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  • Frittata: A Tribute

    Perhaps I am getting nostalgic, since I am about to bid the US farewell for 10 days for my trip to Brazil. I have been reflecting on the past year, and my heart is full of amazing experiences and people I love. As with many like-minded people who think of food as a way of life, to say my family is full of food-lovers is....maybe an understatement. An email from my cousin a few months ago, after I requested her to send me her frittata making tips, is serious evidence of this. She made a killer brunch New Years Day (which, by the way, was the BEST way to spend the first day of the year: coffee, making food with people you love, relaxing, making a mess....perfect), and included a super tasty frittata of goat cheese, her home-dried tomatoes from the summer previous, and caramelized onions.  Frittata is a simple, delicious breakfast, brunch or dinner. I don't need to tell you that. Heck, you can even freeze slices of it for a super quick meal in the relative near future by warming up slices in a warm oven (or, thawing overnight, and warming in the oven the next day). It is flexible, a great way to clean out your crisper or just a great way to treat yourself in a nourishing, lovely way. Pair with a salad, some toast, and boom! Look at you...all adulting with your shit together! Side note: I love to make frittata on the weekends in which I bake pizza, since you're already gonna be choppin' up lotsa toppings!In general, you gotta have textural, color and flavor variety. The wise advice of my cousin: think of the egg-base a mere carrier for you desired toppings, which should include:

    • Something green and leafy: kale, spinach, chard; a quick sautee or even blanch, then squeezing out excess moisture is key for non-soggy frittata with greens.
    • Something toothesome for texture: red peppers, mushrooms (sauteed), chunks of zucchini....whatever ya got laying around, but into relatively small-ish chunks so they cook quickly. Watery veg should be sauteed to get extra water out to prevent soggy frittata. 
    • Something salty and/or umami: dried tomatoes (plump them up a bit in hot water if they are really dry or use oil-cured), olives, capers, roasted red peppers, bacon, caramelized onions, fresh red onion sliced into thin half-moons, your favorite veg-based sausage....etc. You get the idea. Use your imagination! 
    • Something cheese-y: kinda optional, but kinda not in my mind...you could totally use some plant-based creamy cheese, but maybe not that weird Daiya stuff? I like goat cheese and gouda, but cheddar is ol' reliable. A good sharp one, perhaps a 2 to 5 year cheddar, like Hook's! As for grated or chunks...well, that is also up to you (go figure!), and could also be dictated by the type of cheese: goat cheese will be in dollops, as would creamy nut-based or tofu-based "cheese". Firmer cheese could be grated or cubed, and that my friend, is your call. I my preference is to grate firm cheeses, since I love the frico-esque crust you can develop by sprinkling cheese on the top of your 'ttata, and broiling for the last few minutes of baking. But I totally get it: some mornings/days, you JUST CAN'T grate cheese. I wouldn't totally be against using pre-grated cheese, but maybe just not always? Cause it usualy has weird anti-caking agents as well as mold inhibitors in it...
    • Potatoes: optional, but, I love them in my frittata. Deb has the best way, I think, for easy potato'ing for frittata, so I adapt her method in the recipe I am sharing. You could use a waxy variety of potato, or even sweet potaotes. A mealy, feathery starch potato, like Russet, won't work so well here, though. 

    And I don't need to mention to always use the best ingredients you can find, right? The cheese: you know we mean business in WI. And the eggs! You can't beat the color and flavor of locally produced eggs from happy hens! Seasonal, fresh produce, people. Ideally, your frittata should be as if the farmer's market threw up in your egg base. Haha, that is kinda gross sounding, but, true. I'll stick with that. K. So, you see, flexible within a few suggestions to keep it interesting both for your palate and eyes. If you are lacking in something above, don't sweat it. Just go for it, and make sure your egg base is well-seasoned (well, do that anyways). Fresh herbs, dried herbs and spices that you fancy, a dollop of yogurt or splash or cream...you do you. 



    Red Pepper, Mushroom, Kale & Gouda Frittata // makes 1 10"-12" frittata, or 8 fairly large pieces //

    • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/3" bite-sized slices (about 3/4 cup)
    • 1/2 small sweet or red onion, sliced into thin half-moons (about 3/4 cup)
    • 1 cup sauteed mushrooms (from about 3 cups raw sliced mushrooms)
    • 2-3 cups kale or spinach, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8-10 oz)
    • 1 cup gouda, or cheese of choice, grated, dolloped or chunked into small cubes (about 3-4 oz)
    • 3-4 small to medium waxy potatoes, like yukon gold or baby reds (about 9-10 oz), cut into 1/2" wedges
    • 1 cup water seasoned with salt to taste
    • 3 TB olive oil or butter
    • 8-10 large eggs
    • a dollop of yogurt or sour cream (optional)
    • salt and pepper, to taste (start with 1/2 tsp sea salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, since I realize you probably don't want to taste raw frittata goo)
    • freshly grated nutmeg (optiona, but I think mandatory for all baked-egg dishes)

    1. In a 10" to 12" skillet or cast iron pan, heat the 1 cup of water seasoned with salt, and add the potatos. Cook for about 10 minutes of medium-simmer, until the liquid is absorbed and potatoes are mostly tender (they will continue to cook).

    2. Add in the remaining veggies and olive oit or butter, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5-7 minutes, until everything is heated through and the greens are starting to wilt. At this point, you'll also want to pre-heat your broiler.

    3. Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper, and yogurt or sour cream and nutmeg if using. Add in about 2/3 of the cheese (or, if using a soft cheese, dollop this on top after you pour the egg mixture in the pan, and give it a little stir to incorporate into the mixture). Pour into the pan with the veggies, and give the whole pan a good shake to fill the nooks and crannies. Cook on the burner over medium heat, until the edges start to firm and the whole thing starts to set. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top (or dollop the softer cheeses on top now if you haven't already, or if you want more on top), and broil the frittata until the top is golden brown and the whole frittata is set. This should take about 5 minutes, but if you broiler isn't very strong, could take longer. The goal is to have the whole thing to be just set and not jiggly in the middle, and to have the cheese crust on top golden brown.

    4. Allow the frittata to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into slices. Enjoy!



    The goods (and also your goods: coffee should be in hand while making frittata!)The sauteed goods: texture, flavors and colors galore. Win! Potatoes are just tender enough to finish cooking with the eggs, and not soft enough to mush together.The eggs: proabably the most important part of the frittata! Use the good ones. The orange-yolked, happy-chicken produced ones. Poured, cooked, broiled...done.Cool for a hot minute, slice, serve. Look at you...so proud, so proud,

  • Banana Bread Granola

    I love granola. But not the sad stuff you find at stores, both bulk bin and the "fancy" over priced stuff in bags/jars. For the price and time it takes to make at home, for me, it is well worth it. I think the same could be said for homemade yogurt, but I have yet to cross that bridge yet....For about a year or so, I gave up eating yogurt...well, dairy yogurt. I started eating it again about 3 months ago...and wow. Happiness to me is a bowl of tangy yogurt, homemade granola, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey. I mean, it tastes almost like dessert, but is full of nourishing nutrients and kcals! 

    Also, if you are a member of a food co-op, be sure to look out for their bulk-discount days...usually a day during the week, where members can get 10-15% bulk items. This is the *perfect* time to stock up to make yourself some delcious 'nola. 

    Now, with summer on the horizon, including your favorite summer berry in the situation is just a given.  Also, bananas ripen sooo darn fast when the weather heats up, so this is a perfect way to use them up! The riper, the better, as in when you make banana bread. So, let me help you out for your lazy, hot summer day breakfast: banana bread granola. This recipe hails from Sarah over at My New Roots. It is in her first book, one that I use often and love, and highly recommend not only for the recipes but for the inpiration...I need to get my hands on her second book! Indeed, I have made this recipe many, many times, and enjoy it so, so much. It is sweet, but not too sweet....it is chunky, like oat-rubble, and super crunchy thanks to the buckwheat groats (you gotta try them in granola-they rock!). In fact, this past week and a half, I have made 2 batches of this stuff! Granted, I am stocking up for plane-ride snacks, and likely bringing a big bag of this tasty goodness with me to Brazil at the end of the month...because...why not? This stuff is basically love in granola form. You can't beat that!If you like banana bread, this is no doubt for you. Get on thist STAT. But, if you are on the fence about banana bread or bananas in general, then we aren't gonna be friends. Kidding! But, maybe try it, since the banana flavor isn't super intense. The natural sugars in the bananas get all caramelized and delicious, and are enhanced by some of my favorite baking ingredients: virgin coconut oil, buckwheat groats, maple syrup, cinnamon, sunflower seeds and nuts. I love to add freshly grated nutmeg on top of that, too. Gotta have nutmeg...

    Now, a word on nuts (haha): I have made this with both walnuts and cashews, and both are lovely. The cashews give it a more tropical flare (I like to think of it as if South Amierca had a love child with the Midwest and produced a granola spawn, this would be it). Although, I think pecans would be out of this world declicious. Seedy things: I think the sunflower seeds are perfect, pairing well with any nut you choose, but could also see pepitas being lovely as well. What is that you say? You want to use honey? Eh, I think the maple syrup is critical here...honey browns too quickly, and the flavors kinda combat the coconut for me. But, you do you, just watch your 'nola while baking if you use honey. Side note: I wonder how coconut nectar would be in there? Hmm...Also, cacao nibs...and peanuts...a solid suggestion from my bae...he always has good ideas! Because bananas + peanuts = Elvis-like granola...right? And chocolate is always a good idea! You could even toss in some dark chocolate chips/chunks after this stuff cools from baking. Not a bad move...you smarty pants! 

    So, happy days to you...happy almost summer....and happy breakfast or snacking or heck, dessert-ing with this amazing, nourishing treat! Eat with your favorite yogurt (cow or plant based), on ice cream, on frozen yogurt, on top of your favorite smoothie or smoothie bowl, on top of pancakes, or just plain, right out of the jar like a savage (I do that, a lot). Fuel to fire your summer adventures. Yes!ps: homemade granola makes an excellent gift...so...consider that! The recipe could easily be doubled, but you'd need one big ass bowl and two half sheet trays or one full sheet tray to bake. Cheers!



    Banana Bread Granola // Makes about 9-10 cups, so 18-20 1/2 cup servings //

    • 3 large bananas, very ripe to very-very ripe
    • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup (I love using Grade B here, but A works beautifully as well)
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 4 tsp cinnamon (original calls for 2 tsp)
    • freshly grated nutmeg
    • 3 cups (300g) rolled oats (not instant!)
    • 1 1/2 cups (65g) large-flake coconut flakes (I imagine small flake/shredded works, too)
    • 1 cup (185g) raw buckwheat groats (not kasha)
    • 1/2 cup (70g) seeds of choice, such as sunflower or pepitas
    • 1 heaping cup (140 to 160g) raw walnuts, raw cashews or other raw nut of choice, crushed (or, to make nut free, just add more of your favorite seeds!)
    • Optional: 1/4 cup ground flax seeds or whole chia seeds

    1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Mash the bananas in a large bowl, and mix in the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.

    2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, make sure the mixture is thoroughly combined. Spread onto a lined cookie sheet, using parchmnet or silpat (optional, but easier to clean and to also release the granola into large chunks).

    3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the granola begins to brown. Using a large spatula, turn over the granola in large chunks, then re-distribute in an even layer, slightly pressing down. Bake for another 10 minutes, then turn again. Do this twice more, keeping an eye on the granola to make sure it is not burning in the last 10 or so minutes. For ultimate chunks, when the granola is golden brown, simply turn the oven heat off, crack the oven door about half-way, and let the granola sit in there until completely cool (or, ideally, overnight!). The granola may still feel just slightly damp when it is golden brown, but rest assured, if you leave it in the oven with the heat off to cool with the door cracked open, it will dry out and firm up. If you think your granola is on the brink of being too brown, then just take out and cool at room temperature, without stirring it. If you stir it, your chunk size distribution will be reduced. 

    4. Once completely cool, break up granola in desired chunks, and store in an airtight container or bag at room temp for up to 1 month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 



    The stuff:

    Peel, smash, mix mix mix...doesn't really get easier!Mix in all the good stuff....oh yeah...More good stuff...if you eat stuff out of the bowl be sure to add more. Just eat out of the bulk bag instead maybe?Stir stir stir...lots of stirring...Onto a sheet, spread it out, pat it down slightly, and into a hot oven. Amazing smells await!And done! Wow. So very worth it. Glorious chunky and crunchy granola rubble. You win!!

  • Rhubarb and Buckwheat Scones

    Alright. Spring is officially upon us, and we have the produce to show for it. We also have spring cleaning to show for it (there have been a few updates around these parts...check out the cleaned up recipe page as well as about/contact page!).

    Rhubarb always marks the start of spring and summer for me...it conjures up memories of sweet-yet-tangy rhubarb crisp my grandma would make, and serve with that big bucket of vanilla-flavored ice cream, usually purchased from Pick N' Save or Kwik Trip (ahem, those empty ice cream buckets come in useful: storage for tupper ware lids, containers for picking berries, and a place to store your raisin filled cookies from grandma around the holidays).The smell of cut rhubarb takes me back to walking into my grandma's garage and kitchen in early summer. Kinda funky. Kinda musky. Earthy. Not without the flare of cow manure, and perhaps some fermenting apple notes, too. I love this smell, and it will always, always take me back to running around the farm when I was little, along with my sister and cousins. Barefoot and fancy-free. We had the world figured out...that is, until grandma told us it was time to feed the chickens....

    But after, oh but after, we'd always get a treat. The process filling up the 5-gallon pails with water in the milkhouse, putting them in a wagon, and sloppily-rolling them to the chicken coop...spilling water all over our feet in the process, then negotiating with the clucking hens, was a fun one. Exchanging food and water for eggs, usually still warm from the hens sitting on them. Yep, school was out, and it was summer. And that was usually the time grandma would have a pan of rhubarb crisp out, ready to serve with that big bucket of vanilly ice cream, after feeding the chickens. Ok, ok. This isn't rhubarb crisp. These are rhubarb scones, with buckwheat flour, since didn't ya know these guys are in the same botanical family? It was a natural pairing in my mind. Along with organic cultured butter, organic cane sugar, and homemade almond milk. As scones should, they come together in a flash, and bake up craggly-topped with crunchy sugar. Eaten very early while the wind still has the night chill in it, with a hot cup of coffee, these scones help usher in summer in a very laid-back but indulgent way. The lemon zest and nutmeg in these pair so well with the nutty buckwheat flour and tangy, sharp rhubarb. And I suppose you could use some other fat instead of butter, say, organic virgin coconut oil, but I haven't tried this yet. And, what is more: you can make a batch (or two...), freeze, wrap scones individually and then bake strait from the freezer a week, a month or two months down the road when you really just need a buttery scone to pair with your morning coffee. 

    So, whatcha waiting for? I bet you can still find some rhubarb in your neighbor's yard, or at your local farmer's market. Get on these...you won't be sorry. 

    Lightly adapted from the Bojon Gourmet and Food52. 



    Rhubarb and Buckwheat Scones // makes 8 scones // nut-free; soy-free

    • 3 large stalks rhubarb, about 2 to 2 ½ cups (200-250g), sliced into ¼” to ⅓ ” thickness
    • 1 TB sugar
    • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour (150g)
    • 1 ¼ cup buckwheat flour (178g)
    • 1 TB baking powder (12g)
    • ½ tsp sea salt (3g)
    • ¼ cup sugar (minus 1 TB from above = 39g)
    • Freshly grated nutmeg
    • Zest of ½ large lemon
    • 1 stick butter, cut into small-ish chunks, very cold (straight from fridge)
    • ¾ cup almond milk or cream/moo milk, plus 1 TB for brushing tops
    • 4 tsp demerara sugar, or coconut sugar, for sprinkling on top of scones
    1. Toss the rhubarb with 1 TB of the sugar and lemon zest, let sit while you get on with the recipe. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and nutmeg together.

    2. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using pastry cutter, or, use your fingers. Butter chunks should be about the size of peas, with some a little larger and a little smaller. Using your hands at the very end to rub the butter between your fingers and thumbs to create sheets of butter is a good move, but not necessary.

    3. Stir in the rhubarb, and then the almond milk ¼ cup at a time, drizzling over the dry flour bits. Mix briefly, but confidently, until no dry patches remain. The dough will be messy and craggly-that is what you want. Turn out the mess onto a lightly floured board, gather the dough, incorporate with a turn or two to get dry patches moistened by the rest of teh dough. Then, pat into a 6” disc that is 1.5” high.

    4. Cut into 8 triangles, and place on a lined sheet tray. Freeze for 45 minutes (or, freeze all the way, wrap individually once firm, place in a bag or container and bake off as directed when desired).

    5. Preheat oven to 425F. When heated, take scones from freezer, brush with almond milk, and sprinkle each with ½ tsp demerara sugar.

    6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and fragrant. Frozen scones may need a minute or two more. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy! Scones are best eaten the day-of, but can be revived in a warm oven a day or two later. 



    The stuff you'll need. You may be half asleep, but that is the perfect time to scuff about and make scones. Before anyone else is up. Just as the sun is getting into place...this is the time for scones (and also a cup of coffee...).Chop that rhubarb..psst...you can use a kitchen scissors for this...save the cutting board and knife. Toss with bit of sugar and lemon zest. Let sit...get the juices flowing.Sift the dry stuff into a big bowl...Cut up the cold butter. Chunks of fat. Nothing but the best. Add the milk...make a shaggy mess. Don't freak out. You've got this. Just a scone. They are like the sloths of the pastry world...chill, a little fuzzy around the edgest, slow moving. Wait, what? You get it. Just don't over mix the dough. K?Pat into a disc, divide into 8 geometric-like shapes.Disperse! Freeze for 45 min.Brush, sprinkle, bake. Wait. Brew more coffee. Preheat oven.Bake! Admire the craggly top of crisp sugar. Dunking into coffee is not required, but recommended. Cheers!

  • 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. 



     

  • Cozy Cream of Millet and Broccoli Soup

    Alriiiiiiight. We get it, Wisconsin. It is cold. It is NOT spring *yet*. Winter is gonna hold on as long as it can. But that is ok.

    We have warm, creamy, cozy soups to warm our toes, hearts and souls. Well, not literally, but you get the idea. 

    When I was little, my mom would make this creamy broccoli-cheddar-rice soup thing...pretty sure she may have used a sneaky soup mix for some of this...but I don't blame her. It tasted good, filled up her two hungry monsters (me and my sister), and hey...it had real broccoli in it. So, she won, we won, everyone was happy.Fast forward: still a fairly pantry-friendly soup, and sans dairy. Bulked up with millet (but rice will work, too-you choose! Either white or brown I think would be great as well), potatoes, finely cut up carrots, and finally swirled to creamy, comforting perfection with cashew cream. Soak your grains the night before, or not. Your call. I did soak my millet overnight, since my digestion has been on the fritz lately...but you do you.Don't have cashew cream? Or have a raging nut allergy (ha, that sounds funny)? Well, feel free to do what you gotta do...if you have half and half or heavy cream, a little splash of that will work too. Watching your kcals? Well...I dunno. Go run a few miles? This is winter. Deal. Or fine, you can just omit the whole cream thing, too. The soup is equally as tasty, and nourishing...and by pureeing a few cups of it, the starch from the potatoes do their magic...and mimic the texture of cream. So, WE ALL WIN.Inspired by two lovely ladies, and their recipes, I have suite this recipe for my tastes. Angela makes a separate nooch-based sauce, and Gena used quinoa for a protein-punch in hers. As always, make this for YOU, and make it suite your preferences and needs. To streamline, you can totally cook your grain of choice, and make the cashew cream if using, a day ahead of time. 

    Cozy up with your favorite blanket, and enjoy a big bowl (or two!) of this soup until Spring gets her head out of her ass, and shows up for us....cheers!



    Cream of Broccoli and Millet Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes several, about 6, hearty servings //

    • 1 lb (about 6 cups) broccoli florest and peeled/diced stems of the broccoli
    • 2 medium to large russet potatoes, or 5-6 yukon gold potatoes, about 2 to 3 cups
    • 2 TB sunflower oil or olive oil or coconut oil
    • 1 large onion, chopped small
    • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4" thick 
    • 4 cloves garlic, diced 
    • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
    • 1 tsp sea salt - to taste
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • dash cayenne pepper (optional)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 cups cooked millet (made from 1 cup dried millet) or other grain or choice (quinoa, rice, etc)
    • a few spoonfuls, about 1/4 cup or 4 TB cashew cream (recipe below), or other creamy ingredient of choice, or simply omit if you're feeling lazy and/or don't care
    • 1 to 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice - to taste
    • optional: 1 to 2 tsp miso, lighter variety, such as chickpea
    • to garnish: freshly chopped parsely, cashew cream, paprika, toasted pepitas, homemade croutons, a hunk of bread....whatever your heart desires!

    1. Cook the millet (or whatever grain you wish ): if desired, soak quinoa, millet or other grain overnight in water to cover by 1" to 2". Drain, and cook the grain. For 1 cup soaked millet, use 1 1/3 cups water. Bring water to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt, add drained millet, lower heat and cook with a lid on for 15 minutes. Check for doneness by check for excess water by sticking a fork through the grains, and take a peek at the bottom of the pan. If additional water remains, cook for another 5 minutes. Once done, allow to rest 15 minutes, and fluff with a fork. Millet or other grain can be made up to 2 days in advance. 

    2. To make the soup, chop all your veggies. This can be done up to 1 day in advance. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot and garlic. Sautee until soft and fragrant, about 7-10 minutes. Add the potatoes, broccoli, paprika, thyme, cayenne (if using) and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to heat through, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf, and taste....if you need to, add more salt. You want to cook your vegetables in well-seasoned stock, so, adjust as needed. Place a lid on, and cook until the whole lot is tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

    3. Meanwhile, make your cashew cream (alternatively, make this a day or two ahead of time): soak 1 cup of raw cashews overnight, or soak for 10 minutes in hot water. Drain, rinse once, and add to a blender with a dash of salt, squeeze lemon juice or a splash of apple cider vinegar, and 4 TB water. Puree until smooth, adding a TB or two of water to help blend if needed. Adjust salt and acid as desired.

    4. Once the vegetables are tender, transfer 2 or so cups into a blender. Add the nutritional yeast, and puree until smooth and creamy. Return this mixture to the pot. Stir in the cashew cream, cooked grain and adjust seasoning with the lemon or apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

    5. Heat through if needed, and then serve as desired. Enjoy!



    Ok, who else thinks that millet looks like perlite fertilizer? Anyone? I know you're out there....admit it!

    Veggies all cooked and cozy...It is indeed getting hot in here....Creamy all by itself without the cashew cream, the starchy potatoes work their magic...but for us fatties out there, the cashew cream takes it over the top....mmm.......You know what to do...dig in!!!

  • Golden Milk + Latte (aka: sunshine in a cup)

    Ok, I am very much aware that the golden milk craze was circa 2014. But, seeing that I am still in love with the 1950s-1970s, especially when it comes to music and fashion, I clearly give a rats ass less about trends. 

    I do remember, I think it was 2 years ago, when my sister was visiting in January for a cousin's wedding that I started to play around with this "golden milk" situation. I used fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, and sweetened the lot with honey. I recall I used almond milk, likely from Trader Joe's as I was shopping there quite frequently during grad skool. The results were...tasty...but I wasn't sold. I also think my last jaunt into the golden milk ring was marked by a massive boil-over, and subsequently, a curdled, yellow, ginger-flecked mass was adhered to my stove top. I was not amused, so I called it quits...but really, that was totally my fault...

    So here we are, 2017...and I am loving the golden milk as well as a concoction to serve my caffeine/coffee addict: golden milk latte! My go-to milk is now a homeade coconut milk, made with only two (very easy to find and shelf stable) ingredients: dried unsweeted coconut and water. So, there. 

    The only other things you need to procure at your local cooperative or grocery store are turmeric powder, ginger powder, maca, cinnamon, black pepper, sea salt. That is it, my friends. You measure into a jar, stir/shake, get turmeric EVERYWHERE and love all those cute little sunshine-yellow stains on your counter. But in all seriousness, turmeric is a natural dye and it WILL stain the shit out of anything in comes into contact with, so be careful, k?

    For the latte-ist version, I like to brew half a cup of strong, strong coffee with my pour over, or pull a doppio with my ROK espresso machine. Using 1/2 a cup of strongly brewed coffee using any method works, too. Meanwhile, I steep the coconut milk, a spoonfull of local and raw honey, and a heaping teaspoon of the spice mixture until steamy hot. I then pour the sunny lot into my Vitamix, blend the crap out of it to froth, and pour over my hot coffee. To make just the golden milk, you can simply omit the coffee part, and up the milk to 1 1/2 cups. I would still recommend blending to froth-you deserve that ritual (annnnd I find that spices clump, due to their extremely small particle size and high surface area, when added to water-based liquids, so blending also ensures a smooth beverage free of spicy clumps). You will notice some settling of the spices, regardless of blending or not. 

    So enjoy, either with or witout coffee, or heck...with the high temperatures most us had last week, you may even enjoy this in an iced version! In addition here are some other ideas to use the spice blend:

    • a teaspoon or two into your oatmeal while cooking
    • a teaspoon or so into chia pudding
    • make a golden milk smoothie: using 1 cup coconut milk, 1 large frozen banana, 1 date, and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture; blend until smooth and enjoy.
    • granola! The answer is always granola. Add in a teaspoon or two into your granola pre-bake. Yum yum!
    • kombucha: try adding a 1/2 tsp per liter for the second ferment for a fun flavor infusion (ps: going to try this soon!)
    • add a teaspoon to pancake batter....because why not?
    • swirl a sprinkle into yogurt, top with honey and granola, and enjoy! Or, swirl a sprinkle into/onto your favorite smoothie bowl...

    Notes: the maca powder is completely optional in my opinion, but, being very loosely adapted from Oh Lady Cakes over here, I was inspired to include it. Also, FYI: maca is a cruciferous root, famed as "Peruvian Ginseng", with many (mostly anecdotal, i.e., not supported by legit clinical trials/research) benefits. The flavor is kinda malty/grainy, but in such a low dose, I doubt you'll be able to taste it in this mixture. In addition, I would encourage you to look into how piperine AND fat influences (increases) absorbtion of curcuminoids, as well as the general process of glucoronidation. Because really, I am not satisfied when I read blogs and see "be sure to put a pinch of black pepper when using turmeric to absorb all of the benefits". I gotta know why! So, empower yourself, and click here and here to read two sources that I thought did a great job at summarizing some biochemistry-heavy concepts.

    Cheers!



    Golden Milk // makes about 1/2 cup of mix, enough for about 20 golden milks or lattes // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free (don't use soy milk!); nut-free (don't use a nut milk!); oil-free; refined sugar free

    • 4 TB turmeric, the ground and dried variety
    • 2 TB cinnamon
    • 1 TB maca powder
    • 2 tsp ground dried ginger
    • heaping 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • a few gratings of fresh nutmeg, or scant 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • optional: small pinch of fine sea salt
    • For the golden milk: 1 1/2 cup milk of choice (I use coconut that is homemade from blending 1 cup organic dried coconut with 4 cups hot water, blending the crap out of it, and straining it through my nutmilk bag), 1 heaped tsp of the spice mixture, 1 TB raw honey (local is best!) or maple syrup
    • For the golden milk latte: 1/2 cup of coffee or 1 doppio espresso, 1 cup of milk of choice, 1 heaped tsp of the spice mixture, 1 TB raw honey (local is best!) or maple syrup

    1. Place all the ingredients into a jar (I found that a widemouth half pint worked well) or another container with a lid. If you use plastic, be aware that the turmeric will stain it. Combine, and then mix/shake until everything homogenously combined. Mix will keep for a few months with a tight lid in a dark, cool place.

    2. To make the golden milk, heat the 1 1/2 cups milk, honey/mapel syrup, and the 1 heaped tsp of spice mixture over low-medium heat. Blend with a blender or immersion blender, and serve once frothy. 

    3. To make the golden milk latte, simply pour the golden milk mixture (step 2, but using only 1 cup of the milk) over 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee or a doppio espresso. Enjoy immediately! Repeat!



    Sun in a cup. You deserve this, everyday. 

  • 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!

  • Super Simple (and flexible) Spelt Focaccia

    I'm allllll about the simple lately. Down-sizing. Getting rid of stuff. Minimizing. I think moving for the third time within a 6 month time span does that to a person...

    So, don't throw your shit in my (proverbial) backyard...but, you may show up to my apartment with freshly baked goods and/or coffee. Edible material goods acceptable, since they are a) easily stored away in my belly, and b) easy to re-generate. 

    What is more....we are in (what I think is) the coldest month on winter...which means we are also wading our way through soup season. Ultimately, that leads us to wanting something carb-y and sponge-y to soak up our soup while shoveling spoonfuls of hot, nourishing goodness into our faces.

    Enter: this simple spelt focaccia. Too lazy to go out and buy bread? This one is for you. Have a bunch of herbs awaiting their fate in the crisper? Perfect application. Bought too much spelt flour last weekend? Done.

    Requiring just 1 bowl, 5 ingredients (plus any add-ins you choose), and about 10 minutes of active time (minus eating), you really have no excuse to not try this. It also freezes really well, with a quick thaw in the toaster or in a warm oven being your ticket to warm, carbohydrate goodness. Bonus: you can mix the dough up sans mixer (and I know you have at least one large bowl and a wooden spoon!), and let it sit either for a few hours at room temperature, OR you can mix this up one day, cover it, and let it sit in the fridge overnight for even better flavor. It is up to you. And how fabulous is that?

    Allow yourself to be creative with what you wish to mix in or top this simple bread with. Some ideas are:

    • Freshly chopped herbs, like thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley and dill
    • Toasted walnuts
    • Whole or chopped olives
    • Shreds of parmesan cheese, or hunks of goat cheese
    • Roasted or sundried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped
    • Roasted red peppers
    • Caramelized onions
    • Slices or minced fresh garlic, or poke cloves of roasted garlic into the top of the dough pre-bake
    • Sea salt (I love the large flakes of Maldon on top of this baked bread!), cracked black pepper

    Sooo...there you go. You can make your own bread, and eat it, too! 



    Simple Spelt Focaccia // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free option (just don't put nuts as an add-in)// Makes one roughly 9" by 13" free-form focaccia //

    • 450g or 4 cups spelt flour (I typically use whole spelt flour for the nutty flavor and hearty texture, but white spelt works, too)
    • 7g or 1 packet (1 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
    • 425 mL (or 425g) water (this is roughly scant 1 3/4 cups), 125 mL (3/4 cup) being freshly boiled and 300 mL (1 cup) being freshly boiled, or just use warm water (105F to 110F)
    • 2 TB olive oil, plus a little more for greasing your hands when handling the dough 
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB honey, maple syrup, agave OR sugar
    • Optional add-ins as desired

    1. In a large bowl, add the hot and cold waters (the aim is to get to warm water that is ideal for "proving" your yeast is viable), the liquid sweetener or cane sugar, and yeast. Mix with a fork or whisk to combine. Allow to proof for 10 minutes until bubbly and foamy. If the mixture is not bubbly after this time, start-over with fresh yeast. 

    2. Sift the spelt flour and sea salt into the same bowl. Add the olive oil. Mix with the same mixing tool you used to stir the yeast mixture, or use a large wooden spoon to stir the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes to incorporate everyting. The mixture will be a bit sticky and moist, but this makes for a spongey, tender bread. This would now be the time to fold in any add-ins you desire if you plan on baking the focaccia the same day. Take care to not over-mix any delicate things, like goat cheese, or simply plan to poke/plop them on top of the focaccia right before baking (see step 4).

    3. Allow the mixture to sit, covered, until doubled, usually about 1 hour in a moderately warm kitchen. Alternatively, you can cover the bowl with a more air-resistant lid like plastic wrap or a loose fitting lid, and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. 

    4. When ready to bake, flour a baking sheet with spelt. You could also use a parchment lined-sheet or silpat-lined sheet, but also sprinkle with spelt. Pour the dough onto the sheet, and using oiled hands, gently coax the dough into a free-form shape that is roughly 9" x 13". Sprinkle with additional add-ins or delicate mix-ins, gently poking them into the surface to adhere to the dough while baking. Pre-heat the oven to 375F, and allow the focaccia to rise once more as the oven pre-heats, usually 20-30 minutes. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the focaccia has baked to form a crisp crust on the top and bottom (you can check this by sliding a thin spatula under the focaccia). Allow to cool completely, and cut into desired sizes and shapes. Store extra focaccia in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freezer for up to 1 month. 



    Herbs! I used what I had around: fresh thyme and rosemary. Is as that. Rustic, sticky, flavorful and flexible. But most importantly, so very tasty!Bake, bake, bake...if you're feeling fancy and are planning on eating the whole damn thing in one sitting (no judgemet!), you could brush on some olive oil or even some garlic-infused olive oil. The options are endless, and the road always leads to tasty, tasty carbohydrates...so you cannot lose!Enjoy! 

  • 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!

  • My Favorite (and flexible!) Sunflower Mac n' Cheeze!

    Here we are! 2017. Highly anticipated. Much looked forward to. Our feet are to the floors, and we are rockin' and rollin'.

    We are looking for meanings. For purpose. For new jobs. We are trying to learn Portuguese, learning to bake better bread at home (because WTF Beloit, you need a bakery), and re-learning how to make puff pastry (because WTF Beloit, you need a bakery).

    We are poised for tomorrow, looking ahead. We aren't going for perfection, but satisfaction and happiness. And what is satisfaction and happiness on a cold, cold January day/evening? Carbs. And nourishing, stick-to-your-ribs-but-not-your-arteries sunflower mac and cheeze. Approved by a taste-discerning Brazilian, a family of cheese-lovers, and former dairy mac-and-cheese addict (my hand is raised).The base: soaked raw sunflowers. The cheese-factor: nutritional yeast. The savory and kinda sweet players that enhance the cheese-like goodness: sauteed onions, garlic and carrots; roasted red peppers OR tomato paste OR oil packed sundried tomatoes (one of those is a must here, trust me); tamari or liquid aminos or shoyu; light miso (I like to use chickpea miso from South River; dijon mustard; paprika; sea salt. And finally, the hint of tang: lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.Yep, that list is a little long, BUT so worth it. And odds are, you have most of those things in your pantry right now. I will forgive you if you don't have the miso, but everything else needs to be present, ok?

    Once you remember to soak the sunflower seeds, you are seriously half-way there. And a word on the roasted red pepper/tomato paste/oil packed sundried tomato requirement: this element is, in my opinion, essential. It gives you that naturally sweet, yet tangy and savory, and earthy, quality that I think is present in all mac and cheeze that is worth eating. I have made this sunflower mac with all three, and all three satisfied my aforementioned requirements. So, you pick! And if you need to remember how to roast red peppers, see here or here.

    Bonuses, because we can be flexible AND satisfy our cravings: 

    1) you can prepare a double batch of this sauce, and freeze any portion for a quick meal in the future. Thaw sauce in microwave or in a saucepan over low-medium heat, boil pasta while sauce heats, wilt greens in the same water that the pasta is cooking in (removing once wilted or tender), and then mix the whole works in the same pot, topping with extra 'nooch, sea salt, nutmeg, paprika and lots of toasted pepitas. 

    2) leftover chili, but sick of chili? Make a batch of sun mac sauce, mix several spoonfulls in your chili as you reheat it in a pot. Boil some of you favorite pasta, mix into chili-mac mixture, and boom-chili mac! You can amp-up the spices if you wish, and I usually do so by adding a dash of cumin, chili powder and sprinkle of cayenne. Serve with tortilla chips, avocado, hot sauce and lotsa 'nooch on top for a hearty, satisfying bowl of goodness.

    3) broccoli, kale, hearty greens galore! Need a sauce to amplify your green veggies? Sunflower mac sauce to the rescue. Enough said! A cozy bowl of quinoa, hearty greens and this sauce is perfection on a cold night.

    4) feelin lucky, potluck?: you can easily bake this into a casserole-like situation by mixing the sauce with cooked pasta, and steamed greens, broccoli or peas. You can also sneak in some of your favorie veggie sausages for extra fun, or line the border of the mac with sausage rounds (see picture below; un-solicited veggie sausage recomendation: Tofurkey beer "brats"). Plunk the mixture in your favorite pan, top with toasted pepitas, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, 'nooch and paprika for color. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through, in a warmish oven (~350F), a step that could be completed at your potluck destination if needed. I find that you can safely use 1 pound of pasta for one batch of this sauce for a adequate sauce-to-pasta-and-greens ratio, but please feel free to alter this ratio of sauce:pasta to suite your needs and preferences.

    5) got a gluten-free situation on your hands? Easy. I love this sun mac with either gluten-full or gluten-free pasta, just be sure to pay attention and not over cook your pasta in either case, because no one likes a mushy sun mac. My two favorite gluten-free pastas: Ancient Harvest Quinoa & Corn, and Trader Joe's Brown Rice and Quinoa

    Sooo whatcha waiting for? Get at this...and have a happy, healthy carbohydrate-laden new year! Cheers!



    Sunflower Mac and Cheeze // makes about 6 cups of sauce // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free (use gluten-free pasta & tamari); nut-free; soy-free; sugar-free // 

    • 1 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked in water overnight
    • 1 TB olive oil 
    • 1 small to medium onion, roughly diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and roughly minced
    • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into ~1/2" rounds
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
    • 3 cups vegetable stock or water, plus more to help thin if desired
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, plus more to taste and for serving
    • 2 tsp tamari, shoyu, soy sauce or liquid aminos
    • 1 tsp light miso paste, such as chickpea miso
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard or mustard powder
    • 2 TB tomato paste, or 2-3 medium to large oil-packed sundried tomatoes, or 1 medium to large roasted red pepper (homemade  or oil-packed roasted red peppers only, please!)
    • 1 TB lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg and/or a dash or two of cayenne 
    • for chili mac: you can add a pinch or two more of cumin, chili powder and cayenne if desired
    • for topping: paprika, nutmeg, pepitas, sea salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast
    • for serving/casserole-ing: steamed greens like kale, spinach, broccoli; your favorite veggie sausages cut into rounds
    • your favorite pasta (1 recipe of sunflower mac will accomodate about 1 lb of dry pasta, but please adjust your pasta:sauce ratio as desired)

    1. Soak sunflower seeds overnight. Drain and rinse. Sautee the onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil over medium heat until tender and just starting to brown. Into a blender, add the sunflower seeds, sauteed onions, garlic and carrots, and the remaining ingredients. A high-powered blender, like a Vitamix, will give you the creamiest results, but a conventional blender works, too.

    2. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding extra vegetable stock as needed to puree the mixture. You may need to blend for several minutes to get the sauce smooth. Taste the sauce, and adjust the salt, pepper and seasonings to your tastes, keeping in mind that adding to the pasta will somewhat dilute the flavors (i.e. don't be shy with the seasonings here!).

    3. Prepare pasta, and steam or sautee desired greens. Drain pasta, and mix in desired amount of pasta sauce. Stir in steamed or sauteed greens or broccoli, or frozen peas, and veggie sausage if desired. For extra flavor, you can sautee rounds of veggie sausage in some olive oil in a separate pan until brown. Alternatively, you can mix steamed/sauteed greens, veggie sausage, pasta and sauce together, and then place into a baking dish. Top with pepitas, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika and nutritional yeast. Bake at 350F until warm and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. 

    4. Extra sauce can be refrigeraged for up to 4 days, with liquid separation being totally normal, just stir it back in before use. Alternatively, sauce can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, or gently re-heat in a microwave or in a pan on low-meidum heat. Serve as desired! 



    The goods...creamy, cheeze-y, flavorful and also very nourishing!Prepare as desired. For Christmas, I showed up with a baking dish full of this stuff, and it was a hit. Stirring in a ton of steamed kale, I was a holiday hero. Or at least I thought so! Ha! Enjoy!

  • Winter Hug Buttercup Squash Soup with Herbed Garbanzo Beans, Lemon Tahini Drizzle and Ginger/Chili/Cumin Gomasio

    It is f'ing cold out, guys. As much as I love my vintage wool Macintosh peacoat, I had to respectfully hang it aside this past week...and bust out my Northface (insert small sigh of discontent). 

    Naturally, my mind has meandered to all things hot, including this soup I am sharing with you today. Which features the following to keep you cozy, warm and energized:

    • a ton of fucking (or perhaps a metric fuck ton) squash and sweet potatoes
    • lots of warming spices and garlic to ward of the winter nasties
    • roasty-toasted flavors from roasting the squash
    • carbs and starches, glorious carbs and starches!! But, the natural kind, so they won't make you feel like a zombie after devouring a little/a lot/ a LOT of this soup. And, these natural carbs lend a certain creaminess to the soup that omits the need for cream.
    • bright colors to fight off those dreary winter days...and gray, nasty snow banks along the roads/sidewalks
    • contrasting and coordinating (those are thing, right?) flavors (lemon! sesame! paprika! tahini! maple syrup!)
    • fiber...cause....your pooper needs love, too. 

    Ok, so I have you sold. Right? Well, if not, MORE FOR ME. But if you do decide (and you should) to make this warm and comforting soup, here are few worlds of wisdom, as I realize there are several components to this recipe (all worth it, trust me!).

    You may substitute your favorite winter squash that is bright orange and fleshy here, such as kabocha, butternut or even sugar pumpkin. The sweet potatoes are negotiable, however, double up on the carrots if you choose to not include it. I have been loving locally produced organic sweet potatoes and carrots lately. Check out your natural food co-op to find the goods! As for the gomasio and lemon tahini drizzle, they really do make this soup pop! And bonus: if you have leftovers of either component after you eat all the soup, then you DID IT WRONG. Just kidding. You can store the gomasio in the freezer for up to 2 months in a sealed jar, and use it on top of anything you think you'd like it on: eggs, rice, sauteed greens, your smoothie in the morning (guess which one of those is NOT a good application? I bet you can pick it out if you try). The lemon tahini drizzle is great on pretty much anything, too. It will last for about 1 week i in the fridge in a sealed jar, but it usually never lasts that long around me. So, with that said, I have no data about freezing the lemon tahini drizzle. BONUS: yep, you guessed it-you can freeze this soup for up to 2 months. It makes for a fast meal, either alone or with all the fixin's, on a cold winter day or evening that will warm you form your head to your toes! 

    Get to it! Cheers my friends!



    Winter Hug Buttercup Squash Soup with Herbed Garbanzo Beans, Lemon Tahini Drizzle and Gomasio // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes enough for 6 generous bowl servings, or several more small cup-sized servings //

    For The Soup:

    • 1 large buttercup squash, or other squash of choice (see above), washed, seeded and quartered or cut in half
    • 1 large sweet potato (optional), washed and cut in half
    • Coconut oil or olive oil 
    • Sea salt
    • 1 large onion
    • 3 large cloves garlic
    • 4-5 large carrots (or use 7-8 if omitting sweet potato)
    • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
    • 1-2 tsp mild yellow curry powder
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp Baharat powder (Used Oakland Spice Shop’s mix, but fee free to substitute with a few generous pinches each of cinnamon, paprika, cumin, coriander and nutmeg)
    • 1 TB miso (I used chickpea miso from Soth River)
    • 1-2 TB tamari or shoyu, or use liquid aminos for soy-free (or you may simply omit this altogether)
    • 1 TB apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • 1-2 TB maple syrup
    • Optional: 1 or 2 shakes cayenne pepper

    For The Beans:

    • 2-3 cups garbanzo beans, canned or home cooked 
    • Sea salt to taste
    • heaping ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
    • 2-3 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil

    For The Lemon Tahini Drizzle:

    • ½ cup tahini (freshly made is great here: simply blend 2-3 cups toasted sesame seeds, either hulled or un-hulled, in a high-powdered blender or food processor. Store-bought works just fine, too!)
    • ½ cup lemon juice
    • Water to thin
    • Sea salt to taste
    • 1 tsp maple syrup

    For The Gomasio:

    • ¼  cup unhulled sesame seeds
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • ¼ tsp ground cumin 
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ¼ tsp paprika (I used sweet Hungarian, but use your favorite type)
    1. Prep the squash and sweet potatoes (if using): coat with coconut oil, sprinkle generously with sea salt, and roast the squash at 375F until tender. If using sweet potato, cut in half, coat with coconut oil, and place cut side up. This should take 45-55 minutes, and can be done up to 2 days ahead of time. Cool to the touch.

    2. While squash roasts, roughly dice the onion, peel and smash garlic cloves, cut carrots into rounds ~1” thick. Heat olive oil or coconut oil in a large pot. Add the veggies, and cook over medium until tender and starting to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper. 

    3. Scoop the squash and sweet potato flesh out of their skins and into the pot. Measure all the spices into the pot, and stir, allowing the spices to heat, and become fragrant-this should only take about 30 seconds. Add the stock, and stir, scraping all the bits from the veggies and spices from the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a slow simmer. Cook until everything is tender. Puree using an immersion blender, or in a blender, blending in batches if needed, until smooth. Taste, adjust seasonings. Return back to the pot over low heat.

    4. While the soup simmers, prepare the lemon tahini sauce by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl, and mixing together until smooth. Add water until the consistency is one that is ideal for drizzling. Taste, and adjust salt.

    5. To make the gomasio: toast the sesame seeds in a pan until fragrant. Allow the sesame seeds to cool slightly, then add to a blender/food processor/mortal & pestle, and grind until seeds are about half ground. Add the remaining seasonings, mix, and then store in a glass jar with lid for up to 2 months in the freezer.

    6. Lastly, prepare the chickpeas by tossing all the ingredients together. This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time to allow the chickpeas to marinate.

    7. Serve soup with a big pile of chickpeas, drizzled with lemon tahini mixture, and sprinkled generously with the gomasio.



    All the orange starchey veg...all the time...So worth it...cozy up and enjoy a bowl, or two! Stay warm!

  • 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) (plus, gluten-free sweet potato bread)

    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!

    Did someone say easy gluten-free bluberry muffins?

    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. 

    Wait...did someone also say gluten-free sweet potato or pumpkin bread?! 

    You got it. You can easily substitute the bananas for sweet potato or pumpkin puree. Bump up the milk by 1/3 cup, and if using pumpkin, add 2 TB more honey (or whatever liquid sweetener you'd like to use). I also like to add extra spices with this version: more cinnamon, more nutmeg, more ginger, and shit, even a pinch of cloves....why the hell not? Boom. Multi-tasking like a champ. Ditto with the muffin deal too: you can easily make these as muffins, as prescribed in the blueberry muffin method in this post. I love to top this loaf (or I suppose the muffins, too) with buckwheat groats. They toast up into the most amazingly crunchy topping. 

    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 (or, 2 cups pumpkin or sweet potato puree)
    • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup or maple syrup (adding 2 TB more if using pumpkin puree)
    • 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. 

  • Blogging for Books Review: Food With Friends by Leela Cyd + Polenta Bowls with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Walnuts & Thyme

    Alright, I have started yet another...thing...here. After discovering an amazing organization, Bloging for Books, I knew I had to participate. The cookbook lover in me rejoiced! Fast forward a month or so, getting my first book in the mail, reading it, and making a few recipes from it, I am now ready to review Food With Friends by Leela Cyd.At first glance, what caught my attention was the vibrant nature of this book. The colors and pictures, the words, the food...it all screams "party time!". I mean, even the cover with magenta-stained deviled eggs screams celebration! Anyone who has the ability to make a deviled egg that exciting probably knows a thing or two about entertaining. But, know that wheen Leela says "party!" it doesn't always mean a huge, planned, extravagant gathering. She emphasizes that even the smallest gathering with just a friend or two, or heck, even just YOU, is worth celebrating with tasty, fun, but equally not complicated food. I love that she gives tips about how she personally can afford, both time and money wise, to entertain. She devotes a whole section, "Style File" to this, and for the new-to-entertainer, as well as seasoned party thrower, the tips and tricks she provides are solid. 

    The book is divded into categories: Breakfast & Brunch, Tea Time, Happy Hour, Potlucks & Picnics, Desserts and finally, Tiny Takeaways. Just reading the category names makes you want to entertain! Every section gives recipes to arm a host or hostess with tasty food options that are approachable, fun and not pretentious. It is as if Leela knows that when you want to throw a gathering, you're not going to go ahead, be like Martha, and make crackers from scratch, embark on a recipe that takes 3 days of prep to execute, or go on a multi-city voyage to find a certain ingredient. The point is to not to kill yourself over complicated food, but really to just prepare delicious and easily shared foods that inspire, delight or even thrill guests (and the host/hostess!). However, if there is a recipe that calls for an extra bedazzled step, she justifies her approach and assures that it is worth it for the "wow factor" (example: Sugar Cookies with Edible Flowers, page 55). Regardless, her goal is to keep you sane, happy and well fed, all while having a great time and delighting your guests.

    Leela gives a variety of recipes for those who would need to be gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, etc. Although, this book is not 100% devoted to any diet mantra, so if you're looking for a food entertaining book to suit that need, I wouldn't not suggest Food With Friends, just know that you're not going to find those types of devoted topics in this book. But, as I said before, the inspiration is boundless...and I bet anyone could use their imagination for most of the recipes to make them suit their dietary needs. 

    I really love that fact that she has an entire section devoted to simple treats that would serve as host/hostess gifts (always a good idea!), or simple treats to take with you to a gathering to share. I can personally endorse the Whiskey Pepper Magic Shell (page 189). While this recipe fabulously simple, the wow and taste factors are exceedingly high!

    Overall, if you are looking for a solid book for inspiration, tasty recipes for foods worth and designed for sharing, and some good tips on entertaining, I would absolutely recommend Food With Friends. If you are in the market for a complete guide on how to plan for and execute a party or event, or for a book with all plantbased/vegan/"clean food" recipes for entertaining, I would look elsewhere. Personally, I am very pleased with the book, and look forward to trying more recipes (with modifications to some to suit my needs), as well as Leela's tips for throwing a bash. 

    I have been enjoying her recipe for Polenta With Blistered Tomatoes, Walnuts & Thyme (page 132). As I mentioned above, I made some modifications as I saw fit for my needs and what I had in my kitchen (with these modifications to the ingredients noted in parenthesis). Since really, the end goal is delcious food that will bring you joy and pleasure! Enjoy!



    Polenta With Blistered Tomatoes, Walnuts & Thyme // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; sugar-free; soy-free // makes 4 servings // 

    • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (I used mini San Marzano tomatoes)
    • 1 TB + 1 tsp olive oil (I used organic extra virgin)
    • Sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper
    • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (I omitted these due to not having any on hand)
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup polenta (I used organic polenta)
    • pinch nutmeg
    • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (I used 2 TB nutritional yeast)
    • 1 TB unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance)
    • 1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt (omitted this)
    • Optional add-ints I chose to use: roasted corn & zucchini, kalamata olives, basil pesto, sauteed kale

    1. Preheat oven to 400F. Place walnuts on a baking tray, and tomatoes tossed with the olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and thyme on another sheet tray or in a baking dish. Toast nuts for 7 minutes, and roast the tomatoes for an additional 13 minutes, or until starting to blister and crack, and turn soft. Allow to cool while you get on with the polenta.

    2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil (the original calls for 3 cups), adding a good pinch of sea salt and the nutmeg once boiling. Slowly whisk in the 1 cup of polenta, turning down the heat as necessary to prevent bubbling over. Whisk until the mixture is thick enough where the polenta will not all sink to the bottom and scorch. Turn the heat down to medium-low, stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles slowly. Place a lid on, set a timer for 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, return to the pot, and give it a good stir. Do the same after 10 minute increments for a full 30 minutes. If desired, cook for 40 minutes for an even softer texture. 

    3. At the end of the 30, or 40, minutes, stir in the parman (or nutritional yeast), and butter (or earth balance). You can keep the polenta warm for about 20 minutes with the cover on, but you will need to add a splash of water or vegetable stock and give the thickened polenta a good stir over heat to get it to scooping consistency again. Serve, topping with the blistered tomatoes, toasted walnuts, and whatever else you may desire. Enjoy immediately! If you have leftover polenta, spread it out on a lightly grease baking sheet, cover, refrigerate, and enjoy slices topped with leftover toppings the next day!



    The fixins', including the roasted cherry tomatoes and walnuts. I found having all of these toppings ready made for a really fun, easy way to share the polenta! Like a taco bar...but with polenta bowls...Close up...cause they are super pretty and tasty! The roasting concentrates the tomatoe flavor and natural sweetness. Don't forget to get all that juicy, thick tomato goo off the roasting pan! It is like tomato caramel sauce!Polenta...in a bag...pretty fun stuff! Really, it is! After cooking, it becomes a blank canvas onto which you can top as you please. Perfect for a group!Scoop cooked polenta into bowls, and top as desired! Enjoy!I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review, and highly recommend the program for anyone who loves to read new books on a frequent basis!

  • 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'

  • 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! 

  • Favorite Lentil Salad

    I heard that 2016 is the international year of the pulse. Check yours: are you still alive? Just kidding!! I really hope you are still with us, since the lentil salad I am going to share is KILLER (See what I did there?? Too heavy? Ok, ok...enough with the bad jokes).

    But in all honesty, I have been making this lentil salad once a week ever since returning from visiting my sister in California at the end of February. My sister made it while I was visiting, and it was so dang good! Paired with roasted or steamed beets, crunchy fennel and toasted California walnuts, it was a memorable salad for sure. All the spices in this lentil salad just work. Don't be scared-just do it! 

    Bonus: you can prepare the lentils a few days ahead of time, and let them marinate in the supremely flavorful dressing. Have the lentils around for quick and simple week day lunches or dinners-it really isn't easier. In addition, you can roast/steam beets and prepare the crunchy fennel ahead of time, too. Everything will last a few days in the fridge, wtih the lentils being a-ok up to 1 week. 

    Don't have beets? Don't particularly like fennel (uh, what is wrong with you? Jk jk...)? Allergic to nuts? Simply substitute your favorite things instead. Roast or steam another root veggie (carrots! sweet potatoes! aspargus!), make a crunchy slaw out of another flavorful fresh veggie (red cabbage!), and toast up a seed of choice (pepitas! sunflower seeds!). Keep them all in containers in your fridge, and you're poised for salad time, you salad boss. Cool, right??Want a more salad-y affair? Serve over spinach or your favorite lefy green. The dressing on the lentils is plentiful, full of spices and rich extra virgin olive oil, so a simple squeeze of fresh lemon and sprinkle of sea salt will do the trick to dress the greens. However, if you're super ambitious, you can whip up a lemon-tahini dressing (check out mine here, which is also a post on how to steam beets in your oven), and have another option to keep things tasty, but simple, during the week.

    Ok, enough talking! Let us go to salad town (HA! See what I did there?! Let us....lettuce...and salad town?? I swear, I am done with the crappy word play jokes now!). 

    PS: if you're interested in reading about my new adventures in home kombucha brewing, head over the the 'Booch and Bees section at the top of your page! :) Also, the lentil salad recipe is inspired by, and lightly adapted, from the "The Best Lentil Salad Ever" recipe in My New Roots by Sarah Britton. LOVE the book, and her blog, so check both out ASAP!

    Notes: do NOT use regular green or brown lentils here-you MUST use either de puy (French green) or black beluga lentils. You want the mineral-y taste, and you also really need the lentils to retain their shape, not turn to mush once cooked. You can easily source either de puy or beluga lentils from your local food cooperative (like the Willy Street Coop) or Whole Foods in the bulk aisle. And I don't need to tell you to not use canned lentils, right? To speed the cooking process and enhance the digestion of the lentils, soak them overnight in a big bowl with enough water to cover the lentils by 2". The soaking step is optional, but regardless, monitor your lentils during cooking (i.e. set a timer!), as the cooking time in your kitchen will be different from mine. This recipe is no good with mushy, over-cooked lentils, people! You want the lentils to retain some bite, but also be cooked all the way through, since no one likes to digest an under-cooked lentil (am I right?). Since cooking time may vary, start with cooking for 12-15 minutes, taste and add time as needed. The lentils *should* take between 15-20 minutes total to cook. ONE LAST THING: despite all the verbiage, this salad is SIMPLE. If all the spices scare you and/or you don't have them on hand, simply hit up a bulk aisle with spices, and purchase small quantities to start with. 



    The Best Lentil Salad // makes about 5 cups of lentil salad // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free; nut-free // 

    Lentils:

    • 2 to 2 1/4 cups de puy or beluga lentils
    • water, enough to cover the lentils in the cooking pan by 3"-4"

    Dressing & Other Add-Ins:

    • 4-6 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 TB apple cider vinegar, using a high-quality cultured variety, such as Braggs, when possible
    • 1 TB maple syrup, agave or honey
    • 1 TB dijon mustard, the smooth and spicy variety (no lie, I use Trader Joe's brand and love the stuff)
    • 2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
    • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
    • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin (freshly toasted whole cumin seeds, ground to a powder, are amazing here, but use what you have in your spice arsenal)
    • 1/2 heaped tsp ground turmeric
    • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
    • pinch ground cloves
    • pinch to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, using more if you like it spicy, and dial it back for sensitive taste buds
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • a frew gratings of nutmeg 
    • 1 cup raisins, chopped into smaller pieces, or simply use currants instead for their smaller size
    • Optinoal: a big handful parsley, chopped fine
    • Optional (not in the photos): 1/3 cup salt-packed or brined capers, rinsed or soaked for 5-10 minutes in cold water and drained
    • Optional (not in the photos): 1 small to medium red onion, diced into similar size pieces as the raisins/currants

    Some (My Favorite) Serving Suggestion:

    • Steamed or roasted beets
    • Freshly toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces
    • 1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced and tossed with a pinch of sea salt, squeeze of lemon, and 1-2 TB chopped fennel fronds
    • Leafy greens, with spinach being my favorite here
    • Additonal extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt/Maldon

    1. Sort through the lentils for foreign matter (like small stones), and rinse. Soak overnight with 2" excess water covering the lentils in a large bowl, or simply thoroughly rinse the lentils if you are cooking them right away. If you soak the lentils, be sure to give them a good rinse before cooking as well. 

    2. Cook the lentils (can be done up to 2 days ahead of time): in a large pot, add the lentils and enough water to cover them by 3" to 4". Place a lid on, and bring to a good simmer over medium-high heat. Once a good simmer is reached, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and set a timer for 10-12 minutes. Taste for doneness, and add a few more minutes to the cook time as needed. The goal is a cooked, but not mushy, lentil that still retains its shape and some bite. Once cooked, remove from the heat, drain the cooking water off, and rinse with cool water one or two times to remove excess starch and stop the cooking process. Set aside, or place in the fridge in a covered container until ready to prepare the salad.

    3. Prepare the dressing: simply combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or container you wish to store the lentil salad in. Glass or non-porous material is recommended, as the spices and turmeric will flavor and color taint otherwise. Thoroughly whisk to combine all the spices, maple syrup/honey, and cider vinegar. When ready, simply combine the lentils, the dressing, parlsey and the onions (if using). Lentils will keep for up to 1 week, in a covered container, in the fridge. 

    4.  Give the lentils a good stir to distribute the dressing, and then if desired, serve with veggies, nuts/seeds, and leafy greens, as well a squeeze of lemon, drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. However, the lentils themselves make for a delicious salad or side dish. The lentils cand be served cold, or at room temperature. 



    Oh yeah...the dressing. This mixture is powerful, and likely has other super powers beyond tasting amazing.All mixed up...ahoo hooo (Elvis voice there, please)Choppin' up the raisins, or you could simply use currants, but I had these California raisins from my visit with my sister. Also, the bowl (and all the fun pottery/ceramic that you see, for the most part) is handmade by my aunt Karen. This is the first black/white/gray piece of hers that I have, and I am loving it!

    Ok, almost done...Mix, mix, mix...Beets, fennel...whatever floats your boat. I just really love the beets and fennel here...Fennel, it does a body good! Seriously. Get on eating this amazing veg!And...done. Your work is well worth it, as now you have a fabulous salad for the next few days to enjoy. Pat yourself on the back, cause it is delicious and great for you, too.Yes!

  • Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

    I love chocolate. What else do I love? A simple, delicious and quick chocolate dessert that can be made in advance, and spiced-up as you please.Enter: this amazing two-ingredient chocolate mousse recipe, which I lightly adapted from Oh Lady Cakes. I know, French-cuisine purists are turning up their noses. And everyone else is like "ok...keep going...". So I am going to keep going with this. Trust the process, with this recipe, cause it works. And rest assured, if you mess it up, you can totally start ALL OVER, which is (unfortunately) not an option with traditional chocolate mousse. Basically, you rely on the fact that when you melt and then cool chocolate, the cocoa butter solidifies. You cool a chocolate-almond milk mixture down to an optimal temperature to produce a viscosity that enables tiny air bubbles to be trapped into the chocolate mixture as you aerate it by whisk or hand mixer. The product is a light, airy mousse that is intensely chocolate-y. Top with your favorite whipped cream, either the moo kind or coconut kind, and you have yourself a simple, yet decadent treat. Even better: you can make the mousse up to 2 days ahead, topping with whipped cream while you serve it, either to your eager chocolate-loving self or guests. Put out a bowl of cocoa beans or pre-shelled cacao nibs, and you have a crunchy contrast to enjoy as a garnish. Or just eat it as-is....totally acceptable. Thanks, Ashlae for the awesome recipe and technique-it is a true winner! Notes: I used 3oz 100% cacao and 3oz 70% Organic Chocolate (a bar from Trader Joe's, but please use the best quality, most responsibly sourced chocolate you can get your hands on for this). The product was SUPER intense and slightly bitter, so I added 1 TB of maple syrup to bump up the sweetness just a touch. Feel free to do the same, or use all 60% to 70% chocolate. I would refrain from using anything less than 60% cocoa solids, as chocolate is the name of the game in this recipe, people! I don't know if other almond or plant-based milks will work with this recipe, as I have only used Califia as specified by the original recipe. Optional add-ins could include: vanilla extract, espresso powder, rum or brandy or cognac or Kahlua other booze of your choice, sea salt, peanut butter.....let your imagination run wild! Ashlae has some great ideas with the original recipe-check them out! Top with whipped cream and cacao nibs, Maldon sea salt, toasted coconut flakes...you get the idea....Lastly, I got 3 servings that were on the larger side, but use as many jars/ramekins as you think you'd like. Or, just make a big bowl and scoop it out to serve.



    Two-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse // plant-based; gluten-free; soy-free; oil-free // makes 3-4 small servings or 2 larger servings //

    • 6 oz 60-70% cocoa solids chocolate of high quality, or us 3 oz 100% cacao/cocoa solids chocolate and 3 oz 60-70% cocoa solids chocolate plus 1-2 TB liquid sweetener of choice 
    • 3/4 cup Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk or almond coconut milk
    • Optional: 1 to 2 TB liquid sweetener, or add-ins/flavorings (see notes above)

    1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice about 1/3 of the way full. Next, procure a bowl that will fit inside the ice bath, using either glass or metal, but note that if using the microwave to melt the chocolate you shouldn't use metal...but you knew that.

    2. Get a hand mixer or a balloon whisk ready, a rubber spatula, as well as the jars or bowls you'd like to use to serve. Set them nearby, as the mousse comes together quickly once you start mixing.

    3. Break up the chocolate into the smaller bowl, and melt it either over a water bath OR on low power in the microwave, stirring to ensure the chocolate scorches every 30 to 45 seconds. Once melted, place the bowl inside the ice bath and add the almond milk. Stir to combine with the rubber spatula, scraping the sides to incorporate all the chocolate. This would be the time to add-in flavorings, liqours, or extracts.

    4. Switch to the whisk or hand mixer, and beat for 2-3 minutes. During the first 2-3 minutes, the mixture will be loose and bubbly. As you continue to mix, the mixture will begin to thicken. You want to mix for just a few more seconds beyond the point when you just start see trails to form behind the whisk or mixer beaters. You want a thickened mixture, but not one that is clumpy*

    5. Immediately stop mixing and pour into jars. Lightly tap to even out the surface, and break up any large air pockets that formed during pouring. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Top as desired. 

    *If you have over-mixed and your mousse is super thick or chunky, simply re-melt the entire mixture, and re-do step 4, taken care to not over-mix. 



    Chocolate!and then magically, MOUSSE!It really can't be easier, which is dangerous, but still glorious.Yep, dangerous. But so worth it. And chocolate confetti! Really, how can it get any better?

  • 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.


  • Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (Plus: how to roast tomatoes + red peppers!)

    It seems that I am on a soup kick lately. Missed that? Well if you did, here you go!

    And now, probably my favorite, right up there with the sweet potato, carrot and coconut soup, is this creamy, dreamy roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Campbell's has nothing on us (ps: have you seen wtf is in canned soup lately? Sheesh). 

    This soup is perfect for a late harvest of peppers, and the last of the tomatoes before the frost hits. You can dunk you favorite grilled hunk of bread into a bowl of this, or make a grilled cheeze (or cheese, however you roll!). 

    However, if you don't want to make the soup, then at least take the time to roast some red peppers and tomatoes. They are great on sandwiches and salads, pureed into sauces and soups, flavor bombs for humms, or toppers for pizza. Whatever you choose, I highly suggest you get on the roasting train soon. And bonus: roasted tomatoes and peppers can be frozen! You can throw them into sauces, soups or even hummus in the dead of winter, and have a pleasant throw-back to summer. Yum. 

    You could in theory roast any type of tomatoes or peppers, but I chose to roast sweet red peppers (Italian Frying Peppers) and some of the bounty of organic heirloom cherry tomatoes from our CSA farm. I loved both of these because they are naturally sweet, so roasting not only adds a nice depth of roasted (go figure!) flavor, but also concentrates those natural sugars, and may even caramelize some of them if you're lucky! 

    If you choose to roast other tomatoes, just follow the same directions for the cherry tomatoes, and cook longer. The goal is wrinkled skin, some brown bits, and a roasty-toasty tomato aroma. You got this. The key is low oven temperatures, and a slow roast so you don't burn the 'maters.

    The peppers couldn't be easier: all you do is wash, chop, trim, smash, broil and optionally peel the skin off, or leave on for a more roasted flavor. Boom.The key to the soup recipe is the creamy basil cashew cheeze. I added a generous spoonful, probably 1/2 cup or so. However, you can substitute 1/2 cup soaked cashews, a handful of basil, and squeeze of lemon juice for very similar results. I have made both versions, and certify that both are equally as delcious and satisfying. 

    Yum allllll around. I promise you won't miss the canned stuff once to try this soup!



    Roasted Tomatoes // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes however many roasted tomatoes you decide to roast - the soup recipe below calls for 3 cups roasted tomatoes // 

    • Tomatoes, washed and thoroughly dried
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Sea Salt

    1. Preheat oven to 300F*. Wash tomatoes (if needed), and thoroughly pat them dry. Slice in half. Place cut side UP on a parchment lined baking sheet. *lightly* drizzle each with olive oil and very lightly sprinkle with sea salt-I used about 3/4 tsp for an entire sheet. Don't use too much, or else too much water will come out of your tomatoes, leaving them a soggy mess.

    2. Bake for 1 to 2 hours, or until the tomaotes look dry, golden in spots, and have slightly wrinkled. Taste as you bake, and pull them out at your desired sweetness/doneness.

    3. Allow to cool, and then store in a covered container for up to 1 week in the fridge. Can be froze as well, but will be mushy when thawed, but still perfect for soup, sauces and hummus. 

    *I have tried baking at higher temps, ~350F, but find the tomatoes get tougher and less intensely sweet the faster they are cooked.


     Wash and dry the tomatoes...

    Cut in half, placed on a parchment (don't skip the parchment...)

    Drizzle with a touch of oil and sprinkled with sea salt, then into the oven!

    Roast...patience...good smells....then you're done!



    Roasted Red Peppers // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes however many roasted tomatoes you decide to roast - the soup recipe below calls for 1 large roasted red pepper // 

    • Red Peppers

    1. Preheat broiler. Wash, dry and trim peppers of their stem ends. Cut in half, or whatever sized chunks you like, and remove seeds and pulp.

    2. Place peppers on a parchment lined baking tray, and smash them flat with your palm (they won't be perfectly smashed, but this helps them brown more evenly).

    3. Broil for 3-7 minutes, or until you see dark spots and blisters on the skins form. The parchment you use may also turn dark brown-just beware of this! Take peppers out once desired roasted level is achieved. Allow them to cool, and optionally peel the skin off if you'd like-it should come right off. Store in a container in the fridge for up to 1 week. The peppers can also be frozen, but will be mushy when thawed, but perfect for soups, sauces and hummus!


    Procure peppers...wash and dry them.Trim and chop in half

    On parchment, gently smashed, and broiled to blackened perfection. Peel skins off, or leave on for a more smoky flavor. 



    Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes about 6-8 cups of soup // 

    • 1 roasted sweet red pepper (see above!)
    • 3 cups roasted tomatoes (see above!)
    • 3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
    • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 3/4 cup sweet yellow onion or leek
    • 1/2 cup soaked cashews*, rinsed and drained (soak for at least 4 hours, up to overnight, using hot water to expedite the process if needed)
    • 1-2 TB nutrititional yeast (optional)
    • Optional: 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, pluse a few more to garnish if desired
    • squeeze fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • salt and pepper to taste

    *I used ~1/2 cup basil cashew cheeze: blend 1/2 cup soaked and rinsed cashews, 2 TB lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, 1 TB olive oil, 2 TB nutritional yeast, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1-3 TB water or enough to help blend into a thick paste consistency. Simply throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until a thick paste. Great on pizza, toast, or used as a spread for grilled cheeze. 

    1. In a pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, and cook onions, garlic cloves and celery until onions are transluscent and soft. 

    2. While that mixture cooks, prepare your cashew cheeze if using (tip: no need to clean the blender after making the cheeze, just carry on with the soup). If not using the cashew cheeze, then drain and rinse your soaked cashews. Place in a blender, and add the remaining ingredients. Start with 3 cups of stock, adding more if you need to help blend the soup.

    3. Once onions mixture is cooked, add to the blender with the rest of the ingredients, and puree everything until smooth. This may take a few minutes, depending on the power of your blender. I blended mine for 3-4 minutes with the Vitamix. Taste and adjust seasonings, and re-blend for a moment to mix. Soup can be stored in the fridge for later, or added to a pan to heat if your blender did not heat it thoroughly. Will last for 3-4 days, or could be frozen for 1-2 months.


    The roasted tomatoes (these we roasted whole as an experiment, and I found out that I much prefer the flavor of the version I shared above with the tomatoes cut in half), 1 whole roasted red pepper and celery. Celery is optional, but adds a nice savory depth to the soup! Only use 1 stalk, as a little goes a long way in pureed soups.

    Onions, garlic cloves, celery and olive oil in the pan. Cook to concentrate flavors and soften.Add everything to the blender:A good dollop of basil-cashew cheeze (if using-if not, just put the soaked cashews in): Blend!!Taste and adjust salt, then either pour into bowls and enjoy right away, or save for later and re-heat as needed. Perfect with a hunk of toasted bread, or your favorite grilled cheezy sandwich.

    Enjoy...think about summer...and get ready for the cold weather. More soup will be needed....



  • Simple & Satisfying Split Pea Soup

    When I think "exciting" I think "split pea soup". Don't you? I mean, they are all green, and dried and...have this reputation of being....well, split peas. 

    Still excited? I am!! Why? Because split peas have it going on. In 1 cup cooked split peas...

    • High in fiber: 16 g of it!! keep yourself healthy and light...
    • Packed with Protein: a whopping 16 g of plant-powered-pea-protein (sat that 10x's fast...)
    • Low in Fat: Not that I keep track of this, but it is worth noting if you are into that kinda thing. 
    • Potential Contender for Halloween Fare: Green Soup. That's all I am sayin'. The also come in the yellow variety.
    • Flavor: Savory, simple, and plain delicious. If you like lentils, you'll love split peas.
    • Cheap: at slightly less than $2.00/lb for organic split peas, you have no reason not to throw some into your basket/cart next time you're at the grocery.

    Are you convinced yet?? Well, neither was I. Seriously, the only reason why I made this soup in the first place was a request from this old, cranky man I know, and he keeps sleeping on our couch, eating the food in the fridge, and dropping crumbs everywhere. Juuust kidding-it was my boyfriend. Funny...

    As I was making this, I honestly had nooo idea what to expect. No idea, other than pictures I saw online, what this soup was supposed to look like. I tried licking my laptop screen to get an idea of how it would taste, but no dice.

    So I'll cut to the chase: the finished product was amazing. It knocked our socks off with how good it was: simple, savory, satisfying and comforting. It reminded me of my grandma's signature bean soup (made with ham hocks, ham and who knows what kind of stock she uses...needless to say, I think she'd be proud of this split pea soup!).

    This soup is so, so easy to make with simple, on-hand ingredients. It smelled amazing while cooking, and honestly didn't really taste like peas (I kinda hate peas...). It took me about 20 minutes to put it all together. The hardest, and longest, part was waiting for this soup to cook, and skimming the surface a few times during cooking to get any gnarly bits/foam out (nothing too scary, this happens when you cook beans and lentils and pulses and legumes and anything that is natural with short chain/oligosaccharides...so there!!). A perfect task for a gloomy, cold October evening if you ask me....

    Official Title: Legume Foam Skimmer. I think it has a nice ring to it. 

    Be sure to chop all your veggies up roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Also, if you prefer a thinner soup, simply add more stock. The peas and potatoes really do absorb a ton of liquid, so adjust as needed. Similarly, if you'd like, reduce the amount of split peas. The first time I made the soup, I used 1 1/3 cups, and the soup was the perfect consistency for me with using the full 8 cups of vegetable stock. The second time I made it, I followed the original recipe exactly, using 1 lb, or 2 cups split peas, and found the soup to be very thick (but still declicious). If this happens to you, and you'd like a thinner soup, simply stir in some more stock....no big deal. The soup does thicken, regardless, once chilled. As stated, just thin out with more vegetable stock, if desired, the next day. 

    Please use the best veggies you can get your hands on for this simple soup! Local, organic, fresh...whatever you can find. With simple dishes like this, it really makes a big difference. Lastly, I opted for adding 1 big stalk of diced fresh celery from our CSA for extra savory-factor, and am really glad I did. However, it is totally optional-up to you.

    Happy Soupin'!!



    Split Pea Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free; sugar-free // makes about 12 cups, or enough for 6-8 generous servings //

    • 1 cup onion, about 1 medium or 1/2 large onion, diced medium-fine
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced (I like lots of garlic, so used 4 cloves)
    • 1 large celery stalk, diced into small 1/4" pieces
    • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (start with 1 tsp, and adjust-I found 1 1/2 tsp to be on the salty side)
    • 2 TB olive oil
    • 1/2-1 tsp dried oregano, using more for a more savory soup
    • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
    • 2 heaped cups carrots, chopped into medium pieces 
    • 1 to 1 1/2 cups yellow or red-skinned waxy potatoes, diced into medium sized cubes
    • 1 1/3 to 2 cups split peas, rinsed and picked over for stones, broken peas or the like
    • 8 cups vegetable stock (I use this concentrate, and love it!)

    1. In a large pot, preferrably heavy-bottomed to prevent scorching while the soup cooks, heat the 2 TB olive oil. Add the onions, celery, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Cook for 7-10 minutes on low-medium, until the onions are transparant and garlic is soft. 

    2. Meanwhile, wash and chop the remaining vegetables. Rinse and pick-over the peas. Add to the onion mixture, and pour stock over. Stir to combine everything, and bring to a boil with the lid off. Turn down to a steady simmer, with the lid off or half-way propped off. 

    3. Stir the soup occasionally to make sure it isn't scorching, and skim any foam off the top with a big spoon. Simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Some peas may be a bit al dente, but that's ok-they provide texture, and soften up over time. 

    4. With an immersion blender, pulse a few times to partially puree the soup, but leave ample veggie chunks for texture. Alternatively, transfer 2-3 cups of the soup into a blender, and pulse a few times to puree. Add back to the pot, stir, adjust seasonings, and enjoy with your favorite toasted bread. Lasts up to 3 days in the fridge, and could be frozen, but the vegetables will be mushy after thawing.



    Them veggies and peas and stuff....get the good ones for this soup! Wait, ALWAYS get the good veggies!!The Powerful Split, Dried Pea:Chop the onion, garlic, celery...and sautee it for a good amount of time with salt, pepper and oregano. This forms a flavorful base for the soup, so don't skimp on time or crank the heat! Low n' Slow....after:Chop the carrots and potatoes, taking time to make them roughlt the same size for even cooking:

    Now, all into the pot...Simmer for about 40 minutes, until the peas are all tender (some will be a bit firmer-they'll get with it, I promise!). Pulse with an immersion blender or scoop 2-3 cups into a regular blender, and pulse a few times. This makes a creamier base for the other veggies to swim in. And you're done! 

    Way to go. You have pea soup...how do you feel? Good? Well, you should. 

  • Sweet Potato, Coconut + Carrot Soup

    So, NOW it is *officially* autumn! The vernal equinox hit at approximately 4:23AM this morning, according to the Farmer's Almanac. How do you feel? Do you have pumpkin spice raining down on you as you walk through the new autumn sunshine? Did you grab your favorite latte on the way to school or work? Did you turn into a pumpkin? Well, I didn't see rainshowers of pumpkin spice this morning, or grab a latte, or turn into a pumpkin...but I do know what I am doing tonight to celebrate the new season: enjoying a piece of frozen pumpkin pie back from July! I made my favorite recipe with a creamy cashew base (will share, of course, but later this year!) for a birthday, and had a few pieces to stash away for later in the freezer. Yesss! Can't wait. (and yep, you read correctly: I made a pumpkin pie in July!). 

    But you know what else? I have been dreaming about sunny-orange soups made from squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, apples, pears, and all of the fall produce...I just love a good squash soup on a chilly evening. How 'bout you? 

    This one was a bit different, since I wanted to play with the flavors a bit, and make it lighter. Since I fail everytime I attempt to make thai food, I wanted to spice this with curry in mind...probably the closest I'll get to successful thai-flavored food in my kitchen in the near future! The coconut milk lends a rich and creamy, slightly sweet note that goes so, so well with the other flavors in this soup.

    I had some beautiful CSA carrots to use, and a plethora of sweet potatoes in our crisper to cook with as well (and my new Vitamix to play with too...smoothest soup I have ever graced my tastebuds with!) The spices in this soup make me so happy-and they are so good for you, too! Can't beat that. Now, this soup is served hot, but it isn't overly heavy, so you can enjoy it on a not-so-cool evening, or ramp it up with your favorite toppings (crispy chickpeas, toasted peptias or sunflower seeds, drizzles of coconut milk, sprinkles of cayenne...) to make it heartier (that's what we did). You could also serve it with a side of your favorite bread, naan, or socca

    This soup is a win, and I'll for sure be making it again. I was almost regretting not making double the amount, as this soup would be ideal for freezing (or just eating a ton of!!). It is simple, quick, and makes you feel like jumping in a giant pile of autumn leaves when you tuck into it! I have to thank this lovely blog for the recipe inspiration. 

    Happy Autumn'ing!



    Sweet Potato, Carrot and Coconut Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free; nut-free // makes about 8-10 cups of soup // 

    • 2 tablepoons coconut oil or olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, roughly diced
    • 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger (you could use 2 tsp dry, but the fresh is best here!)
    • 4 cups vegetable stock 
    • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ~1½" pieces
    • 4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut into ~1" slices
    • 1 teaspoon coriander
    • 1 teaspoon garam masala (or 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg, scant ¼ tsp cinnamon)
    • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
    • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
    • 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder (mine was mildly spicy)
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
    • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plust more for topping
    • 1/2 of one 15-ounce can coconut milk, plus more for topping soup
    • toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds and/or crispy baked chickpeas for topping
    1. Cut all veggies, and add to pot with coconut oil. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until onions start to get tender. Add stock, and cover with lid. Cook until veggies are tender.
    2. Transfer to blender, add spices, and blend. Add coconut milk, taste and blend again.
    3. Serve with extra coconut milk on top, cayenne, toasted nuts/seeds of choice, and crispy/fried chickpeas. Great with your favorite bread, too!

    The carrots were too beautiful and tasty...fresh organic carrots >>> store bought carrots any day.

    Chop up sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and fresh ginger-you're well on your way to a super delicious and nourishing bowl of soup!!

    All of the spices....

    Saute, simmer, puree and top it off with whatever you'd like. This soup cannot be beat in color, flavor or nutrition. Win!



  • Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas + Easy Enchilada Sauce from Scratch!

    Hello! Happy Sunday. I hope the weekend has been treating everyone well, and I hope that were the weather has permitted, you have enjoyed summer's last stance. It has been unusually beautiful here in Madison, and as usual, I am stuck indoors for most of it. Albeit I have been making excuses to be outside more and more just to soak up the last of the season, I still haven't gotten enough, and am afraid that fall will be showing it's colors really soon...just this last week, I saw THIS on my walk to school:

    Ok, yeah, it is beautiful. And don't get me wrong, I love fall. In fact, it is probably my favorite season...what with all the squash, pumpkin, baking to keep warm, soups and stews....hot chocolate....hot tea...hot cider......anyways: I think by this time of year, people fall into two camps (haha get it, "fall"??)

    Camp 1: you are over the tomatoes, the giant zucchini, the onslaught of kohlrabi and other CSA items you just can't deal with eating anymore of. You've done your preserving, and you're just waiting it out like a fat squirrel who has collected their nuts to enjoy their stash when it hits sub-zero temps.

    Or...

    Camp 2: you are holding on....you are still in the summer game...you still want more tomatoes, zucchini, all the fresh basil before the first frost hits...and you can't get enough room in your freezer to save more of the summer season bounty. You start to understand why your grandmother and other family members have several chest freezers in their basements and/or garages (...and find specimins from the 1990's still to this day in said chest freezers). Your mason jar collection is dwindling, and you seek out opportunities to squirrel away more of summer's bounty as each day nears the new season.

    I am firmly in camp 2 this year. I mean, we're picking cherry tomatoes at our CSA farm today!! Any tips for preserving them?

    But...having a small freezer is an issue while in "squirrel mode": I can't fit anything else in after I froze several bags of tomatoes a few weeks back! So in efforts to make some room, I present to you: homemade enchilada sauce (and a recipe to use said sauce in if you wish). The sauce is quick, easy and tastes amazing. You can use it right away, stash it in the fridge for a few days until ready to use, OR freeze it (and completely eliminate that room you just made clearing out the frozen tomatoes!!). 

    Note: the enchilada sauce was inspired by the original here. The enchiladas were inspired by this and this recipe, as well as my edits from making them several times. And yes, I know: this is not a 100% authentic enchilada sauce, or enchiladas. However, still very tasty, just not authentic. For a smoother process during the week, simply prep the sauce and filling one day, and then assemble and bake another (or stash the sauce away in the freezer for whenever you'd like to whip up your enchiladas!). You can wait up to 3 days to assemble after prepping the filling and sauce. And lastly, these are *best* fresh out of the oven! You could bake them in smaller batches, or simply keep some sauce aside for re-heated leftovers as noted in the recipe, as the corn tortillas like to soak up lotsa moisture. Not sure about flour tortillas, but I am sure they'd be similar. 



    Enchilada Sauce // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free; sugar-free // makes about 4-5 cups - enough for 1 recipe of Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas //

    • 2 TB olive oil
    • 1 onion or ½ large onion, roughly chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 3-4 cups frozen tomatoes (or 1 28 oz/ two 14.5 oz) cans diced/crushed/whole tomatoes
    • 2 TB chili powder
    • ¼ tp 1 tsp cayenne
    • 1 TB dried oregano (or 2 TB fresh)
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • small pinch cinnamon or drizzle of molasses for a bit of sweetness (optional)
    • 1 TB tomato paste
    • 2 TB lemon or lime juice
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ cup water or vegetable stock, if needed to help blend to smoothness if using frozen tomatoes
    1. In a blender, combine all the ingredients; blend until smooth
    2. Add sauce to a medium pan, and simmer on medium (or medium-high if in a time crunch) for 15-20 minutes, until thickened to the consistency of tomato sauce. Use a lid partially tilted off the pan to help control spatters. Stir a few times during this to help prevent scorching.
    3. Taste and adjust seasonings. Use right away, or refrigerate/freeze until you need it.

    Everything in the blender:

    The finished sauce! You can't beat the taste, even though it is not 100% traditional. You get points for not using the bottled stuff! You can use it right away, refrigerate for a few days, or freeze it for a few months for future enchilada adventures.



    Black Bean, Sweet Potato & Red Pepper Enchiladas // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free option; sugar-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes ~10 small enchiladas, or ~4-6 large enchiladas //

    • 1 recipe red enchilada sauce (you'll probably have a bit lefover)
    • 8-10 small corn or flour tortillas (or 5-6 larger tortillas)
    • 1 large sweet potato, 2 to 2 ½ cups diced small
    • 1 sweet red pepper, diced small
    • 1 medium or ½ large onion, diced small
    • 1 TB olive oil 
    • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly, or about 2 cups black beans
    • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 TB lemon juice
    • 1 ½ tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • ¼ tsp smoked or regular paprika
    • ¼ tsp cayenne
    • ½ tsp salt
    • Avocado Cream: 1 medium/large avocado, 1.5 TB lime or lemon juice, 1/4-1/2 cup fresh cilantro, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, pinch cayenne, 1-2 TB water to help blend
    • Cashew Cream: Great Recipe Here!
    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil the baking dish you want to use (I used an 8”x8” and managed to cram in  7 enchiladas; use a smaller dish for smaller batches). In a large skillet, add the olive oil, red pepper, onion, and sauté until tender and onions are translucent, about 10 minutes on low-medium. While this mixture cooks, add the diced sweet potato to a small pot, cover with water and place a lid on. cook over medium-high until fork tender, about 7-12 minutes depending on how large the pieces are. Drain, and rinse once under warm water, draining thoroughly.
    2. Add garlic to the onion and pepper mixture, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, taking care to not burn the garlic. Add the black beans, and gently incorporate. Add in the cooked sweet potatoes, 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce, as well as the remaining ingredients, and taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed.
    3. In oiled baking dish (I used an 8”x8” pyrex), scoop ~3/4-1 cup of sauce, or enough to cover the bottom of the baking dish you are using.
    4. Prep the tortillas: stack on a plate, and microwave for 30 seconds to help soften and make more pliable to prevent breaking while rolling. Place a tea towel over the top to help keep them warm while rolling the enchiladas. 
    5. For small enchiladas, scoop ~1/3 cup filling onto each tortilla, and gently, but tightly roll; place seam side down into the sauced baking dish. Repeat process, tucking each enchilada close to the other to prevent them from unrolling.
    6. Top with enchilada sauce (and any filling if you have leftover, if desired) to completely cover the enchiladas. Note: reserve some sauce if you wish for re-heated leftovers. Cover with a lid or tin foil, and bake for 20-35 minutes. If your filling and sauce are cold, the time will be nearer to the 35 minute mark; the enchilada sauce should be mostly absorbed by the tortillas, and should be a deep red color. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to set before serving. Top with avocado crema, cashew cream or just avocado slices and cilantro. Great with tortilla chips for crunch!

    The filling goods in the pan, all cooked and ready to be stirred with spices + sauce:

    The filling, all ready. Seriously tasty. I recommend having tortilla chips handy to taste and adjust seasonings accordingly... Microwaving the tortillas for ~20 seconds made them way more pliable for me, so they were less prone to cracking when rolled. Fill em' with the the...filling...roll, and stuff into the pan you have put a bit of sauce down in:

    Getting all cozy in here....

    Pour sauce over the top...

    Smooth out, and top with the rest of the filling if desired. Cover, bake until sauce is deep red, and everythign is all bubbly. 

    ...and excuse the bad lighting, but it was dark by the time I pulled these babies out of the oven. Totally worth it, especially after a chilly run!

    Top with the avocado crema: simply blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Or simply top with sliced avocado and cilantro. Enjoy!



  • 7 Vegetable Power Soup + New Goals!

    Does anyone else get the urge to clean, re-organize and start fresh with a new school year? I know that technically, the semester started for me 2 weeks ago (I think...), but who is keeping track?? I purged my pantry, organized my closet and donated a huge bag of clothes, and cleaned/inventoried the freezer...it is 95% frozen tomatoes and 5% other stuff. Ha! 

    Also in light of the new "year", I decided to *finally* cave, and purcahse a Vitamix! So far, I am loving it, and no noise complaints from our neighbors...my plan is to make them a smoothie if they do complain, and also convince them to get a rediculously high-powered blending machine. I mean, it is for your health....but more on that later.

     This is my last semester of grad school, and what a journey it has been so far. Now, to finish my research, write my thesis, defend said thesis and graduate! Phew...I have a lot to do!! And, because I am a crazy lady, I have signed up for a half marathon in November. What can I say? I have goals to meet! This will be my 9th (!!) half marathon, and I really, *really* want to work hard, stay on track and meet my two-hour (or less) goal. My best time so far is 2:06, so I am staying positive and getting those long-runs in. Recently, I have been trying to re-train my body and mind for a new tempo pace. I usually run ~9:45 on a good day, and 9:15-9:30 on a really great day. My goal is a start hitting that 9:20-9:30 mark more on shorter training runs...and so far, I have accomplished this the past 2 weeks. Yeehaw!  

    But those long runs? I have to be honest....they are hard! And they never get "easier", but I have learned how important your mental state of mind is in order to complete these and feel strong. I guess that is why they call it "endurance" running?...well, at any rate, I have also learned that making an effort to fuel my body properly before and after to get the most out of those long runs is best. This weekend, I made this hearty, put-a-kick-in-your-step 7 vegetable soup. 

    This stuff is not playin' around. It is full, I mean FULL of good stuff for you: complex carbs, plant protein, fiber, B-vitamins, minerals, cruciferous veg...The hefty dose of nutritional yeast gives this soup a cheese-y flavor and richness, while the veggies make it all savory...and sweet cause sweet potato and carrots are in there partying too.

    This soup is super flexible: you can use less veg stock for a heartier stew-like concoction, or add more for a thinner soup. Don't have sweet potato? Try using squash (the original found here uses delicata). Don't have broccoli and/or cauliflower? Just use one. Want it sweeter? Add more sweet potato. Want a chunkier-texture? Don't puree it all or ease up on the blending step. Don't have nutritional yeast? Then get some, cause it is waaaay to good for you not to! You get the idea....the soup is also freezer friendly. Just sayin'. 

    Now, toppings...you could have sooo much fun with toppings with this soup! I went a simple route, using oodles of toasted pepitas and a sprinkle of cayenne. Here are some others ideas I dreamed up:

    • crispy cubes of tofu or croutons
    • crispy roasted garbanzo beans with a drizzle of lemon tahini dressing 
    • coconut milk or cream, and a sprinkle of curry powder for a thai-like flavor
    • marinated and baked tempeh or toasted nuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup
    • hummus or avocado slices
    • *all* of the above... :) :) 

    Whatever you top it with, I highly suggest some sort of carb-laden goodie to pair with this. We enjoyed thick slices of whole-grain bread, slathered in hummus, pesto, avocado slices, to dunk into our bowls. So satisfying. Clean out that fridge, and make this soup to fuel your goals...running, school, whatever! You can do it!!

    Note: since I used cauliflower in this soup, the second day we enjoyed it the flavor was much more pronounced. Still tasty, but if you're faint of heart when it comes to super "aromatic" vegetables like cauliflower, then I suggest bumping up one of the other vegetables instead. 



    7 Vegetable Power Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free; nut-free // makes ~10-12 cups // 

    • 1 small head cauliflower, florets/tender talks only
    • 1 small bunch broccoli, florets/tender stalks only
    • 2-3 carrots, chopped
    • 2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
    • 1 sweet potato OR 1 small sweet squash, such as delicata, butternut, kabocha, about 2 cups chopped and peeled if necessary (i.e. if using buternut or kobocha-they have tough skins!)
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
    • 2-3 TB olive oil or coconut oil, or other cooking oil you like
    • 5 TB nutritional yeast 
    • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne and/or smoked paprika
    • Squeeze lemon (optional, but brightens the flavors)
    • toppings of choice: toasted pepitas, cayenne, hummus, etc. see above for ideas!

    1. In a large pot, heat the oil and add the garlic cloves and onion. Chope the other veggies, taking care to get them roughly the same size, but you'll be pureeing the soup in the end so the pieces don't have to be perfect. The smaller you chop them, the quicker they will cook. 

    2. Once everything is added, sautee over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until everything is heated through. Add in a splack of the stock, place the lid on and allow to cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir once or twice to make sure it isn't burning/sticking to pan.

    3. Meanwhile, prepare and measure vegetable stock (I used organic vegetable stock concentrate for a speedy option). Once the vegetables are tender, add in the liquid, and bring to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients, then add contents to a blender (puree in batches if needed), or use an immersion blender to puree. 

    4. Heat soup up again, as it will be slightly cool from blending, then serve with desired toppings.  



    One of the many powerful and good-for-you vegetables in this soup: broccoli!

    Everything after a quick cook, and ready for the blender.

    Done! Super quick and satisfying. 

  • Easy Cauliflower Cheeze Sauce

    Happy Labor Day! I hope you all are recovering from the weekend, and had a chance to relax this weekend. It has been a good one for us, and a well-earned break. On Friday evening, we checked out the new Estrellon by Tory Miller. We loved the new space, and the tapas. Highly recommend patatas fritas (uhh, fancy for AMAZING french fries! If you don't want aioli, ask for a side of the tomato sauce they use on the patatas bravas, since it is basically ketchup's better half), the tomato bread, and the marinated olives. So good! We then walked our full bellies over to the Edgewater, and grabbed a after-dinner drink that we enjoyed outside by the lake. Perfect evening! Saturday was cleaning, prepping and organizing, and yesterday we celebrated my grandma's 90th (!!!!) birthday! Good stuff all around.

    But please, brace yourself, for the end-of-summer harvest is still in full swing! Our fridge is bursting with veggies. Some I honesty have no idea what to do with. Brusselini? Is that broccolini's evil cousin?? 

    Lately, it has been all about the simple food. Our staples have been pesto and tomato pasta (or slices of tomato slathered with fresh pesto, sprinkled with Maldon, on toasted bread), fresh salsa with crunchy chips and creamy guacamole, and hummus [check out this roasted jalapeno version! So good!!] with various things to dip in it, like fresh veggies, bread, tortilla chips...). 

    But honestly don't feel a bit of culinary guilt about simplicty these days...with all the amazing produce we have around. It is so bountiful, at one point a few weeks ago, we had five cauliflowers ("cauliflowers"...is that the plural of cauliflower? or is it just "5 cauliflower"?...??) in the fridge from our CSA. And speaking of, do you know how to deal with 5 large heads of beautiful organic cauliflower? Well, here is what I did: 1) blanch and freeze a ton, 2) mash one head up with potatoes for some amazing mashed comforting goodness [note: we had to blast the a/c to get a cold-season feel to enjoy these in the hot weather!!], and 3) use one for this flavorful "cheese-y" sauce, which is also freezer-friendly. Take that, cauliflower!!

    I really wish I could remember where I got this recipe from, but I assure you it is a mish-mash of the standard vegan cheeze-y sauce featuring great-for-you veggies, cashews and seasonings. Rather than leaving you feeling like you've eaten a cow, you feel nourished after eating this! So please, give it a try, even if you are a classic mac die-hard fan. Yes, it will taste different from the traditional stuff, but I assure you that this sauce is still creamy, savory and delicious. The nutritional yeast in the recipe is a must, as it lends that savory, cheese-y flavor to the sauce and also gives it yellow color. If you'd like to bump-up the yellow color a bit more, add a pinch of dried tumueric. I added a bit of miso paste because it lends a savory, complex flavor to the sauce, but is completely optional. 

    What we did is this: we enjoyed the sauce for 2 meals of mac n' cheeze, then bumped up the spice factor with hot sauce, a dash of cumin, and some chipotle in adobo for wicked nacho-cheeze sauce that was perfect with homemade lentil walnut "meat", salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips. For fresher mac n' cheeze, make fresh pasta and mix in the sauce for each meal you'd like to make the mac n' cheeze. This entire batch is enough for 1 pound of pasta. 



    Creamy Cauliflower Cheeze Sauce // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free option; soy-free option; sugar-free; oil-free option // makes about 4 cups of sauce // 

    • 1 small-medium head cauliflower, florets only
    • ½ cup cashews, soaked overnight or for ~30 minutes in boiling hot water
    • ½ cup + a few TB water or unsweetened, un-flavored plant-based milk 
    • 4 heaping TB nutritional yeast
    • 1 TB shoyu, tamari, liquid aminos or soy sauce
    • 1 large clove garlic
    • heaping ¼ tsp dijon mustard
    • ¼ tsp chili powder
    • ¼ tsp garlic or onion powder
    • ½ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
    • 1 TB lemon juice plus more to taste
    • ¼ tsp turmeric, for color (optional)
    • 1 tsp miso paste for additional savory flavor (optional; I used dark red soy miso, but use garbanzo or another legume-based miso for soy-free)
    • Pasta of Choice (use a gluten-free variety if needed)

    1. Place the florets in a large pot with 1" to 1.5" of water in the bottom. Place a lid on and steam florets until tender, about 6-7 minutes. 

    2. As the florets steam, place everything else in a blender. Drain the florets, and add to the blender. Puree until smooth, taste for seasonings. If needed, add a few TB of water or plant-based milk to help the mixture blend. Adjust and re-blend as necessary. Note: if using a conventional blender, it may take a few minutes to get the sauce smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary.

    3. Stir into your favorite pasta, or spice with cumin, chipotle in adobo and hot sauce for a nacho-cheezey sauce perfect for dipping chips in. 

    4. Sauce will keep for 3 days in the fridge, or a few months frozen.



    Cauliflower...who knew it could be so great for you AND make a creamy, dreamy sauce?! Serioulsly, give this stuff a shot! I think good ol' Cauli will surprise you. 

  • Stashing Away the Summer: Pickled Beets, Quick Refrigerator Pickles and How To Freeze Tomatoes

    So guys....it is September. I have been a hermit, working away at my research, trying to not pull my hair out. You know how big of a pain humidity makes cooking caramel to specific moisture contents? Well, let us all hope that you never have to go down that road. Caramel should be fun, not painful...I rest my case. Have I mentioned how eager I am to graduate in December? I have imporant things on my mind...like my graduation party! Should I make my own cake? What sort of snacks should I provide? Hot chocolate bar?? Veggie chili with lots of toppings?? But for right now, I am trying to focus on having a relaxing holiday weekend, involving spinach artichoke dip, bean dip with lots of fresh summer produce, and sitting in the sun. Not gonna lie, I think I have earned a few days off before the next round of my data collection begins next week!

    For the preserving: I canned tomatoes with my mom a few weekends back, and then made pickled beets...this Wisconsin girl *cannot* fathom that she has never made them (spoiler: super easy, super tasty). I also hit the jackpot with some super easy, super-duper tasty refrigerator pickles (spiked with garlic, of course). And this past weekend, after picking ~30 pounds of tomatoes at our CSA farm, I froze a few pounds of them beautiful red 'maters.  

    I assure you, the goods below are not a ton of work, even though preserving/canning is usually assumed to be very time consuming-just be organized, keep your work space clean and remain calm. There is not a moment to waste! We have the last few weeks of summer to enjoy, and the harvest to preserve to help us get through the wicked cold season that is too fast approaching. 

    Notes: 

    First, please start with clean jars for the pickled beets and pickles: thoroughly wash in soapy, hot water (or in a dishwasher with a high-heat setting somewhere during the cycle), and sanitize with a dilute bleach solution. Air dry. This can be done up to 2 days ahead.

    The Pickled Beets recipe hailed from an issue of The Isthmus, Madison's weekly newspaper full of fun shit...and now, evidently pickled beet recipes...what more could a WI girl ask for? The original called for 3 1/2 pounds of beets, but I only had about 2 on hand (about 2 regular bunches). I did not cut the other ingredients in half, so if you wish, just up the beets to the full 3 1/2 pounds for 4 full pints (not 2). If you are a strict vegan, than I suspect agave OR maple syrup would both be suitable subs for the honey. I use locally sourced, raw honey, cause that is the right thing to do. These are great in salads, on sandwiches, or by themselves. 

    The Refrigerator Pickle recipe comes from none other than Deb. Need I say more?? Feel free to throw in a few slices of peppers, more garlic, some red chili flakes, and anything else you think would improve with a spa-like bath in vinegar (carrots, radishes, etc). Eat these as you would any pickle...um...however you do that. 

    And lastly, the frozen tomato method is from my grandma/everyone's grandmother. It is just the way you do it! You can halve, quarter or slice the peeled tomatoes, squeeze out the juice/pulp and use for another purpose (or strain and freeze separately!). Really, this method is super flexible. You could even freeze the tomatoes whole after peeling, juices/seeds and all! Some people freeze tomatoes whole and raw, but I prefer to blanch and peel my 'maters before freezing, because 1) who likes tough tomato skins? No straining, blending or pureeing required once you use the tomatoes, and 2) the blanching step stop enzymes, and this is important especially in home freezers; we like to think that freezing "stops" or makes every biological/metabolic process dormant, but this is not always true. Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked recipes, since they will be mushy from freezing. Sauces, soups, stocks, purees...you get the idea!



    Easy Pickled Beets - Naturally Sweetened // plant-based; vegan option; nut-free; oil-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free option; gluten-free // makes 2 pints (double only the amount of beets for 4 pints) //

    • 2 bunches beets, any colors or variety (about 2 lbs; original called for 3 ½ lbs, which would make 4 pints)
    • 1 cup water and/or liquid from cooking beets
    • ½ large onion, sliced thin (original called for ½ lb)
    • 2 cups white vinegar (I used 50:50 white:white white vinegar)
    • 1/3 cup honey + 1/6 cup (original called for 1 ¼ cups sugar)
    • 2 TB salt (I used regular-grain sea salt)
    • *spices: original called for 6 whole cloves an a 13-inch cinnamon stick, in a spice bag, but I left this out.

    1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Fill clean jars with the hot, boiling water and allow them to sit. Place clean canning lids in the remaining hot water, off to the side on your counter. 

    2. Trim the root ends and tops off beets. Place into a large pot, fill with water, and boil until tender. This will depend on the size of your beets. Don't sweat it too much if you have some large and small beets. Once cooked, carefully drain the cooking water off, reserving 1 cup if it isn't too funky looking (I juse used water, since my cooking water wasn't the most appealing). Run hot beets under cold water, peeling skin away as you do this. Cut peeled beets into 1/3"-1/2" slices.

    3. In a large pot, combine the water, onion, vinegar, sweetener of choice, salt, and spices of your choosing. Bring to a boil. Add the beets, and return to a boil for 4-5 minutes. 

    4. Pour the hot water out of the jars, and immediately pack the beets in, topping off with liquid. Clean the rims of the jars off with a damp clean towel, then place jar lids on right away, and tightly close with jar rings. Allow to sit for 24 ours, undisturbed. Store in the fridge for 4-5 months.


    Did you know that pickled beets need that punch from onion? I had no idea. I sacrificed a super pretty purple onion from our CSA. Also, note the burn marks on my cutting board. At first I was horified when that did that, then grew to like it. Weird, Ok, now those beets...

    The sunlight + The Beets = Summer Jewels!Crazy to think that those roots below can be so beautiful (and so good for you!)Everything in the pot, ready to place into jars:And the finished pickled beets! I'll be thanking myself in November...you will too!



    Easy Refrigerator Pickles // plant-based; vegan; nut-free; oil-free; soy-free; sugar-free; gluten-free // makes ~2 pints // 

    Ok, so here is the scoop: I followed Deb's recipe to the T. The only thing I adjusted was adding more garlic, a very heavy pinch of red pepper flakes, and probably double the amount of dill. This recipe, beyond the vinegar/salt/water ratio, is very flexible. See the notes above for more ideas! These lasted only about 2 weeks for us, at which time they were still crunchy. 


    Pickles...in the making (aka: cucumbers). A homegrown pepper was tossed in too...seriously, this is the first year my pepper plants have actually produced. Maybe the neglec to water consistently was a good thing then??

    Fresh Garlic. Pretty purple!The pickles cut up. Cut them thin if you like them thinner...and thicker if you want them crunchier...whatever your texture preference.Stuff it all into a jar, and let the osmosis take place! Taste along the way...you made pickles!!

    After about 1 hour:

    The next day! These were so great to munch on. 

    Still crunchy a few days later, and the flavors had really come together!



    Frozen Tomatoes // plant-based; vegan; nut-free; soy-free; sugar-free; oil-free; gluten-free // makes however many bags of tomatoes you wish // 

    • however many pounds fresh, fully ripe summer tomatoes you'd like to stash away for the winter
    • sharp paring knife slotted spoon or other tool to transfer tomatoes
    • heavy-duty freezer bags (you can re-use them when you're done!)
    • Sharpie marker for labeling bags (prevents the "WTF is this?" moment 3 months later when you forgot that you took the time to freeze summer-fresh tomatoes)
    • baking or cookie sheet

    1. Bring a large pot of water to a good simmer. Meanwhile, get a large bowl full of cold water and ice ready.

    2. Cut an "X" in the non-stem end of each tomato. Remove any stems or leaves from tomatoes. 

    3. Working in batches (if needed), use a slotted spoon to carefully slide tomatoes into the simmering water. Allow them to blanch for 30 seconds-2 minutes, or until you can see the "X" you cut start to widen and/or skin around the "X" loosen/peel away. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the ice bath. Allow to sit until the tomatoes are cool enough to touch.

    4. Using you fingers and a paring knife to help, peel the skins away. Remove the stem end and tough core. Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters, reserving any juice that comes out in the process-I do this entirely over a baking sheet to catch the mess. Alternatively, you can also leave the tomatoes whole.

    5. Place tomatoes into freezer bags, along with the juices (if desired, or you can simply strain and freeze the juice separately, or use it fresh). Try to not cram in a ton in each bag, as this hinders a quick freezing process. I use a kitchen scale to measure out approximately the same quantity in each bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible, or use a straw to suck out extra air. Label, lay flat in freezer or place onto cookie sheets, and freeze. Once frozen, you can move them around as you see fit in your freezer.

    6. Tomatoes will last about 7-8 months in a standard home freezer. 


    So many tomatoes...so little time....

    Such a crazy pretty red color...ketchup has nothing on these guys.The X's cut into the bottom of the tomatoes:After a few minutes in a good simmering bath, plunge into ice or very cold water, and watch as the skins start to peel off themselves:Finish the peeling...naked tomatoes!Core the tough stem end out, and then slice into halves, quarters, or simple leave whole. Place in bags, get all the air out you can, freeze flat, then you are done! Oh, and label if you want...I labeled my bags.I put about 20 oz. in each bag, and had 6 bags at the end. Hooray!

  • Citrus & Basil White Sangria

    Have you been eyeing those bottles of pre-made sangria at your local store? Well, I am here to save you. Don't do it. Seriously, just walk away. It is never as good as you think it will be, and is likely full of sugar...not that you're looking for a health beverage when sipping the 'gria, but if you're going to treat yourself, at least do it with quality ingredients!

    This week, I proclaimed that I needed to take part in more summery activities, despite being busy at school. A picnic dinner was in order!! I made an effort to prep extra pesto and tomato pasta the night before (still loving the gluten-free pasta from Trader Joe's!), using CSA basil and some homegrown tomatoes. And, to make it super special, (drum role!) sangria to sip on while enjoying the evening. Needless to say, I was impressed with myself, considering the past 2 weeks have been super busy and quite stressful at school (read: a major impetus for making this white sangria was the fact that I may or may not have left a bottle of pinot in my freezer, thus renduring the cork to almost explode out of the bottle, leaving my freezer a wine-y, sticky mess; I think mostly frozen white wine is the perfect occasion to make this sangria, and laugh at the crappy last week you had while sipping on the repurposed wine). PS: those are basil flowers floating on top of the 'gria. They are super fragrant and of course, totally edible.

    This sangria is a bit lighter than the traditional red sangria. It has a heavy note of citrus, is fortified with white wine and brandy (or cognac, which is all I had on hand; feel free to use either, or even triple sec if you have it), and is then elevated to a summery level with a basil simple syrup. I have seen recipes that call for various fresh fruit and berries (peaches! raspberries! strawberries!), so add those as you would like. Seriously, who ever complained about boozy-wine marinated fruit on a hot summer evening? If you don't have basil, you can omit it. Mint could be a sub, but it may combat the brandy/cognac flavor...if you try the mint, let me know how it goes! If you'd like to take the sangria to a lighter level, consider topping off glasses of this with sparkling water or ginger beer. Either way, cheers to summer-get out there and enjoy it while it lasts! 

    PS: not a fan of white wine? Or prefer the more traiditional red sangria? Check out this recipe at Minimalist Baker! I may have to make this one for the weekend ahead...!



    Citrus and Basil White Sangria // plant-based; vegan; refined sugar-free; nut-free; oil-free; gluten-free // makes five 8 oz. cups, enough for 2-3 people to share //

    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4-1/2 cup agave, honey or coconut nectar (I used 1/4 to keep it not too sweet; you can use sugar in a pinch)
    • 10-12 large basil leaves
    • 1 bottle white wine (I used Italian Pinot Grigio)
    • 3 oranges or similar cirtus, or 6 clemintines, cut into thin slices 
    • 1/2 grapefruit, cut into thin half moon slices (I used an organic white grapefruit)
    • 1 lemon, yellow skin peeled into 1" wide strips (I got about 6 strips)
    • 1/4 cup brandy or cognac 
    • 1/4-1/2 cup orange juice (I used freshly squeezed, but quality bottled juice works too)
    • optional: sparkling water or ginger beer; fresh berries or peach slices, or other fruit desired; additional basil leaves and flowers.

    1. combine the water, sweetener, halve the lemon strips, and basil in a small pan. Heat to a gentle simmer (if using sugar, be sure it is all dissolved).  Off the heat, and steep for 10-20 minutes. You may do this up to 1 day ahead, and simply place the basil infusion into the fridge in a covered container or jar. 

    2. In a large jar or other container that will hold ~5 cups, combine all the ingredients, other than the sparkling water or ginger beer if using, and any berries/fruit you want to garnish with.

    3. Allow the sangria to steep for at least 20 minutes, up to overnight. Pour into glasses, topping off with sparking water or ginger beer, and garnishing with additonal fresh fruit if desired. The sangria can sit in the fridge in a glass container with a lid for a few days while you enjoy it, or can even be made several days ahead. Enjoy!



    All the stuff!

    The citrus. I love the colors!!

    My super tiny and cute 8 oz. copper pot with the basil, water, sweetener (I used coconut nectar) and lemon peel. Why? Because this is a great excuse to use such a tiny pot, and because my Dad got it for me for christmas last year...so there!

    The finished sangria! This was 24 hours after I prepped it. The flavors steeped, the fruit got boozy, and I got increasingly excited about drinking this as the day progressed. Totally easy and worth it! Cheers!

    Refreshing, slightly boozy, a little herbal from the basil, and a bit tart from the grapefruit. Of course, I sprinkled some basil flowers on top...cause why not?

    Cheers to summer!

  • Simple Summer CSA Veggie Salads: Easy Detox Salad + Easy Cabbage Slaw

    Happy summer to you! It is in full swing: hot, humid and relentless feelings of just wanting to lay on the couch in front of a fan with a good book. The past month of July has been pretty decent in WI, but the weather has finally started to be like it should be here-essentially like an armpit. So enter lazy meals requiring minimal effort, leftovers for the next day, and ingredeints that won't weigh you down! 

    Despite my intense craving to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies (stress....I blame you!!), I made this super easy "detox" salad. Yes, I know our bodies do a pretty darn good job of detoxifying and filtering nasty things we are exposed to every day, but sometimes, it feels great to eat food that makes you feel lighter and healthier (especially during the summer and stressful times!). Our CSA has brought us some amazing broccoli and napa cabbage, and last week, my Mom surprised me with some really beautiful cauliflower with purple tones to it! Way to feed the broke grad student daughter, Mom!! The week previous, she gave me a literal grocery bag full of bok choi. I can feel the love!!

    The detox salad below features broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sunflower seeds and currants (or raisins). The original recipe calls for any herbs you'd like, but this time, I left them out. Partially because I have other plans for my parsley, and otherwise because I feel that the flavors of the brassica and fresh carrots are standouts on their own. They don't really need any boost, besides from a hefty squeeze of lemon and some sea salt. 

    The recipe also calls for kelp. Don't fret if you don't have it, it is entirely optional. However, sea vegetables are rich sources of iodine, can be used as a lower sodium alternative to salt, and other minerals such as calcium. Iodine intake is important for our thyroids, and research suggests helps mental function, energy levels, and bone health. So really, maybe try some kelp? The product here is the one I recently purchased. I have been sprinkling it here and there on my savory foods. It has an earthy flavor, but is not super noticeable unless you go really heavy handed with it. 

    The cabbage slaw below, also featuring a fellow brassica veggie, is likewise super simple. It is crunchy, tangy, kinda sweet, and refreshing! My boyfriend's mom makes a similar slaw, so used that as the inspiration. I think I did pretty good, considering no recipe to work with! I used a giant head of napa cabbage from our CSA, and loved the mild cabbage flavor it has. However, feel free to use regular green or white cabbage. Not sure how red would work, but assume that the heartier texture may impact the results-but feel free to try it! For a peanut-free version, I used toasted sunflower seeds, but you can easily substitue peanut if you'd like. 

    Try these refreshing and easy salads as a side for a meal, a main component to a salad, or up the protein content with some of your favorite tofu or tempeh. Or, you could enjoy with some hummus! I mean, don't we dip raw carrots, broccoli and cauliflower in our hummus anyways? I rest my case! 

    Note: I toasted my sunflower seeds for the recipes below since I love the flavor of toasted sunflower seeds; the nuttiness really pairs well with the strong flavored veggies here! For the detox salad, I used only currants for the recipe, but the original calls for a combo of raisins and currants, so please you what you'd like or have around. 



    Detox Salad // vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, sugar-free // makes about 8-10 cups //

    • 1 small to medium head broccoli, trimmed of leaves and big stems
    • 1 small to medium head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and big stems
    • 2 large or 3 smaller carrots
    • 4-6 TB lemon juice
    • 1/2-1 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, optionally toasted
    • 1/2 to 1 cup raisins or currants
    • Optional: fresh herbs, such as parsley, to taste
    • Optional: 1-3 tsp kelp granules, or other sea vegetable

    1. Wash and trim all your veggies. Using a food processor (or you can chop by hand), process smallish pieces of the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots until medium-fine textured. 

    2. In a large bowl, toss the veggies with the remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Salad will last 4-5 days in a covered container in the fridge. Serve with you favorite hummus, or other protein source and some greens for a light, energizing meal. 



    Cabbage Slaw // vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free // makes about 4 cups //

    • 1 medium to large head napa cabbage
    • 2-3 stalks celery
    • 1 1/2 TB sesame oil or toasted sesame oil
    • 2 tsp sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup or honey 
    • pinch sea salt
    • 1 1/2 TB rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
    • 1 1/2 TB soy sauce, tamari or liquid aminos (or whatever soy sauce product you use!)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted sesame seeds (or roughly chopped peanuts), toasted

    1. Toast the peanuts or sunflower seeds. Set aside to cool.

    2. Discard any rough leaves on the cabbage. With a sharp knife, cut into very thin ribbons. You can cut these in half to make the pieces shorter if desired. Place in a colander, and wash with cold water. Drain and allow to dry. Wash the celery, and then cut each stalk in half lengthwise. Chop into thin pieces.

    3. In a large bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients for the dressing, and taste for you preference. Adjust as you see fit. Add all the cabbage, sunflower seeds and the celery. Toss thoroughly to coat everything with the dressing. You can enjoy right away, or allow this to sit up to 3 days in the fridge in a covered container. 



  • Easy Zucchini Gratin

    Hey. You guys all know what is going down: summer!! Whether that means vacations, afternoons sipping iced coffee on a deck or porch, evenings with fun cocktails or beers with friends, or a hot day with a copy machine for the next two weeks to prepare for a short course at school. You know-however you choose to celebrate the season, please do it!! Relax, enjoy, watch the sunset. After this crazy week, I plan on getting away to a semi-remote cabin by a lake, and soaking in some sun. There may be kayaking (kayak-ing?) involved, as well as campfires. Oh, and pudgy pies. You know-those square cast iron contraptions that you stuff bread in, top with delicious fillings, and cook over an open fire. Yep...it is happening. I am still on a quest for some vegan marshmallows, 'cause I may just have to make a s'more with some of the 12 bars of Mast Brothers chocolate I got in NYC in May. Why? Why not?!!

    Anyways, enough with my blabbing. Our CSA has graced our kitchen with some delicious zucchini and summer squash this season. Usually, I just grate them all up, and make bread. But this year, I have been more creative! See: Fried Zucchini Pasta Salad. 

    Also, I want to introduce this super-duper easy and tasting side dish perfect for summer get-togethers, a lazy summer dinner, or just when you have a ton of zucchini and summer squash laying around!! 

    I adapted the recipe and method from Minimalist Baker. Love those guys!! They provide such good, simpy and truly delicious recipes and inspiration. This gratin is no less: I went the super lazy route and did not saute anything before assembling the gratin, and used chopped garlic scapes in place of the asparagus the recipe originally called for. While the flavors are super tasty and fresh on their own, as I was shoving the finished gratin in my face, I couldn't help but think that a pinch or two of lemon zest and a small squeeze of lemon juice would help brighten those light, summery zucchini flavors a bit more. But, totally optional! And the good news? The vegan "parmesan" you make for this is so versatile, and it is a tasty addition for other dishes: pasta, salads, hummus/avocado toast....you name it, put that savory-nutty stuff on it. Maybe not your morning smoothie...but hey, I won't judge if you do. The nutritional yeast is essential for the cheese-y sprinkle, and with a high-protein, B-vitamin and fiber profile, that yellow powder will keep you going for all your summer adventures!

    Now, get at it!! Happy summer-ing!

    Note: as mentioned, the original calls for asparagus that is split the long-ways to facilitate quicker cooking, and easier tucking-in around the sliced zucchini. I suspect that any variety of summer bean (green bean, wax bean, etc) would also work here. I used garlic scapes that were trimmed of their flower ends, and the choped into 1 1/2" pieces. Be sure to bury those scapes into the zucchini slices, as if they are exposed, may get a tad over-cooked and tough. But, still tasty!



    Easy Zucchini (or summer squash) Gratin // vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free option// makes 1 9-10" gratin to serve 2 as a main component, or 3-4 as a side //

    For The Gratin:

    • 2-3 medium to large zucchini or summer squash (I used 1 light green and 1 dark green)
    • 2 TB olive oil
    • 2-3 long garlic scapes, chopped into 1 1/2" pieces (see note above for more ideas and tips!) 
    • sea salt and black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder (or, finely dice 1 large garlic clove)
    • 3/4-1 cup vegan parmesan 
    • Optional: 1/4 tsp lemon zest + small squeese fresh lemon juice

    For The Vegan Parmsan:

    • 3/4-1 cup cashews, almonds or pecans OR for nut-free, use any combination of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or hemp seeds
    • 3 TB nurtitional yeast
    • 3/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • optional: 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (I find that this helps small clumps of "cheese" to form for easier sprinkling)


    1. Preheat oven to 350F. To make the vegan parmesan, combine all ingredients into a food processor, and process until the nuts/seeds are a fine texture. 

    2. Slice zucchini in ~1/4" rounds, or as thin as you can get them. The thinner, the fast the cook. Chop and cut the garlic scapes, or asparagus/green beans: if using scapes, simply chop into ~1 1/2" pieces. If using asparagus, trim of woody ends then slice in half the long-ways for thinner strips of asparagus. Is using green beans, trim, chop into ~1 1/2" pieces, and slice in half the long ways as you would have for the asparagus. 

    2. In a bowl, toss the zucchini slices and garlic scapes/green beans/asparagus with 2 TB olive oil, 1 TB vegan parmesan and season with garlic powder, a generous pinch of sea salt and pepper, and the lemon if using. Toss thoroughly. 

    3. In a 9"-10" pan that is safe for oven use (I used cast-iron), arrange the zucchini/summer squash in a concentric overlapping pattern. Tuck in the garlic scapes/asparagus/green beans. 

    4. Sprinkle on a few generous handfuls of the vegan parmsan. Bake in a 400F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender and topping is light brown. 

    5. At this point, you could take out the gratin and let it cool, and store for up to 1 day in the frdge. To brown the topping for serving (and re-heat if cool) simply place the gratin under the broiler for only 1-2 minutes, watching closely since the nuts/seeds burn very easily. Serve immediately after the topping has been broiled.



    Garlic Scapes!! Kinda creepy looking, but for sure beautiful. And garlic bulbs come from trimming these guys off...so win-win! You want to trim off the tougher pointy flowering end.

    The stuff you'll need: the layered zucchini, the vegan parm and the scapes...not trimmed or cut.

    The vegan parm, up close. And personal.

    All the veg into the pan, layered in wahtever way you can muster. Note: I didn't tuck in my garlic scapes, so they got a touch over-cooked. Make sure to tuck them (or the asparagus/green beans) in to prevent this!

    Everything all ready for the hot oven:

    30 minutes later....

    Now would be the time to cool, and wait until later to broil or you can broil right away, and dig in! 

  • 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!

  • Pina Colada Smoothie + CSA Weeks 1 & 2

    I do love coconut, pineapple and rum. I may or may not like getting caught in the rain-really depends on my mood and the temperature outside. But either way, this smoothie is damn fast to make, and very refreshing. If like me, you had a dentist appointment in the morning this past week, and really just need something to take your mind off of it after getting home, you may add a good splash of coconut rum. If not, that is fine, too. But really, I highly recommend the rum. Always have the rum.

    Did anyone else have parents that would treat them to milkshakes or ice cream after not-so-fun appointments when they were little? My mom did. It was awesome. And this pina colada inspried smoothie was my post-icky-appointment treat, and it totally made my day a little better.

    A good dose of coconut cream (I use Trader Joe's brand), pure coconut water or plant-based milk, a squeeze of lime or lemon, a heaping cup of frozen or fresh pineapple and a frozen banana make this awesome tropical-tasting smoothie happen. Add some fresh strawberries (it IS the season!!), some fresh mint or basil for fancy-factor, or even some melon of choice for some extra creativity and flavor points, if you want. Either way you make it, this smoothie is awesome. Make it for yourself, sit in the sunshine, and enjoy summer. Have friends over...make a double or even quadruple batch, and pour in some extra rum for fun. This is super easy, and actually not too bad for you, either! You're basically drinking blended fruits, pure coconut and maybe a splash of booze-only if you want it! I am willing to bet that this is way, way better than your local Tiki shack pina colada. Not that I don't love the tiki scene...but this is way faster and you can totally make it in your PJs. 

    And on a side note, our CSA started last week! We chose to do the every week share this year, since our diets are heavy on the fruits and veg. Box 1 was super green, filled with lambs quarters (kinda like spinach, high in protein and nutrients-I juiced mine), kale, kohlrabi, zucchini, lettuce greens, green onions, broccoli and celeriac. I managed to make these quick and delicious gluten-free kohlrabi fritters right after we got the goods. A great gluten-free recipe featuring the all-mighty garbanzo bean flour! The lettuce greens were destined for salads, and the kale for smoothies. The zucchini was fried in olive oil and tossed with homemade basil pesto, arugula, tomatoes, lemon and gluten-free pasta, the mixture was inpsired by this recipe, and it was so delicious and simple. I am still working on the celeriac and a few green onions, as well as 2 bulbs of kohlrabi. Mission accepted!

    Box 2 had STRAWBERRIES (!!!!!), basil, green onions, swiss chard, kohlrabi, summer squash and salad greens. I am thinking of trying this recipe for the summer squash...it sounds like a perfect snack or addition to a giant veggie and hummus sandwich!

     I ate about half the strawberries just make sure they were "good"...it was glorius. 

    At any rate, get out there and get the first of summer's amazing produce, and consider strawberry picking, too!!



    Pina Colada Smoothie // Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Soy-Free, Oil-Free // Makes 1 large smoothie or 2 smaller //

    • 1 large frozen banana
    • 1 cup frozen pineapple
    • 1/4 cup coconut cream
    • 1/3-1/2 cup plant based milk or pure coconut water
    • 1-2 TB lime or lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    • Optional: Coconut Rum (I used Malibu)
    • Optional: a few leaves of mint, basil; other summer fruit like strawberries or melon

    1. Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth. Add a bit more coconut water or milk to help blend, if needed.

    2. Add a splash of rum to the mixture, or wait to do this until it is in glasses to suit preferences for rum or no rum. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint or basil, or fruit, and serve immediately. 



    Everything you'll need, minus an entire bottle of Malibu. Maybe don't put the whole bottle in...just a splash, or two...

    Throw it all in a blender, and about 1 minute later...boom! Party time. Or just smoothie time. Whatever!

    Now, get your butt outside in the sun and enjoy!! 

  • 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!

  • Socca: French or Ligurian Flatbread

    Hellooooo humidity!! It is starting to feel a lot like summer here in Madison (i.e. an armpit). I love the early-to-mid spring season, but come high-summer, Wisconsin really turns into a sauna. Great for plants, but probably not for wearing cute summer clothes and looking effortlessly summer-chic in that white vintage shirt you just got. Ha, yeah right!!!

    And now, I ask you to turn on your oven...to broil. I know, I know. It will only take a few minutes (about 15), and the payoff is great. Socca is a flatbread hailing from Genoa, Italy. There, you may find it as "farinata" or torta di ceci" or "cecina", literally "bread of chickpeas" in Italian-they are a creative bunch, arne't they? The unleavened crepe-like bread slowly made its way along the ligurian coast, and became a staple in Nice, France and Pisa, Italy (and now my kitchen, hopefully yours too). It is made with chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour, water, olive oil, salt and a dash of cumin. Legit socca is made in scortching-hot a wood or coal burning oven. The batter is spread thinly on a hotter-than-the-sun pan, quickly cooked, and the result is a thin, semi-crispy flatbread perfect for dipping, topping, or scooping up other foods. Socca in my apartment is made under the broiler. Yep, there is probably a great deal of difference between these two cooking methods, but my version is pretty darn tasty (and I currently lack a wood/coal fired oven....). Thanks to the high-protein and high-fiber flour, you can really make socca the main highlight of a light spring or summer meal. I love to have "socca and salad" night, because it is super simple and most importantly FAST. Oh, and it is vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free and most importantly, delicious!!! Take THAT, gluten-free challenge!! 

    Some of our favorite toppings inlcude: sauteed spinach or kale with garlic, finely minced garlic with olive oil and lots of parsley, fresh tomatoes with sea salt and olive oil, lemon-tahini sauce and parsley, and avocado with sea salt, olive oil and pepper. The list could go on...be creative! I was recently thinking a caprese-inpsired version with summer tomatoes, basil and your favorite cheese (I am currently working on a fermented cashew cheese! But fresh mozz would be awesome, too). 

    I have made socca a bunch of times now, and have learned a few tricks along the way (ok a bunch, but please don't be alarmed, it is really simple!). My perfect socca is slightly crispy on the bottom, browned nicely on the top with the intermitent dark spots, and has a firm texture-perfect for cutting, slicing and topping. 

    • First: make you batter at least 1 hour ahead of time. This takes all of 5 minutes, so I don't think I am asking for much here! You can do this in the morning, cover it, and let is sit in a cool place or the fridge while you're at work, school...or doing whatever you do. The resting time helps the starches in the flour hydrate, and work their magic. Yes, this is Italian afterall, so there must be magic/superstitions/paranoia involed...right? Right. Maybe not paranoia in this case. Anyways...
    • Second: use a heavy pan that can withstand and retain heat, preferrably cast-iron. I use my 14" well-seasoned cast iron monster, and it does a fabulous job. I have not used any other pan, but regardless, make sure whatever pan or tool you do use is safe under the broiler. But seriously, consider a cast iron pan...they are cheap and if taken care of, last a lifetime. The recipe and tips I provide are specific for cast iron pans. 
    • Third: pre-heat the pan under the broiler until it is hot-hot-hot. I mean, HOT. Your pot holder should fear for its life when you use it to take the hot pan out of the oven using EXTREME CAUTION. For this obvious reason, make sure your potholder is safe to use; I use silicone ones when performing this task, because synthetic fibers do melt. Let me learn that lesson for you. Don't repeat it. Maybe consider some welding gloves if you are concerned. The end goal: you should hear the batter sizzle when you pour it in the hot pan.
    • Fourth: you need quite a drizzle of olive oil in the hot-hot pan, and be sure to coat the entire bottom to prevent sticking. I use extra virign, but use any high-quality olive oil you'd like. 
    • Fifth: bake under the broiler until blistered, and then take it out and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This allows the socca to finish cooking, firm up a bit, and helps release it from the pan.
    • Sixth: Using a offset spatula (like this one if you have one or similar), carefully slide it under the socca several times around the entire thing; don't worry if you poke through the socca or if some sticks, you'll get the hang of this with some practice. Slide the socca onto a cutting board, or a parchment-lined baking tray for a quick clean-up later. NOW is the time to top the entire thing with olive oil, herbs and garlic or toppings desired. If you do that while it is in the pan, it gets soggy and quite tricky to release. Also, by sliding out of the pan, it is much easier to cut. I use a pizza cutter or large chef's knife.

    ....got all that? Really, it is simple. Don't be scared. Go buy some garbanzo bean flour (I have had great results with Bob's Red Mill), and make some socca!! I adapted my recipe and parts of my method from David Lebovitz. Note: he makes several socca from this recipe, but I make one for a thicker, heartier socca perfecy for topping. Feel free to experiment!

    NOTE: I use weight measurements here, because I find that 1 cup of garbanzo bean flour is less than 160 grams due to its fluffy character. Using 1 heaped cup garbanzo flour should be roughly 160 grams, hence the 130-160g below. In the end, you can add more flour or add a touch more water to get at the consistency of a pancake batter.



    Socca // vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free // serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side //

    • 1 heaped cup (130-160 grams) high-quality chickpea flour (like Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 cup plus 2 TB (280 g or ml) water
    • 3/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/8 tsp ground cumin 
    • 2 1/2 TB olive oil, divided

    Optional:

    • toppings you'd like (ideas above!!)

    1. Mix the batter ingredients with a whisk or fork, using 1 1/2 TB of the olive oil, making sure all lumps are mixed out. The consistency should be like a crepe batter, or slightly runny pancake batter. If needed, add in a few more TB of chickpea flour. Allow to sit at least 1 hour at room temperature. It will thicken slightly. 

    2. Prepare any toppings you would like, and/or the garlic-parsley-olive oil mixture. Set aside.

    3. Turn on broiler, and put pan under broiler until very, very hot. Take pan out, and quickly pour in the remaining 1 TB olive oil, or enough to coat the entire bottom in a generous layer, swirl to coat, and dump in the batter. It should sizzle. Immediately place back under broiler, and cook for 5-10 minutes, dpending on the power of your broiler. Keep an eye on it. Finished socca is crisp and brown around the edges, and will have some blisters. 

    4. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes as described above in the "tips" section. Release from the pan, using a small metal offset spatula. Top with garlic-herb-olive oil, and/or any other toppings. Slice into pieces with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Note: socca that is not topped will last 2 days in the fridge, wrapped. Eat cold, or pop into a toaster for a few minutes to re-heat. 



    The finished socca! I had more photos to share, but accidentally deleted them. It is Mercury retrogarde until June 11th, so I rest my case. 

    Onto a sheet pan lined with parchment for easy clean-up, and then drizzled with olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic and lots of parsley. Sea salt or Maldon is nice, too.

    Top with whatever you'd like! I used a beautiful tomato from the farmers market, avocado, more olive oil, sea salt and pepper. So simple, but so good!!

    Note the thickness and sturdy-yet tender!-texture...this socca holds up well to hefty toppings!

    And dinner is done. Salad. Socca. (almost) Summer. Oh, and wine. Gotta have wine with this, while eating on a deck or porch. Or just your living room in front of Netflix. Whatever! Just enjoy!!

    Cheers!!

  • Cider Vinegar & Olive Oil Potato Salad (aka: German-Style Potato Salad)

    I have never been a fan of "mayo-bound salads". I coined that term when I was pretty young, and still stick to my guns today. 

    Macaroni salad? Ew. pick-your-protein-based-chopped-and-mixed-with-mayo-salad? Double ew. Ew. Tuna/ham/egg salad, I am looking at you. 

    Potato salad? A little bit better...but still gross. Coleslaw? Same, save the not-mayo-bound-versions.

    This is probably blasphemy for a picnic-loving Wisconsin girl, but whatever. I still love mayo and aioli, but not in copious amounts binding sad vegetables/roots/carbohydrates/proteins together. For this one, I'll stick to my German roots, and root-root-root for the vinegar-and-oil based salads [ok, technical note: mayo is an emulsion of oil and fat, with a touch of vinegar or lemon juice, so could be argued to be very similar as a technicality, but serioulsy different preparations=different (not gross!) salads].

    My grandma used to make a boiled-vinegar-dressing potato salad...and it was uber smelly to say the least. This one will be quite fragrant when you make it, with all the vinegar and onion-action, but never fear: you won't produce a smell that lingers in your kithcen that later hits you in the face like an acrid wet blanket. I promise. 

    I rest my case. This salad is light, tangy, herby and simply delicious. It goes with whatever your heart desires for that picnic...that grill out...that...whatever-it-is-hot-outside meal. Make it for the spring...make it for the summer...just make it instead of that nasty mayo-based stuff, ok? Your arteries and tastebuds will thank you. This recipe hails from Bon Apetit Magazine. I took this recipe out last June, stored it away, and dug it out last weekend knowing that the potatoes I got at the market would meet their destiny there. I stuck to the recipe to a T, except for adding about 3 TB more olive oil and vinegar due to sloppy measuring (so, the recipe is forgiving, too). Oh, and I also omitted the toasted caraway because Specimen A (i.e. my 4 year-old caraway seeds) were just not...good. So get at it! I bet a nice dash of any fresh summer herb wouldn't be bad in here, either. Substitute the scallions with chives, add a handful of parlsey, a pinch of tarragon...whatever. The dill is mighty fine though, so please, consider keeping that the way it is. Oh, and please, please, pleeeease use a high-quality cider vinegar in here? Not that clear bottled, GMO-laden crap you can get for $.98 at the grocery down the street...ok? I use this kind, and love it. This one is also good. The end!



    Cider Vinegar & Olive Oil Potato Salad (aka: German-Style Potato Salad) // Plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free, nut-free// Makes enough for 6 side servings //

    • 2 pounds waxy potatoes (I used local WI German Butterball)
    • Generous 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Generous 1/4 cup good-quality cider vinegar
    • 1/2 sweet white or yellow onion, diced
    • 3 scallions, sliced into rounds
    • 2-3 TB fresh dill
    • 2-3 TB any other fresh herbs desired (optional)
    • Salt and Pepper to taste

    1. wash your potatoes if they are a bit dingy; place into cold water in a large pot, and generously salt the water. Bring to a boil, cooking until tender but not mush. Drain and let cool to the touch.

    2. In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, adding the onion, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, until tender. Be careful to not brown or burn the onion, as this will lead to bitter chunks of onion that do not blend into the dressing. Take off the heat, add freshly cracked balck pepper and stir in the cider vinegar. 

    3. While the dressing sits, cut cooked and slightly cooled potatoes into 1" to 1.5" chunks. Place into a large bowl or container. Pour the dressing over, along with the scallions and herbs. Toss and/or stir gently to combine, taking care to not smash the potatoes. 

    4. Taste, adjusting sea salt and herbs if desired, and allow to sit for 1 hour, up to overnight to help the flavors meld. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. 



     The potatoes before they get their hot and salty boil. I used the buttery yellow German butterball variety, from a local vender at the Dane County Farmer's Market. Use whatever high-quality waxy potato you can source.

    The dressing, pre-cook. The olive oil, chopped onion and a dash of salt get simmered until tender. It will look like this when you are done. Be sure to keep the heat medium-low so as to not scorch the oil or the onions! Add some cracked black pepper, and carry on.

    Everything you'll need: the boiled potatoes, fresh herbs, sea salt and the dressing. You are a gentle toss n' stir away from potato salad glory!The finished salad! You did it. Have a taste, adjust salt and herbs, and if you can muster, let it sit for at least 1 hour to help the flavors meld. Lasts 4 days covered in the fridge. Awesome.

  • 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!

  • Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

    Well, happy Sunday first of all! I hope everyone had a great week, and are finding at least a small amount of time to relax, re-fuel and organize for the week ahead. I had a busy week, topped off with a busy Saturday! Yesterday, I was up a 5:30AM, bright-eyed (read: half asleep, needing coffee STAT) and ready to interview for a farmer's market stand position selling vegetables for JenEhr farms! Despite it being cold and windy, and my awful math skills, it was a ton of fun. The stand was full of amazing, locally grown organic vegetables: red & orange carrots, bekana, mustard greens, mizuna, purple & yellow potatoes, lettuce, spinach, radish & spicy micro greens, red & chioggia beets, white onions, cerliac, arugula...for a late-april farm stand in WI, the spread was indeed impressive and welcome. Chefs from Salvatore's Pies, Forequarter, and Graze all stopped for some great veg...it was so awesome to see locals enjoy, appreciate and utilize these beautiful vegetables. Needless to say, I cannot wait for our CSA to start in June!! 

    Today, I slept in. And have a lot on my to-do list, since on Wednesday....we're heading to NYC!!!!!!! If you have any suggestions about where to find good eats, coffee, chocolate, etc, let me know! I have plans to tour Mast Brothers chocolate (I will buy ALL THE CHOCOLATE). And that is it for now. For now...

    Anyways, making homemade stock is simple and gratifying. You can use it in applications that call for stock, or even water to make soups/stews more flavorful. You can use up those sad-looking, maybe kinda limp/mushy (but not moldy or gross!) vegetables in your crisper drawer/fridge, and that bunch of organic parsley you bought and put in a jar with water and promptly forgot to water it from that point on (same with that organic celery and green onions....le sigh). 

    I found a lot of great pointers in Cookwise, The Tassajara Cookbook and Mastering The Art Of French Cooking (thanks, Julia!). What I have gleaned from the information is summed up here:

    • Do not use vegetables that are in the cruciferous family (i.e. no broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc) because it will make your stock taste rank.
    • Start with cold, filtered water to get maximum flavor extraction!
    • Cooking onions, garlic, etc. prior to infusing filtered water with vegetables is not necessary; some recipes call for it, some don't. Mine does not. 
    • Do use vegetables that are slightly past their prime (if you have them), but not moldy! The starches are converted to more soluble forms as (most) vegetables age, meaning a better infusion of flavors from the vegetable flesh.
    • Rule of thumb: only use vegetables and parts of the vegetables that you would eat. So, that means no pepper cores, dirty carrot tops, radish leaves, turnip tops, potato peelings, etc...
    • On that note, no starchy vegetables: these will cloud your stock. Unless, that is, you want a cloudy, starchy stock. If that is the case, go for it. 
    • Do simmer slowly, over low/moderate heat; do not boil vigorously, or keep a lid clamped-on tight. This results in a sour stock.
    • Do skim off gunk as the stock simmers away. Use a large metal spoon for this. And don't freak out if you can't get it all. 
    • Do simmer for 4-7 hours; you can split this time up into intervals if needed, however you must cool the stock rapidly to get it below 40F to prevent baceteria proliferation and growth. This means you can't just throw the entire thing into a fridge with the lid off and hope for the best. Utilize an ice bath, sticking the pot into the ice bath, stirring to better cool the contents. You could also use smaller containers and do this. And, if you're ok with diluting the flavor, you could stir in some large ice cubes (thought: make one giant ice cube the night before, plunge it in, stir it around for a few moments, then take it out!).
    • I have heard of people doing this in a crock pot or slow cooker, but I cannot tell you about this method because I have never use it. 
    • Strain your finished stock with a medium-holed strainer (like a pasta strainer). After, you could pass through cheese cloth or a nutmilk/sprouting bag.
    • Cool the stock as fast as possible well below 40F after simmering is done; this prevents the proliferation of bacteria, which could make stock sour, or otherwise unsafe and unpleasant to eat.
    • Stir in salt before or after if desired. You can leave this unsalted as well. I added a bit before, tasted the stock, then stirred in a bit more to the warm stock BEFORE cooling. 
    • Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze in large containers, canning jars (both with ~1" of space to allow for expansion) or in bags (I like to lay mine flat, since this takes up less space in my tiny freezer). Label, and if you're anything like me, don't forget that it is there...

    Really, this stuff is so easy and satisfying to make-you just need a bit of time. No fussy ingredients, but feel free to use any sad looking vegetables that you have on hand that will work in this stock (see above-no odiferious vegetables!). Adjust salt and herbs/spices to your preference. A batch will easily make you between 8 and 12 cups, so about 2 batches of soup, or a few batches of your favorite stew. Use it in sauces, making grains, or just stir in some miso and have some extra-flavorful miso soup. 

    However, if you're in need to stock STAT, and didn't have time to make your own, I rely on two vegetable stock concentrates: Better than Bouilon, and Rapunzel. They are both vegetarian/vegan friendly, don't have scary ingredients AND taste pretty darn good! Just watch the sodium levels, as with any prepared food.



    Simple Homemade Vegetable Stock // vegan; plant-based; sugar-free; soy-free; gluten-free; paleo; nut-free// Makes between 8-12 cups

    • Several medium-large carrots, washed and trimmed; peeled if necessary
    • 1-2 medium to large onion, peeled and quartered (I used one red onion, plust about 5 green onions I had laying around)
    • 5-7 stalks of celery, washed
    • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 1 bunch parsley, trimmed of bad ends and rinsed 
    • 2-4 bay leaves
    • Peppercorns, any variety
    • Salt to taste
    • Several sprigs of thyme and/or rosemary and/or sage, or use a few pinches of dried 
    • Other fresh or dried herbs; I hear a pice of kombu is nice for a mineral flavor note
    • Filtered water, or whatever you drink on a daily basis, to cover (about 12 cups)

    1. Peel and trim any dirty or otherwise gnarly looking spots on the vegetables. Cut into sizes that will fit in a large pot. A stock pot is best, as the narrow and deep shape slows evaporation as the stock simmers gently.

    2. Add enough filtered water to cover the vegetables by ~1". 

    3. Simmer over low heat, you don't want a rolling boil or vigorous simmer. Think a few bubbles and steam rising as the stock cooks. Add water as necessary to keep everything covered. Simmer for 4-7 hours, or longer if you have time.

    4. Strain through a medium-sized strainer (I used my pasta strainer for this), and then through a finer strainer, cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag if desired. Cool as fast as possible by using shallow containers or an ice bath. Store in desired containers in the fridge for up to 3 days or the freezer for up to 2 months.



    Everything in the pot, ready to go:

    The herbs I added were dried thyme and some dried sage from last summer. Sea salt, black peppercorns (crushed) and some bay leaves, too.

    The finished product! I simmered mine for about 5 1/2 hours. I cooled by putting the finished stock into smaller containers and into the fridge after cooling to room temp for about 20 minutes. I put the stock into large canning jars with room for expansion in the freezer-about 1" at the top. Some jars have a line specified...so go wtih that if there! 

    The color will depend on what vegetables and herbs you use; since I had lotsa parsley and green onions, this batch took on a more green-hue. If you don't use a finer strainer, you may have a few small bits of herb, which is perfectly fine. I strained mine through my nutmilk bag for a final step. It smells like hearty vegetable soup, earthy and not musty or sour. Freeze for up to 3 months, or refrigerate and use within 4 days time. To defrost, simply place into the fridge overnight, or plunge a jar into some warm-to-hot water. 

  • 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!

  • Edamame Hummus (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Sugar-Free, Nut-Free)

    Well, I say-I am a little late to this edamame hummus business...I did a quick search, and lo and behold...Trader Joe's makes an edamame hummus that people rave about. I was at my local TJ's a few days ago, and decided to grab it. I put it in my basket-no questions asked. But then, learning from my previous post about not reading ingredient labels, I read the label and noticed a few things that concerned me: there was added sugar (wtf?), and the soy beans weren't organic. Well, disgruntled, I did some more research (c'mon, I am a grad student!!) when I got home, and I now know that Trader Joe branded items (private label) are made from non-GMO ingredients! This is great to know, since it was my #1 draw-back from the edamame hummus, and the main reason why I put it back on that shelf. 

    And really, I thought I could make better, too! I mean, homemade hummus is a gazillion times better than store-bought anyways! You get to control how much fat you want to add (um, I like a lot of tahini and olive oil!), what herbs and spices you wish to add (smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and lots of parsley are my classic) and you get to add more lemon. Always more lemon (and cowbell, for those BOC fans out there). I love the sharp contrast against the creamy and rich tahini. So let's be real here: hummus isn't meant to be low-fat. I mean, how are the hippies going to muck-about in those snow covered sidewalks?! Sheesh! And this hummus has that extra protein-punch from the edamme, too. The color is pale-green, and the taste is wonderful. The edamame flavor is pretty delicate, but it shines through (just don't add too much cilantro! ha) I think next time, I'll add some fresh basil to compliment the natural sweetness of the edamame. 

    This particular recipe for edamame hummus was adapted from the ingredient deck on TJ's (I may or may not have taken a picture...), as well as this lovely lady's recipe (even she agrees that homemade is better!).This post is dedicated to a lab-mate, who has recently taken up the fine art of homemade hummus making! I was probably a bit too excited about the subject when she told me she made hummus for the first time last week. Like a crazy person, I was asking about if she cooked the beans from scratch, what spices she added, if she used a blender or food processor etc...but she is still talking to me, so I think that's a good sign! And, she seemed to also like the small (slightly pathetic) container of this hummus I brought her to try! Three cheers for hummus!

    Note: for a smoother hummus, make in a blender. A food processor, I find, produces a nice but coarser texture, whereas the blender does a great job pureeing. If you want a super-duper smooth hummus, microwave the drained garbanzos (or homemade) with just enough water to cover them, along with the cloves of garlic for 3-5 minutes. If you are really bored, or want to torture someone, pop the skins off of the garbanzo beans. Removing the skins only takes about 5 minutes, but it is tedious...whether it is worth it is up to you!



    Edamame Hummus (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Sugar-Free) //makes about 3.5 cups//

    • 1 cup shelled organic edamame (soy beans)
    • 2 cups homecooked, or 1-15oz can, garbanzo beans (chick peas)
    • 2-4 TB fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup tahini
    • 2 TB olive oil 
    • 2-6 TB water (to help blend, adding more if necessary)
    • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
    • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika plus more for topping
    • 2-3 TB fresh parsley
    • 2-3 TB fresh cilantro
    • a pinch or two of cayenne, or a few drops hot sauce (optional, for spice)

    1. If using canned garbanzo beans, drain and thoroughly rinse. Take note if they are salted or not: if so, be mindful of this as you add salt to the hummus. 

    2. Bring 2 cups of water to a simmer, add the edamame, and cook for ~5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain and rinse. 

    3. Add the garbanzos, edamame, and the remaining ingredients to a blender or food processor. Puree, adding water by the TB to help thin and blend. Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender or food processor periodically.

    4. Once to a desired texture, taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy right away with raw veggies, as a sandwich spread, or with crakers/chips, or keep in a container with a lid in the fridge for 1 week. 



    All the ingredients (not pictured: garlic and sea salt):

    I love the bright-green color of the edamame!

    And the lovely green parsley and cilantro! So much green! Is spring here yet??

    The garbanzo beans! Love these guys...my boyfriend is a professional 'banzo cooker, so these are from dried organic beans. They are well worth the soaking and cooking!

    And the two best friends of garbanzos: lemon and tanihi!

    Ok, now throw it all in a blender or food processor, puree, adding water and scraper down the sides as needed. Sprinkle with smoked paprika for some color and flavor, and add a small-shrub-like garnish of parsley and/or cilantro! Viola-enjoy for up to 1 week.

  • Warming Curried Lentils and Butternut Squash (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free Option)

    I can tell that winter has sunk in (albeit, we don't have much snow here in WI, and it has been warm enough for a few brisk runs outside this past week) with my "hibernation mode" kicking in. Outside is hot lava. Inside is not. Must stay inside. As my sister texted me this week, cabin-fever mode is kicking in! I have been day-dreaming about our summer CSA in efforts to look forward to warming weather. We're going to try out Jenehr Farms this summer in Sun Prarie for two reasons: closer to home so less carbon foot-print, and strawberry picking is included in the CSA price!! (!!!!) We've decided to get a full share this year, since we really love our organic veggies, and found that the half-share we got last season was just enough to get us through two weeks.

    The funny thing about being a complete shut-in is that I should be working on productive things (like my research maybe??). But sometimes, you just need to take in the winter-blues in order to get over them. You know? So instead of fighting it this year like I did the last, and being really critical of myself, I am trying really hadrd to be lenient on myself. Didn't make it to the gym for that workout I planned the night before? Oh well-30 minutes on our uber-crappy elliptical will do. Didn't get up at 7:30am as planned on Sunday? Bake some lovely pumpkin bread while gazing outside, and enjoy the sunshine streaming in instead! And maybe even start prepping for dinner at 2pm. And then take pictures of it all. My point is: when winter has you down, take it easy, and do things that make you happy (and perhaps get some vitamin D supplements, too...). 

    This stew (I guess it is a stew) is a laid-back dish that comes together quickly after the squash is roasted. The extra hour needed to roast the squash is perfect for a lazy weekend day, or a weeknight when you have a bit extra time (or just really want to turn the oven on to warm up a bit...). The roasting dries the squash out a bit, allowing the broth to seep into the squash bits, and also produces some great caramilzed flavors that help gently sweeten the entire dish. This along with lots of warm spices (ginger! cinnamon! smoked paprika!) and hearty, fast-cooking red lentils makes for a perfect cold-weather dish. And please, don't be afraid of the long ingredient list and resist the temptation of using only pre-made curry powders...I supplemented the flavors with my favorite yellow curry powder in this recipe, but please use the actual spices as well. It really pays off! Be sure to serve with lots of toasted cashews and chopped fresh parsley and cilantro. For a quick side to help scoop this stuff up, warm a few flatbreads (pita, naan...) and drizzle with garlic oil, sea salt, parsley and cilantro. It is all amazing, with the spicy, sweet and savory flavors going on...

    For a super-duper filling dish, serve over grain of choice that has been drizzed with some lime juice. Whole-wheat cous cous, basmati rice, brown rice or bulgur are good options. Or hell, do this and the garlic-pita as well! I want ALL the carbs! *evil laugh*. That got a bit weird-sorry...

    Note: while roasting the squash is not 100% necessary, the dish will be fine if you throw the squash in right when you start to cook the lentils. Both will cook at the same time, and even if not, overcooked red lentils aren't the end of the world! They form a creamy, filling broth, that is equally declicious. If you are gluten-free, don't use a gluten-containing grain and/or pita when serving (duh). And if you can't enjoy cashews, try toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds. Also, if you want to, you can keep the skin on the squash. Most butternut (and kobocha and kuri) squash have a tender skin, but a few I have had recently have not, hence why I peeled mine.



    Warming Curried Lentils and Butternut Squash (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free Option) //yields 4-5 large portions or 6-7 portions when served over a grain// 

    Roasted Butternut (or Kobocha or Red Kuri Squash):

    • 1 medium squash, peeled and diced into ~1" cubes (about 4 cups)
    • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB melted coconut oil

    Stew:

    • 1 medium sweet onion, diced small
    • 3 to 5 cloves garlic, finley minced (reserving 1-2 TB for garlic oil)
    • 1 TB coconut oil 
    • 3 TB olive oil (1 TB for the stew, 2 TB for garlic oil)
    • 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 ½ tsp cumin
    • 1 ½ tsp paprika, plain or smoked
    • ½ tsp turmeric
    • ½ tsp red chili flakes
    • ½ tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp (or to taste) mild curry powder (optional)
    • 1 TB freshly grated ginger
    • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 TB tomato paste
    • ½ cup chopped each freshly parsley and cilantro
    • Fresh lime juice, to taste + to toss any grain this will be served on
    • ½ cup cashews, freshly toasted
    • Whole grain pita or flat bread (I saw that Trader Joe's in Madison carries naan now!)

    1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Place coconut oil in the warming oven to melt. Toss the cubed squash in the spices and oil in a large bowl, or straight on a parchment-lined pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, unutil just starting to brown and soften. Take the squash out and set it aside until you're ready to add it into the stew.

    2. In a heavy-bottomed pan (cast iron is best!) with a lid, warm on medium heat 1 TB coconut oil and 1 TB olive oil (or just 2 TB coconut oil). Add the onions, and saute with a pinch of salt until translucent, tender and just starting to brown (about 7 minutes or so). Add the garlic and breifly stir until aromatic, and then add all the spices and tomato paste. Stir until fragrant (about 1 or 2 minutes on medium heat-careful to NOT burn the spices!).

    3. Add the broth, and using a wooden spoon, scrape the spicy-tomato paste bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. While the broth warms, pick-through and wash your lentils. Add the lentils to the warmed broth, and place the lid on the pot. Simmer the lentils for about 10 minutes, until just starting to tenderize. Add the roasted squash, stir, and add a bit more broth if the mixture looks thick. Place lid on, and simmer for 10-15 minutes more until the squash is cooked through. 

    4. While you wait for the whole stew to finish, chop the parlsey and cilantro, and slice up lime wedges. Toast 1/2 cup of raw cashews over medium heat in a small pan, or in a 350F oven for a 7-10 minutes. If serving with pita, now would be a great time to pop it into the oven with the cashews. Prepare garlic oil for drizzing pita bread and/or stew by combing 1 to 2 TB reserved minced garlic with 2 TB olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Allow the oil to sit for a few minutes to infuse. 

    5. Check the stew, stir, taste and adjust seasonings. I added a squeeze of lime juice to pop the flavors. Serve over grain of choice (if desired), along with the garlic oil drizzled pita, cilantro, parsley, lime squeeze over top, and toasted cashews. Eat...enjoy...repeat. 



    Peel the squash: a good peeler is essential for this! I love my Rada Cutlery peeler. It is heavy-duty, sharp AND made in the USA! 

    Cut the squash into ~1" cubes.

    Admire how beautiful the squash is...I would love to (in theory...) paint a room this sunny yellow-orange color. It is so darn cheerful!

    Everything all measured out, since I had the time and the sunlight was beautiful!

    And the spices! They smell incredible:

    And the lentils...we can't forget about the lentils...

    Toasted 'shews:

    Roasted squash: it is just starting to brown a bit-now is the perfect time to stop the roasting:

    Steamy and spicy! The onions, garlic, tomato paste, spices:

    After you've added the stock and lentils, allow the lentils to cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes before adding in the roasted squash:

    After simmering and cooking the rest of the way, the lentils are tender and the squash is also cooked through with the spicy broth! And you're done! Drizzle with lime juice, and sprinkle generously with the chopped parsley, cilantro, and toasted cashews:

  • Blueberry Pie Smoothie (vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free, soy free option, nut free option, oil free)

    Who else has been feeling the winter blues? I certainly have. Not going to lie, there were two days after New Years of sleeping in a bit too late, guzzling two smoothies a day, and staying in bed reading. Not that there isn't anything wrong with that (and in my defense, I was reading articles for my research), but I felt that I should probably start contributing to society again...and this smoothie really helped me out!! I have a hunch it will make you pretty happy and energized, too. Since starting my days with a big fruit and/or leafy-green smoothie, I have felt lighter, but fuller more energized throughout the day-especially the morning hours. I have never, ever, ever been a morning person, so I look forward to my morning smoothie-good motivation for getting up, and awaking those still sleeping with loud blending noises! Wakey wakey...

    I came up with this formula when I was experimenting with a NutriBullet we inhereted over the holidays. I will not be ashamed in saying that I let it sit in a box in our closet for a solid week before I hauled it out, cleaned it and tried it out. Wasn't this thing on an infomercial?? I was a tad turned away at this point. But out of pity for the little machine, I had to try it out at least once. 

    The first smoothie I made was one that I make often, almost every morning, based on spinach, frozen banana, chia and hemp seeds. The first sip was like velvet...green, slightly sweet, smooth...I was hooked. I quickly concocted a hardcore blend of a (whole) orange, lemon, ginger, pear and water. Besides being overly bitter from the entire orange (lesson learned!), it wasn't too bad. I then tried a kale and apple concoction, and again, smooth as buttah (or Earth Balance...whavever!). 

    But with that said, please give this a try in a "normal" blender. I recommend blending the almonds with the liquid and the hemp and/or chia seeds (and dates, if preferred over bananas) first until smooth, and then adding in the banana, coconut cream, blueberries and spices. Also, you can plan ahead, and soak your almonds overnight. If the smoothie warms up from the heat of the blender, blend in an ice cube or two to cool it down. This is the process that I typically use with heftier smoothies (like those with kale and nuts) with my "normal" blender, and they come out pretty smooth, and just as tasty. In fact, most of the smoothies I have posted on my instagram account have been made like this, so see the results for yourself! No need to drop $500 on a VitaMIx or a NutriBullet, well, not at least until you break your current blender(s) and have an excuse to purchase one! Buahahahaha...

    Cheers and bottoms up for a healthy and active January! This smoothie is creamy, sweet with warm spices reminiscent of blueberry pie, and bursting with healthy fats. It boasts 1 cup of blueberries, a fiber and antioxidant rich fruit, and one that also makes this smoothie a beautiful color! The almonds and coconut cream make this smoothie rich, while the lemon gives it just the right kick. The chia and hemp boost the fiber, healthy fat and protein content-keeping you feeling full. I am happy to say that it has passed picky-eater-boyfriend approval, and is now part of the regular smoothie rotation. 

    What other "superfoods" do you blend into your smoothies? I am on the prowl for some new ingredients to try. At the top of my list is maca powder, as well as goji berries. 

    Note: I added lemon to make all the flavors pop. Adding fresh ginger may be a great idea, too! If you don't have coconut cream, you may omit it, or try using coconut milk. If you are allergic to nuts, omit the almonds and substitute coconut cream. If you don't have chia or hemp, still give this a try (and go out and treat yourself to some chia and/or hemp seeds!!). Don't like bananas? Try 4 to 5 soft dates to sweeten this instead. 



    Blueberry Pie Smoothie (Vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free, soy free option, nut free option oil free)

    • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
    • 1 cup milk of choice (such as soy, almond or coconut)
    • 1 TB hemp seeds
    • 1 TB chia seeds
    • 2 TB almonds, about 12-14 (or 1 TB additional coconut cream)
    • 1 TB coconut cream (see note above)
    • Juice of 1/4 of a small lemon
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg 
    • 1 medium to large ripe banana, fresh or frozen (or, 4 to 5 soft dates if you don't like 'nanas)
    • optional: a few ice cubes if needed to cool the smoothie
    • optional: a 1/2" pice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into small-ish pieces

    Using a high-speed blender:

    1. add all the ingredients, and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.

    Using a conventional blender:

    1. add the milk, hemp, chia, ginger (if using), dates (if using) and almonds to the blender, and blend until smooth.

    2. Add remaining ingredients, and blend unitl desired consistency. Enjoy immediately. Proceed to dance with high-energy levels and ninja-kick into the air. 



    Here's what you'll need: ripe banana, milk of choice, blueberries, lemon, chia and hemp seeds, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg (freshly grated is preferred) and coconut cream. Not pictured: fresh ginger and ice cubes.

     

    I am loving these wild boreal blueberries that Trader Joe's is carrying now. They are super tiny, don't have tough skins, and have a great flavor. Kind of cute, right?

    If you're feeling artsy, you can play with garnishing. Surely to impress a half-asleep, hungry individual!

     It resembles a beautiful almond sunrise...or may not. Whatever-it tasted amazing, so get your blender out, and make this! Let me know what you think!