based gel has very different properties than a protein-based gel.

    But fortunately, our starch-based gel is still delicious. Creamy, smooth, thick, and flavorful. All without dairy or eggs. Topped with your favorite whipped cream, either one of these is sure to satisfy a hankerin' for pumpkin pie. I really hope you try either version...I did a lot of baking, and WE did a a lot of pie eating for you! 

    Our plant-based "custard" secret weapons:

    • Arrowroot Starch: provides the primary gel structure; it forms a semi-ridgid gel, thickens the filling upon heating (starch gelatinization), and provides stand-up properties.
    • Coconut Cream: Provivdes air and lift. Eggs, when mixed into traditional filling, help increase viscosity of the custard, and while mixed, help trap air for slightly lighter filling.
    • Soaked Raw Cashews: lends fat and a nutty "cooked" flavor that cooked/baked milk takes on. Helps shorten the firm starch gel structure, leaving you a beautifully creamy and tender filling. 

    So if I haven't sold you on this "starch based gel pumpkin pie", I really urge you to try it for yourself. As I mentioned, I have tested TWO recipes several times, and have had two (unofficial) taste testers for each. The verdict:

    • Version 1: very tasty, but a firmer, ridgid texture. However, not as firm as traditional pumpkin pie. Spices are strong, to which I suspect is the lower fat content since fat helps dampen the impact of flavors and spices. Great cold and room temperature, but room temperature is softer if you like that texture better.
    • Version 2: again, very tasty; texture is less ridgid, and more "voluptuous" thanks to the addition of both cashews and coconut cream, and slightly less arrowroot. The added fat from the cashews and coconut helps replace some of the stand-up properties of the starch in the finished filling, leaving you with a firmer but more tender "custard". The flavors and spices are warm, not overpowering. The color is more opaque, more like the traditional pumpkin pie. The texutre is still soft and pudding-like at room temperature, but firms once chilled. 

    In sum: both get darn close, with version 2 coming in slightly closer. If you do not like or cannot eat cashews, then version 1 is still an incredibly tasty contender. If you cannot consume coconut, feel free to substitue the 1/4 cup with 1/2 cup of your favorite unsweetened plant-based milk, leaning more towards a  organic soy-based one as it has more fat and protein for a firmer filling. But, almond milk works well, too.

    And now, for the crusts:

    • Traditional Style: cut-in-solid fat type, using virgin coconut oil, was what it always is: tender, flakey, but substantial enough to stay firm, even without a blind-bake. Best when you plan on serving the pie sooner, rather than later, as it gets soggy after a day or so. In addition, it requires a chilling period, as all traditional pastry for crusts do. However, can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you are ready to roll. I love using the crust in fruit-based  pies (exhibit A and B). 
    • Melted Fat & Plant-Based Milk Style: overall a more "rustic" texture, much more crispy, and held up to the moisture in the filling for 2 whole days, making it ideal for serving the next day. In contrast to the traditional style, you can roll out this one immediately, no chilling required or recommended, although it is a bit fragile to handle. 

    So, you pick your ideal filling and crust. MY FAVORITE??? I'd have to go with the traditional crust and filling option #2!!

    Don't forget the whipped cream, coconut or otherwise! Happy Pumpkin Pie'ing! If you do make any of these combinations, I would love to know how it went!! 



    Pumpkin Filling Option 1 // plant-based, vegan, soy-free option, nut-free option // makes 1 9" or 10" pie //

    • 2 1/2 cups pumpkin or squash puree, homemade or canned
    • 1/4 cup coconut cream or 1/2 cup plant-based milk of choice (using a soy-free milk if desired)
    • 1/2 cup organic sugar of choice, like white, brown, coconut or sucanant
    • 3 TB arrowroot starch 
    • 2 tsp molasses 
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger, or 1/2" hunk grated fresh
    • small pinch cloves
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tsp vanilla 
    • 1 TB bourbon (optional, but very tasty)

    Traditional Cut-In-Solid Fat Crust // plant-based, vegan, soy-free option, nut-free // makes enough pastry for TWO 9" or 10" pies //

    • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry, unbleached all-purpose or spelt flour, or any combination thereof
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB sugar 
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
    • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil OR a 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil:Earth Balance (use soy-free Earth Balance if desired)
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar or other vinegar
    • 5-7 TB ice water, or very cold water

    1. Make the pie crust (can be made up to 3 days in advance, or frozen for up to 1 month): Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. In small spoofuls, drop the coconut oil over the dry ingredients. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm the fat up again. While waiting, prepare ice water and get vinegar. Once fat has firmed up, cut the fat into the flour using a pastry cutter or fork. You want medium-small pieces, think pea size. Add the water, starting with 5 TB, and all of the vinegar. Cut the water into the dough, adding more by the TB until you can squeeze the pastry togeter into a mass that sticks together but is not sticky/wet. In the bowl, form pastry into a disk, cover with a tea towel and let sit in the fride while you prep the filling. Or, you can wrap the pastry tightly in plastic wrap and place in a storage bag, and chill it for a few days, or even freeze it for up to 1 month.

    3. When you're ready to make the pie, preheat oven to 450F. Make the pie filling: mix the sugar and the arrowroot together with a whisk in a large bowl. This helps prevent the arrowroot from clumping together. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk until smooth, and taste for spices. Adjust as needed. Alternatively, add everything into a blender, and blend until smooth. If you like more texture to your filling, and still want to blend it, simply reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin puree to mix in after you have blended the filling (that is my favorite method)

    4. To roll out the pie pastry, be sure that it is not too firm from chilling in the fridge. If it is, allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes until you can easily roll it out (alternatively, thaw frozen pastry overnight in the fridge, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature once thawed). Cut the dough disc in half (freeze the other half or use for another pie). Use plenty of flour to help prevent sticking. Pick up and rotate the pastry as you roll it out every few passes of the rolling pie to re-flour if it is sticking. Roll about into a ~12" diameter circle (or large enough to have a 1" overhang on a 9" to 10" pie dish). Fold the pasty into quarters or roll-up on the rolling pin, and place into pie dish, gently coaxing it into place. If a tear happens, simply patch it up or press together again when the pastry is in place. Trim, or patch pastry in place if necessary, around the edges for a 1" overhang. Turn the 1" overhang under, and crimp as desired.

    5. Fill the pie crust with the pumpkin filling. Gently tap the pie on the counter to get rid of any air pockets. Smooth out top with a spatula or spoon. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, then for 35-40 additional minutes at 350F. If the crust is browning too much, simply shield it with tin foil or parhment. The filling will be firm, but may wiggle just a bit when moved. Cool the pie completely on a cooling rack for a few hours, and then in the fridge for up to overnight, at a minimum for 4 hours. This allows the filling to set completely. Slice and serve with your favorite whipped cream. Pie will last for 4 days, covered in the fridge, but crust will get a bit moist over time. 


    Fat + Flour = Crust Power!The pastry, with just enough water to hold it together.Roll, fit and crimp. I really like using a scissors to trim excess pastry.Now, mix the filling. Taste it, too. No one likes an under-spiced pumpkin pie.Pour into crust, no pre-baking required. Bake, admire how awesome your kitchen smells, and contemplate whipped cream toppings.

    Pie for breakfast = breakfast of champions. With extra whipped coconut cream, please!!


    Pumpkin Pie Filling Option 2 // plant-based; vegan; soy-free // makes 1 9" or 10" pie //

    • 2 ½ cups pumpkin puree
    • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked, drained and rinsed
    • ¼ cup coconut cream
    • ½ cup organic sugar of choice, like white, brown, coconut or sucanant
    • 2 tsp molasses
    • 1 TB agave, maple syrup or honey
    • 2 TB arrowroot powder 
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground ginger or ½” piece fresh, grated
    • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • pinch cloves
    • ¼ tsp sea salt
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 TB bourbon (optional)

    Quick Crispy Spelt Crust // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free // makes one 9" or 10" pie crust //

    • ¾ cup spelt flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
    • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour OR other flour of choice
    • 1 TB ground flax seeds
    • 6 TB virgin coconut oil OR a 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil:Earth Balance (use soy-free Earth Balance if desired)
    • 6 TB plant-based milk (use a non-soy milk if desired)
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • ½ tsp apple cider or coconut vinegar
    • 1 TB white sugar, brown sugar or sucanant
    1. To make the pie crust, sift flours, sea salt, flax seeds, sugar together. Melt the milk and coconut oil together, and then add to the flour mixture. Stir briefly, but make sure everything is mixed well.
    2. Allow pastry to sit for 5 minutes. Then, roll out as any pie crust, following the directions for the traditional pie crust above. The pastry for this crust will be more delicate, and can stick to the rolling surface so be sure to use plenty of flour to help roll the pastry out.
    3. Although I do not recommend chilling the pie dough in a disc as the traditional crust as it gets too firm, you CAN chill in the fridge once in pie plate, up to 1 day ahead of time, covered tightly with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
    4. When you are ready to make the pie, preheat oven to 450F. Make the filling by adding everything into a blender, and pureeing until the cashews are completely smooth. If you want more texture to the filling, simply reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin puree ad stir it in after pureeing the filling. That is my favorite method to use! Taste the filling, adjusting spices if necessary.
    5. Pour the filling into the prepared crust, tap on the counter one or two times to get rid of air bubbles, and smooth the top out with a spoon or spatula. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, and then for another 35-40 minutes at 350F. If your crust is getting too brown, simply shield it with tin foil or parchment. The filing will be soft, and may wiggle a bit. Cool the pie completely on a cooling rack for a few hours, and then in the fridge for up to overnight, at a minimum for 4 hours. This allows the filling to set completely. Slice and serve with your favorite whipped cream. Pie will last up to 4 days covered in the fridge, with the crust getting only slightly less crispy.

     Crust time: simply sift, mix and roll. No chilling required for this one. Mix it all up...being gentle, don't over mix or else you will have a tough crust.Crust purists would prbably sneer at you now, but eh...whatever.This crust is a bit more delicate than others, so just be gentle, use enough flour to prevent sticking, and when in doubt, just patch up any holes or tears that happen. Gingerly put into your pie pan, trim the edges, fold under and crimp.Ok, now onto the filling! Our secret weapons: soaked cashews and coconut cream!I put 1 cup of pumpkin puree in a bowl, and then everything else in a blender to puree. I did this to keep some texture to the filling.Puree until smooth...this took me about 2 minutes in a Vitamix, but let your blender run as long as you need to. Your neighbors may hate you, buuuut pie!Mixed with the other 1 cup of pumpkin puree.Pour into prepared pie shell, tap on the counter to rid any air bubbles, smooth out and bake!You're well on your way to pie...it should smell like autumn-spice heaven, and give any stupid pumpkin spice latte a run for it's money.After you've let the pie cool and set, you can slice and enjoy! Pie for breakfast, as I already stated, is pretty much the best thing on a chilly fall moring. With hot coffee, of course.Enjoy!

  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

    The leaves are turning colors, the air is crisp, my fruit bowl is full of Honey Crisp and Spartan apples (need to do something about that...), and there are squash/pumpkins scattered around our apartment. That meant only one thing this past week: it was time for pie. Pumpkin pie.

    At first, I was going to go present to you a post all about 1) how to make your own pumpkin puree and 2) how to make a delicious, scrumptious, perfect plant-based pumpkin pie, complete with a coconut oil crust. I have two filling options and two crust options to share with you, both yielding a perfect plant-based pumpkin pie.

    However, as I typed the post out, I realized that it was going to be a BEAST. A pumpkin beast. So, this week, I present to you two installments: 

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

    • Second: how-to make your very own, shove-you-entire-face-in-it-because-you-made-it-yourself plant-based pumpkin pie. It tastes amazing, has a texture very similar to the traditional pumpkin custard pie, and is full of those autumn spices that we all know and love.

    **Disclaimer: both versions of the classic pumpkin pie were tested not once, not twice, but three times. Each trial was tested and approved by at least 2 pumpkin pie taste testers, professionals in the realm of traditional pumpkin pie eating. Later in the season, I will share with you another version that has been approved by my dairy-farming family members. Yeah, it is that great, and a real show-stopper.**

    I love pumpkin pie. However, did you know that there is a secret among the old-skool bakers? The sneaky grandmas? Maybe even your parents? Well, I'll save you a childhood of lies (that is a bit dramatic!), deceit and folly: your pumpkin pie, the best one you've ever tasted, is made from squash. Yep-squash. Technically, pumpkin is squash, but I am talking about what we know as squash: butternut, kabocha, butterkin...a dense, sweet, intensely orange, not-too-stringey squash variety works wonders in a pumpkin pie. Why? Well, did you ever purchase a "pie" pumpkin and have it turn out to be too stringey, fiberous or not sweet enough? There is your answer. Legit squash is a fail-safe: always dense, sweet and never stringey. 

    My grandma...she is so sneaky...she had been using her homegrown butternut squash in her pies for years. YEARS. before my mom broke the news to me and my sister. I still remember that day: I was young, we were baking pies together, and my mind was blown. Squash? Ew. At the time, I hated squash. But after I tried that squash pie the next day, I knew my grandmother's secret: Perfect pumpkin pie=butternut squash pie. Still delicious, with a scoop (ok, ok...mound) of real whipped cream on top. I was in heaven as a kid, right there. The sweet, dense spicy pie contrasting with the cool, creamy, rich whipped cream. Today, a high-quality can of coconut cream with a touch of maple syrup, whipped to perfection, makes for a perfect topping for the perfect plant-based pumpkin pie. 

    Really, I should have known: she never grew pie pumpkins...only squash....silly me. Silly pumpkins.

    Making your own pumpkin or squash puree is SO. EASY. It is a perfect task for a weeknight that is chilly, or do it over the weekend. The canned stuff is great for in a pinch-but if you have the time, roast a few sugar/pie pumpkins and butternut squash (kabocha and butterkin work too), and puree the sweet, bright-orange flesh for a real treat for your next pie, loaf of pumpkin bread, soup, or even homemade pumpkin spice latte (yes, I did say that).

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

    The pumpkin puree will keep for 1 week in the fridge in a covered container, or freeze it for a few months. I like to portion mine out into 16oz (~2 cups) portions, enough for a pie, in bags, label it (I forget everything) and freeze it for future pumpkin needs. Be sure to squeeze our the air when you do freeze to prevent freezer burn. Totally worth it. So do it. Now!!



    Pumpkin Puree // yield depends on how many pumpkins or squash you roast, and how big they are // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free; gluten-free; oil-free option //

    • Pie Pumpkins or Butternut Squash (or other variety of dense, sweet squash, like Kabocha)
    • Olive or other neutral cooking oil (optional, but helps prevent occasional sticking)

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large sheet tray with parchment. Cut the stem end or remove the stem from the pumpkin, cut in half the down the stem end, and scoop out the seeds and pulp (save those for making roasted pumpkin seeds if you like).

    2. Lightly oil the insides of the pumpkin (optional, but helps prevent occasional sticking), place cut side down on the parchment, and roast until tender. This depends on your pumpkin and oven. It took me about 1.25 hours. The pumpkin should be easily pierced with a fork when it is done. Take the cooked pumpkins out, and allow to cook as-is on the tray until they can be handled, about 30 minutes up to overnight.

    3. When cool, simply peel off the skin or scoop the flesh out. Puree to desired smoothness in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender. Store in the fridge or freeze in desired quantities until you want to use it. 



    First things first, find a pumpkin...or squash, or two or three. I roasted 2 larger pie pumpkins, and got about 8 cups of puree. I would suggest you roast at least 2 at a time to make this process worth your while. It is worth your while...because pie!!Next, be-head the pumpkin, and carefully chop in half down the stem end.Ta daaaa!Scoop out the goop and seeds, reserving the seeds if you wish to roast them later.Ok, now plop cut side down on a lined baking tray and if desired, *lightly* coat with a neutral cooking oil. I used olive oil. This helps prevent the pumpkin from drying out and also sticking to the sheet, but is not necessary.Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a fork is easily poked into the pumpkin or squash. Allow to cool until you can safely handle them, and either scoop the flesh out OR simply peel the skin off. Puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. Now, you're ready to make a pie, or use this puree in any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree: bread, muffins, soups, hummus/dips...pumpkin galore! 

    Or, simply portion it out and freeze it for a few months.


  • Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake

    Yes, I know. What the heck is a bundt? Well, for me anyways, it is a deliciously moist cake baked in a bundt pan-go figure. I am fairly certain that this type of pan is really common in the midwest, and has been spotted more freqently around the states each year. Growning up, my Mom had a retro avocado green bundt pan, lined with black teflon, because nothing is worse than a bundt cake that sticks to the nooks and crannies of the pan. Now, I rely on good ol' coconut oil and flour for non-sticking properties.

    Side note: I love, love, love Nordicware. I have this bundt pan, as well as a tart pan from their collection. Highly recommend their products...and I have to thank my dear cousin for recommending them to me (i.e. I "borrowed" her tart pan for about 4 months, then bought her a new one because I loved her's so much, I used it several times!). 

    Wednesday evening rolled around this past week, I was already exhauseted from the week, the stress of school, writing my thesis, and the impending doom of my half marathon in about a month. I haven't had a good workout in a few days, most likely due to being tired and run-down. So what is any sane, stressed and overwhelmed person to do??

    Make a pumpkin streussel bundt, just in time for October! Made perfectly good sense to me. A good dose of baking therapy, and some awesomely spicy Indian food for dinner, and I was good as new the next day. It feels good to bake-it is a major de-stressor for me. I feel accomplished when I produce something that smells wonderful, and makes you (and your kitchen) feel all warm and happy (ps: landlords, please turn on our heat soon!). I started out with the vision of "healthy-ish pumpkin muffins", complete with some oats sprinkled in. But, as I was getting all the ingredients together, I threw caution into the wind and went full-on cake. You only live once right? It is time to celebrate the new month, new goals and a fresh start! Besides, with the colder weather rollin' in, you need those extra kCals :)

    Originally a coffee cake, baked in a round 9" and 3" high cake pan, I chose to bake it in my bundt pan to show it some love. You could also make muffins, and simply bake for less time (probably ~25 minutes or so). This spicy, moist and flavorful pumpkin cake is not full of crunchy granola, oatmeal, chia seeds or hemp seeds. It is not low in fat, sparse in sugar, or lacking in the glutens. It is a proper bundt cake, covered in a nutty, spicy streussel. After all, vegan baking should not be about restriction, but highlighting what CAN be done with animal-free ingredients. The result? Nothing short of delcious, and a cake that would stand-up to a traiditional bundt any day. Happy October! Be sure to enjoy slices of this cake with a hot cup of tea (lovin' the rooibos with coconut milk lately!) or coffee! I won't tell if you have it alongside your usual breakfast, either....I am enjoying the last piece of this cake with a nice hot cup of coffee, and giant green smoothie as I type this. Lift is all about balance, right? :D :D

    Note: the original recipe only called for 1 cup pumpkin, but I went full force on the pumpkin using 1 cup 1/4 cup. This produced a super moist and dense cake. I also used a 50:50 ratio of whole wheat pastry (Bob's Red Mill) and organic unbleachd all-purpose flour. In regards to the sugar, I made my own brown sugar by using organic cane sugar + molasses, because I love the tatse and color molasses with pumpkin baked goods. However, feel free to use brown sugar, light OR dark, as the original calls for.  And finally, I modified the streussel recipe to produce only half the original, and thought this was just enough streussel in propprtion to the cake, but please, double it if you love the streussel!



    Pumpkin Bundt with Streussel Topping // makes 1 standard 6-cup bundt cake, or 1 9" coffee cake, and probably 1 dozen standard-sized muffins // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free option // 

    Pumpkin Cake:

    • 2 cups flour - I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry, 1 cup unbleached all-purpse
    • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp dried ginger
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used So Delcious Unsweetened Coconut)
    • 1 1/4 cup pure pumpkin puree (I used Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin)
    • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup organic white sugar + 2 tsp molasses (or, simply use 3/4 cup brown sugar)
    • 1 cup pecans and/or waluts, roughly chopped or broken into pieces (simply omit the nuts, or add dark chocolate chunks OR pumpkin seeds instead for a nut-free option)

    Streusel:

    • 3 TB organic white cane sugar + 1 tsp molasses (or, 4 TB brown sugar)
    • 6 TB whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, or a combiniation thereof
    • 3 TB Earth Balance or solid virigin coconut oil, or combination thereof, in medium chunks
    • pinch sea salt
    • 1/2 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • heaped 1/4 cup chopped pecans and/or walnuts (simply omit for nut-free, or substitute with pumpkin seeds)

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour either standard (6 cup, 8.44" diameter) bundt pan, OR a 9" cake tin with 3" sides, or, use muffin tins, where you could use muffin liners for easy clean up. 

    2. Make the streussel: in a medium bowl, combine the ingredients. Using fingers, work the mixture into a crumbly paste. It will be a touch sticky, so don't be alarmed. Place in fridge to firm up.

    3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and all the spices. In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the milk, pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and sugars/molasses.

    4. Combine the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until just combined-be careful to not overwork the batter, but be sure there aren't any patches of dry ingredients lurking in the batter. Pour into prepared pan, and top with the cooled streussel, crumbling it into bits between your fingers. 

    5. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a tester or paring knife comes out clean when stuck into the center of the cake. The streusel will partially sink into the cake. Cool on a cooling rack until pan and cake are cool to the touch. Run a paring knife around the edges of the pan, releasing the cake. Place a plate on top of the cake, and invert the cake from the pan and onto the plate (it will be streusel side down). Then, in the exact same motion, transfer the cake back to the cooling rack to cool completely with the streusel side up. Can be served warm at this time, OR is even better the next day. Store in a container, or in a cake holder, at room temperature. Cake will last for 3-4 days at room temp. 



    Flipped out of the pan, this cake is spongey, moist and smells like Autumn perfume with all of those spices!

    Flip the bundt over, and cool with the streusel side up so it does not stick to the cooling rack. Be confident in the flipping process-don't show the bundt any fear! Bundt cakes, like lions, tigers and bears, can smell fear....

    Once cooled, you may transfer into any container that will hold the bundt. I use a vintage cake/pie carrier, because I am that rediculous/I love how it looks/good excuse to have it on my counter for a few days.

    Cut in slices, make some tea or coffee, and enjoy!I love fall! 

  • Vanilla Bean & Ginger Peach Pie (With Vegan Coconut Oil Crust)

    Hello! Wow! Summer is flying by...much to my dismay. I am sure you're probably bummed about it too...but what better way to get our positive mindsets in gear for the REST of the season? PIE! And not just any pie. No...no, this has to be special. One that comes just once a year, when the season is right. When you have just discovered that jar of untouched, unopened vanilla beans in your pantry, and 7 perfectly ripened peaches in your fruit bowl. This summer pie is vanilla bean peach pie, spiked with fresh ginger. Yesssss!

    Is there anything more summery than peach pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? The smell of peeling peaches reminds me of my grandma's homemade canned peaches. Sugar, water and peaches with a bit of cooking/canning magic. Wisconsin grandmothers know how to capture the flavor of summer like pros. And on that note, I am really excited to can tomatoes with her this year!

    Yep-I did say peeling peaches. How to peel a peach? Easy: score an "X" into the bottom of the non-stem end of the peach (see picture below), dunk into simmering water for a few minutes, transfer to ice water to shock and shrink the skin, and then peel away the skin by starting at the corner of the "X" you made. You can do it. Totally worth it. 

    This pie calls for perfectly ripened peaches, some sugar, vanilla beans, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and tapioca starch for thickener. This heavenly filling is piled into a lovingly crafted coconut oil crust (or seriously, use whatever crust you like! I love this all-butter one from Deb at Smitten Kitchen). Top with your favorite lattice or just cover with the second slab of pastry, remebering to poke in some vent holes to let the pie breathe and juices thicken. And yes, if you are wondering, pies do breathe. 

    Serve this juicy, summery mess with your favorite ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped WI cream (please, promise me you won't use that canned crap, ok? And you better double promise to not even dare use that nasty stuff in the blue tub!!). As I professed in my other favorite summer pie post (here), I love Luna & Larry's coconut ice cream in vanilla. It is non-dairy, but is seriously so creamy and rich that you don't even think twice about traditional ice cream when you're eating it. Whatever-your call! Just get on this pie thing...now!

    Note: don't have a vanilla bean? No sweat. Just use 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Don't like ginger? Leave it out! You can certainly substitute dried ginger for the fresh, just be aware the flavor won't be as zingy and fresh. Tapioca starch? Grind tapioca pearls of any size to a fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. I do not like the texture of cornstarch or flour to thicken pies, as I find they take on a slime-y element. In addition, neither are freeze-thaw stable or stand-up to acidic fillings when heated. So get on that tapioca train! And lastly, the pastry recipe can accomodate up to an 11" double crust or lattice topped pie; simply bump up your peach filling by adding in an additional 2 or 3 peaches if making the larger pie.



    Vanilla Bean & Ginger Peach Pie // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free // Makes 1 9" double crust or lattice-topped pie //

    Crust:

    • 1 recipe coconut oil pie crust, or your favorite homemade pie pastry (see my recommendation for an all-butter pastry above) *I used 50:50 ratio of whole wheat pastry flour and organic all-purpose unbleached for this pie, but feel free to use what you wish, including spelt flour. I also added 2 tsp of coconut vinegar to this batch, and really loved the pop of flavor it gave the pastry (you could also use apple cider or plain vinegar if desired).
    • 2-3TB Almond milk or other milk for brushing top before baking

    Filling:

    • 7-8 medium-large ripe peaches
    • 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar, coconut sugar or sucanant (bump this up to the 3/4 cup if you like a sweeter pie)
    • 2 TB tapioca starch 
    • 1-2 TB lemon juice
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
    • vanilla seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1-2 tsp vanilla extract)
    • pinch sea salt

    1. Prepare the crust as described in this post. 

    2. When ready to bake the pie, preheat oven to 425F. Get on with the filling by peeling the peaches: bring a medium/large pot of water to a simmer. Score each peach at the non-stem end with an "X", each score being about 1.5" long. Place into simmering water for 2-4 minutes, until the "X" starts to open just slightly. Scoop the peaches out into a bowl of ice water, and allow to sit for a few mintues to cool and shock the skin. With a pearing knife and your fingers, start at a point were the two lines of the "X" meet, and peel the skin away from the peaches. 

    3. Score the peeled peaches in half, and gently twist to get into 2 halves. Take the pit out using the paring knife to help. Cut each half into 5-6 wedges. If your peaches are not free-stone (i.e. they won't come apart...cling stone??!) simply pry in half and do your best at getting the pit out. Doesn't have to be perfect, and peach chunks/cubes work just as well as slices in the filling.

    4. Toss the peaches with the filling ingredients. Plop into the bottom pie crust. Lattice the top of the pie, or simply place the second layer of rolled-out pastry on top, allowing for a 1"-1.5" overhang, folding under and crimping as you desire. Poke a few vent holes in the top with a knife or fork. 

    5. Brush pie with almond milk or whatever milk you want for browning, and bake for 20 minutes at 425F. Turn heat down to 325F after that, and bake for about 35-50 minutes, or until the crust is brown and filling is bubbling throughout the pie. Allow to cool for 1 hour, or until ready to serve. This helps the juices cool and thicken, making for easy-as-pie slicing and serving.



     Start with the pastry. You know what to do! Reference my Srawberry and Rhubarb Pie post if you need some pointers with the coconut oil crust. I added 2 tsp coconut vinegar to mine this time and loved the results. Fat and flour...the start to something beautiful:

    Now, for peeling the peaches. Score the bottoms of the peaches, and then place into simmering water for 3-7 minutes, until the X's begin to open a bit. Plunge into ice water to cool and shock the skins. 

    Peel with the help of a paring knife and clean fingers...behold, naked peaches! 

    Slice in half, free the flesh from the pit with a twist (or just pry open with a paring knife if you don't have free-stone peaches...it is always a surprise!). Slice and/or dice into reasonable pieces:

    Add in the filling ingredients, including the vanilla bean and ginger:

    Mix mix mix...

    Plop into the pastry bottom:

    Top with a lattice, or just lay the other half of the rolled pastry down on the pie. Trim and crimp edges. Don't forget to poke some vent holes, with a sharp paring knife or a fork, into the double-crusted pie, if you go that route.

    Gingerly place onto a parchment lined baking tray and brush with almond (or whatever type) milk. Into a hot oven until bubbly throughout. 

    Admire your handy work...and allow this baby to cool for at least 1 hour to set-up those juices. After that, slice and serve away!

    And go back for seconds! Happy summer'ing!

  • Green Juice Smoothie + CSA Scraps

    One of the things I love with a CSA is the challenge of figuring out what to do with all those veggies. However, being an apartment dweller in Madison, it is not feasible for me to compost all the scraps/trimmings, or the occasional unfortunate vegetable I forget about in my produce drawer. Likewise, even though I make a good effort to reduce what gets thrown away, there are some scraps that even my garbage disposal can't handle (kohlrabi peels, I am looking at you). So, what is a veggie lover to do?

    In some cases, you can save those scraps and use them for stock. Get a bag, and add to your stash in the freezer. When it gets full, hunker down and make veggie stock (see my guidelines here). But when a) your freezer cannot handle anymore stock and b) it is too hot to even think about making soup or stock, I have found juicing and making smoothies to be a creative (and yes, sometimes odd tasting!) way to use up veggies and scraps. We've all heard of using kale, spinach and other leafy greens in smoothies. But what about swiss chard? I discovered this year that chard and strawberries taste really well together.  Juicing is also another option.

    I have had success with juicing fennel leaves and stalks, celery leaves, parsley stems, cilantro stems, celeriac, carrot tops, lambs quarters, beet and beet greens, kale leaves and stems, and carrots. However, there are those veggies that just aren't up my alley to juice (cauliflower??), and some that I have tried that were just plain gross (turnip tops...). However, experimenting is always important for learning. I also find that it is an impetus to learn more about fruits and vegetables, and their benefits.

    For example, in this juice, I used up my fennel fronds and stalks, as well as some leftover celery stalks and leaves. The results were beautiful, and tasted like summer in a glass. I had previously seen Emily incorporate green juice in a smoothie, and thought that now would be the ideal time to try it! The smoothie still allowed the green juice to shine through, but tempered its impact a bit-something I like with fresh juices, since they can be pretty intense sometimes. And no, I don't imagine myself making this type of smoothie on a daily basis, as juicing can be a production! This one is for when you have some time to prep, and savor. A great weekend excuse to bust out both juicer and blender! 

    And did you know that celery and fennel are both in the same botanical family? The umbelliferous family (yeah, I giggled when I read that). It is not surprising that they both share many health benefits: detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-stress, rich in vitamin K for healthy skin, high in magnesium for better sleeping, stress-hormone mitigating coumarins, and rich in antioxidants. Fennel has a distinct anise or black-licorice flavor that pairs well with apple, carrot, ginger, lemon and celery. Even if you are not a fan of the anise/black licorice flavor, I encourage you to try fennel! It is much more delicate than straigh-up anise or black licorice.

    Think of this smoothie as a hug in a glass for your body. Sometimes, life gets busy...rough...and downright stressful. It is so important that we take care of ourselves, both mentallly and physically, and stay strong. Be kind to yourself. Take it easy. Be mindful. Stay positive. Stay hydrated. Oh, and keep dreaming. Shoot for the stars, and go make this smoothie!

    Note: you can cut the recipe in half to accomodate one serving. I made two since I had plenty of green juice. The green juice guidelines make about 1.5 cups. Drink the last 1/2 cup plain, or freeze into ice cubes for another smoothie the next day. Freezing will help preserve the juice, as opposed to leaving in refrigerated. It is always best to drink fresh juices as soon as possible after preparing them.



    Green Juice Smoothie // makes approx. 2 20oz smoothies // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; oil-free; nut-free//

    Green Juice:

    • Fronds and Stalks from 1 medium to large fennel bulb (or 2 medium to large fennel bulbs)
    • 4-5 celery stalks, or a few stalks and leaves from the stalks if they are fresh
    • 1/2 lemon

    Smoothie:

    • 1 cup green juice
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • 2 large frozen bananas
    • 2 TB hemp seeds
    • 1 cup frozen pineapple
    • 1/2" to 1" chunk ginger, peeled

    1. Juice the fennel, celery and lemon as directed for your juicer. Be sure to thoroughly clean your produce before juicing.

    2. combine all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately 



    The fennel and celery trimmings, ready to be washed.

    The juice! How crazy green is this?!

    The stuff you'll need for the smoothie:

    a quick blend, and you're done! Sip and enjoy all the summery goodness.

  • Strawberry Jam (Lower Sugar!)

    After picking and sorting through 35 pounds of strawberries last weekend, I was left with pretty much zero fridge and freezer space. I froze 7 gallon-sized bags of them. Even after sorting the berries between "eat now" (ripe and ready to eat) and "jam/pie" (more ripe or damaged), I was still left with a hefty haul to deal with. Strawberry smoothies, strawberries and coconut ice cream, strawberries alone, and a strawberry pie (ok-two pies!!) later, I still had enough to crank out a batch of jam! Wow.

    Strawberry jam...the stuff you eat in the dead of winter to give you hopes of summer. The stuff that actually tastes of strawberries and the sun, and is sweetened with non-gross-corn-derived substances. The ruby red, fruit-packed, sweet stuff that is slathered onto toasted bread, pancakes, muffins and biscuits. I grew up eating my grandma's strawberry jam. It is probably the one thing that makes me think of her most! It is her signature; usually birthday or other gifts include a small jar of her strawberry jam (sometimes, it is elderberry, if you're lucky). Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of actually making it with her. It was so much fun, and she even shared her "secrets" with me. What wasn't secret was the slightly obscene amount of sugar needed to form a gel with the pectin she uses. Yes, I still love and enjoy her jam. But sometimes, it is nice to have a jam in your fridge that doesn't scare you pancreas. Enter: high methoxy pectin!

    I will put all the fancy food science terms aside, and sum it up here: high-methoxy pectin forms a gel in the presence of calcium ions, not sugar. The end. 

    (Note: If you are still freaked out about traditional preserves, check out some great recipes for-nearly- instant "chia seed jam"!)

    Back in 2013, I had to embark on my own jamming adventures...by myself...because I was a lonely recluse who lived in Janesville and worked all. the. time. I discovered Pomona Pectin at my local food cooperative, and knew I had to try it out. Not going to lie, it was kinda scary, even for someone who has been formally educated in the know-how of food colloids and stabilizers, to make jam by myself. Where was my grandma to stick her finger in the mixture, and know it was "sweet enough" for the low-methoxy pectin to gel? or that it was "thick enough" for the berry chunks to not separate in thr jars? Who on earth would tell me that the berries were smashed enough? And who was going to submerge their un-protected hands into that boiling bath of water to get the jar lids out?? Gaaah-it was all too much (ps: don't stick your hands into hot water). But I hunkered down, gave myself a pep-talk, and did it. And it was a success. I was floored! I made freakin' jam by myself, and it tasted great!!!

    So here we are now...third year in a row, with 8 pretty darn respectable half-pint jars of strawberry jam, waiting to be enjoyed once the strawberry season is long gone. I think the third time is a charm, so I must share the recipe with you. Pomona Pectin is awesome...and I say that on my own opinion. It is easy to use, reliable, and produces a great texture. You can use almost any dry or liquid sweetener, including xylitol if you're into the sugar-free jam thing. I have included a few optional add-ins that I have tried the past three years with success; feel free to experiment, and make your own twist on your strawberry jam! The force is with you...so go on, and preserve those seasonal fruits!!

    Note: sweetener preference and amount will vary; in previous years, I have used equal propotions of organic cane sugar and local honey, 1/2 cup each, for the recipe below. However, this year, the berries were a bit more tart, so used 3/4 cup organic cane sugar and 1/2 cup WI maple syrup. You can also use agave. See the Pomona Pectin website for more details, tips and recipes! My recipe below was adapted from their prescribed formula. It can easily be cut in half or doubled. 

    Double Note: I have provided a list of equipment/tools you will need; preserving the bounty of summer requires some forethought, but please, don't be intimidated by this! If you stay calm and organized, it will go smoothly. You can even prep your jars and tools the day before, and make your jam the next.  

    Cheers to jam and fruit and all the summer things!!



    Strawberry Jam // vegan, plant-based, gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, soy-free // makes 8 half-pint jars, or 4 pint jars //

    Jam:

    • 8 cups strawberies (you want a solid 4 cups smashed fruit)
    • 1/2-1 1/2 cups dry or liquid sweetener of choice (see note above)
    • 2 tsp Pomona pectin
    • 2 tsp calcium solution (made by mixing 1/2 cup water with 2 tsp calcium in a jar, and shaking vigorously; solution will keep for several months in the fridge for future jam adventures)
    • 1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

    Optional add-ins to try:

    • small pinch salt
    • 1-2 tsp freshly grated ginger
    • zest of 1 lemon or orange or lime
    • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
    • freshly grated nutmeg
    • small pat virgin coconut oil or Earth Balance (this helps reduce foaming in the jam)

    Tools You Will Need:

    • large stock pot or other large pot with lid (I use my enameled cast iron French oven...since it is all I have for a big pot!)
    • small saucepan for lids and rings
    • medium to large pot for cooking jam
    • measuring cup for transfering hot jam into jars (I use my glass 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup with handle and spout for pouring)
    • funnel (optional)
    • potato masher, pastry cutter, or other mashing tool
    • tongs
    • heat resistant spatula for stirring jam and scraping bottom of pot as it cooks
    • hot pad holders
    • 2 clean kitchen towels
    • measuring cups and spoons
    • clean and sterile canning jars, lids and rings (I use half pint jars)
    • microplane (for zest, if adding)

    1. Wash and sterilize jars and lids, as well as a measuring cup (and funnel if you need it) for portioning the jam into the jars. I wash mine in the dishwasher, and then again with hot soapy water wtih antibacterial soap. You could also use a bleach solution after the dishwasher or washing by hand. I let them air dry after this. You can do this up to 1 day ahead of time, and cover the jars and tools with a clean towel to prevent any foreign material from contaminating the clean jars and tools.

    2. Place jars in a large pot. Fill with water to submerge jars. Bring the water up to a boil, and then take off the heat. In a small pot, place lids and rings. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat, keeping the lids and rings in the hot water.

    3. In a medium/large pot, measure out your fruit. Using a potato masher or a pastry cutter, or other similar smashing tool, mash the berries into medium-large chunks. Add the calcium solution. The berries will break down further as you cook, and you can always mash them more as they are cooking. Bring the berries up to a rolling boil.

    4. As you wait for the berries to come up to a rolling boil, measure out your dry and/or liquid sugars into a medium bowl, then thoroughly mix the pectin into them. Take the hot jars out of the pot using tongs, and place them on a kitchen towel (you may get jam on this!). 

    5. Once the berries are to a rolling boil, add the sugar and pectin mixture and stir vigorously to distribute the pectin to prevent lumps. Add any of the optional add-ins now, if desired. Bring the mixture back up to a rolling boil, about 1-2 minutes, stirring every few seconds to prevent scorching and to distribute the pectin. During this time, taste for sweetness, and add more sweetener if needed. Take off the heat, and transfer the pot to the area where the warm jars are at.

    6. Using the clean measuring cup (and funnel if desired) from step 1, carefully portion the hot jam into the warm jars. Wipe rims of the jars clean using a clean, damp kitchen towel or paper towel. Quickly, but carefully, place a warm lid on each jar. Tightly screw on a jar ring on each jar, using a kitchen towel to help hold the hot jars. Carefully transfer the filled jars back to a large pot with a lid, and fill with warm water to cover the jars. Bring water to a boil, and hold the jars at the boil for 10 minutes. Off the heat, and carefully transfer the hot jars using a set of tongs to a kitchen towel. Let the jars sit for 12-24 hours, until set. Do not disturb, as this is when the vacuum is formed inside the jar, seal is set, and jam structure solidified. 

    7. To check the seals, simply press down on the center of each lid. If the lid can be pushed in, a seal was not formed. Simply re-process in boiling water (step 6; see the Pomona Pectin website for more tips on how to properly re-process). Sealed jars will keep 1 year; once opened, enjoy jam within ~2 weeks and store in the refrigerator. I usually keep all my sealed jars in the fridge, but these are shelf stable so can also be stored in a cool, dark place (i.e. do not display them on a shelf, in the sunlight...despite how pretty they are and how much you want to show-off you awesome skillz!).



    The clean and sterile jars, the lids/rings, berries and pectin. And a lemon, too.

    Most of the tools you will need, plus some of the ingredients and calcium water in a jar:

    Ok, now...the berries. Smash those beautiful berries!

    And after...something tells me I shouldn't be wearing a white shirt right about now...

    Ok, now throw those berries into the pot you'll cook the jam in. Put in the calcium water, and turn the heat to medium-high. Meanwhile, mix together your pectin and sugars (if using all liquid sweetener, simply mix it with that). You do this to prevent pectin lumps from forming in the cooking jam.

    Back to the cooking jam: bring the berry and calcium water mixture up to a rolling (rolling!) boil:

    Now, add the sugar/sweetener and pectin mixture, along with any of the optional add-ins. Bring that back up to a boil, about 1-2 minutes. 

    Ok-you have made jam! Now, to get that sweet stuff into the jars, work as swiftly as possible, as it will being to set-up as soon as it begins to cool. I like to use my 1-cup glass pyrex measuring cup with a small spout. Pour enough jam into each jar to come up 1/4" from the top. Wipe the rim of the jars clean with a clean and damp towel, then place a lid and ring on top of each. Tightly screw on the rings, using a kitchen towel to help hold the hot jars if needed. 

    Now, back into the large pot. Fill the pot with water until it covers the jars, and bring to a rolling boil, and hold for 10 minutes. Off the the heat, and using tongs, transfer to a kitchen towel lined surface. Allow the jam to sit for at least 12 hours to cool, set and seal. Check seals by pressing down on the lid; if you can feel it compress and lift back up again, a vacuum was not sealed, and the jam needs to be re-processed. See the Pomona pectin website for tips on how to do this properly. 

    Pile all jars on top of each other, with strawberries on top. Take photo, and laugh at yourself for staging jars of jam....! Enjoy within 1 year, and refrigerate after opening (I keep all my jars, sealed or opened, in the fridge). Be sure to eat the jam within ~2 weeks of opening, cause nobody likes moldy jam! Happy summer!

  • Summer Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie with Coconut Oil Crust

    Wow! How good does summer feel? Well, besides the humidity here in WI, it is glorius. I have a hard time focusing (well, even more so!) in the summer because it feels like a weekend all. the. time. I wish it were so...but then, we wouldn't appreciate the time we do have to relax. The same goes with seasonal fruit: I seem to appreciate it so much more, each and every year, when it rolls around. This year, I was so excited about strawberry picking. My Mom and I went to Carandale's in Oregon, WI and rocked out some great picking. The berries were perfect, not soggy like last year from all the rain, and were so easy to pick. 

    Ever since I was little, I remember picking berries of all sorts in the summer. Strawberries at Carandale were my favorite, but going back into my Aunt and Uncle's woods, geared up with long sleeved shirts, pants, tied around the leg with twine to prevent ticks and mosquito bites, to pick black caps and raspberries is also a great memory. Oh, and don't forget the twine around the waist to hold a plastic ice cream bucket for putting the picked berries in! My grandma really knew how to be a functional fashionista whilst picking seasonal produce. She still is a rockstar in that department, btw. 

    My favorite way to enjoy them, besides right off the plant, is with vanilla ice cream. My grandma preserves heres with plain ol' sugar, so the juices come out, making for the perfect ice cream topper. Nothing else needed: just ice cream, sugar and those juicy berries. Now, in my ripe middle-age, I enjoy those naturally sweet super-ripe berries, smashed a bit, with some coconut ice cream (uhh, thanks again Luna and Larry's!!). But there is nothing wrong with some good old fashioned locally produced vanilla ice cream or custard, too. 

    Second runner up? Strawberries and my grandma's angel food cake. Still haven't figured out how to make that one vegan...working on it. Goal for summer. Any suggestions or tips are welcome!!

    Ok, and third: now a 3-year tradition in my kitchen, is the strawberry and rhubarb pie. This year, it was so special. Freshly picked berries with my Mom, rhubarb from my Grandma's garden, and an all-vegan coconut oil crust were put together for a super seasonal, fresh and delcious pie for my Dad on Father's day. Lattice top and all, cause this is summer...and lattice tops are where it is at! It is easy-I'll show you how. Don't be afraid...the pie pastry can smell fear. But you can do it!  Bonus: there is no blind-baking required for this pie. I have a baking method that works like a charm, and produces prefectly crisp bottom crusts every time. 

    Don't like coconut oil in your crust? Try this one. It is a no-fail, and works like a charm. It makes enough for a double crust or lattice-topped pie that will fit a 9", 10" or even 11" tin (yes, I have tried all three sizes). In fact, I have had great-dare I say better results-when I replace half the butter in that recipe with virgin coconut oil. Whatever you choose to do, do not use a pre-made crust. Seriously, people, we are adults here. It is too simple and gratifying to make your own pie pastry! So get with it!! You may need to practice, but I assure you that the outcome each time will be better and better. And what better excuse to make and share more summer pies? Make the pastry, suit it to your diet/food mantra, and revel in the summer season and the bounty it brings us...it won't last long, so get on it, NOW!!

    Note: the coconut oil pie pastry is straight from Gena Hamshaw, see recipe here. It is a rich pastry, perfect for holding in all those summery fruit juices. The pastry can be made up to 2 days ahead, and chilled. Additionally, you can make it and then freeze it for up to 1 month, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed into a plastic bag with excess air pressed out to prevent freezer burn and drying. The coconut oil pastry makes enough for 1 9" or 10" double-crusted or lattice topped pie; if you use a larger pie tin, say 11" or 12", the recipe will make enough for 1 single-crusted pie. 

    The tapioca starch (not whole pearls!) used in the filling is my go-to thickener. I do not like arrowroot, or cornstarch, as I find they produce a slime-like filling when cooked (ew). Furthermore, they are not acid or freeze/thaw stable if you choose to use any citrus in your filling, or freeze your pie. I make tapioca starch by buying tapioca pearls (any size), and grinding them up in my coffee/spice grinder into a fine powder. 



    Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Vegan Coconut Oil Crust // makes one 9" to 10" pie // vegan, nut-free, soy-free //

    For The Coconut Oil Pie Pastry:

    • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
    • 2 1/4 cups flour (all purpose or whole wheat pastry, or a combination)
    • 1 TB organic cane sugar or sucanant
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 4-6 TB ice water 
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg (strawberries and nutmeg are best buds)

    For The Filling

    • 3 1/2 cups sliced cleaned and hulled straberries (I slice mine ~1/4"-1/3" thick)
    • 3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1/2" pieces
    • 4 TB tapioca starch (see note above)
    • 2-3 TB organic cane sugar, sucanant (plus more to taste)
    • 2-3 TB honey, agave or maple syrup (plus more to taste)
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1-2 TB lemon juice
    • Zest of 1/2 lemon
    • small pinch sea salt

    1. For the pastry, it can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen (see above). Start by sifting the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Plop the coconut oil into 1-2 TB pieces on top of the dry mixture, and place into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes until the oil is firm. 

    2. With a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the solid oil until pea-sized-ish piecs remain; some larger ones are ok, too. Sprinkle on the iced water by the TB, starting with 4 TB. Mix, adding more water by the TB until a shaggy dough that holds together when squeezed in your palm forms. Some crumbs are ok! The less water, the flakier the pastry.

    3. Dump the pastry and crumbs out on a clean surface. With a rolling pin, gently roll the round lumps of solid coconut oil into flatter pieces, as this prevents large round balls of coconut oil poking through the crust. Gather the dough into a ball, kneading gently and as little as possible. Flatten into a disk, and wrap. Store in the fridge for at least 1 hour before baking. This helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked.

    4. Before using, be sure to take the pastry out of the freezer or fridge with enough time for it to come to room temperature for easy rolling; the coconut oil will warm up quite fast so this may only take 30 minutes from the fridge depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If you find your pastry is too warm at any point, simply pop it back into the freezer for a few minutes. 

    5. When you are ready to make the pie: preheat the oven to 400F. On a floured surface, place the disk of pastry. Cut ~2/3 for the bottom crust, leaving a bit more than ~1/3 of the pastry for the lattice top. Starting from the middle and going out towards the edges each time, roll the pastry into a 1/4" thick circle, moving the pastry around every few rolls of the pin to ensure it is not sticking to the counter. Add more flour if sticking occurs. To make sure you have rolled it out enough, place your pie tin in the center and make sure there is enough to cover the entire tin plus 1" overhang.

    6. To transfer the rolled pastry, roll the entire thing onto the rolling pin and then roll out over the pie tin. Or, fold the pastry in half, and gently lift into the pie tin. Gently coax the pastry into the edges and sides of the pie tin, being careful to not puncture or tare (but if you do, just press the dough together to seal it back together). Trim around the edges, leaving a 1" overhang. If you find that you don't have enough, simply patch on some pastry that you have trimmed off. 

    7. Make the pie filling by tossing all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste for sweetness. I needed to add 2 TB more sugar to mine this year. Add the filling to the pie tin lined with the pastry, slightly mounding in the middle. 

    8. Make the lattice by rolling the remaining ~1/3 pastry out to ~1/4" thickness. Cut into ~1/2"-3/4" strips using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Place half the strips evenly accross the pie. To weave, simply pick up every-other strip, and lay another one perpindicular accross (see photos below). Tip: use a butter knife or small off-set spatula to help get the thin strips off the floured surface. When done, trim any strip overhand to match the 1" bottom crust overhang, gently press both together, and fold under to make a smooth edge. Now, crimp by using whatever method you desire (see here for a great tutorial!). Brush the top of the lattice and edges of the pie with plant-based milk. If you found that your coconut oil pastry was getting a touch oily, simply pop the entire pie into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to allow it to firm up again; this will make for a flakier crust.

    9. Place the pie on a sheet tray lined with parchment (to catch drips and for easy clean up), and bake the pie at 400F for 10-12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F and bake for another 40-55 minutes, or until the top and edges are golden and the filling is bubbling throughout the entire pie. Place on a cooling rack, and allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours. The juices will thicken and settle during this time! Slice into generous pieces, and serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping! 



    Pastry ingredients, ready to party:

    The cold coconut oil cut into the dry ingredients. Pea-ish size chunks are the goal!

    The pastry. I put mine back into the bowl, covered and chilled for 1 hour to let the gluten relax and coconut oil firm up a bit again. You want all those lovely specs of coconut oil, that will make for a super flakey pie crust!

    Now, the filling! The stars of the pie: freshly piced strawberries and rhubarb. So beautiful!!

    Some simple slicing, chopping and measuring for the filling!

    A gentle toss with a few spices, some sugar and sweetener, pinch of salt and some lemon.

    Now, roll the pastry...you can totally do this! Doesn't have to be perfect-it is a pie! Call it rustic...

    For the lattice top, I like to use a pizza cutter for easy strip cutting and a small offset spatula to help me get them off the floured surface. Simply cut 1/2" to 3/4" strips from the reserved ~1/3 pie pastry. Lay half all accross the filled pie: 

    Now, simply pull back every-other strip you just placed on the pie, and lay another strip down...see, easy! Martha and Betty have nothing on you. You can weave pie pastry!!!It is ok if a few strips break...just piece them back together-no one needs to know. And DONE! You did it! Trim the excess strips, tuck under with the 1" overhang of bottom pastry, and crimp. 

    Brush with milk of choice (I used almond), and if needed, pop into the freezer to firm-up that coconut oil. This ensures that the coconut oil is solid when it goes into the oven, which is key for that flakey crust we all love. No shame in having 3 giant freezer bags full of strawberries and a pint jar of gin in your freezer at this time of year! (ps: yes, that image is sideways, my real-life freezer is not). 

    Ok-we are ready to bake! The first minutes at 400F ensure lots of heat to melt the solid oil FAST, and create lots of steam to make the crust flakey. This also helps cook the crust fast, so less of the fruit juices seep in. No one likes a soggy bottom. We turn the oven down to 350F for the last 40-55 minutes to cook the fruits, concentrate the juices, and crisp the crust even more. 

    Be sure that the crust is nice a brown, and that the filling is bubbling throughout the pie. You want to see bubbles in the middle before you take the pie out. This tells you that the filling is cooked through, and won't be super soupy when cut into. Also, I highly recommend that parchment paper-this pie has no mercy when it comes to overflowing! Totally worth it. 

    And pat yourself on the back, because you are now a pie master! Serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping. I love Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss in Vanilla Island. Happy Summer-ing!

  • Strawberry "Milk"shake

    Yeah, I know: a recipe with quotations HAS to be suspect. But seriously, this one isn't. But what it is: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free (only naturally occuring fruit sugars & a touch of maple syrup!), simple and delicious. No ice cream required (however, if you wanted to add a scoop or two of vanilla Luna and Larry's, that would take it to another level of awesome). 

    All you need for this is frozen ripe bananas, frozen strawberries, your favorite plant-based milk (freshly made is great for optimal creaminess, but an unsweetened pre-made milk is great, too), a simple chocolate sauce and then whipped coconut cream and cacao nibs for optional-but highly recommended-garnish. You could play around with the frozen fruit you use, but the bananas are not really optional since they are the creamy base. Raspberry and mango come to mind as other tasty alternatives for the strawberries-but please, be creative!

    I fortified mine with a heaping teaspoon of hemp hearts, since I was enjoying this as a post-run gnosh (as in, I totally inhaled an entire one by myself after a sweaty run). However, you could add your favorite plant-based protein powder, some chia sees (note: they will thicken and add some dark flecks if using black chia seeds), or just omit all of that protein nonesense entirely! Up to you. This comes together super-duper fast, and it is very likely you have all the igredients on hand. Win-win situations, on top of that fact that this is actually great for you: it is full of fruit and plant-based milk, not sugars and hard-to-digest protieins and other additives. Read: this won't make you feel like crap after you enjoy it. As much as I loved traditional milkshakes growing up, they always left me feeling a bit blah. Not anymore!! This will for sure be a staple for us this summer. It would be simple to double or triple the recipe and make these for a crowd, too. 

    The chocolate sauce can be made with a high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, carob powder, or raw cacao powder-up to you. Sweeten with your liquid sweetened of choice (I used maple syrup), and boom: you have a simple chocolate sauce fit for topping other ice creams (banana soft serve!) or even making an iced mocha (that may be another post, soon!). Good for you, versatile and delicious...what more do you want?! You'll have a bit extra sauce left after making the milkshake, so store any extras covered in the fridge. It should last a week or so. 

    Cheers, and happy "milk" shaking!!



    Strawberry Milkshake // makes 1 large milkshake, or 2 smaller // vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free, soy-free //

    Chocolate Sauce:

    • 1 TB unsweetned cocoa powder (either natural or alkalized/Dutch is fine), cacao powder or carob powder
    • 1 TB liquid sweetener, like maple syrup or agave
    • 1 TB water
    • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
    • very small pinch salt 

    Milkshake:

    • 1 1/2 cup plant-based milk (I used homemade cashew, but use whatever suits your taste or diet)
    • 2 large ripe bananas, frozen
    • 2 cups frozen strawberries or berry/fruit of choice
    • Optional: 1 heaping TB hemp hearts for a protein kick
    • Optional: 1 or 2 soft medjool dates for additional sweetness if using tart fruit or berries
    • Optional: cacao nibs for topping (or chocolate shavings/chips)

    Coconut Whipped Cream:

    • 4 TB coconut cream
    • Optional: maple syrup or other liquid sweetener, to taste

    1. In a small bowl or jar, mix together all the chocolate sauce ingredients until smooth. Drizzle a few spoonfuls of sauce inside the glasses you will be using for a chocolate marbled look. 

    2. In another small bowl, whip the coconut cream with optional sweetner with a fork or small whisk until light and fluffy.

    3. Place all ingredients for the milkshake into a blender. Mix until smooth and creamy, adding a splash of milk if needed to blend. Pour into chocolate drizzled glasses, top with whipped coconut cream, additional chocolate sauce and cacao nibs if deisred. Enjoy immediately!



    The stuff you will need:

    Poured into a chocolate-smeared glass (totally worth the extra 30 seconds of drizzing effort!).

    Topped and drizzled, ready to enjoy. The one below is without nibs, drizzled with the carob version of the syrup, for there is a chocolate hater amongst me. 

    Straws are optional, but add some fun! They really do. I promise.

    I think you get the picture. Go and make this, guzzle it by yourself, or be generous and share. Stay cool!

  • Rhubarb Coffee Cake (with all the streusel) + Gluten Free Challenge!

    Wow! It is June! I can't wait for summer. The weather is warming up, the sky is blue and the produce variety is starting to show signs of summer...I am already thinking about strawberry picking!! I have plans for a few tomato plants, herbs, morning glory flowers and some peppers on our deck, thanks to my Mom for some awesome plants and pots. I can't wait to get my hands dirty, and pot them up this week!

    I have been stashing away rhubarb in our freezer, in hopes for a strawberry rhubarb pie or even some jam (!!!) later in the month. So, I grabbed two huge and beautiul bunches of the stuff at the market last Saturday. I met my aunt, and we had pastries and coffee while it rained and wind-ed (yes, wind-ed) outside. Sunday I got up, and decided...coffee cake. I mean, it is in my heritage...Germans and their coffee culture! I did some reading, and it was at one point a pretty extreme tradition. Krauts love their coffee, and cake. 

    This coffee cake was from Smitten Kitchen. I had been eyeing it for a few years (yes, years), so decided Sunday was THE day to make it. I was so happy with the results...so if you're looking for an amazing and simple coffee cake recipe, this one will not let you down with its mounds of awesome crumbs and tart rhubarb laced through the middle. I bet it would be perfect with any summer fruit! We enjoyed it with a green smoothie (spinach! mango!), iced coffee and sunshine on our deck. It was pretty great.

    What isn't pretty great? The fact that I think I may have a slight gluten intolerance. I have evidence. I will not describe said evidence here. But what I will describe is my two-week gluten-free, clean eating challenge! The past few weeks (plus our trip to NYC...) have been *filled* with indulging in food. Not a bad thing at all-but my system is certainly ready for a clean-up. So, that means in the next two weeks, I'll be focusing on gluten-free, as well as plant-heavy (as usualy) and vegan food. I was really inspired by Emily at Rawsome Vegan Life! Her blog is so amazing. I plan to make a few of her recipes, including nut-based cheese cultured with rejuvelac. Yep-crazy hippy food is making a come-back in my kitchen after a 2 month (slight) hiatus. It makes me feel good, I feel good preparing these foods, and tis the season with our CSA starting on June 11 (a day before my birthday!). So, the coffee cake was a final hurrah to traditional baking and baked goods for a while. Totally worth it!

    The past two days I have started my morning with a fresh juice. Yesterday's was a pretty radical and tasty blend of beets, apple, carrot, kale, parsley. Such vibrant, gorgeous colors!

    The juice! I really like to put an ice cube or two into my juice to help cool it, and dilute the strong flavors. Does anyone else do that??

    But who wants juice, now that I have talked extensively about coffee cake and rhubarb? I know, I know. So here it is...the coffee cake recipe. Fine the original here. And if you can, make this on a lazy morning for a treatm and enjoy with some coffee-it is a must. 



    Rhubarb Coffee Cake // soy-free, nut-free option // serves 6-8 //

    Filling:

    • 3 cups rhubarb (about 1/2 pound)
    • 2 teaspoons tapioca starch 
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 TB honey, agave or maple syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger

    Streusel:

    • 1/3 cup coconut sugar, sucanant or brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup organic white cane sugar
    • 1/2 cup melted butter or earth balance or virgin coconut oil (I used 50:50 organic butter:virgin coconut oil)
    • 1 3/4 all purpose flour (I used a local, organic variety)
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 
    • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly grated nutmeg
    • Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup oats, heaping 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

    Cake:

    • 1/3 cup yogurt of choice (I used full-fat organic European style) or sour cream 
    • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (I used eggs from my Aunt's chickens!)
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 6 TB melted butter, Earth Balance or virgin coconut oil (or any combination)
    • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup organic white cane sugar
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt

    1. Pre-heat oven to 375F, and grease and flour an 8"x8" baking dish or pan. 

    2. Prepare the streusel by melting the fats, then adding everythign else and mixing well. It will be a strudy mixture. If you choose to add the oats and nuts, the mixture will be a touch more crumbly. Allow it to set undisturbed while you carry on with the recipe.

    3. Wash and trim the rhubarb, and cut into ~1/2" pieces. Toss with the other filling ingredients and set aside.

    4. To make the cake, start by sifting the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt together. With a whisk or fork, mix the sugar in thoroughly. In a separate bowl, melt the fats, then add the eggs, yogurt, vanilla (tip: be sure that the melted fats aren't too hot, as they may curdle the eggs/yolk!). 

    5. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until combined, being careful to not over-mix. 

    6. Add all but ~1/2 cup of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Topp with the rhubarb, draining off with you hands some of the juices so as to not soak the batter. Plop on the remaining 1/2 cup of batter, not worrying about being perfect-just plop in on in a few places. Crumble the streusel over the top, taking care to not break it up into too fine of crumbs.

    7. Bake for 45-55 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for ~30 minutes before digging in, or else the filling and cake may still be a touch moist/gooey. Lasts for 4 days, wrapped or covered, at room temperature or refrigerated.



    Cut and serve on pretty plates...this cake deserves the presentation!

    The sunshine was perfect...and look at how pretty the pink rhubarb is in teh middle! Love that. 

    This streusel is extreme. Not for wimpy streusel lovers.

    And coffee is a must here...ok? I had iced espresso with almond milk. 

    Done! 

  • Rhubarb Crisp

    We all have dreams. We all have goals...aspirations...crazy thoughts of starting a food truck all about laminated pastry products...I may be going to a local hardware store to walk in some trailers to check them out. While inside, I will probably freak out and/or think my idea(s) are just rediculous. I guess time will tell.

    Until then, I will be a happy girl, and stroll around our awesome farmer's market on Saturday...pretending to be carefree, not stressed about school and not worry about how caffeinated the iced coffee I got is. I managed to grab two bunches of rhubarb within the first 5 minutes. Win!! I love, love, love rhubarb. The smell reminds me of my grandma's kitchen in the summer: a little sour, a little sweet. A hint of mystery-smell that to this day, I am not sure what it is. Could be the many science-worthy-experiment jars of pickled goods in her fridge...but we won't go there. 

    So naturally, it was time for rhubarb...something. My boyfriend was talking about how much he loves rhubarb pie last week, so pie was high on the list. But, from my childhood, rhubarb alone was never found in a pie. It was always paired with something-usually strawberries (strawberry-rhubarb pie always happens after strawberry picking here). For me, rhubarb alone was always found in crisp-form (or crumble). The tangy rhubarb was tossed with sugar and I suspect some lemon and flour to help thicken, then covered with a sandy, oat-y, buttery crumble to help soak up the rhubarb juices. My grandma would dish it out with Schoepp's vanilla ice cream, and we would be happy kids. And then she would have us go feed the chickens. We were living the good life...rhubarb crisp, ice cream and chickens. 

    This crisp is my version, and is adapted from Mark Bittman from the New York Times. It is, as any crisp or crumble should be, rediculously simple. The topping is a bit heartier to help absorb the rhubarb juices as it bakes, and as any leftovers sit for a few days (I actually liked the crisp better once it sat for a few hours). There is simply no excuse to not make this, as it can be made vegan and/or gluten-free if needed. The topping can be prepared with a food processor or without a food processor (pretty sure my grandma never uses on for her crisps!). For me, the topping was a bit sticky, most likely due to the high temperature of my kitchen (~75F!), as well as the fact that I use a bit of liquid sweetener in my topping. I find that using all sugar makes the topping almost too crunchy with bits sugar crystals, and when using maple syrup, agave or honey, you can use half as much due to the increased concentration of fruit sugar (fructose), which is roughly twice as sweet as sucrose. But do take note, this crisp is not overly sweet! If you prefer it sweeter, bump up the sugar in the filling. 

    Serve with whipped cream, whipped coconut cream, ice cream or (in my opionion, the best-no offense to my grandma's Schoepps vanilla) some Luna and Larry's Vanilla. Everyone, rejoice! It is almost summer, feels like an armpit outside, and now you have crisp to enjoy for a few days (note: it is wonderful for breakfast!). 



    Rhubarb Crisp // plant-based, vegan option, gluten-free option, soy-free // Makes about 6 larger servings, or 8 smaller servings //

    Crisp Topping:

    • 6 TB solid fat of choice, chilled (I used 3 T organic butter, 3 T organic virgin coconut oil); use coconut oil and/or Earth Balance for a vegan crisp
    • 1/2 cup almond meal*
    • 1/2 cup pecans, walnuts or soft nut*
    • 1/2 cup flour (spelt, whole wheat pastry, oat flour or unbleached AP flour; use a gluten-free blend for gluten-free option)
    • 3/4 cup rolled oats (use certified gluten free if needed)
    • ¼ cup maple syrup, honey or agave
    • 2 TB coconut sugar, sucanant or light brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • Freshly grated nutmeg

    *alternatively, you may use 1 whole cup pecans, walnuts or soft nut of choice; I used 1/2 cup almond meal simply becuase I was running low on pecans and walnuts. 

      Rhubarb Filling:

    • 5-6 cups (2 ½-3 lbs) rhubarb, trimmed, tough strings removed and cut into ~1” – 1 ½” pieces
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey or agave
    • 2 TB coconut sugar, sucanant, brown sugar or organic cane sugar
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice (orange juice would work, too)
    • zest of 1 small lemon (orange zest if using orange juice)
    • 1 TB flour or tapioca starch (to help thicken, optional if you like a looser/juicier filling)

    1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a 8”x8” or similar size dish, toss the rhubarb with all the filling ingredients.

    2. For the topping:

    If you have a food processor or choose to use one: pulse chilled fats with the flour, oats, sugar, salt, spices (and whole nuts if using) until medium-fine chunks of fat and nuts are formed.

    No Food Processor: with a fork or pastry cutter, cut the chilled fats into the flour, oats, sugar, salt and spices. Chop the nuts by hand to medium-fine texture, and proceed with the recipe.

    3. Stir in the almond meal (if using instead of nuts) and the maple syrup/honey/agave. Note: the mixture may become sticky-do not be alarmed. Simply carry on, or place the topping in the fridge to help firm to make crumbling easier.

     3. Bake for 45-55 minutes until bubbling and brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with whipped coconut cream, whipped cream or ice cream of choice. Great for breakfast when served over yogurt of choice. Keeps for 3-4 days, well covered and refrigerated. Re-warm in a 350F oven or in the microwave, if desired. 



    The rhubarb! I love the contrasting pink-and-green:All washed and chopped:

    Tossed and ready to be topped:

    Crumble on the topping mix, and place on a baking tray, optionaly lined with parchment for any spill-overs that may occur: 

    Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes, watching carefully as the topping could burn quickly! I caught mine *just* as it was about to go south...

    And the fun part-eating it! We enjoyed it with coconut whipped cream...but do what you like! I preferred the crisp after a few hours out of the oven. The topping got a bit moist, and everythign thickened up just slightly. Awesome. Happy Monday...make some crisp. Everything is going to be alright!

    And maybe seconds...because we can!

  • Happy Mother's Day + Browned Butter Banana Bread

    The phrase "no place like home" really struck a chord with me when we finally crashed in our bed  after a grueling 1200 mile drive from NYC. Manhatten rush hour? No problem. New York drivers are New York Drivers, done and done. You must drive like one to succeed in getting to where you need to go (read: I am really glad my boyfriend was driving). Pennsylvania drivers, interstates, "construction" and speed limit signs? Shitty and weird. The rolling hills and pastures *almost* make up for those. Indiana? Smelly and waaaay to long. And did I mention smelly? It really seemed like it would never stop. And do I need to say anything about Illinois drivers? No. But Illinois drivers in morning rush hour? I can't even...

    Yeah, we could have stopped. But we didn't. Wisconsin was calling our hearts, as was our little loft in Madison. We love this place. We love the trees, the flowers, the quiet, the sky (we can SEE the STARS!!!), our balcony, the birds that we can hear singing in the morning. No, we still really don't like our loud neighbors, those who can't park a car in our lot to save a life, and the obnoxiously loud bus noises right outside our patio door. We are still frustrated with the food scene here. But guess what? We can live with all of that. We love our state, our city, our families, our values and our culture. Madison may not be the best city for everything, and Wisconsin may not be perfect. But I will proudly call this place my home and stomping ground. Thank you, Wisconsin, for being awesome, clean and...well, awesome. 

    We will drive to the country...I mean, I may GO HOME to see my Mom and family for Mother's Day. I will relish the rolling hills, green fields and smell of cow manure-thank you very much. Manhattan was great, but nothing beats home (and fresh air). I am so glad we were away for a while, and will be sharing pictures and our experiences soon. But for now...priorities: banana bread. With organic Wisconsin butter and eggs.

    The first thing I did (ok, ok...I unpacked our cooler and put away a few things first) was make this banana bread. Because banana bread=home. Simple, no nuts, not vegan...made with love, some banged-up 1200 mile-in-the-back-seat-bananas (well, technically, they made the journey TO the east coast with us, too) and made IN MY KITCHEN. I can't even tell you how much I missed my kitchen. My place to create and nourish myself and others. A place to show love and affection, and to share with others.

    This bread...it is simple, perfectly sweet, slightly nutty from the browned butter. This recipe is a keeper. It is rich with a whole 3/4 cup of fat! So for me, it borders the line of cake (I won't tell if you slathered on a light icing or frosting). But feel free to reduce the fat to 1/2 cup if desired-I will try this next time. And I know what you are thinking: the extra pan and time to make the browned butter is totally worth it. And please: don't use shitty butter. Get yourself some organic, locally made stuff...ok? If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/4 tsp. Treat yourself right, and get some locally raised eggs, too? The few extra bucks are worth it on all levels-including the environment. 

    So here it is...some plain, simple, aromatic and delicious banana bread. I bet that motherly-figure in your life would appreciate this, along with a nice cup of coffee or tea. 

    Thank you, Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker for the recipe guidance...and many blog posts to read on the car ride home.



    Browned Butter Banana Bread // nut-free, soy-free // makes one 9"x5" loaf //

    • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached, all-purpose)
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • ½ cup coconut sugar, sucanant or organic brown sugar
    • 1 tsp molasses (optional)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups) very ripe bananas
    • 2 eggs, preferably local or organic
    • ¼ cup any type of milk (I used almond) or buttermilk
    • ½ tsp cider vinegar, if using regular milk and want buttermilk flavor
    • 6 oz or ¾ cup organic butter, browned over low heat (or, use 4 oz brown butter and 2 oz melted virgin coconut oil; see my note above about reducing to 1/2 cup if desired)

    1. preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. 

    2. in a small pot or sauce pan, melt the fats. Over medium heat, gently cook. It will go through a sizzling and frothing stage before the milk solids start to brown. The butter will NOT be a homogenous brown color, rather a melted pool of fat with bits of browning milk solids (sugars, proteins, salts, etc) that have gone through the Maillard reaction (...super important in so many cooking, baking and confectionery applications!). Off the heat and allow to cool.

    3. In a bowl, mash the banana with the molasses, sugar, vanilla, eggs, milk and/or vinegar. Add the melted browned butter mixture. Note: you do not want this mixture to be too warm from the melted butter/coconut oil, as it will activate the baking soda much quicker, leaving less to react in the oven, resulting in a less-risen loaf.

    4. Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix with a fork or spatula to combine, making sure no dry ingredients are lurking at the bottom or sides of the bowl, just don't over-do it on the mixing, lest you get tunnels in your bread. 

    5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until a tester comes out clean. Cool for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best for texture and flavor development. You can freeze this bread if you wrap it very well in plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil on the outside for 2 months, or simply wrap in and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a toaster or warm oven, if desired. 



    Some of the things you'll need. The browner the bananas, the better (side note: I remember my sophomore year in undergrad for a report on the chemistry behind the ripening process in bananas...I won't bore you with that...all you need to know is brown=sweet goodness). These had a few bruises from the car ride, but that is a-okay:

    Oh banananas...betcha didn't think they could last a trip to-and-from the east coast! The eggs I used were from New Century Farms

    The dry stuff, in a sifted-mountain (don't skip the sifting, please!):

    The mashed 'nana mess and the browned butter/coconut oil:

    Ok, the browned butter situation...notice how the milk solids have browned? This is what you want!

    The batter, ready to bake. Isn't in a lovely butterscotch color? Love that!

    The finished loaf, with a tender and delicate crumb. Mmmm...crumb...

    Slice it up and enjoy with tea and/or coffee-that is a must! Notice that the top pieces does have some evidence of over-mixing. I'll blame that on my nerves from the card ride. Still delicious.

    So simple, so comforting...worth sharing and lingering over. This probably isn't the best banana bread to shove into a bag and eat on-the-run (well, ok, maybe do that the next day when it isn't fresh-fresh!)

    Ok, enough about this banana bread. You get the picture. Go make it, and share it! Happy Sunday and Happy Mothers Day!

  • Re-vamped Almond Milk with Coconut Oil

    Sometimes we need to take a step back, and re-evaluate our progress, intentions or goals. Short term, long term...whatever. I am the type of person that likes habit...I like processes that stay (relatively) the same, and I don't like chaos. I hate messes (but I can make a pretty mean one in 10 seconds flat)...and I like to make lists. However, I am late for pretty much everything, forget what is on my list unless it is right in front of my face at all times, and get bored quickly. Really, I am a mess most of the times, and I really don't mean to upset or offend people with my craziness. Anyways-I was running last Monday evening, and noticed that my right knee started to hurt. About a month ago, a similar pain showed up. Well, to be honest, I think I had this coming. I have been on and off with my strength training, and its safe to say I have officially turned into a cardio junkie. Stuck in a routine, a rut...a habit. But what better of a time than spring to get back to the lifting and strength training routine? My goal is 3x's a week, and I think I can live with that in exchange for some healthy muscle mass again. I am going on two-weeks strong! And I may order some kettlebells...any thoughts on those? 

    I can live with that plan...I have determination to stick to it now that I see how I have sabotaged my running goals with...running...ha! But what I can't live with? Trying to figure out how a DSC will tell me all about the proteins in my caramel. But alas, I'll need to figure that out...since grad school and all that jazz...Balance, I am continually seeking it!

    Enter: my re-vamped almond milk recipe (conveniently just in time for iced coffee and tea season). 

    Not going to lie, it really was a good idea to add the coconut oil a few weeks back. I was baking and making almond milk simultaneously, saw the melted oil, and bam. The few added teaspoons lended a creamy factor, silky mouthfeel and also helped de-foam the almond milk. I also noticed that the almond milk settled less while sitting in the fridge. Good stuff all around. And, coconut oil is great for you. I don't think I need to go on and on about that here, but really-do check out the amazing properties of coconut oil. It is rich in medium chain triglyercides (MCT's), which are food rockstars. I always use organic, virgin coconut oil. Don't like coconut? Well, try it again here. You can't taste it in this almond milk, I promise. I think the 1 cup to 1-1 1/2 teaspoon ratio is pretty good, and the heat of the blending will help melt room-temp coconut oil, so no need to liquify. A tasty way to get healthy fats into your diet? Sounds awesome to me. 

    Feel free to sweeten naturally with a few soft dates (or simply soak those rock-hard ones you know you have lingering in your pantry or fridge...), or use a TB or two of you favorite natural sweetener (maple syrup, agave and honey). Coconut sugar and sucanant work in a pinch, too. Or, just leave this stuff plain without any added sugar-your call. I hear blending in a whole vanilla bean is mighty delicious. And I won't get upset if you add a TB or two of your favorite cocoa powder (or even raw cacao powder!), just keep in mind that you may have to compensate for the cocoa's bitterness with a touch more sweetener-taste and adjust as you see fit. 

    Notes: this recipe also works beautifully with cashews. Simply substitute 1 cup of cashews for the almonds, and proceed with the recipe as written. The almond pulp can be used in a variety of ways, and even frozen for prolonged use. Granola, baking, oatmeal...a simple search, and you'll find a myriad of wonderful blogs and recipes that describe how to use it! 

    My nutmilk bag is from Zimtal. I purchased it on Amazon, and I am so glad I did! I highly recommend it (that is totally my own opinion, too). After 1 year of use (and making at least 20-30 batches of plant-based milks), it has held up very well. Just be sure to thoroughly clean with soap, rinse well with water, and dry completely before storing. It can also be used for straining juices, and sprouting. So much fun with one bag! Yeehaw! I have read that using cheesecloth over a fine-mesh strainer can also work, but I haven't tried it..so I can't attest to that method.  



    Coconut Oil Almond Milk // makes 4 cups //vegan; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; sugar-free option; soy-free; paleo//

    • 1 cup raw almonds
    • 3-4 cups filtered water (use less for a more creamy milk; I like 3 1/2 cups)
    • 1/2-1 tsp sea salt 
    • 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil

    optional:

    • 1-4 tsp liquid sweetener or choice, or 2-4 soft or soaked firm dates
    • 1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
    • 1-2 TB unsweetend cocoa powder or raw cacao powder

    1. Soak the almonds in filtered water for up to 12 hours, 4 hours at a minimum. You can also soak the dates if they are firm.

    2. Rinse almonds, then add to a blender with the 3 to 4 cups filtered water, and remaining ingredients. Blend (for conventional blenders, this may take 2-3 minutes...patience is key and rewarded!). Pour contents through a nutmilk bag (or I hear cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer can work too, but I haven't tried it). Taste, adjust sweetness, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon if desired.

    3. Rinse nutmilk bag, placing almond pulp into a bowl or container, and return the almond milk to the blender. Blend to incorporate any added optional ingredients. Pour contents through the nutmilk bag for a final strain. Store the milk in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. You'll need to shake it a bit before using, as it will settle. Use in recipes that call for milk, or enjoy plain with ice, blended in smoothies, or with your favorite hot or iced tea and coffee. Be sure to enjoy within 3-4 days, and store in the fridge. 



    Everything you'll need, minus nutmilk bag, blender, storage jar optional add-ins above.

    The almonds after soaking for ~4 hours (ps: thses make for a great snack too, since soaking almonds makes it easier for our bodies to get nutrients and such from these guys)

    The finished product + some that wouldn't fit into the jar. So, cinnamon + ice cube seemed like a good idea.

    And thats a wrap! Enjoy in your favorite beverages (maybe not a gin and tonic, ok?), dunk your favorite cookies in it, or just drink it plain. Also, don't inhale cinnamon chunks off the top...

  • Blueberry Chia "Jam" Bars

    Well, it is sleeting here in Madison. Our deck is covered with ice. My plans to do my 7 mile long run this morning are out the window. I am comforting myself with a nice pot of french press, and some toast with peanut butter and my grandma's strawberry jam from this past summer. I know it is simple, but hands down one of my favorite breakfasts. Bitter, strong coffee with slightly sweet and very crunchy toast. That breakfast got me through my undergraduate years. But note: I am still sold on smoothies for my AM meal and probably will be for a long, long time. But hey...like I said...it is cold, sleeting and I needed some comfort!

    And these bars...these bars are also very simple and comforting (read: perfect for rainy-day in March Sunday baking). Jammy and crumble-y....I think I shall call them Jumble Bars. They are very flexible, so please try using any fruit you'd like for the filling. I have had success with blueberries, strawberry and rhubarb, and frozen strawberries. So really, they are perfect: simple, comforting, flexible. Oh, and they are also not too bad on the health factor either! Packing in loads of oats (both rolled and flour!), almond meal (gives the top crumbles mega-crunch!), ground flax, whole fruit and chia seeds. If that wouldn't make a hippy-dippy food lover smile, I just don't know what will. I used coconut sugar and honey for these, but please feel free to use agave or maple syrup, and sucanant/brown sugar. And yes, I am aware that since I used honey, my bars are not 100% vegan, but you all know my stance on that (if you don't, head over the The Bee's Knees). 'Nuff said. 

    The recipe was a combination of two that I have been playing around with for a few months now (one is here, the other here). Last summer, I used strawberries and rhubarb without chia seeds to thicken; the first time I made them, I used strawberries for the jam as prescribed with chia seeds. Both delicious...but here is the current version, and the tastiest to date. Perfect for breakfast, snacking or warmed for dessert (with a dollop of coconut whipped cream!). Cheers to sleet...I mean, spring in Wisconsin...

    Note: I use "jam" to denote that although stewed fruits fortified with a bit of sugar and scented with vanilla and lemon, also thickened with technically form of carbohydrate (fiber from the chia seeds), the filling is NOT a true jam. Picky?? Yes. But for the sake of my grandmother and a dear cousin's sanity, we must not confuse these two equally delicious fruit-laden treats.



    Oat Crumble Bars with Blueberry Chia "Jam" (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free) // makes 16 small bars, or 12 larger bars 

    The Oat Base and Crumble:

    • 2 cups rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup oat flour (or 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, but this negates the gluten-free claim)
    • 1 cup almond meal or flour (or finely ground almonds)
    • 1 TB ground flax
    • 1/4 cup honey, agave or maple syrup
    • 1 TB coconut sugar or sucanant
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil (or Earth Balance in a pinch, or a 50:50 blend of coconut:EB)
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • heaped 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    The Blueberry Chia "Jam":

    • 3 cups frozen or fresh blueberries (or fruit of choice)
    • 2 TB chia seeds
    • 2-4 TB honey, agave or maple syrup
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
    • zest of 1 small-medium lemon
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8"x8" or 9"x9" square pan with parchment (I did two strips, overlapping). These bars could be difficult to remove without the parchment, so I highly recommend!

    2. Make the jam by combining all the ingredients except the vanilla, lemon juice and zest in a medium pan. Bring to a good simmer, then turn down and cook until thick-about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, don't let it burn to the bottom of the pan! Take off the heat, and allow to cool a touch before adding the vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Set aside to cool.

    3. In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, oat flour, almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, coconut sugar and baking soda. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In a separate bowl, add the melted coconut oil, water, vanilla extract, and honey/agave/maple syrup. Whisk to combine. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until all incorporated. The batter will be sticky, so have no fear!

    4. In the prepared pan, pat 2/3 of the mixture down. I used a spoon to help get into the corners, as well as wet hands to help reduce the sticky-factor. Pressing down firmly is crucial to have the bars stick together. 

    5. Spread the cool jam evenly over the entire base. Crumble over the remaining 1/3 of the oat mixture, and gently press into the filling. Bake for 25-32 minutes, or until golden brown. 

    6. Allow the bars to cool completely. You can even store them overnight in the fridge if desired. Take the bars out of the pan by grabbing onto the parchment. Cut into squares and enjoy! Store in a container with a lid in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer. 



    The "Jam":

    The jam all cozy with the oat base:

    Spread the jam into the corners for maximum jammy-oat ratio in the bars:

    The bars, ready to bake. The crumble situtation is real here...

    The struggle to not pick all the crunchy crumble bits off these out of the oven is also real....

    The bars in their chunky, jammy glory. My hand was so twitchy with excitement, I couldn't hold my camera still. Blurry Blueberry Bars. Still delicious. Go get em'!!

  • Smoothie Guide V1.0

    Ok, so it has been busy in my world! After recovering from a cold, I have been struck with the spring-cleaning bug! I have also been on the search for lighter recipes, refreshing drinks and produce...I can't wait for spring! Our first CSA box comes in April, and yes, I did a dance last night in our kitchen when I realized this awesome fact!!

    What else does spring mean? Running outside, and training for races! I will be running the Crazylegs Classic 8K in April, and the Madison Half Marathon in May. I have my goals...one of them being roping my best friend into running the half with me! I have also set a 2:00 goal for this half. How will I accomplish that? Well, eating nourishing and healthy foods of course! And maybe a bit of running, speed training, and hills. Hills for Health I like to say...or repeat to myself mid run-up Bascom hill!

    Smoothies can be overwhelming. So many options...so many weird seeds...nut butters? Powders? Kale? Spinach? Beets?? Protein powders? Really, the question is what you CAN'T throw into a blender, and call a smoothie. To help a friend who is embarking on the smoothie quest for the first time, I put together a guide. It includes four of my go-to smoothies, along with a lot of other information I have gathered over the past year. I won't bother with all those details here, but I WILL go over my 4 go-to concoctions. Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes I do go crazy and throw random fruits and vegetables in my blender and hope for the best. But, it is nice to have those fail-safe recipes for when you're just not feeling creative...or crazy. And heck, you may even impress yourself with some beautiful and delicious concoctions!!

    So here they are...in all their glory-my 4 smoothies that never fail me, and a few notes for good measure:

    • I almost always add 1 TB of chia seed OR flax seed, and 1 TB of hemp seeds to all my smoothies. I do this for healthy fats (hemp has a perfect ratio of omega 3:6), fiber, protein, and a extended feeling of "fullness". Hemp seeds have ~3g protein/TB, so are a great option for protein boosts. They also boast complete proteins-hooray!! You can also boost protein by adding a scoop of plant-based, unsweetened protein powder of choice (I don't use these, so can't give recommendations! I hear Sunwarrior and Vega are great).
    • I use ripe bananas that have a few spots since I like mine to be fairly sweet. I use either fresh or frozen. Buying in bulk and freezing is a great way to stock-up and save time. Use less-ripe bananas for less banana flavor and sweetness. Don't like bananas? Substitute a few soft dates in their place, just take note that the smoothie yield will be less and may be a bit sweeter.
    • I always use unsweetened milks, or pure coconut water. Plain water will work in a pinch, too!
    • If a sweeter smoothie is desired, simply add in 1 or 2 fresh, soft dates (usually found in the produce or refrigerated area). I usually use the Medjool variety since they are readily available. Dates are loaded with fructose, fiber and other beneficial nutrients, so are the healthy way to boost sweetness.
    • I almost always add a squeeze of citrus: lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit...the vitamin C helps the absorption (via a reduction reaction) of non-heme iron found in leafy greens, and also brightens flavors. Added bonus: vitamin C helps inhibit that pesky enzyme that causes fruits and vegetables to brown (polyphenol oxidase).
    • Freezing greens is a great option, too. See HERE for a great guide.
    • I do not add any sugars or use any sweetened plant-based milks, rather I rely on the natural sugars present in fruits. Add a date or two if you want a sweeter smoothie.
    • These are all gluten-free, added sugar-free, paleo-friendly, and can be soy-free by using a non-soy plant milk. Nut-free smoothies can be made by substitutuing sunflower seed butter for any nut-butters and using a non nut-based plant milk. 
    • You can make smoothies the night before, or prep up to adding frozen ingredients for a speedy smoothie making process. Simply make it, and pour into a glass or jar with lid. Shake before enjoying.
    • Add any "enhancers" of choice, like maca powder, fresh ginger, fresh tumeric, spirulina, wheat grass powder, etc..as you desire. I ilke to start with 1 tsp of these ingredients, a work up from there.
    • You can pre-portion all your smoothie ingredients, save liquids, into plastic bags or jars with lids (like mason jars) and store in the freezer for super-speedy smoothie making. Simply dump the prepped ingredients in blender, add liquids and blend.
    • I always use glass jars or glasses for smoothies. The acidic ingredients can leech chemicals if allowed to sit in plastic. Mason jars are cheap and sanitary. Yes, a touch hipster, but indeed very functional too. It will make your grandma proud, too (or angry if you steal her canning supplies...don't do that). 
    • Finally, once you get the hang of it, you don't need to measure for perfection! Just estimate it for less dishes and smoothie-making confidence. You CAN do it!!

    For all the recipes, simply add all ingredients to blender and blend. All recipes yield 1 12-16oz smoothie. If you are using a low-powered blender, I find that blending the greens with any nuts/seeds and the liquids FIRST, then adding remaining ingredients after gives smoothest results, especially with hearty greens like kale. 



    Smoothie #1: Kale-Blueberry

    This smoothie is a beautuiful shade of purple, and the berries help mask the strong flavor of kale or other greens you add. This smoothie is great with spinach, and may be a better option for lower-powered blenders.

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, coconut water or water
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • Squeeze of citrus
    • 1 cup (about 3 leaves) kale 
    • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, or other berry of choice
    • 1 banana
    • Optional: 1 TB coconut cream, 1 tsp maca powder
    • a few ice cubes 

    All the ingredients, and the finished smoothie. Note: I only included 1/2 cup of frozen blueb's in this smoothie since I was running low on dishes...ha.


    Smoothie #2: Green Machine

    This was my first go-to green creation! It is summery, and adding a TB of coconut cream gives it a tropical feel. Making this one with coconut water is extra-awesome. Adding fresh ginger makes it a spicy tropical treat!

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, coconut water or water
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • squeeze of citrus
    • 1 to 2 cups cup kale or spinach
    • 1/2 cup pineapple, fresh or frozen
    • 1 banana
    • Optional: fresh ginger, 1 tsp maca powder, 1 TB coconut cream
    • a few ice cubes

    Everything you'll need, and the finished smoothie (hemp seeds not included):


    Smoothie #3: Just Beet It

    You can't "beet" the color of this one if you use red beets! Golden beets also work, and have a more delicate, less earthy flavor. Start with 1/2 cup beet, and go up from there once accustomed to the flavor of the beets. Roasting the beets prior to blending for conventional blenders is recommended, otherwise the smoothie will be quite thick and fiberous (but still tasty!). Beet roasting is very simple: wrap washed beets in tin foil, and roast at 400F until a knife is easily insterted (45-90 minutes depending on size of beets). Cool, and then peel skins away with your fingers-they will come right off! Chop into small cubes, and store in fridge for up to 5 days, or freezer for up to 2 months. You may be able to find pre-roasted beets, just be sure the only ingredient is beets and no seasoning or vinegar!!

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, coconut water or water
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • squeeze of citrus
    • 1/2 cup red or golden beet
    • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, cherries or strawberries
    • 1 banana
    • optional: 1 TB coconut cream
    • a few ice cubes 

    The beets! So pretty...just don't wear a white shirt when peeling them...


    Smoothie #4: Plant Protein Power

    This smoothie is loaded with protein: the nut (or seed) butter, hemp seed and (if using) soy milk (if using) all combine to give you a smoothie loaded with plant-based nutrition. Each TB of hemp packs in 3g of complete protein, so add in an extra TB if you want more. Be sure to only use nut and seed butters that have simple ingredient lists-only the nut or seed, plus sea salt if desired, should be in the product. Drink this before or after a workout, or even for a treat. Adding an optional date or two, a TB of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder makes it super delicous-and perfect hot weather pick-me-up alternative to a shake or "frosty"! Add a teaspoon of the powerful cruciferous maca powder, and you'll want to fly to your next task or workout!

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, using soy for extra protein
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • 1-2 heaped TB nut or seed butter, like peanut butter or sunflower seed butter
    • generous pinch cinnamon (I like a lot, so add 1/2 tsp)
    • 1 banana
    • optional: 1 TB carob or cocoa powder, 1 or 2 soft dates, 1 tsp maca powder
    • a few ice cubes

    The hemp seeds, cinnamon and maca powder:

    The finished smoothie, in the sunshine...so perfect for a warm spring day!So there you have it! If you have a blender and a few ingredients, you are only a few moments away from a delicious, noursihing and satisfying breakfast, meal replacer in a pinch, snack or pre/post-workout drink! No excuses here-and just in time for spring. Get on the smoothie train now!

  • Best Vegan Pumpkin Bread + Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait

    I guess we all know when it is February (at least in WI) when a) everyone gets a bit grouchier-let us chalk that up to lack of sunshine; b) everyone is getting a cold and/or the flu; and c) the sub-zero temperatures give you instant brain-freeze upon walking outside. All of that combined makes for a challenging month to get through in one sane piece. I certainly have had a challening month: between research methods not working (when they did like...a month ago!!), food flops, lack of inspiration and motivation, cabin fever and a general need for a ton of chocolate each day....it has been a true Feburary in WI.

    So in efforts to cheer-up myself and everyone around me, I am sharing a recipe today that makes me happy just looking at it (ok-TWO recipes!). This pumpkin bread is amazing...like, really amazing. We shouldn't only love pumpkin around the "holidays": it is full of fiber, packed with vitamin A, boasting tons of free-radical scavenging beta-carotene and carotenoids, and is chock-full of vitamin C and potassium (even more than bananas!). And I love baking with pumpkin: you get the added bonus of moisture and structure-so no need for eggs! Likewise, the bread recipe is super simple to make. I halved the original, yielding only 1 loaf, but please feel free to double if you want two! The only suggestion from where this recipe hails from is that if you like super pumpkin-y flavor, you may want to bump-up the pumpkin amount by 1/3 cup as I did; I also could go with a touch less sweetener (ps: check out Joy's blog-it is such a delight to read!!). I reflected these changes in the recipe below. This tender and comforting bread will make you happy...and will also leave you with the perfect amount of pumpkin puree to make the pumpkin chia pudding (which is a cinch to whip-up, and we all know the amazing powers of chia seeds already!).

    Eat the bread plain, slathered with your favorite spread, or layer it with some chia pudding. I found that toasting for a minute or microwaving for 15 seconds or so to warm the bread makes it even better if not enjoying this fresh, or out of the fridge. The bread is quite firm when refrigerated (or at least when using virgin coconut oil in it), so I really suggest warming if enjoying straight from there. Whatever-just treat yourself to some fantastic, mood-boosting baking this week...and consider sharing your bounty to help kick the winter blues! I have joythebaker.com to thank for this recipe inspriation-and even she feels this way about this amazing bread.

    Note: I used Bob's Red Mill spelt and whole-wheat pastry flours. I suggest using a lighter spelt flour for this recipe, but if necessary, you can substitute the spelt with all purpose flour, or even more whole-wheat pastry flour. 



    Vegan Pumpkin Bread (Vegan, soy-free option, nut-free option) //makes 1 loaf or about 12-16 slices//

    • 1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (I used organic canned)
    • 3/4 cup spelt flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
    • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 1 TB freshly grated ginger (or 1-2 tsp dried)
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3/4 cup sucanant or brown sugar
    • scant 1/3 cup agave, maple syrup or honey (for the not super strict vegans)
    • 1/3 cup water, or unsweetened milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond)
    • 1/2 cup coconut oil or other neutral/pleasant tasting oil (like grapeseed), melted
    • 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (for nut-free, use could a seed of choice, like pumpkin or sunflower)
    • 1/2 cup granola or additonal nuts or seeds for topping

    1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf pan (I use and highly recommend anodized aluminium), or line with parchment. If using glass or a darker pan, you will need to adjust baking time since glass retains heat, and darker pans heat-up a tad more in the oven. My pan measured 9"x5"x2.5". See here for details.

    2. Coarsley chop nuts, and toast on a baking sheet or simply in the loaf pan in the warming oven for about 10 minutes. Set a timer...or you WILL forget about them. You may also toast the seeds if using as well. Toasting is optional, but recommended for best flavor and crunch.

    3. Melt coconut oil (if using) or measure out vegetable oil in a large bowl. Stir in the pumpkin, spices, salt, sugar, liquid sugar, water or milk. Stir in the toasted and slightly cooled nuts or seeds.

    4. Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the wet mixture to the dry. Mix, but don't over do it. Scrape into the prepared bread pan, leveling the surface a bit. Top with granola, nuts and/or seeds, pressing into the batter to help stick.

    5. Bake the bread for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a tester poked into the center comes out clean (hint: you can use a thin knife, piece of spaghetti, a toothpick or a official cake tester for this). Allow to cool for 1 hour before slicing-this loaf is pretty tender fresh out of the oven. 

    6. Layer with pumpkin chia pudding, banana soft-serve and granola in a bowl or in a jar for a to-go breakfast or kick-ass snack!


    Pumpkin Chia Pudding (vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free option, soy-free option, paleo)//2 servings// adapted from paleOMG.com

    • 1 1/2 cups milk of choice (soy, almond, etc)
    • heaping 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1 TB peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter
    • 1 TB maple syrup, agave or honey (or to taste)
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried or freshly grated ginger
    • pinch cloves
    • pinch sea salt

    1. Mix everything in a bowl or container with lid. Taste, and adjust seasonings and sweetness. Allow to sit for at least 3 hours, or overnight (best!) in the fridge. Mix, and thin with a bit more milk after sitting if desired. 


    Banana Soft Serve (vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free option, soy-free option, paleo)//2 servings//

    • 2 frozen ripe bananas, broken into smallish pieces (use 1 banana for 1 serving)
    • 1 to 2 TB milk of choice (soy, almond, etc)
    • 1 TB peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter (optional, but adds creaminess)

    1. In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients. Pulse and scrape down the container until the banans are smooth and creamy. Add milk by the tablespoon if needed to help mix smoothly.

    2. layer with pumpkin chia seed pudding, crumbled-up piecces of pumpkin bread and granola if desired. Enjoy immediately!



    The bread, in all of the pupmpkin-nutty-granola glory it truly is!!

    The parfait ingredients (I recommend mixing the chia pudding the night before-so simple and quick!):

    Creamy, delicious sunflower seed butter....mmm....you could just put this onto a slice of pumpkin bread and call that breakfast :)

    The pretty pumpkin chia pudding. I just love that color-so cheery!

    The bananas! What would we do without frozen bananas?

    And the final product!! I love putting these in to-go jars, because I am running late...to everything...all the time! Ha...! Try to not over-fill them, like I always do, since the lid has to fit on....

    So tasty, so simple...and so...nice to look at!

    Well, I guess that about does it for this time...I have a date with a box of kleenex, lots of herbal tea, some miso broth. I'll be in bed, reading this wonderful book I got in the mail last week and dreaming of spring!

  • Green Machine: Coconut-Avocado Smoothie + February Gratitude Journal

    Well, here we have it! February of the New Year. How are the resolutions holding up? Any new ones come along? Any exciting new changes taking hold, or newly formed habits? 

    I have to admit-I can't say that a lot has changed with me. I did, however, manage to peel my butt out of my apartment during a blizzard, and crank out a nice 5 mile ass-kicking treadmill run...on a SUNDAY! And on that positive note, I have been 98% successful in my pursuit of a vegan diet in 2015! I say 98% because I know of 2 instances that I inadvertantly had a food product with animal products in it because I did not read the ingredient deck (ok, ok, and one instance of a cookie and bread-they were my Grandma's-and I can't say no to her). Oh well-we are all human, and I have learned my lesson: be that crazy lady, read the food labels (even in the bulk aisle!!) and don't sweat the small stuff. 

    But what isn't small is the flavor and non-dairy-creamy-factor in this smoothie! Ahh, avocado smoothies...how they bring back memories! In library mall here on the UW-Madison campus, there is a food cart with a sweet lady. She sells fresh juices and smoothies. And one summer afternoon, my sister and I hit up "Smoothie Lady" in her neon-green cart and each got a avocado smoothie. To say the least, I was super skeptical to try it, but with some encouragement from my sister, I did. And I loved it! Creamy, not-too-sweet, coconutty and a beautiful retro-green color. I swear, these are the BEST fuel in the spring and summer for powering up Bascom Hall before class! Since spending almonst $5 a pop is not a feasilbe way to get my fix, and since "smoothie lady" isn't around until the weather is nice, this is my version!

    And now...a note on gratitude. Last week, I saw a behaviroal therapist about managing stress and anxiety. I am slowly discovering areas of my life that were touched in a not-so-great way by my intense and demanding job prior to graduate school. One major being elevated levels of anxiety and anticipatory worrying. Looking back, this totally makes sense. I am a natural-born worrier, and over-thinker, so my uber-stressful work experience didn't help these traits much. In fact, I really do believe that they took them to a whole new level, one of which (now that I look back) I think were signs of depression. This all at once brewed into a negative mindset, bitterness and one grouchy girl. These symptopms have improved A LOT since transitioning to graduate school, but I know that my past experiences shape my future, so I want to get the proper help to kick these bahviours to the curb!

    Enter: The Gratitude Journal. Yes, I know there is an entry from 1/29. It was practice. Lots of tea also helps the gratitude-flow. 

    I AM grateful for my life, my experiences (good and not so good!) and all the people in my world. I like to think I am a positive person >80% of the time. But I am not perfect-no one is! So, my goal for February is to write down 3 things I am grateful for each day. Nothing complicated. Nothing to over-think. Just 3 things that I feel grateful for at the present moment. I want to become more aware and conscious of all the beautiful and positive things in my life. Shouldn't everyone be more aware of these things? I think the world would be a more comforting place if we all took just a few minutes to reflect on what we DO have, rather than what we WANT to have. At the end of February, I plan to reflect on my month of gratitude. And I know for one, that I am GRATEFUL for this DELICIOUS and NUTRITIOUS SMOOTHIE! *happy dance*

    Would you ever start a gratitude journal? Have any of you done this (or are doing this)? I'd love to know! 

    Note: The greens in this smoothie are optional! If you don't have coconut cream, you may substitue either regular full-fat or light coconut milk. I would start by using 1/4 cup, and if more coconut flavor is desired, adding it by the tablespoon. You'd be surprised at how much the coconut flavor comes through against the delicate avocado flavor! Don't have dates or don't like them? Use 1 ripe banana instead, either fresh or frozen. Want to make a super-filling smoothie? Add BOTH the banana and dates! Hooray! Make it a party by adding 1 TB of coconut-flavored rum. You won't be sorry, and you'll feel as if you're on a tropical island...and not in a salty snowbank in WI!! 



    Coconut-Avocado Smoothie (Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Soy-Free Option)//makes one large 12-16oz smoothie, or two smaller 6-8oz smoothies

    • 1 handful greens, like kale or spinach (optional)
    • 1 TB coconut cream OR 1/4 cup coconut milk (see note)
    • 1 TB each chia and hemp seeds (optional)
    • 1 TB lemon juice
    • 4 soft Medjool dates or 1 ripe banana
    • 1/2 ripe avocado 
    • 1 cup milk of choice (I used organic soy) OR water
    • Ice cubes (optional)
    • Unsweetened coconut (optional, for garnish)

    1. Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.

    2. Add ice cubes, and blend again if the smoothie has warmed from the heat of the blender.

    3. Serve and enjoy immediately! This smoothie will turn brown beause of the avocado (and banana!) quite fast. Add a bit more lemon juice if you anticipate this smoothie to sit for a while.



    All the ingredients, in their natural glory in a snowy-lit room! So glad I was inside..enjoying the blizzard from our cozy apartment!

    How pretty are these?? Just makes you happy looking at them:

    And that lacinato (dinosaur) kale...such a beautiful emerald green. Those Italians know what their doing!

    And the chia and hemp seeds! They are like power-house-plant-confetti!

    Now, toss it all into a blender, adding a few ice cubes to help cool it down from the heat of the blender if needed. Pour (or just drink out of the blender jar??), garnish with some coconut (totally optional), enjoy, repeat. Take that, February blizzards!!

  • Grain-Free Quinoa and Buckwheat Granola (Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Soy-Free)

    You know those moments when you realize that you have been thinking way too hard about something, and you stumble upon a solution? Yeah, that happened to me this week. Basically, I have been in the throws of trying to determine a suitable way to visualize and quantify both protein and fat in my caramels, and let me tell you, it has been one big pain in the you-know-what. No wonder no other researchers have done it!! But this week, my lab's post-doc had some awesome advice, and also took some pretty amazing images of my caramel with a confocal laser microscope. Oh. My. Gosh. If we could always see our food up-close....it'd be awesome. Or maybe just to me, becuase I am a food dork like that. 

    Well anyways, like a food dork, I can apply the same concept to the lonely jar of buckwheat groats in my cupboard. Besides sprinkling on top of granola bars and cereal for crunch, I really had no idea how to use them in an application that wasn't gross to me. Buckwheat porridge? Ew. Sorry-I know...there are people who love it, and I want to love it, but I am not one of those people. I have tried it a few times, even with dark chocolate blended in, and it just doesn't appeal to me. Buckwheat flour? Don't like it. It has a weird grassy-soapy flavor to it, no matter which brand I try or even if I make my own from groats. 

    But all of those applications were classic cases of me thinking too hard, and banging my head against the proverbial buckwheat wall. Until I stumbled upon Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. hosted by Laura Miller. I was intrigued by a cereal Laura made, all from buckwheat groats that are soaked for an hour, rinsed and mixed with a few spices and some maple syrup. After dehydrating (or putting into a very low oven), you end up with a crunchy and delicious cereal! This, my friends, inspired this granola. To make it even MORE quirky (who else laughs at the word "groat"?), I used some quinoa. This makes for a granola packed with protein, healthy fats and fiber. Indeed, buckwheat groats and quinoa pack a complete protein punch, and are full of manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium and fiber. This granola UBER CRUNCHY...so it is great by itself, soaked in your favorite plant-based milk, over some coconut or soy yogurt, or even layered into a parfait with some cashew cream (like what Laura did!) with some berries and/or jam. Or just stuff it into your face by the handfull. My method was as follows: I rinsed my quinoa and let it dry at room temperature overnight. I then soaked by groats in the fridge overnight, and thoroughly rinsed and drained them until the slimey coating that develops whil soaking was gone (about 4-5 rinses). In the morning, I simply measured out the remainining ingredients, mixed everything together, and popped the granola into the oven for about 1.5 hours at 225F. Get up a bit earlier to make it, or just make it on a lazy weekend morning. If a crazy grad student covered in caramel has time for this, you do too!

    So why did I rinse the and dry the quinoa? Quinoa has a natural soapy coating, which (in nature) protects it from being eaten by preditors (or humans browsing the bulk food aisle). If not rinsed, the quinoa may have a weird, astringent taste and feeling in your mouth. Not a huge deal, but I personally don't like it. In addition, I dried it because I didn't want the excess moisture in the granola, which would add to the cooking time.

    And why did I let the buckwheat groats soak, and rinse them thoroughly? The buckwheat groats benefit from a ovenight soaking in the fridge. This helps us assimilate the nutrients and proteins better into our bodies, and rinsing thoroughly helps reduce that soapy flavor and slime-factor. 

    Note: you may substitute the 1 cup buckwheat groats with oats; use certified gluten-free for gluten-free granola. Do NOT use kasha, which is toasted buckwheat groats. You want raw (and preferrably organic) buckwheat groats, commonly found in the bulk section of most co-ops, health food and hippie-food stores. In addition, I find that mixing in my dried fruit as I eat the granola, as opposed to stirring it in and letting it co-mingle with the finished granola, helps prevent moisture migration: if mixed, the dried fruit becomes even more dry, and the granola becomes a touch soggy. And yes, this even happens in the freezer, but you can certainly store this granola in a sealed container in your freezer for safe keeping for up to 2 months, or at room temperature for up to 2 week for maximum freshness. 

    This recipe was inspired by Laura's recipe above, as well as two wonderful bloggers and their recipes: hungry hungry hippie, and a cozy kitchen



    Grain-Free Qunoa and Buckwheat Granola (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

    • 1 cup buckwheat groats (see note above) 
    • 1/3 cup quinoa, any color (see note above)
    • 1 cup whole raw almonds
    • 2 TB sesame seeds 
    • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
    • 1/4 cup raw sunflower kernels
    • 1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (large or small flakes)
    • 1/3 + 2 TB cup agave, maple syrup (or honey for not-so-strict vegans)
    • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (or other pleasant-to-no flavored oil, like grapeseed)
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • optional: dried fruit to mix-in, such as currants, raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped apricots. 
    • optional: cashew cream or chia pudding and fresh fruit for making parfaits (!!)

    1. pre-heat oven to 225F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

    2. Process the 1 cup of raw almonds in a food processor or high-speed blender until medium-fine texture, or do this by hand for a rougher texture. Be warned, it is sometimes a mess to chop nuts, but this is a good option for those who do not own a processor or blender, or don't want to wake up their entire apartment complex making granola at 6am.

    3. Measure out the remaining nuts, seeds and coconut in a large bowl, along with the rinsed and drained buckwheat, and dried quinoa (see not above).

    4. In a small bowl, measure out the coconut oil. Tip: briefly place into the warming oven to melt, or microwave for 10-15 seconds to melt. Stir in the liquid sweetener, salt and cinnamon. Pour this over the nut, seed and coconut. Stir well to evenly coat each piece with the coconut oil-sweetener mixture. 

    5. Dump on the prepare pan, and spread into an even layer. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the granola is golden (not burnt!) and firm. It may still have a slightly soft and damp feel, but it will harden as it cools on the pan. Allow the granola to cool completely before breaking into desired chunks and storing in an airtight container or jar. I like to separate mine into small bits and large chunks! Enjoy!!



    I love the colors and textures of the bulk ingredients...simple, yet beautitul! Thanks, nature!                                The soaked and drained buckwheat groats and dried (overnight) quinoa. You can use any color quinoa you like, I used tri-color because I had it on hand. The red is beautiful, though! 

    Here is the texture of the almonds I ended up with. Some was super coarse, some was fairly fine...doesn't have to be perfect!Here is the melted coconut oil, sweetener, cinnamon and salt:Everything all mixed up, and ready for baking at 225F for 1.5 hours (or until golden and crispy-feeling)All baked, crunchy and delicious!! Love that texture and the colors.Loving the way that this was smelling, too! It will make your place smell to cinnamon-y and delicous!

    Up-close and personal with granola...

    Big chunks in a separate wide-mouth mason jar are perfect for snacking!

    This granola is perfect in chia pudding, layered with fruit. I had a ripe mango and a blood orange on hand, and of course topped it with more coconut and some cacao nibs for even more crunch! 

    It was super tasty! It got me through a dairy chemistry lecture...and then some :)And now, I can sleep well knowing that my fruit has a crunchy-granola army protecting it! Haha...oh dear. Long week-and I can't wait to eat this granola for breakfast again tomorrow!