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  • 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. 



     

  • 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. 

  • 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!

  • 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Banana Cream Filling: 

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

    Crust Layer:

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

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

    For Layering:

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

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

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

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



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

  • Homemade Toasted Coconut Milk + Chia Bowl

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

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

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



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

    Toasted Coconut Milk:

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

    Chia Pudding:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Blueberry, Sunbutter + Cacao Smoothie

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

  • Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Citrus + Spicy Root Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Cashew Milk

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



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

  • 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.


  • Easy Cauliflower Cheeze Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Notes: 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

    After about 1 hour:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • Citrus & Basil White Sangria

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



    All the stuff!

    The citrus. I love the colors!!

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

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

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

    Cheers to summer!

  • Green Juice Smoothie + CSA Scraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Green Juice:

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



    The fennel and celery trimmings, ready to be washed.

    The juice! How crazy green is this?!

    The stuff you'll need for the smoothie:

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

  • 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!

  • Pina Colada Smoothie + CSA Weeks 1 & 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Strawberry "Milk"shake

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

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

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

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

    Cheers, and happy "milk" shaking!!



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

    Chocolate Sauce:

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

    Milkshake:

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

    Coconut Whipped Cream:

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

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

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

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



    The stuff you will need:

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

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

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

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

  • 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. 

  • 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

  • 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!