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  • Cozy Cream of Millet and Broccoli Soup

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

  • 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! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Get to it! Cheers my friends!



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

    For The Soup:

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

    For The Beans:

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

    For The Lemon Tahini Drizzle:

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

    For The Gomasio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

  • 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!

  • Pumpkin Pie: Two Classic Recipes

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

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

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

    Our plant-based "custard" secret weapons:

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

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

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

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

    And now, for the crusts:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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

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

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

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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


  • Simple & Satisfying Split Pea Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Soupin'!!



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Sweet Potato, Coconut + Carrot Soup

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Autumn'ing!



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

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

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

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

    All of the spices....

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



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

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

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

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

    Or...

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Everything in the blender:

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



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

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

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

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

    Getting all cozy in here....

    Pour sauce over the top...

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

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

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



  • 7 Vegetable Power Soup + New Goals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Done! Super quick and satisfying. 

  • Easy Cauliflower Cheeze Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Notes: 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

    After about 1 hour:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • Easy Zucchini Gratin

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Gratin:

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

    For The Vegan Parmsan:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    The vegan parm, up close. And personal.

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

    Everything all ready for the hot oven:

    30 minutes later....

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

  • Fried Summer Squash or Zucchini Pasta Salad

    First off, HAPPY SUMMER! I am so excited. I am running out of time to do my research and write my thesis, but here I am making glorius summer salads. Whatever-you live once, and I LOVE summer. It is right up there with autumn. And, I know I was on a gluten-free challenge, but I also live with an Italian. That means carbs are a reality, especially with pesto season upon us. So what was a girl to do?? Uhh...Trader Joe's to the resecue!! Have you tried their gluten-free pasta made from quinoa and brown rice? I am in love. Indeed, even my boyfriend had a hard time discerning in a side-by-side taste test the difference, and mixed in with a flavorful herby dressing with lots of summer veggies? Win! And at less than $2.50 per one pound bag, you get several servings for an affordable price. Whatever variety of pasta you do use, I think the bite-sized pasta shapes are best here, so save that bag of angel hair, linguini or spaghetti for summer tomato sauce dishes. 

    This pasta was inspired by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Is there any recipe that she shares that isn't simple and delicious? Now, I know what you are thinking: frying zucchini or summer squash? Won't that be super greasy and heavy, on top of an oil-based herb dressing? Asnwer: no (and yes, I too was skeptical at first!). If executed properly, pan frying is actually a dry cooking method; the water in the produce steams away, and higher temperatures, thanks to the oil, produce a brown, crispy texture. The key is to keep the oil at the proper temperature, as oil that is not hot enough can seep into the food, and too hot oil can be a smokey mess. Be sure that when you add batches of the zucchini or squash, that it sizzles right away-and doesn't just sit there in a pool of oil. Yes, you're probably adding some extra calories here, but to help bulk-up the dish and dilute any frying oil that does make it into the zucchini, I added a ton (yes, a metric ton) of fresh veggies. Tomatoes, arugula, green onions, garlic...be creative with what you add in addition to the zucchini, and suit to what is in season. My additions were based on what was in my fridge/CSA box. A nice dose of lemon juice and zest really lighten this salad and make the flavors pop-so don't skip the lemon!!

    I used  olive oil for the frying step, but please feel free to substitue any oil you'd like for this (yes, I do know that it has a lower smoke point than other oils). Virgin coconut, sunflower, grapeseed, etc. would work, too. But please, please use a good quality extra virgin oil for the pesto...it is a requirement, not a suggestion, since it is the basis for the salad's dressing. Not a fan of nutritional yeast or it freaks you out? Then omit it, or add your favorite locally sourced hard italian-style cheese, such as romano, asiago, parmesan (look for a veggie rennet type if you're a true stickler about this, as traditional is made from animal rennet) or even ricotta salata. 

    p.s.: I betcha a picnic or cookout would be a great occasion to make this! And, bonus! You can make it up to a day ahead of time, and let the flavors meld in the fridge. Boom! You're awesome.



    Fried Zucchini or Summer Squash Pasta Salad // plant-based, vegan, gluten-free option, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free option // Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side //

    For the Zucchini/Summer Squash:

    • 3-4 small/medium zucchini or summer squash
    • 3-4 TB olive oil (enough to cover the pan bottom), or other oil for pan frying 
    • Sea Salt

    For the Pesto:

    • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, or other fresh herb combination, like parsley and basil
    • 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic (2 if you like it super garlic-y)
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice 
    • 1 TB nutritional yeast
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 cup walnuts or pinenuts (use sunflower seeds or just omit entirely for nut-free), toasted

    For The Salad:

    • 2 cups gluten-free or other favorite pasta (I used Trader Joe's Quinoa and Brown Rice Rotini)
    • 1 1/2 to 2 cups tomaotes (I used small San Marzano; a similar cherry/grape tomato is perfect here)
    • 1 1/2 TB capers, rinsed (salt packed or brined will both work), OR finely chopped kalamata or other quality olive
    • 3 scallions/green onions, white and green parts
    • 1 TB red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 4 heaping cups arugula or spinach
    • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
    • Nutritional yeast, if deisred (or favorite hard Italian cheese) for topping

    1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside to cool a bit. While you wait for the pasta to cook, carry on:

    2. In a medium to large pan, bring the 1/3 cup oil up to tempertaure over medium-high heat. Slice zucchini or squash into 1/4" rounds. Fry in a few batches, to make sure the oil stays hot. The zucchini/squash should sizzle immediately when added to the oil. Cook until golden brown, then flip. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack to allow excess oil to drain, and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

    3. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients for the pesto. If necessary, add a TB or two of water or more oil to help blend. Taste, and adjust seasoning. 

    4. Cut tomaotes into small bite-sized pieces, chop scallions into small rounds, and add to a large bowl or container. Add the remaining ingredients for the salad, fried zucchini, and the pesto. Gently toss in the cooked and slightly cooled pasta, and adjust seasoning/lemon juice and zest. Serve with freshly cracked black peper and nutritional yeast, if desired. Pasta will keep for up to 4 days, covered in the fridge.



     The zucchini and summer squash, all green and gold and glorius!

    Cut into rounds...and ready to pan fry:

    Fried and fabulous (did you know that is a food cart here in Madison??):

    Ok-we're making progress! The arugula, tomatoes, green onions, capers (I got my salt-packed capers from Fraboni's Italian market in Madison. Love that place, and spend waaay too much when I go there! Fun Fact: my boyfriend's grandfather had a butcher shop right accross the street from the Fraboni's on Regent street, back in the glory days of the Greenbush area in Madison!).

    Ok, now for the pesto! You may toast your nuts (ha!) or sunflower seeds if you are using them. Really, I included this picture because my boyfriend, as awesome as he is, got me an All-Clad Copper Core 10" fying pan for by birthday. Can I tell you how amazing nice cookware is? Such a treat after dealing with my sub-par pans for years! I will slowly have nice cookware...one piece at a time!

    Everything for the pesto into a blender or food processor:

    And there you have it-a delicious vegan pesto perfect for this recipe OR for anything you'd like to use it for.

    Now we gently toss everything together. You are done! Make sure to taste for seasonings and lemon-I usually have to spike mine with another pinch of sea salt. But do your thang!

    Enjoy now, or cover and place into the fridge. You can snack on this all week, or share it at a summer picnic or cookout. Enjoy and HAPPY SUMMER!

  • Socca: French or Ligurian Flatbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Optional:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    Everything in the pot, ready to go:

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

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

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

  • All Hail (Vegan) Ceasar Salad

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

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

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

    Notes:

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

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

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



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

    Dressing:

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

    Nutty "Parmesan" Sprinkle

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

    Salad:

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

    Optional Add-Ins:

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

    2. Chop any vegetables for the salad. 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Roasted Veggies:

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

    Quinoa:

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

    Dressing:

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

    Salad:

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

    Start by roasting your sweet potatoes and asparagus:

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

    While the veggies roast, make the quinoa:

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

    At the end, make the dressing

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

    Assembly Tips:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    I love the bright-green color of the edamame!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Roasted Butternut (or Kobocha or Red Kuri Squash):

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

    Stew:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Cut the squash into ~1" cubes.

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

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

    And the spices! They smell incredible:

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

    Toasted 'shews:

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

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

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

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