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Paleo
  • 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. 

  • Re-vamped Almond Milk with Coconut Oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    optional:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

  • All Hail (Vegan) Ceasar Salad

    The sun is shining! I have cacao nibs! And the confectionery course I help coordinate (woo spring break!) is over! Now, to just get through the 2-week one in July, do my research, write my thesis and graduate by December....check! No paper cuts, coffee burns or spills were had, so life is good. Know what else is good? Warmer weather, and this salad. And chocolate. But maybe not chocolate on this salad, but for sure for dessert (because hey, you had salad!). I just saw this bar at my local grocery last night, and *almost* got it...but then remember my bag of chocolate bars that my lovely, kind, caring boyfriend got me for valentines. 

    Anyways, this salald! This salad is perfect for well, anything. You can prepare everything the day before for easy day-of prep. I bet the Easter bunny would have liked it. You would think it would be heavy with the creamy cashew base, but using a generous hand with the lemon cuts the richness so well. The "parmesan" sprinkle is not to be omitted-it adds the perfect amount of salty-nutty factor. The original recipe hailed from a beloved cookbook, and used almonds for the dressing. I tinkered with it, and came up with this. To my delight, the author also posted a very similar recipe. Delish. I have brought it to several family gatherings (with people who are non-vegans, including dairy farmers!), and everyone loves it. Even the meat eating farm boys liked the kale. I was impressed and proud.  

    This salad is excellent with just about any sort of salad fixin'. I have made homemade, spicy croutons and tossed them in classic Caesar salad-style, but then experimented with making tofu "croutons" (i.e. firm tofu that has been pressed, and then tossed in coconut oil, sea salt, cracked pepper and garlic powder, then pan-seared in a hot-hot cast iron skillet). Oh my...so delicious both ways! And if you're not into tofu or bread crumbs, then toast some chickpeas (see how to below!) I love this salad with salty kalmata or salt-cured olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrot strips. But, red pepper, thinly sliced onions, marinated tempeh, roasted squash, zucchini, roasted sweet potato...etc would all be welcome addtions. Yes, not traiditonal, but really...we're already making Caeasar vegan, so you might as well go with it. In fact, make a salad bar out of it, and choose your own toppings! Take THAT, Whole Foods!

    Notes:

    The dressing as written is perfect, however, I have had mighty success with adding 1 whole head of roasted garlic (how to roast garlic: preheat oven to 400F, cut the top of a head of garlic to expose a bit of each clove, drizzel with olive oil, wrap in tin foil and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden and tender. Cool a bit, then squeeze the entire bulb and the roasted cloves into the blender). I have also added a few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley after blending; a few teaspoons of fresh or dried dill after blending is great, too. Try dipping fresh veggies into extra dressing, or make this dressing soley for dipping raw veggies in. Think of it as a vegan, more awesome Ranch-y dressing...

    To make this soy-free, omit tofu. To make this gluten-free, use GF bread to make croutons. To make this paleo, use the crispy tofu or chickpea option. 

    How to roast chickpeas: Preheat oven to 400F. drain and rinse 1 15oz can of chickpeas, and dry thoroughly on paper or kitchen towels. Place on a baking tray (lined or unlined), and drizzle 1 tsp of coconut or olive oil, and sprinkle 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1/8 tsp cayenne. Bake for 15 minutes, shake the pan around, then bake for another 10-15 minutes until crispy. Toss in the salad at the last minute to maintain optimal cripsy factor. To store, place completely cooled chickpeas in an air-tight container (they may get a bit un-crispy, so beware. Re-crisp by popping into a warm oven for a few minutes on a baking tray.).



    Vegan Caesar Salad // serves 4 as an entree, or 8-10 as a side salad // Vegan, Gluten-Free Option, Soy-Free Option, Sugar-Free, Paleo option //

    Dressing:

    • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight if using a conventional blender
    • 2-4 TB fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic 
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • 2 tsp dijon mustard
    • 2 tsp tamari, organic soy sauce, or vegan worstershershire 
    • 1 TB nutritional yeast
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • freshly cracked black pepper to taste 
    • 2-4 TB water if needed to thin to help blend
    • Fresh parsley, chives, dill or dried dill, if desired

    Nutty "Parmesan" Sprinkle

    • 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or cashews, or a mix thereof
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    • 2 TB sesame seeds
    • 1 TB hemp seeds (optional)
    • 1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
    • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

    Salad:

    • 6-8 cups romaine, washed, dried and chopped into bite-sized pieces
    • 6-8 cups kale of any variety, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons
    • grated carrots, sliced cucumbers, kalmata or salt-cured olives, cherry/grape tomatoes, or any other vegetable desired

    Optional Add-Ins:

    1. Prepare the dressing by adding all the ingredients in a blender. Taste for seasonings, and adjust as desired. Stir in any fresh or dried herbs, do not blend as they will lose their potency and may become bitter. Store dressing in a glass jar or container.

    2. Chop any vegetables for the salad. 

    2. Make the nutty parmesan sprinkle, simply combine allthe ingredients into a food processor and process until finely chopped. If ambitious, toast the nuts and seeds in a shallow skillet until lightly brown and fragrant, then process them. Store in an container or jar with lid. 

    3. Add the greens to a large bowl, and add in desired vegetables, a good sprinkle of the parmesan, and any optional add-ins. Drizzle dressing over, and toss. Serve with extra parmesan, and more cracked black pepper if desired. Since the greens in this salad are pretty hefty, you may let the salad sit for up to 30 minutes to help tenderize the kale. Be sure to toss in any crispy components (tofu, croutons, chickpeas) at the last moment to retain crunch.



    Everything all ready to go. You can pre-assemble for easy smaller salads, or just make one big-ass salad and enjoy! 

    The crunchy veg in here is so refreshing...add what you like! I really love cucumbers and tomatoes (uhh, especially summer-sun ripened tomatoes! Can't waaait!).

    You can use any of your favorite greens here, but I like the heartier ones for this salad. Lacinato kale and romaine are below, all washed, sliced/chopped into thin ribbons, and ready to be dressed-up. It is kind of like salad prom...right?! Chopping the leaves into thin ribbons is key for optimal dressing-coating, as well as chewing the heartier leaves of kale. But, if you like larger chunks, than do your thang! 

    The salad, all ready to be devoured! This is the entire thing, all tossed together, with extra nutty parmesan and cracked black pepper on top. Take note that I let this sit for 10-15 minutes to help the dressing tenderize the kale leaves, but toss in the crispy chickpeas, croutons and tofu at the last minute to help retain crispness. PS: it was really sunny at my Mom's house when I took this pic! And, love that bowl set...my Mom re-finished this set years ago, and I remember her using it when I was little for salads. I only now appreciate how awesome this type of salad set really is!

    Super delicious salad for all...it is only right. Also, my Mom kills it with the festive table cloths. Always. Love her for that!This is the salad, only with the croutons I mentioned above, from Thanksgiving last year. It was devoured by the dairy-lovin' family I have. So really, if this salad is approved by dairy farmers in Wisconsin, you have to trust that it tastes pretty damn good. Go get some!!

  • Spring Forward: Lemon Quinoa + Roasted Asparagus Salad (+ optional easiest way to roast beets!)

    The sun has been shining, I have been running outside (dodging huge lake-like puddles) and a wave of freshness is settling in! Or maybe those are the super gusty, salty, sandy winds I get pelted with while outside? Well, in either case, the snow is almost gone and everyone seems to be a bit happier around here! People are outside, the bros are drinking on their roofs and porches on campus, the shorts and tank-tops are starting to show up, and icy sidewalks are hopefully no more! So what does that mean? Lighter, refreshing food! Not that I don't love the comforting foods of winter, but I am certainly ready for fresh spring produce...like now. Come on CSA box...!! Is it time to pick strawberries yet??

    To celebrate the warm weather, I picked up a few bunches of beautiful aspargus the other day. They looked so fresh and green-and were surprisingly thin and tender! I have been on a roasted veggie kick, since a few steamed veggie incidents the past few weeks resulted in mush...ew. Roasting vegetables is sooo easy, delicous, and versatile. You can toss them into a grain, a huge salad, pasta, or even puree them into a sauce (garlic, roasted red pepper and almonds with some olive oil is my favorite so far). For this lighter, but still delicious and filling salad, I roasted asparagus and sweet potato, and piled it on a bed of lemon-spiked quinoa and peppery arugula. I topped it with the classic lemon-tahini dressing (never gets old!), and toasted pepitas for crunch. Oh, and I was glad I did. I think you will be too, so get to it! 

    If you don't have sweet potatoes or aren't in the mood, try substituing with some sweet roasted beets. Equally as simple and delicious...and any leftover beets can be used in my Just Beet It Smoothie (recipe in this post!). There is a how-to roast beets in the simplest way possible at the bottom of the post. Any leftover lemon-tahini dressing is so tasty on celery, carrots and red pepper slices for a great snack, too. You can also add slices of avocado, too! Cheers to spring!!



    Roasted Vegetable Salad with Lemon Quinoa and Creamy Lemon-Tahini Dressing // makes enough for 4 large entree or 6 small side salads// vegan; gluten-free; sugar-free; soy-free; paleo friendly

    Roasted Veggies:

    • 1 or 2 bunches asparagus cut into 1" pieces
    • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, 1/2" cubes
    • 1-2 TB or a good drizzle of olive oil or melted virgin coconut oil
    • Pinch of sea salt

    Quinoa:

    • 1 cups red or tri-colored quinoa, rinsed well
    • 1 1/3 cups water or vegetable stock
    • 3/4 cup raw pepitas, toasted if desired
    • 1 TB olive oil
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • Zest (optional) and Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
    • 1/2 cup (about 1/2 large bunch) parsley, chopped medium-fine
    • Salt and Pepper to taste

    Dressing:

    • 1/4 cup tahini
    • 1/4 cup water 
    • 2 TB olive oil
    • 2 TB nutritional yeast (optional, but really recommended)
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 1 large clove garlic
    • salt to taste
    • optional: 1/2-1 tsp maple syrup or agave (takes the edge off the raw garlic)

    Salad:

    • 4-6 cups arugula (or spinach, thinly sliced kale, red romaine or any combo thereof)
    • Optional add-ins: additional pepitas, sliced avocado, roasted beets (see below for easy how-to!)

    Start by roasting your sweet potatoes and asparagus:

    1. Pre-heat oven to 425F and line sheet tray with parchment
    2. Start by trimming the woody-ends of the asparagus. A trick: take a spear, hold at bottom and top, and bend it until it breaks. Where the woody end snaps off is where you want to cut the rest of the spears. Cut the trimmed spears into ~1” pieces. Place on sheet tray, and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast asparagus for 8-11 minutes until tender, fragrant but not burnt. Take asparagus out, and transfer to a container.
    3. Turn heat down to 400F for the sweet potatoes, and use the same sheet tray as the asparagus.
    4. If desired, peel the sweet potato. If not, then be sure to wash the skin with a vegetable brush and trim any rough-looking pieces or hairs. Cut the sweet potato into ½” cubes. Toss the sweet potato with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt.
    5. Roast the sweet potatoes for ~35-45 minutes. Turn once mid-way through. They should be golden and tender-taste a few pieces and roast until they are to your liking.
    6. Cool to room temperature, then store a container with a lid-either the same as the asparagus, or a different one.

    While the veggies roast, make the quinoa:

    1. Rinse the quinoa well-it has a natural soapy-coating that is astringent if eaten. You may do this in the cooking pan, OR with a fine-mesh sieve.
    2. Add quinoa and water, cover with lid, and bring to simmer on medium-high then turn down to low. Cook for ~20-25 minutes until water is all absorbed, then turn heat off and allow to sit for ~10 minutes.
    3. Add to a large bowl or container. Fluff with a fork, then add the remaining ingredients (to toaste pepitas, add to a small pan and toast over medium heat until brown, fragrant and starting to pop). Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil if needed. To store, simply cover when cool.

    At the end, make the dressing

    1. Put everything for the dressing into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. If needed, add more water by the TB to help blend. Taste, adjust seasonings as desired.
    2. Store in a glass container with a lid.

    Assembly Tips:

    • You can mix the quinoa and roasted veggies, but I recommend keeping the dressing and greens separate to avoid wilting.
    • Simply top a large bed of greens with the quinoa, veggies and dressing—then enjoy! You can pre-portion out the quinoa, greens and dressing, or just assemble the night before…or just right before you eat it! I like to add sliced avocado right before eating, or you can slice a cado in half, and wrap it up to-go. Slice and scoop out right before eating to prevent browning. 
    • Adjust salt + pepper as you eat, and feel free to sprinkle on additional pepitas too. Adding avocado is also a nice way to beef-up this salad.
    • Adding roasted beets is great as well, and you'll have your oven on anyways. See bottom of post for how-to roast beets in the simplest way....ever!


    Here is how to cut sweet potatoes into 1/2" dice: first, chop the potato in half. Then, cut each half into 3  slices. With those slices, cut into sticks 1/2" thick, then chop those up into cubes. Viola! 

    Toss cubes in olive or melted coconut oil and pinch of salt, and roast until tender and golden:

    To trim the asparagus, simply take one stalk and bend it to find where the woody end begins. Use that stalk as a template for the rest, trimming the bunch while still secured for quick and easy chopping:

    Toss the asparagus pieces in olive oil or melted coconut oil and a pinch of sea salt, then roast!

    The remaining pieces of roasted asparagus. It was so good, we ended up eating the majority of the pan before I could manage to take a picture! You'll have waaaay more than 1/2 cup :)

    The quinoa! What can't this pseudo-grain not do? Granola, salads, soup...oh my! The 10 minute waiting pierod at the end of cooking, I find, helps the last of the water get all absorbed. 

    Everything all lined-up for salad making. You can store all of these separately, and assemble as needed, or make a few big-ass salads for eating right away-your call! 

    The dressing. This stuff is seriously delicious! Try it on raw veggies for a snack.

    The key to this creamy dressing is the lemon-it really helps cut the richness of the tanini, and it is a good excuse to use any vintage citrus reemers, too:

    Note: for the quinoa, I only added ~2TB chopped parsley as mine went south while hibernating in the fridge. I really do recommend the full 1/2 cup because parsley is just that awesome (and really good for you, too).

    The finished product, along with some cut up roasted beets (see below for how to roast!). A seriously delicous and nutritous salad that will keep you going through all of your springtime antics!

    So tasty and light...you'll want to go on a picnic in the brown crunchy...erm I mean green...midwestern March grass!



    Optional: how to roast and prep beets! You can use these for any salad, smoothie or just eating plain with some sea salt and olive oil. Yum!

    step 1: wash your beets! They did grown in the dirt afterall...I like to use a vegetable brush to really get all the grit out. Trim off any gnarly ends and long root tips.

    step 3: wrap beets in aluminum foil, and make sure they are secure. Pretend that you are wrapping a gift for yourself! The beets will need to steam in this package. Roast at 400F until a fork or knife is easily inserted into each beet, about 35-55 minutes, but this really depends on how large the beets are.

    step 4: allow to cool, and then under running water, simply peel the skins away using your fingertips. Naked beets!!

    step 5: store as-is, or chop up. You can freeze the beets whole or chopped. Refrigerated beets will last ~4-6 days, and frozen will last ~2 months. 



  • 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!

  • Dark Chocolate, Cherry + Almond Energy Truffles (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Refined Sugar-Free, Soy-Free, No-Bake)

    Quick Note! Looking for that granola bar recipe from #thethinkingkitchen? The lovely Annie at thethinkingkitchen.com has featured a quick n' simple granola bar recipe in her recent post all about foods to aid in sleeping. You'll find this super-simple recipe on my instagram! You can find my account here on this website...just click "instagram" above. Or, you may check out my pinterest page for the picture, recipe and procedure. If you're a fan of sesame and cashew, those bars are for you! They are vegan, full of crunch, fiber and healthy fats to keep you going! The original recipe hails from Bon Apetite. I modified mine a tad, but nonetheless, still turned out wonderfully. And, we may or may have not enjoyed some Luna and Larry's coconut ice cream on a few of these bars this past weekend......

    Anyways! Next Saturday is Valentine's Day. Whether you celebrate or not, or have a "special someone" in your life now, I declare that it should be a day of celebrating YOU. We ought to love ourselves, and be our own #1...right? Shouldn't we learn to love ourselves before trying to smother someone else with chocolate-coated lovey-dovey emotions? I think so...and I also think that the day is a perfect excuse to treat yourself!! Chocolate, a homecooked meal, cookies, a cocktail...whatever! 

    This year, like the last, I plan on sending my sister something to show her just how much I love her. I mean, big smelly sisters are special! They teach you (or try to) life lessons, give great advice, and also share a love of chocolate. And Fleetwood Mac. Last year, I sent her a big box of homemade vegan coconut-based chocolate truffles (a great recipe on ohsheglows). The concept is simple, and basically mimcs a traditional ganache, subbing in coconut milk for the heavy cream. The truffles turned out great, despite a few issues I had with them, of which I remedied with some reference to this amazing book all about confections.

    Namely, my issue was the following: coconut milk has a fairly wide range of fat content, depedning on the brand, who made it, and time of year. Dairy, however, is tightly regulated in terms of fat content. I mean, that is why you pay more for dairy products wtih more fat. That said, fat content is extremely important when it comes to ganache. Why? Becauce it is an emulsion. Too much of one phase, and your beautiful suspension of liquid fat amongst cocoa solids, cocoa butter droplets and water will split. Not pretty...not pretty at all. And THAT is exactly what happened last year to me-not a huge deal, and I expected it in fact. However, once you roll the truffles in cocoa powder in the end, this hides any imperfections on the outside. But, the texture may not be spot-on silky smooth. By golly, my inner confectionery-geek just didn't feel satisfied. I'll try this again-oh yes, but this week was not that time! I wanted something simpler, healthier, easier to ship to California, and crunchy. Yes, crunchy.

    Enter: dark chocolate-cherry energy truffles! These come together in about 10 minutes, with 15 minutes devoted to forming them into balls. And you may even have everything you need in your pantry right now. They have a long shelf life: about 4 weeks in the freezer, and about 2 weeks in the fridge. They are bursting with healthy fats, fibers, antioxidants and crunch. The intense chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder and nibs will rival any store-bought chocolate. The sweet-tart cherries are the perfect balance, along with the sweet-caramel-like dates holding it all together. And to top it off, a nice splash of cognac (or vanilla) make these super special! If desired, these could be dipped in some melted dark chocolate for a super special treat. Simply melt 3/4 to 1 cup dark chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, and gently roll each ball in the melted chocolate using your fingers or a fork. Tap off excess, and place on parchment until set. I suggest popping the balls in the freezer for a few minute to help harden before dipping (putting melted chocolate in the freezer encourages a firm, albeit less-stable polymorph of cocoa butter to form, so these will be more prone to bloom and may not have a nice snap when bitten into). Perfect-just like YOU, and/or that special someone on valentines day!

    Note: I got 15 balls from this recipe, so enough for 2 small gifts (one for my sister, one for my Mom-she'll probably get hers for her birthday). For storing, place into an air-tight container, or in a box inside a plastic bag to prevent these lovely balls from drying out. You may substitute the almonds for walnuts, macadamia, pistachios or even pecans. I added 1 TB of virgin coconut oil to help these stick together, but feel free to omit. Thank you to scaling back blog for the recipe inspiration!



    Dark Chocolate and Cherry Energy Truffles (vegan, gluten-free, paleo, refined sugar-free, soy-free) //makes 12-15 walnut-sized truffles//

    • 1 cup raw almonds (or other nut, such as walnuts, or a combination)
    • 1 cup pitted soft Medjool dates (about 10-12)
    • 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (preferrably natural, not dutched) or raw cacao powder
    • 2 TB cacao nibs
    • 1 TB soft or melted coconut oil
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB vanilla or cognac (optional)

    1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment, or have at the ready some small confectionery cups. 

    2. In a food processor, process the almonds and nibs until coarse-keep some texture because they will be processed more.

    3. Add the remaining ingredients, and process until everything starts to stick together. The cherries may still be chunky-and that is good! You should be able to squeeze the mixture into a ball and have it hold shape. If it doesn't, process a bit more to release more to decrease particle size and allow the nuts to release some more oil. 

    4. Form into TB size balls, squeezing to compact the mixture. Place into an airtight container, or a box with a plastic bag around it. Balls will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge or up to 4 weeks in the freezer. If frozen, thaw at fridge or room temperature until soft (or just eat frozen!!). Repeat, feel the love, eat more chocolate. 



    Everything you'll need!

    The cherries and nibs. Such flavorful and colorful contrast!The cocoa powder....all cocoa-y and powder-y...and delcious!

    The almonds: aren't they lovely?

    Coconut oil, cognac, cinnamon and sea salt:

    The ground almonds and nibs. This is the goal texture:

    The finished mixture! This stuff smells amazing:

    All rolled up!

    Put in a box, ready to ship...found these materials online, but I bet any baking supply store would carry them! I love the texture and colors. These babies have a lot of love to give!! 

    And more truffles! Hooray! These are wonderful fresh, but firming with some chilling or freezing action is great, too.

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Up-close and personal with granola...

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

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

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