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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!!

  • Rhubarb and Buckwheat Scones

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

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

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

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

    Lightly adapted from the Bojon Gourmet and Food52. 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Sourdough Bread Pudding

    I knew that I had found "my people" at work when farm-fresh eggs, homemade sourdough, granola, raw milk yogurt and bundt cakes showed up at work. Ooh, also, garlic. Yep, homegrown garlic. And beans! One of my co-workers gave me a sample of his heirloom beans he grows. How cool?!But honestly, the thing that excited me most...like, I literally lost my shit, was when one of my co-workers brought in freshly baked sourdough bread. With almond butter and homemade jam. I mean, come on! A chilly late-March morning can't get much better than a freshly toasted slice of sourdough bread, adorned with a little organic butter, some almond butter and homemade jam, all with a cup of hot coffee. If you can't get on board for that, I just don't know....maybe you shouldn't be reading this? 

    Long story short, I managed to get a blob of sourdough starter from my co-worker. I was over the moon. The blob was accompanied by some instructions, and a book recommendation.

    That night, I downloaded the book onto my tablet (tbh I forgot you could do that...ha), and dove right in.I fed the starter. I fed it some more. I got some locally milled wheat and rye flours, I swore a little, and yeah...I did cry once (But it wasn't from the starter/bread, really). I found the warmest spot in my kitchen (above my fridge, by my kombucha), and let the sourdough cultures to there thing for 3 days.And then, there was bread. Glorious bread. I was so goddamn happy. 

    But then, there was bread. Two loaves. Too much for one person....so...bread pudding. But bread pudding with sourdough? After a search on the internets, I found that this was kind of a rarity. Everyone was using challah, brioche, or shitty white bread. What about those non-enriched, sans dough conditioner-rich breads?? I mean, come on, people. How boring?

    So, I am very pleased to report that sourdough makes a fabulous pud. I would even venture to say that the heartier crust and crumb allows you to be more flexible in how long you soak it, without fear of the bread cubes disintegrating into custard oblivion. A soak overnight, or for two nights, is perfect here. 

    And mix ins? Endless options. I went simple, with raisins...because I secretly love raisins. Blueberries, cranberries, hunks of apples, pears, banana...any sturdy fruit, I think would work. Dark chocolate (duh), nuts, toasted coconut....you get the idea. Be creative. Indeed, using brown sugar, coconut sugar, or even using some honey or maple syrup for sweetener would be a fun idea. I mean, this is bread pudding...not rocket science. I think you could get away with using 1/2 to 3/4 liquid sweetener instead of 1 cup of granulated. If you like it less sweet, I'd suggest cutting back, and using only 1/2 cup liquid sweetener, and scant 1 cup of granulated. Whatever your heart desires. And yes, brioche and challah will work just fine here too. The key: use what you have! That is what bread pudding is all about, am I right? Use this recipe as a template, and, shout out to Food52 for their no-fuss guidelines. Get at it. 

    Cheers to chilly spring mornings, and sharing carbs! Pssssst: this would be fabulous Easter Sunday treat!



    Bread Pudding // makes one 9"x13" pan of bread pudding // soy-free; nut-free; oil-free //

    • 1 lb (16 oz) bread cubes (a generous 5 or so cups), about 1” in size
    • 4 large eggs, using locally raised and/or organic if possible 
    • 3/4 cup granulate sugar, or 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, etc)
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • Sea salt*
    • 2 1/2 cups milk of choice, such as half & half, coconut milk or almond milk
    • 1 to 2 cups dried fruit, sturdy berries like blueberries or cranberries, or chunks of apples, dark chocolate, nuts, etc.

    *Salt: for my sourdough, which was fairly salty, I did NOT add any additional salt. If your bread is on the less-salty side, as a standard brioche or challah is, feel free to add in a pinch of salt if desired.

    1. Mix everything, except the bread, in a large bowl. Dump in bread cubes, and stir with a spatula to coat the bread crumbs. Let sit for a few minutes, and then stir again. Add in dried fruit if using, or other sturdy fruit like berries or cubes of apples, and stir.

    2. Oil or butter a 9”x13” pan. Pour in the bread/custard mixture, and pat into an even layer. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    3. To bake: preheat oven to 350F. Give the bread pudding a quick stir, and redistribute any fruit, nuts or chocolate pieces that have sunk to the bottom. Place the covered bread pudding in to bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the cover off and bake for another 20 minutes, checking at the 15 minute mark. Add or subtract baking time based on how the top is browning. If it is browning too much but needs more baking time, put the cover back on. The pudding is done when you stick a fork in, and see very little or no residual custard mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. 

    4. Remove, and cool slightly. Serve warm, or room temp. I wouldn't tell anyone if you had a scoop of ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream, with a bowl of warm bread pudding. 



     

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • Super Simple (and flexible) Spelt Focaccia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Get to it! Cheers my friends!



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

    For The Soup:

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

    For The Beans:

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

    For The Lemon Tahini Drizzle:

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

    For The Gomasio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Bourbon & Browned Butter Apple-Pear pie

    The days are getting shorter, almost as if the sleepy eyelids of the sky are dosing off earlier and earlier as the season progresses. Mornings are darker, the air is cooler, and the trees are sloooowly changing into their fabulously fire-colored fall frocks.

    We are looking FORWARD these days (I mean, that is not the Wisconsin motto, right?), not backward. And by doing this, we arrive (always fashionably late) at the bourbon & browned butter apple-pear pie party, draped in flakey, tender pastry doused in cinnamon sugar. Yes, full of butter, both in the filling and the pastry. And for sure packed full of locally grown apples, organic pears, spices (cinnamon! ginger! cardamom! nutmeg!), and a measure of bourbon. Because booze coats will keep you warm, and cozy, as the mercury falls. Yep, booze coat. I distinctly remember the occasion in which my friend Kendra shared this expression with me, and to be expected, we were out for a night of well-earned schenanigans in Madison, during a colder month, whilst we were undergrads at UW, full of good intentions (sarcasm, right there). 

    The filling was adapted from two of my favorite sources, Joy and Deb, to which I got the inspiration to brown the butter for the filling from day dreaming about browned butter, white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. The apple and pear combination, in my opinion, satisfies the best of both worlds the flavors of each compliment, and enhance, each other. The all-butter pastry, being a relatively standard recipe with the proportions, can be found many places on the internets in various (and slight) permutations, but I provide my ideal measurements just in case. Becaus you see, the trick to a really good pie is to not use a pre-made pie pastry! You get one shot at this life, people, and don't waste it on sub-par pie crusts. And, what type of fat you use is up to you, so you can tailor your pastry to suit your needs/dietary mantra: butter, coconut oil, Earth Balance, lard, non-hydrogenated shortening, straight-up plasticized crisco, nitrogen votated vegetable oil, whatever (but maaaybe don't use the last 3, cause no...just don't).  I opted for using Organic Valley's award winning cultured butter, because life is too short (again!) for sub-par pie crusts (and really, we are so lucky here in WI to have amazing farmers who love their animals, and produce excellent products). I have had great success with a 50:50 ratio of quality butter and virgin coconut oil, as well as 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil and Earth Balance. Naturally, varied results are to be expected with what type of fat you use, but as far as I am concerned, if you make the effort to make homemade pie pastry, it will taste good.Real Life Example (and don't act like you haven't done this before, or seen it happen): you are at a party/gathering/social function that requires knives and forks, and someone walks in with/presents/proudly states that "they" brought the "pie". Your ears perk up in curiosity, and before you know it, you spin on your heels so fast, that you blurt out ("ask") "hey, what volume proportions of fat to flour did you use for the crust?!". And ladies and gentlemen, this is where the fine distinction of "pie" and "Oh, PIE!!". If you get a blank stare back, just walk away from that pie (and the person who brought it)....just walk away. Good pie does not used pre-made pastry, found in the cardboard box-a mere lifeless baton of fat mixed with flour. I don't care if you are Betty Crocker, or Poppin Fresh; the truth hurts, and that is it. 

    Homemade pastry=love. Pre-made, store bought pastry=sad, sad excuse. 

    The filling requires you to brown butter. Requires. The toasty, roasty Maillard browning that occurs as you gently heat butter to transform the milk solids (i.e. lactose, whey) to a golden color really does lend a magical, warm, cozy flavor to anything it comes into contact with (and honestly, I think we all deserve alllllll of the warm, cozy flavors during the colder months...right?)

    Bonus: you can make both the pie pastry, and filling, a day ahead of time. Heck, you can make several batches of the pie pastry, and freeze them for future pie making. Look at you, all prepared for the holidays and stuff...Just be sure to thaw your pastry out, either overnight in the fridge or on the counter.

    And final note: I urge you, no, BEG you to please utilize the amazing powers of tapioca to thicken the pie filling. You can make tapioca starch by grinding tapioca in a spice/coffee grinder, or you can buy straight-up tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour). A filling thickened with tapioca, in contrast to flour and cornstarch, is freeze/thaw stable, will not be cloudy, and will not be suseptible to acid hydrolysis on heating (i.e. will not result in a runny, un-set filling). 

    Happy Pie'ing! This one is worth it-from the homemade pastry, to the browned butter. So get on it!



    Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple-Pear Pie (with all butter crust) // makes 1 9" to 10" pie // nut-free; soy-free; makes your soul happy, espeically when shared with others //

    All Butter Pastry for Bottom Crust + Lattice/Top Crust:

    • 2 1/2 cups (340g) all purpose flour (I love Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 cup (2 sticks, 16 TB, 8oz) quality butter, such as Organic Valley Cultured Butter, OR fat of choice (coconut oil, Earth Balance, etc)
    • 2 tsp sea salt
    • 2 TB sugar
    • 8 to 12 TB ice cold water, mixed with 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

    1. Sift the flour, sea salt and sugar together in a large bowl. 

    2. Be sure your fat is cold, regardless of type you are using. Cut butter into small-ish cubes. For coconut oil and Earth Balance, I like to scoop out dollops directly onto the sifted flour mixture, and place the whole works in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the pieces of fat to cool. This ensures that the fat will not be too soft, and won't mix all the way into the flour mixture, resulting in a mealy or tougher crust (but no biggie if this happens!).

    3. Using your finger tips (with clean hands, people), break the fat down into smaller pieces and flakes, until you get sizes that average the size of peas, with some pieces of fat being bigger or smaller being just fine. If using coconut oil, this may be more of a involved process due to its more solid nature below 76F, but be patient and have faith!

    4. Sprinkle the acidulated ice water over the flour/fat mixture, starting with only 8 TB. Then, bring a shaggy, loose dough together by mixing with a fork. If there is still a good amount of crumbs/dry pieces not adhering to clump of dough, add in more of the water 1 TB at a time, sprinkling over the drier areas. Mix again with a fork, or your hands, until a shaggy, somewhat composed ball is formed. Dump onto a clean surface, and using your hands, gather it all up neatly, form a rough disc ~6" in diameter, and wrap/put in a ziplock bag. 

    5. Allow pastry to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight. Alternatively, you can wrap the pastry really well, and freeze for up to 2 months. While you allow your pastry to rest, carry on with the filling.


    Bourbon + Brown Butter Apple-Pear Filling 

    • 3 TB butter, the best quality you can find
    • 4-5 small, or 3-4 larger ripe, but not mushy, pears (I used Bartlett), peeled, cored and sliced into ~1/3" thick slices
    • 4-5 small, or 3-4 larger apples, whatever variety you wish, peeled, cored and sliced into ~1/3" thick slices
    • 3 TB bourbon (I used Four Roses Single Barrel)
    • 2 TB tapioca starch
    • 2/3 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed (can be made by combining scant 2/3 cup white sugar and 2-3 tsp molasses, mixing with your fingers to thoroughly combine)
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 heaped tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger (or you could use 1/2 tsp freshly grated)
    • scant 1/4 tsp cardamom
    • 1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

    1. Brown the butter: melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Continue to heat the butter, which will foam, and then begin to brown, usually after 7-10 minutes. Swirl pan occasionally, keeping at eye on it during the last few minutes. The milk solids will brown, and the liquid fat portion will also become darker. Take off the heat once the milk solids are golden. Optionally strain the browned butter through a fine sieve or nutmilk/sprouting bag to remove specks. Set aside to cool slightly.

    2. Peel, core and slice apples and pears. Toss with the remaining ingredients, as well as with the slightly cooled browned butter. You can either cover and refrigerate the filling for up to 12 hours, allowing the fruits to macerate, or proceed with baking the pie right away.

    3. Bake the pie: preheat oven to 425F. Take pastry out of the fridge (or freezer), allowing it to come to room temperature (if frozen, take it out to thaw up to 1 day in advance in the fridge, or at room temperature). Cut the pastry disc in half. Roll, going from the center outwards to the edges, one half on a lightly floured surface, taking care to gently lift the pastry after every few rolls of the pin to make sure it isn't sticking. Add a touch more flour as needed to the rolling pin and surface. Once you have a ~12" diameter circle-ish piece, transfer to a 9" or 10" pie plate. You can either fold the pastry in half, and transfer to the pie plate, OR you can roll the entire pastry circle up on the rolling pin, and unroll into the pie plate. Gently nestle the pastry into the plate. Trim the edges to leave a ~1" to 1 1/2" overhang, using a sharp knife, scissors or pizza cutter. Patch scraps into place as needed to get the overhang. Place the bottom crust in the freezer while you roll the rop crust in a similar fashion as the bottom (starting from the center of the pastry, rolling outwards, until you have a ~12" circle-ish shape). If you wish to lattice your top, cut into strips of desired width. Take the bottom crust out of the freezer, and add the filling. Lattice your top crust, or, simply top the filling with the second piece of rolled pastry, following the same motions with the overhang to get ~1" to 1 1/2" overhang (same with the lattice strips, aim for a 1" to 1 1/2" overhang). Gently press the bottom and top overhangs together, and fold under to make a smooth-ish edge. Crimp as desired with your fingers or with a fork (my method is to use my thumb pressed between my fore and middle finger). If using a full top crust, poke a few vent holes to allow steam to escape.

    4. Place pie on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet (or not, up to you, I just don't like to deal with boiled over pie filling). Brush the top crust with milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond), or egg wash for a darker, shinier crust (1 egg beaten with 2 tsp water). Optionally sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling throughout. Allow to cool as long as you can muster, then enjoy! Serve with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cow or coconut cream (optionally spiked with bourbon and maple syrup). Also great for breakfast with coffee, but I don't need to really tell you that...do I?



    My idea of an exciting Saturday evening: peeling, coring and slicing apples/pears, making brown sugar, browning butter aaaand bourbon!12-ish hours later....pie pastry all rested and ready to roll. The patience and time for this is worth it, trust me.Roll, plate, fill....showing the pastry no fear (it can sense fear). But don't sweat it if you tear or rip the pastry-just patch it up and carry on with confidence. More rolling, cutting, lattice-ing (or just top crust-ing and vent hole poking). You are a pie champion!Trim, fold, flute....brush with milk of choice (or egg wash), sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake...waft in the wonderful aromas...pat yourself on the back....you are awesome, and now you have pie. What more could you ask for?

  • 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. 

  • 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!

  • 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:

  • Best Banana Bread!

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

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

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

    Recipe Notes:

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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

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

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

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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


  • Simple & Satisfying Split Pea Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Soupin'!!



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Sweet Potato, Coconut + Carrot Soup

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Autumn'ing!



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

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

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

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

    All of the spices....

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



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

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

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

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

    Or...

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Everything in the blender:

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



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

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

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

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

    Getting all cozy in here....

    Pour sauce over the top...

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

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

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



  • 7 Vegetable Power Soup + New Goals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Done! Super quick and satisfying. 

  • 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!

  • Vanilla Bean & Ginger Peach Pie (With Vegan Coconut Oil Crust)

    Hello! Wow! Summer is flying by...much to my dismay. I am sure you're probably bummed about it too...but what better way to get our positive mindsets in gear for the REST of the season? PIE! And not just any pie. No...no, this has to be special. One that comes just once a year, when the season is right. When you have just discovered that jar of untouched, unopened vanilla beans in your pantry, and 7 perfectly ripened peaches in your fruit bowl. This summer pie is vanilla bean peach pie, spiked with fresh ginger. Yesssss!

    Is there anything more summery than peach pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? The smell of peeling peaches reminds me of my grandma's homemade canned peaches. Sugar, water and peaches with a bit of cooking/canning magic. Wisconsin grandmothers know how to capture the flavor of summer like pros. And on that note, I am really excited to can tomatoes with her this year!

    Yep-I did say peeling peaches. How to peel a peach? Easy: score an "X" into the bottom of the non-stem end of the peach (see picture below), dunk into simmering water for a few minutes, transfer to ice water to shock and shrink the skin, and then peel away the skin by starting at the corner of the "X" you made. You can do it. Totally worth it. 

    This pie calls for perfectly ripened peaches, some sugar, vanilla beans, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and tapioca starch for thickener. This heavenly filling is piled into a lovingly crafted coconut oil crust (or seriously, use whatever crust you like! I love this all-butter one from Deb at Smitten Kitchen). Top with your favorite lattice or just cover with the second slab of pastry, remebering to poke in some vent holes to let the pie breathe and juices thicken. And yes, if you are wondering, pies do breathe. 

    Serve this juicy, summery mess with your favorite ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped WI cream (please, promise me you won't use that canned crap, ok? And you better double promise to not even dare use that nasty stuff in the blue tub!!). As I professed in my other favorite summer pie post (here), I love Luna & Larry's coconut ice cream in vanilla. It is non-dairy, but is seriously so creamy and rich that you don't even think twice about traditional ice cream when you're eating it. Whatever-your call! Just get on this pie thing...now!

    Note: don't have a vanilla bean? No sweat. Just use 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Don't like ginger? Leave it out! You can certainly substitute dried ginger for the fresh, just be aware the flavor won't be as zingy and fresh. Tapioca starch? Grind tapioca pearls of any size to a fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. I do not like the texture of cornstarch or flour to thicken pies, as I find they take on a slime-y element. In addition, neither are freeze-thaw stable or stand-up to acidic fillings when heated. So get on that tapioca train! And lastly, the pastry recipe can accomodate up to an 11" double crust or lattice topped pie; simply bump up your peach filling by adding in an additional 2 or 3 peaches if making the larger pie.



    Vanilla Bean & Ginger Peach Pie // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free // Makes 1 9" double crust or lattice-topped pie //

    Crust:

    • 1 recipe coconut oil pie crust, or your favorite homemade pie pastry (see my recommendation for an all-butter pastry above) *I used 50:50 ratio of whole wheat pastry flour and organic all-purpose unbleached for this pie, but feel free to use what you wish, including spelt flour. I also added 2 tsp of coconut vinegar to this batch, and really loved the pop of flavor it gave the pastry (you could also use apple cider or plain vinegar if desired).
    • 2-3TB Almond milk or other milk for brushing top before baking

    Filling:

    • 7-8 medium-large ripe peaches
    • 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar, coconut sugar or sucanant (bump this up to the 3/4 cup if you like a sweeter pie)
    • 2 TB tapioca starch 
    • 1-2 TB lemon juice
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
    • vanilla seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1-2 tsp vanilla extract)
    • pinch sea salt

    1. Prepare the crust as described in this post. 

    2. When ready to bake the pie, preheat oven to 425F. Get on with the filling by peeling the peaches: bring a medium/large pot of water to a simmer. Score each peach at the non-stem end with an "X", each score being about 1.5" long. Place into simmering water for 2-4 minutes, until the "X" starts to open just slightly. Scoop the peaches out into a bowl of ice water, and allow to sit for a few mintues to cool and shock the skin. With a pearing knife and your fingers, start at a point were the two lines of the "X" meet, and peel the skin away from the peaches. 

    3. Score the peeled peaches in half, and gently twist to get into 2 halves. Take the pit out using the paring knife to help. Cut each half into 5-6 wedges. If your peaches are not free-stone (i.e. they won't come apart...cling stone??!) simply pry in half and do your best at getting the pit out. Doesn't have to be perfect, and peach chunks/cubes work just as well as slices in the filling.

    4. Toss the peaches with the filling ingredients. Plop into the bottom pie crust. Lattice the top of the pie, or simply place the second layer of rolled-out pastry on top, allowing for a 1"-1.5" overhang, folding under and crimping as you desire. Poke a few vent holes in the top with a knife or fork. 

    5. Brush pie with almond milk or whatever milk you want for browning, and bake for 20 minutes at 425F. Turn heat down to 325F after that, and bake for about 35-50 minutes, or until the crust is brown and filling is bubbling throughout the pie. Allow to cool for 1 hour, or until ready to serve. This helps the juices cool and thicken, making for easy-as-pie slicing and serving.



     Start with the pastry. You know what to do! Reference my Srawberry and Rhubarb Pie post if you need some pointers with the coconut oil crust. I added 2 tsp coconut vinegar to mine this time and loved the results. Fat and flour...the start to something beautiful:

    Now, for peeling the peaches. Score the bottoms of the peaches, and then place into simmering water for 3-7 minutes, until the X's begin to open a bit. Plunge into ice water to cool and shock the skins. 

    Peel with the help of a paring knife and clean fingers...behold, naked peaches! 

    Slice in half, free the flesh from the pit with a twist (or just pry open with a paring knife if you don't have free-stone peaches...it is always a surprise!). Slice and/or dice into reasonable pieces:

    Add in the filling ingredients, including the vanilla bean and ginger:

    Mix mix mix...

    Plop into the pastry bottom:

    Top with a lattice, or just lay the other half of the rolled pastry down on the pie. Trim and crimp edges. Don't forget to poke some vent holes, with a sharp paring knife or a fork, into the double-crusted pie, if you go that route.

    Gingerly place onto a parchment lined baking tray and brush with almond (or whatever type) milk. Into a hot oven until bubbly throughout. 

    Admire your handy work...and allow this baby to cool for at least 1 hour to set-up those juices. After that, slice and serve away!

    And go back for seconds! Happy summer'ing!

  • 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. 



  • 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!

  • Summer Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie with Coconut Oil Crust

    Wow! How good does summer feel? Well, besides the humidity here in WI, it is glorius. I have a hard time focusing (well, even more so!) in the summer because it feels like a weekend all. the. time. I wish it were so...but then, we wouldn't appreciate the time we do have to relax. The same goes with seasonal fruit: I seem to appreciate it so much more, each and every year, when it rolls around. This year, I was so excited about strawberry picking. My Mom and I went to Carandale's in Oregon, WI and rocked out some great picking. The berries were perfect, not soggy like last year from all the rain, and were so easy to pick. 

    Ever since I was little, I remember picking berries of all sorts in the summer. Strawberries at Carandale were my favorite, but going back into my Aunt and Uncle's woods, geared up with long sleeved shirts, pants, tied around the leg with twine to prevent ticks and mosquito bites, to pick black caps and raspberries is also a great memory. Oh, and don't forget the twine around the waist to hold a plastic ice cream bucket for putting the picked berries in! My grandma really knew how to be a functional fashionista whilst picking seasonal produce. She still is a rockstar in that department, btw. 

    My favorite way to enjoy them, besides right off the plant, is with vanilla ice cream. My grandma preserves heres with plain ol' sugar, so the juices come out, making for the perfect ice cream topper. Nothing else needed: just ice cream, sugar and those juicy berries. Now, in my ripe middle-age, I enjoy those naturally sweet super-ripe berries, smashed a bit, with some coconut ice cream (uhh, thanks again Luna and Larry's!!). But there is nothing wrong with some good old fashioned locally produced vanilla ice cream or custard, too. 

    Second runner up? Strawberries and my grandma's angel food cake. Still haven't figured out how to make that one vegan...working on it. Goal for summer. Any suggestions or tips are welcome!!

    Ok, and third: now a 3-year tradition in my kitchen, is the strawberry and rhubarb pie. This year, it was so special. Freshly picked berries with my Mom, rhubarb from my Grandma's garden, and an all-vegan coconut oil crust were put together for a super seasonal, fresh and delcious pie for my Dad on Father's day. Lattice top and all, cause this is summer...and lattice tops are where it is at! It is easy-I'll show you how. Don't be afraid...the pie pastry can smell fear. But you can do it!  Bonus: there is no blind-baking required for this pie. I have a baking method that works like a charm, and produces prefectly crisp bottom crusts every time. 

    Don't like coconut oil in your crust? Try this one. It is a no-fail, and works like a charm. It makes enough for a double crust or lattice-topped pie that will fit a 9", 10" or even 11" tin (yes, I have tried all three sizes). In fact, I have had great-dare I say better results-when I replace half the butter in that recipe with virgin coconut oil. Whatever you choose to do, do not use a pre-made crust. Seriously, people, we are adults here. It is too simple and gratifying to make your own pie pastry! So get with it!! You may need to practice, but I assure you that the outcome each time will be better and better. And what better excuse to make and share more summer pies? Make the pastry, suit it to your diet/food mantra, and revel in the summer season and the bounty it brings us...it won't last long, so get on it, NOW!!

    Note: the coconut oil pie pastry is straight from Gena Hamshaw, see recipe here. It is a rich pastry, perfect for holding in all those summery fruit juices. The pastry can be made up to 2 days ahead, and chilled. Additionally, you can make it and then freeze it for up to 1 month, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed into a plastic bag with excess air pressed out to prevent freezer burn and drying. The coconut oil pastry makes enough for 1 9" or 10" double-crusted or lattice topped pie; if you use a larger pie tin, say 11" or 12", the recipe will make enough for 1 single-crusted pie. 

    The tapioca starch (not whole pearls!) used in the filling is my go-to thickener. I do not like arrowroot, or cornstarch, as I find they produce a slime-like filling when cooked (ew). Furthermore, they are not acid or freeze/thaw stable if you choose to use any citrus in your filling, or freeze your pie. I make tapioca starch by buying tapioca pearls (any size), and grinding them up in my coffee/spice grinder into a fine powder. 



    Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Vegan Coconut Oil Crust // makes one 9" to 10" pie // vegan, nut-free, soy-free //

    For The Coconut Oil Pie Pastry:

    • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
    • 2 1/4 cups flour (all purpose or whole wheat pastry, or a combination)
    • 1 TB organic cane sugar or sucanant
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 4-6 TB ice water 
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg (strawberries and nutmeg are best buds)

    For The Filling

    • 3 1/2 cups sliced cleaned and hulled straberries (I slice mine ~1/4"-1/3" thick)
    • 3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1/2" pieces
    • 4 TB tapioca starch (see note above)
    • 2-3 TB organic cane sugar, sucanant (plus more to taste)
    • 2-3 TB honey, agave or maple syrup (plus more to taste)
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1-2 TB lemon juice
    • Zest of 1/2 lemon
    • small pinch sea salt

    1. For the pastry, it can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen (see above). Start by sifting the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Plop the coconut oil into 1-2 TB pieces on top of the dry mixture, and place into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes until the oil is firm. 

    2. With a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the solid oil until pea-sized-ish piecs remain; some larger ones are ok, too. Sprinkle on the iced water by the TB, starting with 4 TB. Mix, adding more water by the TB until a shaggy dough that holds together when squeezed in your palm forms. Some crumbs are ok! The less water, the flakier the pastry.

    3. Dump the pastry and crumbs out on a clean surface. With a rolling pin, gently roll the round lumps of solid coconut oil into flatter pieces, as this prevents large round balls of coconut oil poking through the crust. Gather the dough into a ball, kneading gently and as little as possible. Flatten into a disk, and wrap. Store in the fridge for at least 1 hour before baking. This helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked.

    4. Before using, be sure to take the pastry out of the freezer or fridge with enough time for it to come to room temperature for easy rolling; the coconut oil will warm up quite fast so this may only take 30 minutes from the fridge depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If you find your pastry is too warm at any point, simply pop it back into the freezer for a few minutes. 

    5. When you are ready to make the pie: preheat the oven to 400F. On a floured surface, place the disk of pastry. Cut ~2/3 for the bottom crust, leaving a bit more than ~1/3 of the pastry for the lattice top. Starting from the middle and going out towards the edges each time, roll the pastry into a 1/4" thick circle, moving the pastry around every few rolls of the pin to ensure it is not sticking to the counter. Add more flour if sticking occurs. To make sure you have rolled it out enough, place your pie tin in the center and make sure there is enough to cover the entire tin plus 1" overhang.

    6. To transfer the rolled pastry, roll the entire thing onto the rolling pin and then roll out over the pie tin. Or, fold the pastry in half, and gently lift into the pie tin. Gently coax the pastry into the edges and sides of the pie tin, being careful to not puncture or tare (but if you do, just press the dough together to seal it back together). Trim around the edges, leaving a 1" overhang. If you find that you don't have enough, simply patch on some pastry that you have trimmed off. 

    7. Make the pie filling by tossing all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste for sweetness. I needed to add 2 TB more sugar to mine this year. Add the filling to the pie tin lined with the pastry, slightly mounding in the middle. 

    8. Make the lattice by rolling the remaining ~1/3 pastry out to ~1/4" thickness. Cut into ~1/2"-3/4" strips using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Place half the strips evenly accross the pie. To weave, simply pick up every-other strip, and lay another one perpindicular accross (see photos below). Tip: use a butter knife or small off-set spatula to help get the thin strips off the floured surface. When done, trim any strip overhand to match the 1" bottom crust overhang, gently press both together, and fold under to make a smooth edge. Now, crimp by using whatever method you desire (see here for a great tutorial!). Brush the top of the lattice and edges of the pie with plant-based milk. If you found that your coconut oil pastry was getting a touch oily, simply pop the entire pie into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to allow it to firm up again; this will make for a flakier crust.

    9. Place the pie on a sheet tray lined with parchment (to catch drips and for easy clean up), and bake the pie at 400F for 10-12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F and bake for another 40-55 minutes, or until the top and edges are golden and the filling is bubbling throughout the entire pie. Place on a cooling rack, and allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours. The juices will thicken and settle during this time! Slice into generous pieces, and serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping! 



    Pastry ingredients, ready to party:

    The cold coconut oil cut into the dry ingredients. Pea-ish size chunks are the goal!

    The pastry. I put mine back into the bowl, covered and chilled for 1 hour to let the gluten relax and coconut oil firm up a bit again. You want all those lovely specs of coconut oil, that will make for a super flakey pie crust!

    Now, the filling! The stars of the pie: freshly piced strawberries and rhubarb. So beautiful!!

    Some simple slicing, chopping and measuring for the filling!

    A gentle toss with a few spices, some sugar and sweetener, pinch of salt and some lemon.

    Now, roll the pastry...you can totally do this! Doesn't have to be perfect-it is a pie! Call it rustic...

    For the lattice top, I like to use a pizza cutter for easy strip cutting and a small offset spatula to help me get them off the floured surface. Simply cut 1/2" to 3/4" strips from the reserved ~1/3 pie pastry. Lay half all accross the filled pie: 

    Now, simply pull back every-other strip you just placed on the pie, and lay another strip down...see, easy! Martha and Betty have nothing on you. You can weave pie pastry!!!It is ok if a few strips break...just piece them back together-no one needs to know. And DONE! You did it! Trim the excess strips, tuck under with the 1" overhang of bottom pastry, and crimp. 

    Brush with milk of choice (I used almond), and if needed, pop into the freezer to firm-up that coconut oil. This ensures that the coconut oil is solid when it goes into the oven, which is key for that flakey crust we all love. No shame in having 3 giant freezer bags full of strawberries and a pint jar of gin in your freezer at this time of year! (ps: yes, that image is sideways, my real-life freezer is not). 

    Ok-we are ready to bake! The first minutes at 400F ensure lots of heat to melt the solid oil FAST, and create lots of steam to make the crust flakey. This also helps cook the crust fast, so less of the fruit juices seep in. No one likes a soggy bottom. We turn the oven down to 350F for the last 40-55 minutes to cook the fruits, concentrate the juices, and crisp the crust even more. 

    Be sure that the crust is nice a brown, and that the filling is bubbling throughout the pie. You want to see bubbles in the middle before you take the pie out. This tells you that the filling is cooked through, and won't be super soupy when cut into. Also, I highly recommend that parchment paper-this pie has no mercy when it comes to overflowing! Totally worth it. 

    And pat yourself on the back, because you are now a pie master! Serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping. I love Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss in Vanilla Island. Happy Summer-ing!

  • 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!

  • Strawberry "Milk"shake

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

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

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

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

    Cheers, and happy "milk" shaking!!



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

    Chocolate Sauce:

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

    Milkshake:

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

    Coconut Whipped Cream:

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

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

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

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



    The stuff you will need:

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

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

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

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

  • Socca: French or Ligurian Flatbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Optional:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Filling:

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

    Streusel:

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

    Cake:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    This streusel is extreme. Not for wimpy streusel lovers.

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

    Done! 

  • 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.

  • Happy Mother's Day + Browned Butter Banana Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    Everything in the pot, ready to go:

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

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

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

  • 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!

  • Best Vegan Pumpkin Bread + Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

    The bananas! What would we do without frozen bananas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    I love the bright-green color of the edamame!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Roasted Butternut (or Kobocha or Red Kuri Squash):

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

    Stew:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Cut the squash into ~1" cubes.

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

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

    And the spices! They smell incredible:

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

    Toasted 'shews:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Using a high-speed blender:

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

    Using a conventional blender:

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

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



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

     

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

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

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