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  • Summer Berry, Cornmeal & Buckwheat Coffee Cake

    Hey! Hello! How is your summer going?

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

  • Frittata: A Tribute

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Banana Bread Granola

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    The stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

    My major changes to the original recipe include:

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

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



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

    Base and Topping:

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

    Fig Filling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  • Browned Butter, Buckwheat & Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

    That is a mouthful! Eating 2 of these cookies at one time annnnd the title..."browned butter, buckwheat, walnut chocolate chunk cookies". They may look a little...homely...but they have incredieble flavor and texture. Note: you may use chocolate chips, and you may omit the walnuts. Similarly, I could see substituting hazelnuts being *amazing* in these.These cookies were born when I participated in a cookie swap in efforts to raise funds of the ACLU, that the lovely Miss Jen held at her crazy adorable pie shop (also, super tasty pies...I shouldn't have to say that about a shop that sells all-things butter and pie...right? Ok...good). I was also in-between moving from Beloit to my new place here in Viroqua (*happy dance*), and was spending a few days/nights at my Dad's in Madison. Let us just say that baking cookies for others is my kind of therapy when things get a liiiiittle stressful. Nibbling on pieces of chocolate, browning butter, adimiring the rich colors of buckwheat flour....I love it all. And I really, really love these cookies.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE a solid, well-executed chocolate chunk cookie. Sprinkled with sea salt, dunked into hot coffee, loaded with chocolate chunks...nothing will beat that. But for those who cannot eat the glutens (turns out, many people are still dabbling in the gluten-free arena), these are a really amazing option. The nutty buckwheat flour compliments the browned butter, and walnuts offer lots of crunch. And the chocolate. The chocolate....is the chocolate. I think I prefer these made with chunks of chocolate-some little pieces, some small, some shavings....but chocolate chips will do just fine. Just be sure to get your hands on some rich dark chocolate here-the contrast of the bitterness against the sweet cookie is *awesome*. A few notes on the flour and such: you can use either Bob's Red Mill buckwheat flour (it is blue-ish in hue, and almost like fine sand in texture) or a more flour-y buckwheat flour. I have made these cookies with both, and while both give slight different textures, both are equally delicious. The Bob's flour cookies were a little more crunchy and crispy around the edges, and were also a little more flat (i.e. they spread a litte more). Made with a more powdery, locally milled buckwheat flour prdoduced a more brown colored batter, and a cookie with less spread, so a more gooey, chewy center. I would 100% recommend allowing the batter for either version to rest for at least 30 minutes (bummer, I know...), or even overnight in the fridge. This allows the buckwheat to absorb moisture, and helps the batter thicken up a touch. Since these cookies lack that viscoelastic, streatchy network of gluten, their structural integrity can be improved with a nap. Your patience will be rewarded! They will still be space hogs, and spread quite a bit with baking, however.  And lastly, do NOT omit the tapioca flour (or sometimes called starch). You can easily find this in most grocery stores, and is extremely helpful in binding gluten-free baked goods...mmmkay? And I don't have to say this (do I?) but please try to use the best butter, sugar, eggs...just like a savory dish, with such few ingredients, using the best you can source really pay off here. But, if the cookie need is strong, use what you have in your pantry.....I get it! Enjoy, eat lots of cookie dough, steal nibbles of the chocolate...you got this!And lastly, if you wish, you can mix these up, portion them out into balls, and freeze. When the cookie need strikes, you can bake-off as many (or as few....but wtf is that with cookies?) as you need, straight from the freezer. Cookie addict hacks...so important for a happy life...right? 



    Browned Butter Buckwheat, Walnut & Chocolate Chunk Cookies // makes approximately 20, 2" diameter cookies // gluten-free; nut-free option (omit the nuts, yo!); soy-free // 

    • 1 stick (8 TB, 113g) unsalted butter
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup (160g) sugar*
    • 2 tsp molasses*
    • 3/4 cup plus 2 TB buckwheat flour (100g) buckwheat flour
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB (45g) tapioca flour or starch
    • pinch of cinnamon and/or freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 1/2 cups (6oz, 170g) dark/bittersweet chocolate (at least 65% cocoa solids, with roughy 80% cocoa solids being my favorite here), either in chip form or chopped into chunks from a bar
    • 1 heaped cup walnuts (leave these out if you can't do nuts or if you don't like them, or substitue with pecans, hazelnuts, etc...)

    *Lately, I have been making my own brown sugar, because to me, it tastes richer and is really simple to make. For this recipe, I use 3/4 cup organic cane sugar with 2 tsp molasses; you can eyeball the molasses if you're feeling saucy, or measure it out like the amazing baking you are! :)

    1. Brown the butter: in a medium saucepan (you'll be mixing in a few more things in here, so use a slightly larger one that you think-I used a 4-cup sauce pan), melt the butter over medium heat, and allow it to cook, swirling occasionally, until it starts to brown and smell nutty. It may foam a few times, and you'll notice some of the butter solids sticking to the bottom-just keep swirling until a golden color is reached. Allow the browned butter to cool for 5-10 minutes while you carry on with the recipe.

    2. Sift the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour/starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Chop the chocolate, and walnuts if using, or measure out the chocolate chips. Whatever you are mixing into the batter, get it ready now!

    3. Into the slightly warm browned butter, add in the sugar, molasses (or light brown sugar), vanilla and egg. Mix thoroughly. The mixture will be almost caramel-like in consistency. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients, mix for a few turns, and then add in the chocolate and walnuts. Don't be shy here-you can mix, mix, mix since we have no gluten to worry about developing. The batter will begin to thicken as you stir-this is the buckwheat flour working the magic it has....

    4. You can let the batter sit for 30 minutes, or covered overnight in the fridge now. After it rests, and when you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Form batter into roughly 2 TB dough, place on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with sea salt (or you can form the balls, and freeze them for future baking). Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating or turning the pans after the first 5-6 minutes to ensure even baking. For frozen cookie dough balls, it may take a minute or two longer for the cookies to bake. The cookies are done when they appear to be dry-ish in the middle, but may still look a little gooey. For crisper cookies, bake until the edges start to brown.

    5. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes before removing with a spatula-the cookies are a little delicate fresh out of the oven. Store for up to 2 months in the freezer in a covered container, or up to 3 days at room temperature (if they last that long...).



    You know how to do this...be sure to allot your measurements for snacking on the chocolate and walnuts. Really. You know you will do it. Sift...gotta sift! Don't skip it. Brown the buttaaaah! Swirl, be patient...you got this...Now, sugar, molasses (or brown sugar) egg...all stirred up into a caramel-like mass....mmm mass....and not the church kind, the "gravitational pull" kind...Stir stir stir....be sure your browned butter is not super hot here, or else you may curdle (i.e. cook) your egg. We don't want that...at least, not in our cookies. Pour the lot over your sifted dry ingredients...and stir, stir, stir again! So, this is the same batter, only made with a locally milled buckwheat flour. You can see that the Bob's batter is a little more loose, but it will firm up after some time. And no nuts in the batter below! But lots of chips. See, we are flexible here...do what you gotta do!All balled up....ahoo hooo...(Elvis voice there...)You can also freeze your balls (teehee), and bake straight from there. Don't forget the sea salt on top!On the cookie sheet, with generous space apart, since these guys like to stretch their legs. And run into each other....cookie venn diagram...it happens!Same cookies, just made with the locally milled flour below (Bob's flour above). Cool, and enjoy. Be sure to let these rest for a minute or two on the cookie sheet before removing to cool, since they are delicate creatures right out of the oven. I mean, aren't we all, though?Nothing better than cookies in the evening light of spring....am I right? Enjoy! Share! Be merry. 

  • Cozy Cream of Millet and Broccoli Soup

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!



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

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

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

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

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



    Sun in a cup. You deserve this, everyday. 

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Batter:

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

    For The Middle & Topping:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Holiday Cookie Line-Up!

    The cold days and dark nights of December, with their shortness and snappiness, encourages me reflect on my year. As with many, the end of the year is a time for peaceful reflection: where we were at the start of a year, where we are now. Goals we accomplished, adventures we went on, and decisions we made. Tears we cried, smiles we smiled. Laughs we laughed with so much life, our eyes started to water.

    Not going to lie, 2016 was one hell of a year for me. A "roller coaster" of a year sums it up quite well. Emotionally hard and taxing, the fear and anxiety of the unknown, the pressure of uncertainty. The internal push to make others happy and comfortable over my own happiness, and inutuition. Really, no pun intended, but it all snow-balled on me this week.

    The "holidays" have not felt as such for me yet. A certain unsettling feeling lingers, and as much as I try to harness this energy and put it towards positive action and creation, I find myself struggling. And I am sure many of you can relate to this feeling!

    But, nonetheless, I have conjured enough Christmas spirit and cheer to put together some treats I hope to share (ok, ok, and treat for me to enjoy with my coffee or tea each day, too!). I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, if I can motivate myself to melt some chocolate, and muster a stable emulsion. I think I can, I think I can.From left to right: gluten-free chai spiced walnut polvorones; ginger snaps; gluten-free walnut, coffee and cacao nib polvorones; orange and hazelnut biscotti (see here for recipe!); gluten-free buckwheat chocolate sea salt cookies (really they are like brownies masquerading as a cookie); and finally, gluten-free spiced cocoa and pecan polvorones.The polvorones were all inspired by The Bojon Gourmet. The spiced cocoa and pecan recipe is here, but the riffs I took on it (chai spiced, coffee-walnut-cacao nib) were taken with liberty by myself. The gingersnaps are made from my favorite recipe, and are from the infamous Alice Medrich (found in her Pure Dessert cookbook, as well as her cookie book). The biscotti recipe was recently posted here, and this time, I left the hazelnuts more intact by hand-chopping and must say I love the results (also, winning for not have to clean the food processor!). I also used Meyer's dark rum in place of bourbon. And finally, the gluten-free buckwheat chocolate sea salt cookies are from the Bojon Gourmet's new book, which I gifted my sister this past October for her birthday. I am storing these all in ziplock bags and containers, in the freezer, to maintain freshness over the next few weeks. And I warn you: a super crispy ginger snap, fresh out of the freezer, dipped in hot coffee, is love at first bite! So with this, likely my last post for 2016, I wish you the best holiday. Happy baking, cooking and candy-making. I hope you listen to your heart, follow your gut, speak to your intuition as much as you know how to right now in the present moment. Be fearless, own up to your shit, and move forward. Follow you dreams, feed your soul. As corny as that sounds, I am really starting to believe in this magic that we all have, sitting in our bodies, waiting to be summoned with courage. 

    Forward. For that is our motto in Wisconsin. Forward! My intention is to march into 2017 with my eyes and heart open, with deep breaths, and with the calm that January brings to us.  

    Peace, love and warm wishes to you all. I hope you find yourself with a hot mug of something a treat in hand many, many times over the holiday season! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Get to it! Cheers my friends!



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

    For The Soup:

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

    For The Beans:

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

    For The Lemon Tahini Drizzle:

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

    For The Gomasio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Buckwheat Waffles + Stewed Apples

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

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



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

    Waffles:

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

    Spiced Stewed Apples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • On Moving + Gluten Free (and not full of weird flours) Banana Bread (or muffins) (plus, gluten-free sweet potato bread)

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

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

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

    But here we are, as time marches on, and we must enjoy our moments as much as we can! To bid our little, under ventilated loft apartment in Madison farewell, I made banana bread! Classic, comforting, familiar. But, this version is gluten-free, with no use of weird ass flours or gums/hydrocolloids/thickeners (side note: acacia gum is used for envelope adhesive, and has no place in food, mmmk?). Rather, the loaf is full of bananas, as it should be (see also my version of gluten-full, vegan and delicious banana bread, as well as some other tips on my banana bread making process). My quest for a buckwheat banana blueberry muffin recipe a few weeks back lead to me develop this recipe, which I thought was going to be a total flop, purely because it was a total experiment. I heavily modified the muffin recipe, mixed the batter up, got really lazy and decided to plop the batter in my loaf tin instead, and boom...a total success! Carbs, and coconut oil for healthy fats, to fuel moving all those damn boxes (or moving whatever or just living...). We thorougly enjoyed slices, slightly warmed, slathered with homemade sunbutter. Sooo good!

    Did someone say easy gluten-free bluberry muffins?

    And BONUS: the batter also makes great muffins...go figure! Simply bump the oven temp up to 400F, and bake in muffin tins that have been greased/floured or lined. Mix in nuts, berries, chocolate...whatever you fancy, and bake for 18-25 minutes, or until a tester comes our clean when poked into the muffins. I got a perfect 12 standard sized muffins from this when I mixed in 1 1/2 cups blueberries and 1/2 cup walnuts. I could see pecans also being fabulous, as well as chunks of chocolate (or even cacao nibs), in either the loaf or muffin. 

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

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

    Recipe Notes: I have not tried this recipe without the eggs (my aunt gave me two dozen beautiful eggs from her hens a few weeks ago!), but surely believe that a flax or chia egg would work to make this loaf vegan (mix 1 TB ground flax or chia with 3 TB water for each egg replacement), or, you may be able to leave any egg/egg substitute out due to the bananas being a great egg replacer in themselves (I'll update this if I do try any of those). In my testing, I used brown rice syrup for the sweetener, but my sister had great results with maple syrup. If using agave or honey, beware of the higher fructose content and therefore a darker loaf upon baking; I suspect this to not be a huge issue in the muffins as their baking time is considerably less than the loaf. Also, if your bananas aren't quite over ripe, you can bump up the liquid sweetener up to 1/2 cup. And lastly, the arrowroot can be replaced with tapioca starch (or sometimes called tapioca flour), which is simply tapioca ground into a powder (you can make your own by grinding tapioca pearls to a find powder in a coffee/spice grinder). 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Sea Salt & Cacao Nib Brownies (+ Brownie Sundaes with Whiskey Pepper Chocolate Magic Shell from "Food With Friends")

    Summer, my friends, calls for ice cream. Of all sorts, shapes, sizes, methods of delivery. Shakes, malts, cones, sandwiches, cakes, dip cones. And the ultimate: the sundae. In my mind, the ice cream cake is  a close second, but the sundae reigns supreme 'cause you get to top it with WHATEVER you want each time. Cakes bind your creativity, with having the same "cake" for 8-12 slices with the same...stuff...in/on it.

    The fickle, flakey, ever-changing nature of my personality loves the sundae. The endless options. Ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, rocky road...the toppings: crushed cookies, brownie chunks, salted peanuts, praline pecans, crunchy Maldon salt flakes, strawberries, raspberries, blackcaps....the sauces: fudgey, chocolatey, caramely...the extras: SPRINKLES. whipped cream, cherries. You know the deal. Something about how cold, creamy, sweet ice cream meeting with hot, instantly-turns-viscous, or even completely solid, caramel/chocolate sauce, and topped with crunchy, sweet, salty, fruity things just melts my heart. It takes me back to visits to Culvers (my stepdad and mom go there during the summer, and the turtle sundae is pretty hardcore). To Dairy Queen stops with my Dad as a kid (he would always stop when he would tote along my sister and I to gun shows...the greatest debate still stands: chocolate, cherry OR butterscotch dip cone?? And WHY can't they just do all THREE on one cone?!). And finally, to the simple combo of freshly picked strawberries, blackcaps, or raspberries tossed with a bit of pure cane sugar, macerated until juicy, and piled high over the top of vanilla ice cream to produce purple-pink swirls of creamy, summery goodness. My grandma would buy (...ok, ok, she still does buy) those biiiig plastic gallon tubs, with a handle, full of vanilla-infused kid bait. Often times, she would bribe us to "FEED THE CHICKENS!!" with this simple summer treat of berries and ice cream (but let me be clear, berries and ice cream was a special treat, as most days, for feeding the chickens or doing whatever chores she had for us, we would get a rock hard piece of expired generic bubble gum...HA). For birthdays, she would step it up one notch: berries, ice cream and angel food cake. Which, let me be honest, is another whole story, one that ends (at least on my part) in a cruel plot twist. Oh grandma, you trickster you...

    ANYWAYS. For how much I (clearly) friggin' love these ice cream treat situations, I don't indulge enough in them. This, my friends, is changing TODAY. And come on, you need to treat yo'self, too! You are worth it. And, summer!!!This sundae is friendly. It plays nice with those who cannot eat the gluten and the dairy. If you want to go all out, you can top the sundae with your favorite whipped cream, and a cherry. I was simply too infatuated with the chocolate bourbon magic shell to do those things, but really, points for you if you do. And I suppose you could just eat the brownie as-is, without doing the sundae business, since these brownies are very, very good in their own right. They are my current go-to brownie, and have been for about 2 years now. Their only flaw is that they are a *touch* crumbly, so be sure to not over bake them. But hell, even if you do, the crumbles are still perfect for ice cream! And pro tip: if the brownies are cold or frozen, simply zap them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm and soften them up before piling on the ice cream and toppings. 

    Ok, and now...this magic shell business. MAGIC, you say. Well, it isn't reeeeeally magic, in fact, it is simply medium chain triglycerides (or "MCTs" for those keeping up with colloquial, semi-scientific terminology) that have similar fatty acids attached to their glycerol backbone molecule, which yields an oil with sharp melting, and solidification, temperatures. Meaning: you pour the chocolate sauce made with coconut oil over cold ice cream, and it "magically" solidifies before your eyes. It is really just basic lipid science, but we'll stick with "magic". What else is magical about this chocolate sauce? The bourbon, the black pepper, the sea salt and the cloves. Oh, and it seriously takes about 5 minutes to stir together. Count another 1 minute to scoop your favorite ice cream (I love me some Vanilla Island Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss) into a bowl, drizzle with the magic shell, wait about 30 seconds for it to harden, and there you have yourself a mighty fine, super quick and easy summer dessert. I tell ya, Food with Friends mastermind Leela Cyd knows what she is doing on all food/entertaining fronts. I am really loving her book, and will be providing more feedback on it for my first Blogging for Books review. I just couldn't wait any longer to share the magic shell recipe...so just...go with it. Side note: a jar of this magic shell would make an amazing host/hostess gift. Look at you...all generous and kind to yourself and others. Happy summer and sundae'ing!



    Brownies with cacao nibs, walnuts and sea salt // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; low FODMAP// makes 9 large, or 16 small, brownies //

    • 1 cup almond flour 
    • 3/4 cup oat flour, certified gluten free if necessary
    • 1/2 cup raw cacao, or natural cocoa powder (do not use dutch process/alkalized), plus extra for dusting baking pan
    • 4 tsp finely ground flax seeds, or flax seed meal (could also substitute very finel ground chia seeds)*
    • 1 TB arrowroot powder**
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB melted virgin coconut oil, plus extra for baking pan
    • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
    • 1/4 cup plant-based milk, using nut free if necessary, 
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • add ins: 1/4 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips, 1/4 cup cacao nibs, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 
    • to top the brownies: large flake sea salt, such as Maldon 

    *I make flax meal by pulsing whole golden flax seeds in my coffee grinder until the seeds are completely pulverized and powdery.

    **this is completely optional, as I have successully made these brownies without it many times. The arrowroot helps to bind the brownies together a bit more upon baking, but do not fret if you do not add it. The brownies will turn out fine as-is, just be sure to allow them to cool 100% before cutting. 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare an 8"x8" baking pan by lining with parchment OR by greasing it with coconut oil and dusting it with cocoa powder. Do not skip the parchment or oil/cocoa powder, as these brownies will stick if you do. Let me learn these mistakes for you :)

    2. Into a large bowl, sift the almond flour, oat flour, cacao/cocoa powder, flax seeds, sea salt, baking soda, arrowroot powder and cinnamon. Set aside.

    3. In a medium bowl that is microwave safe, or in a medium sized sauce pan, combine the 1/2 cup chocolate chips or baking chocolate and coconut oil. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring to combine. Once melted, off the heat, and add in the cane sugar and milk. Stir to combine. 

    4. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the dry sifted ingredients, along with the vanilla extract, extra chocolate chips or chunks, cacao nibs and walnuts. Stir to thoroughly combine. The mixture should be thick, but still a touch goopy. If the mixture is too stiff, add in a TB or two of milk until the consistency is that of proper brownie batter.

    5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly out into the pan. Pat down the top to make an even surface, and to slightly compress the batter into the ban. Top with flakey sea salt, if desired. 

    6. Bake the brownies for 28 to 33 minutes, or until the center of the brownies is just starting to firm up. If you here a bit of moisture still bubbling in the brownies, that is ok. These brownies are better left under baked a touch than over baked.

    7. Allow the brownies to cool COMPLETELY before cutting. If you used parchment, simply lift the entire works out of the pan, and onto a surface to cut. If you greased and cocoa dusted the pan, cut with a sharp knife and use a small off-set spatula to get the brownies out. Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. 



    Whiskey Pepper Magic Shell from "Food with Friends" // adapted for a 1/2 batch, double measurements for the recipe as-written by Leela with my comments in parenthesis // 

    • 1 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate
    • 1/4 cup coconut oil (I used virgin coconut oil, but used refined if you do not like the mild coconut flavor of virgin coconut oil)
    • 1 TB but 1/2 tsp of your favorite bourbon or rye whiskey (I used Four Roses single barrel Kentucky straigh bourbon whiksey, as it is indeed one of my favorites!)
    • 1/4 tsp large flake sea salt (or a generous pinch, I used Maldon)
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (I used just a pinch, as I am sensitive to clove flavor)

    1. In a small sauce pan, or microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate and coconut oil. Melt, taking care to not burn the chocolate. 

    2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, taking care to not add them when the melted chocolate and coconut oil are too hot, as this will flash-off the booze and volatile oils in the spices. If the sauce is a bit too thick after adding the bourbon, add in a TB or two of melted coconut oil. The goal is a drizzly, thin sauce that will form a thin chocolate shell. 

    3. Use immedieately by drizzling as much of the sauce as you would like over ice cream, and waiting about 20 seconds for it to firm up. Or, for later use and gifting purposes, simply store in a glass jar or conainer in the fridge for up to 1 week. For future ice cream use: gently reheat the sauce to a consistency that can be drizzled or poured before enjoying.



    First things first: the BROWNIES. Get yourself some cacao nibs (I shelled some from whole cocoa beans from Dandelion Chocolate)Now, organize, prep baking pan, measure, melt, snack on chocolate. Oh and preheat that oven, yo!You know what to do: mix!Into the greased and cocoa dusted pan (or parchment paper lined). Batter slightly compressed, evened on the top, and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt flakes.Baked, cooled all the way through, then cut. Some crumbs will happen, but you know what to do with those...patience is rewarded with intact brownies. Rejoice!

    Ok, now you prepare yourself some MAGIC SHELL. With BOURBON. Yes!

    Simply melt the chocolate and coconut oil, then sprinkle in the sea salt flakes (intact flakes are good!), freshly cracked black pepper and cloves.Have yourself a mini-party, and add the bourbon! The mixture may thicken a bit, but not to worry. Adding another TB or two of melted coconut oil will smooth things out. We want a thin, drippy consistency to drizzle over ice cream!Into a jar, and used right away. OR, covered, stored in the fridge, and gently reheated for future drizzling, magic needs.The needs are real. Get on it! Brownie + Ice Cream + Magic Shell + Sprinkles. Waiting 30 seconds hardens the magic shell! MAGIC!Add sprinkles, and you know what to do...

  • Favorite Buckwheat Pancakes

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

    I think the BIGGEST learning curves have been the following:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

  • Strawberry + Raspberry Crisp with Fresh Ginger

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

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

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

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



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

    Filling:

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

    Topping:

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

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

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.

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

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

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



    Baked up and ready for some lovin'

  • Date, Cacao & Peanut Energy AmazeBalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Banana Cream Filling: 

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

    Crust Layer:

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

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

    For Layering:

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

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

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

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



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

  • Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Dip

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

  • Homemade Toasted Coconut Milk + Chia Bowl

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

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

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



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

    Toasted Coconut Milk:

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

    Chia Pudding:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Favorite Lentil Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Lentils:

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

    Dressing & Other Add-Ins:

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

    Some (My Favorite) Serving Suggestion:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

  • Blueberry, Sunbutter + Cacao Smoothie

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

  • Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Citrus + Spicy Root Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Cashew Milk

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



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

  • The Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie

    Ok, I know I have already shared 2 pumpkin pie recipes, but guys...this one is pretty special. I mean, technically, you can't really make a vegan custard, with the eggs and milk and all...so why not just go full-force, and bust out some super rich and decadent plant-based ingredients, and make a unique pumpkin pie that is not only vegan, gluten-free and free of refined sugars, but also mega awesome? Yeah, I that is what I thought, too!

    (ps: I in no way want to put the perception our there that I am totally ready for the holidays. Let's be real here: I don't have my shit together. I am trying to write a thesis, defend, and graduate by late December. And I have a metric f*** ton of work left to do. But pumpkin pie makes these tasks a little less crappy, so if you're also stressed with school/work/life, I recommend taking a break, and making either variant of the pumpkin pies I have shared with you!)

    This pie is versatile. Don't want to make a full-on pie? Just pour the creamy filling into a parchment-lined 8"x8" pan, chill until firm, and you have yourself a) a delicious pudding-like treat, perfect topped with whipped coconut cream and some crunchy toasted nuts, or b) place in the freezer, and once frozen/firm, slice into squares for a fudge-like treat. (side note: leftover filling also makes a bomb oatmeal topping)The pie can be made up to 2 days in advance, simply cover the pie with plastic wrap so the filling stays moist (if you need to, you can smooth the top of the pie out after removing the plastic wrap). Leftover pie can be wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. Eating it straight from the freezer is like a pumpking ice-cream pie. Yep-even another "versatile" way to enjoy this amazing pumpkin pie! You can also let the pie come to room temperature-it really is up to your preference. I find that slicing the pie is a touch easier when a bit cold, so feel free to pre-slice and allow individual pieces come to the desired temperature if needed.

    I had the pleasure of helping a friend with a project and her awesomely talented group had the patience to film an interview of me about this blog, as well as film me making this pie! I was nervous, but managed to not be too twitchy or spill anything all over my kitchen. It was truly a holiday miracle. Their project will also feature Fromagination (a local cheese shop on our capitol square) and Mob Craft Brewing. I can't wait to see the final product (but can wait to see how nervous/rambling I was! Ha!).Speaking of rambling, I think I will just get on with sharing the recipe. I do hope you try this for your next holiday get-together or potluck. This pie was approved by my dairy-farming family last Thanksgiving, so it can certainly please the palate of anyone that has a love for traditional pumpkin pie!!

    Note: this pie cannot be made nut free-sorry! For a delicious nut-free alternative, check out the cashew-less version of my take on traditional pumpkin pie here. Have the time to make your own pumpkin puree? Good for you-come make some for me! Just kidding. See here for my puree how-to! If you don't have time to do this, using one can of organic pumpkin puree is totally acceptable. No one will be the wiser, I promise. 



    Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free // makes one 9" or 10" pie //

    Crust: 

    • 1 cup walnuts or pecans
    • 1 cup rolled oats, GF if needed
    • 2/3 cup soft medjool dates, pitted (if yours are a bit firm, soak them in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and drain throughly; they need to be soft to bind the crust)
    • 1 TB virgin coconut oil, melted + a bit more for greasing pan
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 strips of parchment paper for lining pie pan (optional, but recommended to help prevent sticking)

    Filling:

    • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or for 1 hour in hot water
    • 2 cups (or 1 15-oz can) pumpkin or squash puree, not pumpkin pie mix 
    • 6 TB virgin coconut oil, melted
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger, or 1/2" hunk fresh ginger
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp molasses
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1-3 TB plant-based milk, to help blend if needed

    Whipped Coconut Cream:

    • 1 can coconut cream*, refrigerated upside down, until firm
    • 1-2 TB maple syrup
    • pinch sea salt
    • optional: a glug of cognac, brandy or rum, or vanilla

    *the coconut cream CANNOT have guar gum in it; Trader Joe's has carboxy methyl cellulose, and still whips, FYI. For an entertaining, yet sad picture of the results, see last picture at bottom of this post! :D

    1. Make the crust: in a foor processor, pulse the oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt until medium-fine texture. Add the coconut oil and the dates, and pulse until it all comes together into a sticky ball. To know when you've processed enough, squeese a bit of the mixture in your palm-it should stick together. 

    2. Cut two wide strips of parchment that cover the width of the pie pan. Grease the pan, and then lay the strips of parchment accross in an "X". The coconut oil that you greased the pan with will help these stay in place. Oil or lightly wet your hands, and scoop crust mixture into pan. Distribute it evenly, and pat firmly into the pie tin. Use the underside of a measuring cup or a glass to help even-out. You want the crust to be firmly pressed in, but not too firm so that it becomes too compact so it doesn't come out easily when sliced (but if that DOES happen, you'll have the parchment strips to help coax pieces out).

    3. Bake the crust for 9-12 minutes, until it is fragrant and golden. Take crust out to cool while you make the filling.

    4. Make the filling: combine all the ingredients in a blender, and puree until completely smooth. Taste and adjust spices as desired. If using a conventional blender, it may take 3-5 miutes for the mixture to blend to complete smoothness. Scrape down the sides as needed. If the mixture is too thick to blend, then add a few TB of plant-based milk or water. Once smooth, simply pour into the baked and slightly cooled crust. Smooth out, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 2 days ahead of time. Pie can be frozen whole or in slices, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and put into another container to prevent freezer burn.

    5. Slice straight from the fridge, or freezer. Pie is easiest to slice when cool, but you can let it warm up as you see fit. Top with whipped coconut cream, and enjoy!

    To make coconut whipped cream: open the coconut cream as you had it in the fridge (open the bottom of the can!). Empty the watery contents into a jar, and reserve for a smoothie. Scoop out the thick, cold coconut cream into a large bowl, or the bowl of a mixer. Mix with a whip attachment (or just with beaters), until light and fluffy. Beat in the maple syrup, sea salt and booze if using. Can be whipped a few hours ahead of time, and placed in the fridge. Re-whip a touch with a whisk right before serving if your coconut whip deflates while sitting. 



    Crust: this is the texture of the oats and nuts that you'll want to aim for. Not too coarse, or else the mixture won't stick, and not too fine or the excess oils released from the nuts will make this too...well, oily, and like nut-butter.In with the *soft* dates (if they aren't soft, soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and drain thoroughly). Pulse until you have a mixture that sticks together when squeezed in your palm.Ok, now prep your pie dish by laying 2 strips of parchment cross-wise in a coconut-oiled pie dish (this is an extra precaution for if your pie crust sticks and you cannot manage to get pieces out! Simply lifting up simultaneously on the parchment flaps will get the pie loosened for easier cutting if the crust sticks).Ok, now pat the crumbly crust mixture into the dish, getting it as even in thickness as you can muster. I like to oil or wet my hands a bit to prevent sticking. To finish the edges and make it all even-like, use the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass...lightly oil or wet that, too! Sticking=the devil.Bake at 350F for 9-12 minutes, or unti fragrant and just starting to turn dark brown around the edges.Ok, while the crust bakes, get on with the filling! I love this part. The filling stuff! Simply throw (ok, not throw, gently pour/scoop/etc) into a blender, and....blend until completely smooth! It took me about 2 minutes in my Vitamix, but when I used a conventional, it look me about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the blender container as needed. Taste, and adjust sweetness and spice. This filling. So. Beautiful! The color gets me everytime. Just makes you want to smile, and shove your face in it. Right? Ok, now this is the part where you can diverge into pudding (place into a bowl and chill), freezer "fudge" (into a lined 8x8" pan and freeze until firm enough to cut into chunks) or carry on as pie! We'll make pie. So, scoop into the baked crust, smooth, and chill for at least 4 hours, up to 2 days ahead of time (just cover it so it doesn't dry out on top!). Slice into whatever size pieces you'd like, whip some coconut cream, and serve! Highly recommend enjoying a piece for breakfast with hot coffee or tea. So rich. So decadent. So not like your traditional pumpkin pie, but so delicious and full of pumpkin and spice! I love it. I hope you do to! If you do make it, let me know how it goes! Cheers and happy (early) Thanksgiving!ps: this is how whipped coconut cream looks WITH guar gum (lesson learned for you-don't repeat my mistakes!)

  • Happy Halloween + Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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

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

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

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


     Wash and dry the tomatoes...

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

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

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



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

    • Red Peppers

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



  • Simple & Satisfying Split Pea Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Soupin'!!



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Sweet Potato, Coconut + Carrot Soup

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Autumn'ing!



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

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

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

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

    All of the spices....

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



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

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

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

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

    Or...

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Everything in the blender:

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



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

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

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

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

    Getting all cozy in here....

    Pour sauce over the top...

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

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

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



  • 7 Vegetable Power Soup + New Goals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Done! Super quick and satisfying. 

  • Easy Cauliflower Cheeze Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Notes: 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

    After about 1 hour:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • Citrus & Basil White Sangria

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



    All the stuff!

    The citrus. I love the colors!!

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

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

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

    Cheers to summer!

  • Green Juice Smoothie + CSA Scraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Green Juice:

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



    The fennel and celery trimmings, ready to be washed.

    The juice! How crazy green is this?!

    The stuff you'll need for the smoothie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



  • Easy Zucchini Gratin

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Gratin:

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

    For The Vegan Parmsan:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    The vegan parm, up close. And personal.

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

    Everything all ready for the hot oven:

    30 minutes later....

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

  • Strawberry Jam (Lower Sugar!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Jam:

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

    Optional add-ins to try:

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

    Tools You Will Need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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!

  • Pina Colada Smoothie + CSA Weeks 1 & 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Strawberry "Milk"shake

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

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

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

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

    Cheers, and happy "milk" shaking!!



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

    Chocolate Sauce:

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

    Milkshake:

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

    Coconut Whipped Cream:

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

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

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

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



    The stuff you will need:

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

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

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

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

  • Socca: French or Ligurian Flatbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Optional:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Rhubarb Crisp

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Crisp Topping:

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

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

      Rhubarb Filling:

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

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

    2. For the topping:

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

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

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

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



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

    Tossed and ready to be topped:

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

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

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

    And maybe seconds...because we can!

  • Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    Everything in the pot, ready to go:

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

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

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

  • Re-vamped Almond Milk with Coconut Oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    optional:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

  • All Hail (Vegan) Ceasar Salad

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

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

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

    Notes:

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

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

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



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

    Dressing:

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

    Nutty "Parmesan" Sprinkle

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

    Salad:

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

    Optional Add-Ins:

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

    2. Chop any vegetables for the salad. 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

  • Blueberry Chia "Jam" Bars

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

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

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

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



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

    The Oat Base and Crumble:

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

    The Blueberry Chia "Jam":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    The "Jam":

    The jam all cozy with the oat base:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Roasted Veggies:

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

    Quinoa:

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

    Dressing:

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

    Salad:

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

    Start by roasting your sweet potatoes and asparagus:

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

    While the veggies roast, make the quinoa:

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

    At the end, make the dressing

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

    Assembly Tips:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



  • Smoothie Guide V1.0

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Smoothie #1: Kale-Blueberry

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

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

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


    Smoothie #2: Green Machine

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

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

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


    Smoothie #3: Just Beet It

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

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

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


    Smoothie #4: Plant Protein Power

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

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

    The hemp seeds, cinnamon and maca powder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    Everything you'll need!

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

    The almonds: aren't they lovely?

    Coconut oil, cognac, cinnamon and sea salt:

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

    The finished mixture! This stuff smells amazing:

    All rolled up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Edamame Hummus (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Sugar-Free) //makes about 3.5 cups//

    • 1 cup shelled organic edamame (soy beans)
    • 2 cups homecooked, or 1-15oz can, garbanzo beans (chick peas)
    • 2-4 TB fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup tahini
    • 2 TB olive oil 
    • 2-6 TB water (to help blend, adding more if necessary)
    • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
    • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika plus more for topping
    • 2-3 TB fresh parsley
    • 2-3 TB fresh cilantro
    • a pinch or two of cayenne, or a few drops hot sauce (optional, for spice)

    1. If using canned garbanzo beans, drain and thoroughly rinse. Take note if they are salted or not: if so, be mindful of this as you add salt to the hummus. 

    2. Bring 2 cups of water to a simmer, add the edamame, and cook for ~5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain and rinse. 

    3. Add the garbanzos, edamame, and the remaining ingredients to a blender or food processor. Puree, adding water by the TB to help thin and blend. Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender or food processor periodically.

    4. Once to a desired texture, taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy right away with raw veggies, as a sandwich spread, or with crakers/chips, or keep in a container with a lid in the fridge for 1 week. 



    All the ingredients (not pictured: garlic and sea salt):

    I love the bright-green color of the edamame!

    And the lovely green parsley and cilantro! So much green! Is spring here yet??

    The garbanzo beans! Love these guys...my boyfriend is a professional 'banzo cooker, so these are from dried organic beans. They are well worth the soaking and cooking!

    And the two best friends of garbanzos: lemon and tanihi!

    Ok, now throw it all in a blender or food processor, puree, adding water and scraper down the sides as needed. Sprinkle with smoked paprika for some color and flavor, and add a small-shrub-like garnish of parsley and/or cilantro! Viola-enjoy for up to 1 week.

  • Green Machine: Coconut-Avocado Smoothie + February Gratitude Journal

    Well, here we have it! February of the New Year. How are the resolutions holding up? Any new ones come along? Any exciting new changes taking hold, or newly formed habits? 

    I have to admit-I can't say that a lot has changed with me. I did, however, manage to peel my butt out of my apartment during a blizzard, and crank out a nice 5 mile ass-kicking treadmill run...on a SUNDAY! And on that positive note, I have been 98% successful in my pursuit of a vegan diet in 2015! I say 98% because I know of 2 instances that I inadvertantly had a food product with animal products in it because I did not read the ingredient deck (ok, ok, and one instance of a cookie and bread-they were my Grandma's-and I can't say no to her). Oh well-we are all human, and I have learned my lesson: be that crazy lady, read the food labels (even in the bulk aisle!!) and don't sweat the small stuff. 

    But what isn't small is the flavor and non-dairy-creamy-factor in this smoothie! Ahh, avocado smoothies...how they bring back memories! In library mall here on the UW-Madison campus, there is a food cart with a sweet lady. She sells fresh juices and smoothies. And one summer afternoon, my sister and I hit up "Smoothie Lady" in her neon-green cart and each got a avocado smoothie. To say the least, I was super skeptical to try it, but with some encouragement from my sister, I did. And I loved it! Creamy, not-too-sweet, coconutty and a beautiful retro-green color. I swear, these are the BEST fuel in the spring and summer for powering up Bascom Hall before class! Since spending almonst $5 a pop is not a feasilbe way to get my fix, and since "smoothie lady" isn't around until the weather is nice, this is my version!

    And now...a note on gratitude. Last week, I saw a behaviroal therapist about managing stress and anxiety. I am slowly discovering areas of my life that were touched in a not-so-great way by my intense and demanding job prior to graduate school. One major being elevated levels of anxiety and anticipatory worrying. Looking back, this totally makes sense. I am a natural-born worrier, and over-thinker, so my uber-stressful work experience didn't help these traits much. In fact, I really do believe that they took them to a whole new level, one of which (now that I look back) I think were signs of depression. This all at once brewed into a negative mindset, bitterness and one grouchy girl. These symptopms have improved A LOT since transitioning to graduate school, but I know that my past experiences shape my future, so I want to get the proper help to kick these bahviours to the curb!

    Enter: The Gratitude Journal. Yes, I know there is an entry from 1/29. It was practice. Lots of tea also helps the gratitude-flow. 

    I AM grateful for my life, my experiences (good and not so good!) and all the people in my world. I like to think I am a positive person >80% of the time. But I am not perfect-no one is! So, my goal for February is to write down 3 things I am grateful for each day. Nothing complicated. Nothing to over-think. Just 3 things that I feel grateful for at the present moment. I want to become more aware and conscious of all the beautiful and positive things in my life. Shouldn't everyone be more aware of these things? I think the world would be a more comforting place if we all took just a few minutes to reflect on what we DO have, rather than what we WANT to have. At the end of February, I plan to reflect on my month of gratitude. And I know for one, that I am GRATEFUL for this DELICIOUS and NUTRITIOUS SMOOTHIE! *happy dance*

    Would you ever start a gratitude journal? Have any of you done this (or are doing this)? I'd love to know! 

    Note: The greens in this smoothie are optional! If you don't have coconut cream, you may substitue either regular full-fat or light coconut milk. I would start by using 1/4 cup, and if more coconut flavor is desired, adding it by the tablespoon. You'd be surprised at how much the coconut flavor comes through against the delicate avocado flavor! Don't have dates or don't like them? Use 1 ripe banana instead, either fresh or frozen. Want to make a super-filling smoothie? Add BOTH the banana and dates! Hooray! Make it a party by adding 1 TB of coconut-flavored rum. You won't be sorry, and you'll feel as if you're on a tropical island...and not in a salty snowbank in WI!! 



    Coconut-Avocado Smoothie (Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Soy-Free Option)//makes one large 12-16oz smoothie, or two smaller 6-8oz smoothies

    • 1 handful greens, like kale or spinach (optional)
    • 1 TB coconut cream OR 1/4 cup coconut milk (see note)
    • 1 TB each chia and hemp seeds (optional)
    • 1 TB lemon juice
    • 4 soft Medjool dates or 1 ripe banana
    • 1/2 ripe avocado 
    • 1 cup milk of choice (I used organic soy) OR water
    • Ice cubes (optional)
    • Unsweetened coconut (optional, for garnish)

    1. Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.

    2. Add ice cubes, and blend again if the smoothie has warmed from the heat of the blender.

    3. Serve and enjoy immediately! This smoothie will turn brown beause of the avocado (and banana!) quite fast. Add a bit more lemon juice if you anticipate this smoothie to sit for a while.



    All the ingredients, in their natural glory in a snowy-lit room! So glad I was inside..enjoying the blizzard from our cozy apartment!

    How pretty are these?? Just makes you happy looking at them:

    And that lacinato (dinosaur) kale...such a beautiful emerald green. Those Italians know what their doing!

    And the chia and hemp seeds! They are like power-house-plant-confetti!

    Now, toss it all into a blender, adding a few ice cubes to help cool it down from the heat of the blender if needed. Pour (or just drink out of the blender jar??), garnish with some coconut (totally optional), enjoy, repeat. Take that, February blizzards!!

  • 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:

  • Grain-Free Quinoa and Buckwheat Granola (Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Soy-Free)

    You know those moments when you realize that you have been thinking way too hard about something, and you stumble upon a solution? Yeah, that happened to me this week. Basically, I have been in the throws of trying to determine a suitable way to visualize and quantify both protein and fat in my caramels, and let me tell you, it has been one big pain in the you-know-what. No wonder no other researchers have done it!! But this week, my lab's post-doc had some awesome advice, and also took some pretty amazing images of my caramel with a confocal laser microscope. Oh. My. Gosh. If we could always see our food up-close....it'd be awesome. Or maybe just to me, becuase I am a food dork like that. 

    Well anyways, like a food dork, I can apply the same concept to the lonely jar of buckwheat groats in my cupboard. Besides sprinkling on top of granola bars and cereal for crunch, I really had no idea how to use them in an application that wasn't gross to me. Buckwheat porridge? Ew. Sorry-I know...there are people who love it, and I want to love it, but I am not one of those people. I have tried it a few times, even with dark chocolate blended in, and it just doesn't appeal to me. Buckwheat flour? Don't like it. It has a weird grassy-soapy flavor to it, no matter which brand I try or even if I make my own from groats. 

    But all of those applications were classic cases of me thinking too hard, and banging my head against the proverbial buckwheat wall. Until I stumbled upon Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. hosted by Laura Miller. I was intrigued by a cereal Laura made, all from buckwheat groats that are soaked for an hour, rinsed and mixed with a few spices and some maple syrup. After dehydrating (or putting into a very low oven), you end up with a crunchy and delicious cereal! This, my friends, inspired this granola. To make it even MORE quirky (who else laughs at the word "groat"?), I used some quinoa. This makes for a granola packed with protein, healthy fats and fiber. Indeed, buckwheat groats and quinoa pack a complete protein punch, and are full of manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium and fiber. This granola UBER CRUNCHY...so it is great by itself, soaked in your favorite plant-based milk, over some coconut or soy yogurt, or even layered into a parfait with some cashew cream (like what Laura did!) with some berries and/or jam. Or just stuff it into your face by the handfull. My method was as follows: I rinsed my quinoa and let it dry at room temperature overnight. I then soaked by groats in the fridge overnight, and thoroughly rinsed and drained them until the slimey coating that develops whil soaking was gone (about 4-5 rinses). In the morning, I simply measured out the remainining ingredients, mixed everything together, and popped the granola into the oven for about 1.5 hours at 225F. Get up a bit earlier to make it, or just make it on a lazy weekend morning. If a crazy grad student covered in caramel has time for this, you do too!

    So why did I rinse the and dry the quinoa? Quinoa has a natural soapy coating, which (in nature) protects it from being eaten by preditors (or humans browsing the bulk food aisle). If not rinsed, the quinoa may have a weird, astringent taste and feeling in your mouth. Not a huge deal, but I personally don't like it. In addition, I dried it because I didn't want the excess moisture in the granola, which would add to the cooking time.

    And why did I let the buckwheat groats soak, and rinse them thoroughly? The buckwheat groats benefit from a ovenight soaking in the fridge. This helps us assimilate the nutrients and proteins better into our bodies, and rinsing thoroughly helps reduce that soapy flavor and slime-factor. 

    Note: you may substitute the 1 cup buckwheat groats with oats; use certified gluten-free for gluten-free granola. Do NOT use kasha, which is toasted buckwheat groats. You want raw (and preferrably organic) buckwheat groats, commonly found in the bulk section of most co-ops, health food and hippie-food stores. In addition, I find that mixing in my dried fruit as I eat the granola, as opposed to stirring it in and letting it co-mingle with the finished granola, helps prevent moisture migration: if mixed, the dried fruit becomes even more dry, and the granola becomes a touch soggy. And yes, this even happens in the freezer, but you can certainly store this granola in a sealed container in your freezer for safe keeping for up to 2 months, or at room temperature for up to 2 week for maximum freshness. 

    This recipe was inspired by Laura's recipe above, as well as two wonderful bloggers and their recipes: hungry hungry hippie, and a cozy kitchen



    Grain-Free Qunoa and Buckwheat Granola (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

    • 1 cup buckwheat groats (see note above) 
    • 1/3 cup quinoa, any color (see note above)
    • 1 cup whole raw almonds
    • 2 TB sesame seeds 
    • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
    • 1/4 cup raw sunflower kernels
    • 1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (large or small flakes)
    • 1/3 + 2 TB cup agave, maple syrup (or honey for not-so-strict vegans)
    • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (or other pleasant-to-no flavored oil, like grapeseed)
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • optional: dried fruit to mix-in, such as currants, raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped apricots. 
    • optional: cashew cream or chia pudding and fresh fruit for making parfaits (!!)

    1. pre-heat oven to 225F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

    2. Process the 1 cup of raw almonds in a food processor or high-speed blender until medium-fine texture, or do this by hand for a rougher texture. Be warned, it is sometimes a mess to chop nuts, but this is a good option for those who do not own a processor or blender, or don't want to wake up their entire apartment complex making granola at 6am.

    3. Measure out the remaining nuts, seeds and coconut in a large bowl, along with the rinsed and drained buckwheat, and dried quinoa (see not above).

    4. In a small bowl, measure out the coconut oil. Tip: briefly place into the warming oven to melt, or microwave for 10-15 seconds to melt. Stir in the liquid sweetener, salt and cinnamon. Pour this over the nut, seed and coconut. Stir well to evenly coat each piece with the coconut oil-sweetener mixture. 

    5. Dump on the prepare pan, and spread into an even layer. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the granola is golden (not burnt!) and firm. It may still have a slightly soft and damp feel, but it will harden as it cools on the pan. Allow the granola to cool completely before breaking into desired chunks and storing in an airtight container or jar. I like to separate mine into small bits and large chunks! Enjoy!!



    I love the colors and textures of the bulk ingredients...simple, yet beautitul! Thanks, nature!                                The soaked and drained buckwheat groats and dried (overnight) quinoa. You can use any color quinoa you like, I used tri-color because I had it on hand. The red is beautiful, though! 

    Here is the texture of the almonds I ended up with. Some was super coarse, some was fairly fine...doesn't have to be perfect!Here is the melted coconut oil, sweetener, cinnamon and salt:Everything all mixed up, and ready for baking at 225F for 1.5 hours (or until golden and crispy-feeling)All baked, crunchy and delicious!! Love that texture and the colors.Loving the way that this was smelling, too! It will make your place smell to cinnamon-y and delicous!

    Up-close and personal with granola...

    Big chunks in a separate wide-mouth mason jar are perfect for snacking!

    This granola is perfect in chia pudding, layered with fruit. I had a ripe mango and a blood orange on hand, and of course topped it with more coconut and some cacao nibs for even more crunch! 

    It was super tasty! It got me through a dairy chemistry lecture...and then some :)And now, I can sleep well knowing that my fruit has a crunchy-granola army protecting it! Haha...oh dear. Long week-and I can't wait to eat this granola for breakfast again tomorrow!

  • Blueberry Pie Smoothie (vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free, soy free option, nut free option, oil free)

    Who else has been feeling the winter blues? I certainly have. Not going to lie, there were two days after New Years of sleeping in a bit too late, guzzling two smoothies a day, and staying in bed reading. Not that there isn't anything wrong with that (and in my defense, I was reading articles for my research), but I felt that I should probably start contributing to society again...and this smoothie really helped me out!! I have a hunch it will make you pretty happy and energized, too. Since starting my days with a big fruit and/or leafy-green smoothie, I have felt lighter, but fuller more energized throughout the day-especially the morning hours. I have never, ever, ever been a morning person, so I look forward to my morning smoothie-good motivation for getting up, and awaking those still sleeping with loud blending noises! Wakey wakey...

    I came up with this formula when I was experimenting with a NutriBullet we inhereted over the holidays. I will not be ashamed in saying that I let it sit in a box in our closet for a solid week before I hauled it out, cleaned it and tried it out. Wasn't this thing on an infomercial?? I was a tad turned away at this point. But out of pity for the little machine, I had to try it out at least once. 

    The first smoothie I made was one that I make often, almost every morning, based on spinach, frozen banana, chia and hemp seeds. The first sip was like velvet...green, slightly sweet, smooth...I was hooked. I quickly concocted a hardcore blend of a (whole) orange, lemon, ginger, pear and water. Besides being overly bitter from the entire orange (lesson learned!), it wasn't too bad. I then tried a kale and apple concoction, and again, smooth as buttah (or Earth Balance...whavever!). 

    But with that said, please give this a try in a "normal" blender. I recommend blending the almonds with the liquid and the hemp and/or chia seeds (and dates, if preferred over bananas) first until smooth, and then adding in the banana, coconut cream, blueberries and spices. Also, you can plan ahead, and soak your almonds overnight. If the smoothie warms up from the heat of the blender, blend in an ice cube or two to cool it down. This is the process that I typically use with heftier smoothies (like those with kale and nuts) with my "normal" blender, and they come out pretty smooth, and just as tasty. In fact, most of the smoothies I have posted on my instagram account have been made like this, so see the results for yourself! No need to drop $500 on a VitaMIx or a NutriBullet, well, not at least until you break your current blender(s) and have an excuse to purchase one! Buahahahaha...

    Cheers and bottoms up for a healthy and active January! This smoothie is creamy, sweet with warm spices reminiscent of blueberry pie, and bursting with healthy fats. It boasts 1 cup of blueberries, a fiber and antioxidant rich fruit, and one that also makes this smoothie a beautiful color! The almonds and coconut cream make this smoothie rich, while the lemon gives it just the right kick. The chia and hemp boost the fiber, healthy fat and protein content-keeping you feeling full. I am happy to say that it has passed picky-eater-boyfriend approval, and is now part of the regular smoothie rotation. 

    What other "superfoods" do you blend into your smoothies? I am on the prowl for some new ingredients to try. At the top of my list is maca powder, as well as goji berries. 

    Note: I added lemon to make all the flavors pop. Adding fresh ginger may be a great idea, too! If you don't have coconut cream, you may omit it, or try using coconut milk. If you are allergic to nuts, omit the almonds and substitute coconut cream. If you don't have chia or hemp, still give this a try (and go out and treat yourself to some chia and/or hemp seeds!!). Don't like bananas? Try 4 to 5 soft dates to sweeten this instead. 



    Blueberry Pie Smoothie (Vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free, soy free option, nut free option oil free)

    • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
    • 1 cup milk of choice (such as soy, almond or coconut)
    • 1 TB hemp seeds
    • 1 TB chia seeds
    • 2 TB almonds, about 12-14 (or 1 TB additional coconut cream)
    • 1 TB coconut cream (see note above)
    • Juice of 1/4 of a small lemon
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg 
    • 1 medium to large ripe banana, fresh or frozen (or, 4 to 5 soft dates if you don't like 'nanas)
    • optional: a few ice cubes if needed to cool the smoothie
    • optional: a 1/2" pice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into small-ish pieces

    Using a high-speed blender:

    1. add all the ingredients, and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.

    Using a conventional blender:

    1. add the milk, hemp, chia, ginger (if using), dates (if using) and almonds to the blender, and blend until smooth.

    2. Add remaining ingredients, and blend unitl desired consistency. Enjoy immediately. Proceed to dance with high-energy levels and ninja-kick into the air. 



    Here's what you'll need: ripe banana, milk of choice, blueberries, lemon, chia and hemp seeds, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg (freshly grated is preferred) and coconut cream. Not pictured: fresh ginger and ice cubes.

     

    I am loving these wild boreal blueberries that Trader Joe's is carrying now. They are super tiny, don't have tough skins, and have a great flavor. Kind of cute, right?

    If you're feeling artsy, you can play with garnishing. Surely to impress a half-asleep, hungry individual!

     It resembles a beautiful almond sunrise...or may not. Whatever-it tasted amazing, so get your blender out, and make this! Let me know what you think!