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  • Summer Berry, Cornmeal & Buckwheat Coffee Cake

    Hey! Hello! How is your summer going?

    I hope it is full of iced coffee, fresh produce and juicy tomatoes drizzled in olive oil. I hope you are grilling/sunbathing/floating down a river with good company. Roadtrippin', hiking, camping, napping, porch sitting, fishing.

    Theme: enjoying! Relaxing! Summering as much as you can, because before you know it....the pumpkin spice will be taking over. This summer has been a time of...growth? for me. I have the "?" because things are poppin' up, and sometimes, it just makes me scratch my head. Why now? Maybe a combination of summertime sadness (yes, I think it is a real thing-thank you Lana Del Ray), and preparing to move (to a really adorable rental house...more on that later). But change is real! And so is the struggle to settle the hell down to listen to your thoughts and mind. I struggle with that, but intentions are set to meditate more often in the next weeks to help me out. What helps you deal with your inner chatter and demons?

    Baking also helps me chill out. I love it, and I love to create something tasty, and even better when it involves produce that is in season. After arriving back from my Brazil trip, Wisconsin accepted me in warm (uhh, very rainy?) arms, bursting with produce and....blueberries! I snatched up 3 pints at the Viroqa farmer's market the weekend after I arrived back, so that clearly meant blueberry coffee cake was in order.

    It is one of my favorites. But my pet peeve with "berry" coffee cakes? Not enough berry action! So, don't do your cake wrong....cram in many berries. Many many berries...nestled in locally produced and milled cornmeal and buckwheat, and also local maple syrup and eggs. Spectacular, right? Wisconsin is amazing, and this cake is a tribute. Any berries would work, really, and I realized blueberry season is kinda at the tail end as I write this. But, there are so many more summertime berries to enjoy, so feel free to swap and combine whichever you please. Even peaches, nectarines and plums would work, and pairy beautifully with the cornmeal.If you cannot find buckwheat, subbing with regular wheat flour would work as well, either all purpose or whole wheat. If you're feelig zingy, add the zest of 1 orange or lemon...or even a lime! The cinnamon sugar topping, for me at least, is required: my mom always dusts the top of blueberry muffins/coffee cake with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. It bakes up into a crunchy, spicy crust that makes your whole bite juuuuust sweet enough. But, I have to admit: a drizzle of honey on top (I used some amazing wildflower Brazilian honey-best souveniers are food, right?) of a warmed piece of this is bliss, too. Enjoy this cake with coffee, tea, or by itself. Sharing is encouraged (truth: I hoarded this whole cake for myself, freezing several slices for a longer shelf life). Enjoying is required! Happy summer!Note: this recipe was adapted by a muffin recipe that I love (find it here!). You can totally make muffins by pouring 1/3 cup batter into standard muffin tins that are lined or greased/floured...you should get about 12, but that will dependon how many berries you add (a lot, I hope!). Bake muffins at 3755F for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester poked into one comes out clean. You're welcome!



    Blueberry, Cornmeal & Buckwheat Coffeecake // makes one 8"x8" coffee cake, or enough for 9 generous slices; makes batter for about 12 muffins //

    • ½ cup (65g) whole wheat flour (or other whole-grain flour, or simply use more buckwheat for a gluten-free option)
    • 1 cup (125g) buckwheat flour
    • ½ (4g) tsp sea salt (4g)
    • 1 TB (15g) baking powder 
    • ½ cup (85g) cornmeal
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 ½ cups (360g) buttermilk or yogurt thinned with water, or plant-based milk with a splash or apple cider vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice
    • 3-5 TB (65g) honey or maple syrup (using more for sweeter cake)
    • ¼ cup 50g melted coconut oil or butter
    • 1 ¾ to 2 ½ 250-350g blueberries
    • zest of 1 lemon or orange or lime (optional)
    • Cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg for topping, mixed together with a fork in a bowl or in a shaker (optional)
    1. Preheat oven to 375F for muffins, or 350F for coffee cake. Prepare 12 standard-sized muffin tins, or 1 8”x8” pan with oil and flour. Sift all dry ingredients in  a large bowl. Mix all wet ingredients (and zest if using) in another medium bowl.

    2. Add wet to dry, mixing to just combine. Add berries, mix to incorporate. Portion out into ⅓ cup portions in muffin tins, or pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, using more for a more crunchy topping.

    3. Muffins: bake for 20-25 minutes; for cake: bake for 45-55 minutes until golden brown and firm. Allow to cool slightly before removing. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months, reheating as needed in a warm oven.



    A kinda thin batter, full of moisture ensure that your whole grain flours don't suck the life out of this cake. Into the pan (or muffin tins), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar...amazing smells soon to come....And done! Get your coffee, sit your ass down, and enjoy. Note the bursting, juicy berries....how can you not love this cake? Cheers!

  • 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!!

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

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

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

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

    My major changes to the original recipe include:

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

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



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

    Base and Topping:

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

    Fig Filling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  • 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!

  • Orange, Hazelnut & Bourbon Biscotti

    Alright. I don't exactly know how it is already December, BUT I do know that the holidays=cookie season. And hot beverage season. So naturally, biscotti rank high on my cookie list. Nothing is as satisfying as dunking a crunchy, nutty cookie into a hot cup of coffee (or whatever your hot beverage of choice is!). 

    I don't know about you, but, anytime during the day I can mentally and physically slow down enough to sit, make coffee or tea, and enjoy a treat is something I cherish. And even if you cannot manage to do this exact ritual, or don't need the sugar/caffeiene rush, I think it is healthy to slow down during the day, take some deep breaths, and focus on the present. For December, I am making this practice one of my values for the month. Whether I will choose to do this before going to work amidst my morning routine, mid-day during work, or when I get home, I want to get back into expressing gratitude and being present each day (even if it is just for 5 minutes!). Because really, I think being a sane, grateful and kind person is a valuable gift we can give to the people in our lives, and our world at large, especially during the often stressful, emotional and hectic holiday season. Now, back to cookies! To be perfectly honest, this was my first ever batch of non-anise seed studded biscotti. Not going to lie, it felt a liiiittle like betrayal. My go-to recipe is from my Aunt (which she got from her mother-in-law, who is from Italian stock), and I have many fond memories of coming home after school, and being elated when seeing a small container of the golden crusted, anise seed studded cookies. Not too sweet, super crunchy, speckled with little bursts of black licorice from the anise seeds that would inevitably get stuck in your teeth, where they would hide as flavor bombs well after you were done munching. A perfect after school snack, I could easily munch down 3 or 4 of these treats while procrastinating on getting started with my homework (because eating biscotti > doing homework).

    But I realize that anise can be a polarizing flavor. When anise is invited to the holiday party, you know damn well that it will be staying for a while. Get out of the way, because anise likes to party-invading the dance floor, drinking all the holiday punch, and making a scene. And who drank the last of the egg nog? You bet your ass that it was anise. The presence of anise, strong and pronounced, is known immediately, and understandably, not everyone cares for this. Enter: a plays-well-with-others, even-tempered orange and hazelnut character, mellowed with vanilla and bourbon. I was extremely happy with the results after tweaking an Alice Medrich recipe to my liking (from "Chew Gooey Crispy Crunch Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies"): the crunch factor and texture were spot-on, the flavors were well balanced, and the test of dunking a biscotto into a hot foamy latte passed with flying colors (and don't worry, I verified this seveal times for research purposes). Beyond being delicious treats to savor alone, or with a mug of hot-something, biscotti of any variety are ideal for the holidays: they keep very well, growing crunchier as they sit (put them in a pretty container on your counter next to your coffee maker); they also ship with ease, and travel like champions, so are perfect for sending to people you love around the holidays (and I don't think any sane host/hostess would turn down a tin of biscotti as a thank-you gift!). Simply put: make a big batch, store them in the freezer or on the counter in an air-tight container or jar, then share and enjoy! Notes: while the hazelnut flavor is amazing, I realize finding good quality raw hazelnuts to toast at home is a challenge at times, so substituting your favorite raw nut of choice, and freshly toasting at home, would be perfectly acceptable. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and even pecans, would work here (or heck, try a combination!). They key, as I mentionted, is to freshly toast raw nuts to ensure optiumum freshness and flavor. Using your discretion based on what type of nut you use, adapt which extracts and booze to use in the recipe, but please strive to use pure extracts, and booze that you would actually drink (i.e. no Fleishmann's here!). I favor a high quality vanilla extract, and am working through a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel. Rum, Drambuie, Frangelico, Brandy and Sambucca are all worthy contenders, based on your preferences for booze. In addition, seek out high quality extracts, reading ingredient labels to make sure no corn syrup or other nasty additives are present. And lastly, yes, the orange zest would be completely adaptable to another type of citrus zest (lemon! lime! bergamot!), but is also completely optional if you get right down to it. One could also sneak in some finely chopped dark chocolate as well to this recipe! But truly, the orange/hazelnut/bourbon combination is a winner for sure. 



    Orange & Hazelnut Biscotti // makes 15-18 larger 4" to 6" long cookies, or 24 smaller 2" to 3"  long cookies //

    • 1 heaping cup whole hazelnuts, or nut of choice, freshly toasted
    • 1 cup (4.5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour*
    • 1 cup  (4.5 oz) spelt flour*
    • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
    • zest of 1 orange, or citrus of choice, organic if possible
    • 4 TB melted butter, or 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 TB bourbon, or booze of choice
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract, or extract of choice

    *feel free to use either 100% all purpose flour OR 100% spelt flour, or a combination as noted

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread nuts on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Toast nuts until fragrant, about 7-10 minutes. If using hazelnuts, after toasting, transfer slightly cooled nuts to a kitchen towel, wrap, and begin to rub the skins off by massaging the hazelnuts in the towel. Shake partially skinned hazelnuts into a colander, rub together with hands to get remaining skins off. 

    2. Transfer skinned nuts into bowl of food processor, and process into a coarse meal. Alternatively, coarsely chop nuts with a sharp knife. 

    3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, sea salt and nutmeg. Add chopped nuts and stir to combine. 

    4. In another large bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest. Rub together to work the oils out of the orange zest until the sugar is moist and fragrant with the orange oil. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the melted butter or olive oil, and then finally whisk in the booze and extracts. 

    5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture with the chopped nuts. Stir until a moist, thick and sticky batter is formed. Using lightly oiled or moistened hands, turn the batter out onto a an oiled parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Form the batter into a long rectangle of even thickness that is 12"-14" long and 4"-5" wide, using the larger measurements for smaller, shorter cookies. 

    6. Bake the rectangle for 45-50 minutes, until firm to the touch and dry in appearance. Allow the log to cool for 15-30 minutes, until cool to touch, and then slice using a serratd knife into 1/2" to 1" thick slices. If desired, cut on a bias or a diagonal. Place sliced biscotto back onto the baking sheet, and return to the oven for the second bake for 40-55 minutes, flipping the cookies halfway through baking, until golden brown. Allow to cool, and then store in airtight containers at room temperature or in the freezer.



  • 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. 

  • 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!

  • Date, Cacao & Peanut Energy AmazeBalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Raw Banana Cream Pie Jars (for two) + What the Hey...Adulting!

    So hey. Can we talk about knowing what the fudge to do wtih your life when you're really not sure? When you are so indecisive that you manage to drive literally EVERYONE (cough: sister and boyfriend, espeically) mad over your vast ability to vasilate, and being a bottomless pit of fickle-minded-ness??

    Ugh. Story of my LIFE this past week and a half. And my intention is to not sound ungrateful. But, for some reason, I have this immense...fear, anxiety...that making one decision will ultimately destroy relationships, future opportunities, and my sanity. Fear that I will be letting everyone down, and the utmost fear that I am making the WRONG choice.But gosh darnit, why does it have to be so painful? And scary? Like putting on a pair of two-size-too-small jeans that are fresh out of the dryer, when your legs are still damp from the shower...well, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it doesn't have to be. Nothing is "forever", and I have a choice...and even if those choices are the best in the long run, I have the right to make bad choices. I mean, we are not talking like taking too many tequila shots, and streaking through traffic. I am talking how I will feel and see myself in the long run...future self..."what will I think of myself in a few months? Years?"

    Well, I can't know everything. I don't know everything. I am likely over thinking this whole situation. And right now, I think I am making the best choice I can with what I have in my brain right now. I cannot be 100% sure, but I live once. And I gotta keep chuggin'. Don't we all?

    Anyways, these raw banana cream pie jars. Vert tasty while eaten sitting in the sun. And, very, very easy to make. Like, we are talking (not counting cashew soaking time of 4-8 hours/20 minutes in hot water for a high-powered blender...and not counting chilling time for the parfaits, at least 2 hours, or even overnight if that is convenient for you), about 20 minutes. You can handle it, like how you can handle hard decisions. We can do this. And eat pie out of a jar, too.

    Oh, and I think this is the first official "raw" dessert recipe on this here blog? I mean, I know maple syrup isn't technically raw, and neither is dark chocolate if you choose to use it, but calm down. Close enough. Here we go. Enjoy your day, your life, and your decisions. You are awesome.Note: this recipe was inspired by the beautiful lady behind Oh Lady Cakes. And I really love her stuff. So check it out, yo! Also note: if feeling lazy, you may simply make the banana cream filling, as this can serve as an amazingly simple and tasty banana pudding. Simply chill it for a few hours, and serve topped with banana slices, cacao nibs, dark chocolate, toasted coconut flakes and/or whipped coconut cream.



    Raw Banana Cream Pie Jars // Serves 2 generously, or 3 more modestly // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; oil-free; refined sugar-free //

    Banana Cream Filling: 

    • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in warm/hot water for 20 minutes (if using high powered blender), or soaked at room temperature for 4-8 hours or overnight (if using conventional or if this is more convenient for you)
    • 1 large ripe banana
    • 2 soft medjool dates, soaked in hot water for 5-10 minutes, drained of excess water*
    • 4 TB coconut cream or coconut milk, or almond or other plant-based milk, plus more if needed to help blend
    • 1 TB maple syrup, if extra sweetness is desired or if your banana isn't super ripe
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • pinch of sea salt

    Crust Layer:

    • 4-5 large soft medjool dates, soaked for 5-10 minutes in hot water, drained of excess water*
    • 1/2 cup walnuts or almond
    • pinch cinnamon
    • pinch sea salt

    *I soaked my dates since they weren't super soft, but if yours are, you can probably get away without doing this soaking step.

    For Layering:

    • ripe banana, sliced into rounds
    • cacao nibs or shavings of dark chocolate, or both
    • toasted coconut flakes
    • whipped coconut cream for topping off, if you are feeling fancy and ambitious (not shown in pictures because I wasn't feeling fancy and ambitious)

    1. Soak your cashews, using the quick-soak hot water method if you have a high powered blender. To make the filling, simply place all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding a TB or two of coconut cream/milk/almond milk to help blend if needed. Taste for sweetness, salt and lemon, adjusting as needed. 

    2. To make the crust layer, pulse the medjool dates into a paste in a food processor. Add the walnuts, cinnamon and sea salt, pulsing to combine and chop the nuts into smaller pieces. When you have a mixture that can be pressed into a ball and hold the shape relatively well, you are done!

    3. To make the parfaits, get 2 or 3 half-pint or close to half-pint jars. Start with a generous layer of the crust mixture, compacting just a bit. Add a layer of banana slices, and then a layer of banana cream. Sprinkle with cacao nibs, toasted coconut or dark chocolate shavings, or all three. Add another layer of banana slices, and then top the parfaits off with a layer of the banana cream. Place the parfaits in the fridge for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours or overnight to set up. Top with whipped coconut cream, and sprinkle with additional cacao nibs, grated chocolate or coconut flakes, if desired right before serving. The additional toppings and/or coconut whip helps mask the brownish-layer that will form at the top of the banana cream, and is also delicious. Win win.  



    The layering...I think you can figure this out :) use any appropriate container(s) or jars, like I did. Either way, these are delicious and fun.Aaaand you're done, minus some chilling time, for you AND the jars.

  • Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Dip

    Wow! Who else is loving the warmer weather? I am. It is going to my head, and I love the energy I get when I wake up, and see the sun shining. Anyone else?

    Warm weather calls for warm weather snack foods. You know...those things that you can grab, pair with a fun beverage (kombucha...beer n' booch...hint hint), and sit outside to enjoy. I usullay almost always have some sort of dip on hand, and 90% of the time, it is hummus. To me, nothing beats a homemade batch of hummus, with lots of olive oil, fresh lemon juice and tahini. Add some fresh veggies, crackers, pita, and you have an awesome snack or lunch. But sometimes, you want something other than hummus...but equally fantastic. In my opinion, this creamy, reddish-pink, sweet, savory dip is a worthy contender among hummus fanatics and non-fanatics alike. It will make your tastesbuds do the cha-cha, and is a perfect use for freshly harvested sweet red peppers. With the most labor coming in at roasing the red peppers, this dip is easy-peasy. And no, no, no, no, don't even think about using canned or purchased roasted red peppers. They are not the same, and their often times weirdly acidic, vinegar-laden taste creates an entirely different product that is less than stellar (at least, in my opinion-give it a shot if you must!). You can use red bell peppers, or sweet Italian red peppers (what I used in the cut, smash and roast method below). 

    BUT, you are in luck, cause now there are TWO ways you can easily roast red peppers at home:

    And bonus: you can roast the peppers a few days ahead of time, or even freeze the peppers for future use. If you do freeze and choose to roast in the method described in this recipe, I recommend peeling, removing the core/seeds and cutting into pieces prior for convenience. I do have to note, however, that roasting the whole red pepper produces a slightly more moist pepper, since you keep the entire fruit intact during roasting, which effectively traps the natural moisture present in the pepper. But flavor wise, the two roasting methods are similar. 

    I have made this dip with and without the addition of 2 cups (or one 15oz can) garbanzo beans, and while both are very tasty, I prefer the non-beany version. If you do want to add the protein and fiber, go for it! I would imagine cannellini beans would also be a suitable addition. Be sure to adjust the seasonings if you do add the beans, since they will dampen the flavor of spices as they are written in the below recipe. I found a heftier hand on everything was needed to suit my preferences. In any case, we love this stuff on wraps, pita, veggie burgers, cut veggies and tortialla chips. It also makes a great topper for salads, "buddha" bowls, and socca. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! I need to thank Sarah at My New Roots for the recipe-her version is quite perfect as is written in her amazing book!

    Note: I am sure you're thinking it...can you substitute the walnuts for another nut or seed? Honestly, I have not tried it, but imagine that almonds would be a nice substitute, carrying this dip into romesco territory (a good territory, I might add). Sunflower seeds might work, and the sweetness of the roasted red pepper could play nicely with the natural bitter quality of sunflower seeds. If you try either of these versions, let me know how it goes! Also, I do not recommend using any other color pepper besides red, as you really want the sweetest, most flavorful peppers for this dip. 



    Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes about 3 to 4 cups of dip, depending on how many and how large the roasted red peppers you use //

    • 2-3 red bell peppers, or 3-4 smaller Italian sweet red peppers, organic if possible
    • virgin or refined coconut oil, for smearing on the skin of the peppers for roasting
    • 1 cup walnuts
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    • pinch cayenne pepper
    • 4 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
    • 2 large cloves garlic
    • Fresh parsley, for garnish 
    • Optional: 1 to 2 cups garbanzo or cannellini beans

    1. Roast the whole red peppers and walnuts: preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread the walnuts on 1/3 of the baking sheet. Wash and dry red peppers, and smear the coconut oil in a thin layer all over the skin. Place on the lined baking tray away from the walnuts. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and remove the walnuts after this time. Return the red peppers to the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the peppers are starting to blister and darken in spots. Take out of the oven, and carefully transfer to a large glass or metal bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. This time cools the peppers, and also allows the pepper skins to contract, making them easy to peel off. Peel and seed the peppers, reserving juices if possible. At this point, you can refrigerate in a bag or covered container for a few days, or freeze in a bag with the air removed, for up to 1 month for future use. 

    2. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree, adding 1 TB of water at a time if needed to help the mixture blend. Taste and adjust seaonings as needed. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1 week. 



    Covering the roasted and hot peppers traps steam, and helps separate the flesh of the pepper from the skin. That sounds really gross...but eh...it is a pepper! Peel away the skin once the peppers have cooled.Peel the skin away to reveal beautifully charred roasted red peppers! Go you. See, you don't need those jarred roasted red peppers...Everything is now downhill (or uphill??) from here: simply toss everythign into a blender or food processor, and blend until the desired texture. I like mine fairly creamy and smooth. Garnish with parsley, if desired, and enjoy!

  • Homemade Toasted Coconut Milk + Chia Bowl

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

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

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



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

    Toasted Coconut Milk:

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

    Chia Pudding:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Blueberry, Sunbutter + Cacao Smoothie

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

  • Citrus + Spicy Root Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Cashew Milk

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



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

  • Best Banana Bread!

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

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

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

    Recipe Notes:

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

  • Simple Cacao (or Cocoa) Oat & Date Bars

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

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

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



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

    Crust & Topping

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

    Filling

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • Happy Halloween + Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Pumpkin Cake:

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

    Streusel:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

  • 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!

  • Green Juice Smoothie + CSA Scraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Green Juice:

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



    The fennel and celery trimmings, ready to be washed.

    The juice! How crazy green is this?!

    The stuff you'll need for the smoothie:

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

  • 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. 



  • 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!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Filling:

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

    Streusel:

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

    Cake:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    This streusel is extreme. Not for wimpy streusel lovers.

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

    Done! 

  • Rhubarb Crisp

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Crisp Topping:

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

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

      Rhubarb Filling:

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

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

    2. For the topping:

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

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

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

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



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

    Tossed and ready to be topped:

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

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

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

    And maybe seconds...because we can!

  • Happy Mother's Day + Browned Butter Banana Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Re-vamped Almond Milk with Coconut Oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    optional:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

  • 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!!

  • Blueberry Chia "Jam" Bars

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

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

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

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



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

    The Oat Base and Crumble:

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

    The Blueberry Chia "Jam":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    The "Jam":

    The jam all cozy with the oat base:

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

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

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

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

  • Smoothie Guide V1.0

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Smoothie #1: Kale-Blueberry

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

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

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


    Smoothie #2: Green Machine

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

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

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


    Smoothie #3: Just Beet It

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

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

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


    Smoothie #4: Plant Protein Power

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

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

    The hemp seeds, cinnamon and maca powder:

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

  • Best Vegan Pumpkin Bread + Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

    The bananas! What would we do without frozen bananas?

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

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

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

  • 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!