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  • Pear and Frangipane Tart (i.e. Karen's Pear and Almond Tart)

    Fall is in the air. Everywhere you look around. Lips are starting to chap at a faster rate, and convniently you cannot find your good chapstick. However, conveniently, your co-worker brought in pears and you were day dreaming about your aunt's pear tart nearly moments earlier.

    So here we are. Pears, pumpkins, it-shall-not-be-named-spice-lattes, chilly winds, chapped lips. 

    Never a better moment for a tart-because really, I think pies and gallettes and quick breads get all the love in the early moments of fall. Tarts are, for me, a little more fuss-but that is exactly why I love this recipe: minimal fuss, but high reward. Yes, it even looks a little ordinary, but if you want an attractive spiral of pear slices showing after baking, fill it a little less with the frangipane. (if you need to know what frangipane is, see here!)

    Rest assured, the pastry for this tart is a press-in style, and if you get down to it, you don't really need to chill the pastry after it has been nudged into the pan (but it does help keep shape, if you're keeeping track). 

    Pears, since they can go a little mushy when ripe, can be firm. They will soften as the tart bakes, and not turn to complete mush. And, a firmer pear is easier to peel (but you can skip peeling, if you just can't muster it-I know!). I'd venture to guess that apples would work as well here. Replace almonds with walnuts....heck, even pistachios or hazelnuts. Used skinned or fully clothed (i.e. with skin on) nuts, or peeled, the latter resulting in a deeper beige-brown tart. Play with the spices: my aunt's signature is a perfectly balanced hit of cardamom. I usually have a heavy hand with the nutmeg, and throw in ground dried ginger.The little tweaks are endless; my aunt was telling me a few weeks back of her newest rendition of the crust: adding some almond meal! My next idea: a few tablespoons of cormean, paired with apples and perhaps a few fresh cranberries for celebrating autumn.Whatever you do, do make this tart and make it yours...and enjoy it, cozied up on a cool fall morning with a hot cup of tea or coffee, or even after a warming evening meal...make it a more decadent treat with a swoosh of unsweetend whipped cream, or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. You can't go wrong!



    Karen's Pear and Almond Tart (Pear and Frangipane Tart) // makes 1, 9" to 10" tart //

    Crust:

    • 1 1/3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/8 tsp (a pinch!) fine sea salt
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
    • 2 large egg yolks (reserve the whites)

    Filling:

    • 3-4 semi-firm pears
    • 3/4 cup almonds, toasted and ground medium fine (or, almond flour; really any nut flour or ground nut would work)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon*
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom*
    • 1/4 tsp ground dried ginger*
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperatures
    • 1 egg plus 2 egg whites from above
    • 3 tsp vanila extract and/or 1 TB bourbon or other liquer of choice (I use bourbon steeped with vanilla beans)
    • optional: 1 tsp almond extract
    • 1 TB flour

    *any spices you'd like!

    1. Make the crust & blind bake: preheat oven to 300. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter and salt; with a fork or a pastry blender, blend in the butter with the flour until cornmeal-like consistency, with a few larger chunks the size of peas. Press into a 9-10" tart pan in an even layer. Bake, using pie weights, beans or sugar (my favorite weight!) in parchment or aluminum foil, for 20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Bake for another 10-15 minutes with the pie weights taken out, to brown and firm the bottom. Once done, allow to cool slightly. After you take the tart shell out of the oven, increase the temperature to 350F. 

    2. While the crust bakes, peel, core (I like to use a teaspoon), and slice the pears into 1/4" to 1/8" slices. Set in a bowl of lemon water to keep from browning.

    3. Make the filling by combining butter, sugar, spices and extracts, beating until fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add in the eggs and combine, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Finally, mix in the flour.

    4. Assemble the tart: arrange the pear slices in a decorative layer in the tart shell, or go for the more rustic route if you wish. Pour the frangipane of the arranged fruit, filling a little less if you want your design to show, and a little more if you don't mind flooding the fruit.

    5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the frangipane is golden and aromatic. Cool completely before taking the tart from the ring, using a paring knife to help loosen any stubborn areas where the tart shell sticks to the ring. Worst case: cut slices from the tart ring! Serve alone, or with lightly whipped unsweetned cream, or your favorite vanilla ice cream. Tart keeps for 1 week in the fridge. 



    Enjoy! 

  • Moving + Healthy-ish Whole Wheat Banana Bread

    Hi friends! How's your summer? Is it hot, sticky and humid? Or is it mild, breezy, cold-but-the-sun-still-fries your skin? Full of berries and stone fruit? I hope so!

    Have you gone berry picking yet? And made pie/shortcake/jam (or all of the above?)

    Have you gotten lost on a winding, long coutry road to catch the sunset and sweet smell of field right before the sun dips below the horizon?

    Have you ahcieved your quota of mosquito bites? Or ice cream sandwiches? Or icy cold beers drank with friends?

    I hope you are working on all of the above. For me, I am working on....another move! Back to the motherland: Wisconsin. What can I say? You can take the girl outta Wisconsin, but you can't take the Wisconsin outta the girl. Besides that sounding kinda off/weird, it is true. 

    In my last 4 moves over the past 2 years, I have taken appreciation to sitting back, and enjoying the ride once I have intentionally set the process in motion. Letting go a bit, I have learned, is mighty helpful and healthy-despite my inner egoic voice wanting to over-analyze every little detail. Baking calms the noise in my head. It is all going to be ok!Ask me "are you enjoying the ride?" when my sister and I are driving through the plains of Nebraska in a week and half, and maybe I'll sing a different tune.

    But regardless, I have ingredients to use up, and random picnic table bananas* to bake with.

    *Berekeley is a fine, weird, marvelous place; I can't wait to visit. In the "picinic" area at work (a souped-up parking lot of sorts with picnic tables, and a few food trucks around it), someone leaves super ripe bananas on the one shady picnic table about 1x/week. This week, those spotted beauties were adopted by me, destined for this gorp-like banana bread. Perhaps taking mysterious bananas isn't the best life choice, but really....they are bananas. I am willing to take the risk. FYI: gorp is what you make on your last night of camping, to use up all your ingredients food leftovers. Trust me, this banana bread is 100% better than that....and even healthy-ish.

    To this fine, tall, robust loaf, I added 100% whole wheat flour, buckwheat groats, toasted sesame seeds. I threw caution into the wind, and used all organic brown sugar. I mashed in 4 of those very ripe picnic table bananas, and chucked in a 70g bar of our (TCHO Chocolate!) 70% Nutty Ecuadorian chocolate (one of my favorites). Walnuts that you have long forgetten about in the freezer? Suuuure! Leftover cinnamon to kill the jar? Why not! Copious amounts of nutmeg? You betcha. Any excuse to use my Microplane, ya know? I took inspiration from the author of "Healthyish", Lindsay Mailand Hunt.

    It is safe to say that banana bread, in general, is super forgiving. So chuck whatever you wish in for seeds, nuts, chocolate or even dried fruit. I'd walk the line around adding 2-4 types in about 1/4 cup portions. As Alice Medrich says so eloquently in one of her books (Bittersweet): it will be a blow upside the head, flavor and texture-wise. But honestly, I think that is a very good thing here.The whole wheat flour gives this loaf a dense, hearty texture-but it is strong enough to hold all those good bits in suspension, and it slurps up all that moisture from the massive amount of bananas you will add to the batter. 

    Just go for it ok? Don't think too hard. You can always bake another loaf. There will always be overripe bananas. I promise, it is going to turn out just fine. Pair with a strong cup of french press coffee on early mornings. Nibble a piece for your 4pm sugar craving. It isn't so un-wholesome to feel like cake, but it isn't healthy enough to feel like cardboard, either.Cheers, happy summer to you, and....Forward! (ps: "Forward" is Wisconsin's motto, just in case ya wanted to know....)



    Healthy-ish Whole Wheat Banana Bread // makes 1 giant loaf //

    • 1 1/2 (190g) whole wheat flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 3-5 medium/large very, very ripe bananas
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil, or other liquid fat of choice (coconut, melted ghee or butter, etc)
    • 2/3 cup (135g) brown sugar 
    • 1/2-1 cup desired seeds, nuts, groats, nibs, dried unsweeted coconut (I used 1/4 cup sesame seeds, dried unsweetened coconut, and buckwheat groats)
    • 1 cup nuts of choice, such as pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts)
    • 1/2 cup (~70g) dark chocolate, chopped

    Topping: 1 TB granulated sugar of choice (white, coconut, brown....) + 2-3 TB seeds, groats or coconut used in the batter + 1 tsp cinnamon + more freshly grated nutmeg + optional pinch large flake sea salt, such as Maldon

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan with parchment, or grease/flour it. Set aside.

    2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir with a fork for 30 seconds to ensure everything is mixed. Toss on top the nuts, seeds, groats, coconut, chocolate, etc. that you are using, and mix to combine. While you are at it, mix the topping together in a small bowl. Set aside.

    3. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with the fork you used in step 2. Add the egg, oil/melted butter/ghee, and sugar, and mix until thoroughly combined. If you like, leave your bananas a little chunky or smash them smooth-up to you!

    4. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until just incorporated, making sure to get the bottom of the bowl scraped so no dry bits are hiding.

    5. Pour into the prepared loaf pan, and sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over the wet batter. Bake for 55-75 minutes, depending on how many bananas you added, you may need to bake on the longer end. Check the loaf at 55, poking a skewer in the middle; you want to bake until no soggy or goopy bits cling to the tested.

    6. Cool completely (trust me...trying to slice this loaf warm is a hot mess with all the nibbly bits). Slice, enjoy; freeze any leftover slices for up to 2 months, or store in the fridge for up to 1 week.



    All the things! In and on the bread. Voila! Snacks/breakfasts for days. high five to you!

  • Go-To Maple, Nut & Seed Granola

    Yes! Spring. Has. Arrived. We are knee-deep in it and surely we have the produce to show for it. Maybe the start of some tan lines too from those afternoon walks/outdoor lunch/coffee breaks? Yep. Side note: I have been better about wearing sunscreen, mostly because of my finace*.

    *yes, that happened! And I'll gladly use granola as a segueway. 

    ...I'll elaborate on the above, because it truly makes my heart warm and happy. 

    I've had the amazing privelidge to trave to Brazil to visit the love of my life, and to meet his family and friends. And also eat and drink all the amazing Brazilian foods...there are so many! And many I want to try to re-create here, and hopefully share here. 

    As does a good batch of granola. So, I'll get back on that crunchy granola train...ps: granola and seasonal fruit are best buds! Homemade granola > store purchased granola. Also, it is cheaper, so simple, and makes your kitchen smell *amazing*. A huge return on your small time and dirty-dish investment.

    Granola for me has to be crisp, but not tooth-breaking. It has to be sweet, but not...like candy, and rely on natural sweetener. It must be full of nuts, seeds, groats and nibs for all of the texture. And for me, I leave the dried fruit out. If you like, add it after you bake, and eat it within a few days since the moisture from the fruit will cause the dry granola to get soggy (and the fruit will dry out even more). I like to make a double batch of this, bake it on 2 cookie sheets, and freeze the granola. It lasts for a few months if kept frozen, so...stock up now, your future self thanks you!

    For me, the trick with granola is to bake it at a lower temp for a longer time. It produces a chunky, super crunchy but not burnt granola. And trust me, I've made (and burnt) a lot of granola. Let me make those mistakes for you. Low temp and long time is where the sweet spot is, my friends!A note on sweetener: I really do think maple is the superior sweetner for granola. I find that honey and agave brown much too quickly, even at lower temps. Brown ricy syrup could work, but is pretty sticky and goopy to incorporate. Coconut nectar works as well, but since I usually don't stock it in my pantry, it isn't my go-to (but if it is for you, I highly recommend you make the granola with cashews-such a great pair!). As for oil, I prefer to use virgin coconut oil or grapeseed oil. Olive oil, even the extra-virgin kind, works as well, just be mindful of the flavor if that matters to you. Customize your blend with whatever nuts, seeds, groats and nibs you'd like! The options are endless. The recipe below is my "usual", but as long as you follow the proportions, you'll be golden...just like this 'nola :)Pair this crunchy stuff with seasonal fruit (or just the old stand-by: banana!) and your yogurt of choice (I have been on a serious greek yogurt kick lately). You cannot go wrong! Granola is also fabulous as a smoothie/smoothie bowl topping, ice cream topping, or even just plain with your milk of choice. Or just straight outta the bag/jar. Granola is also a nice gift...I'd happilly accept a jar of this stuff any day! 



    My Go-To Granola Formula // makes about 6-7 cups // 

    • 2 cups rolled oats
    • 1 cup shreddd or flaked unsweetened coconut
    • 2 cups nuts/seeds/groats/cacao nibs (any combo you like! My go-to is walnuts and sunflowerseeds, and sometimes a handful of cacao nibs and raw buckwheat groats-not kasha)
    • 1/2 tsp tea salt
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 1/4 cup liquid fat (see above for my preferences!)
    • 1 TB cinnamon (yep, a whole tablespoon)

    1. Preheat oven to 250F. Line half sheet pan with parchment or silpat (or use 2 pans if you are making a double batch)

    2. Mix everything together in a large bowl.

    3. Spread into an even layer, patting semi-firmly. Bake for 2 hours, checking at 1.5 hours for doneness. You may need to rotate halfway through baking if your oven has hot spots.

    4. Allow the granola to cool *completely* either on the counter, or open your oven door half-way, and allow to cool in there. Store granola in bags or a jar for up to 2 weeks on the counter, or for up to 3 months in the freezer. Mix in dried fruit right before enjoying for optimum freshness/crunchiness!



    Chunks galore! High five to you for conquering the granola formula!

  • Browned Butter & Espresso Banana Bread

    Happiest springtime to you all! I hope your season is filling with fresh flowers, warm cups of coffee and tea, carb-laden goodies and perhaps some spring cleaning/organizing to freshen perspectives and intentions. I have been taking things easy, using this past mercury retrograde to reflect. Let me tell ya: sometimes it is enlightening to just take it slow and think through some things/decisions/adult-ing things to gain clarity and perspective. You're most definitely on the right track, and don't let anyone let you think otherwise. Spring cleaning and organizing also helps with all of this. Focus!And then after you've cleaned out your closet/mind/car (or whatever), treat yourself to some banana bread + coffee. As a compulsive banana-buyer and eater and smoothie-maker, the probability of my having over-ripe bananas is quite high. Thus, you will find several other banana bread and/or muffin recipes on TDS (The Dirty Sifter...):

    The gluten-free, but no weird-ass flours version here!

    The borderline cake, super idulgent version over here (really, don't skip the bourbon or sea salt or the chocolate...go all in on this one)...

    The touch-of-special browned butter version right here!

    The vegan version here...it is a good one despite the lack of butter and eggs, really! It boasts 6 (!!) whole bananas. Compensate the healthy goodness with the generouts cinnamon+sugar topping.

    So now...I introduce, the caffeinated and roasty-toasty, nutty one here today. Mostly inspired by my grandma's banana bread, and also my deep love for strong-ass coffee, and also the smell of browning butter. All good things indeed. If you do not have access to an espresso maker at home (I have a ROK variety, and while finicky to get the water temp/coffee grind correct, once you do, you're golden!), you can use extra-strong brewed coffee. This bread is sweet, moist and perfect on a chilly early spring morning. Spread the love and share thick slices with your favorite people. The honey in this loaf helps keep the moisture in (thanks to the abundance of monosaccharides, namely glucose and fructose), and also helps it brown in the oven (nod again to the honey). The espresso (or strong coffee) gives it a hint of bitter, and nutty aroma. The brown butter just does what it does best...mmm...

    With that, happy baking, sharing and caring. Spread the love!



    Banana Bread with Browned Butter and Espresso // makes 1 loaf //

    • 1 3/4 cup flour (I used 1 cup all purpose and 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry)
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus additional for topping
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 3 large over-ripe bananas
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, or a combination thereof)
    • 1/3 cup browned butter 
    • 1 double shot espresso + water or milk to make 1/4 cup total liquid (or use 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled)
    • optional: 2 large handfuls walnuts 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Brown the butter in a small pan, keeping an eye on it while it bubbles. Set aside to cool, and use a few teaspoons to grease the loaf pan. 

    2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

    3. In a measuring cup, measure out the espresso+water (or coffee). Add the honey, browned butter and eggs. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

    4. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas until smooth (or leave some chunks intact if you like that texture). Add the espresso/honey/egg mixture and whisk until everything is combined.

    5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry, and mix a few times. Add the walnuts, and finish the mixing with a few confident mixes, being careful to not over do it. I love to use a dough whisk to help preven over agitation and gluten development.

    6. Pour into the greasted loaf pan and level the top of the batter. If desired, sprinkle with extra cinnamon and swirl a few times with a butter knife. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. This loaf is extra moist, so don't be alarmted if you need to bake for a touch longer.

    7. Cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then release loaf from pan and allow to cool fully on a cooling rack. Slice as desired and enjoy! Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen (I like to pre-slice mine prior to freezing for easy thawing/re-heating) for up to 3 months. 



    Bananas that look like leopards are ideal for banana bread...Browned butter, ready and waiting!Sifting the dry ingredients is soothing, and also ensures all spices and leavners are homogenously distributed. Gift the goods a stir even after sifting to make double-sure. Also, I love my dough-whisk. If you're a quick-bread making fiend, I highly recommend!Take a step back...sip on that extra espresso shot you pulled yourself...and be sure you pre-heated your oven...on it!Mixing while the mixing is good! Walnuts in!Pour into pan, top with cinnamon (ps: Top With Cinnamon is a fine blog!), swirl about and bake!This loaf smells like banana-nut heaven when baking. Slice yourself a large slab, and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee. Repeat often. 

  • Apricot, Coconut & Olive Oil Bars

    While February has come and is mostly gone, I am sure most of us are still craving something sweet that is not so much a holiday cookie (ahem, raise your hand if you still have a few in your freezer....), but is equally as satisfying to that sweet tooth...and a liiiiittle healthy, maaaaybe? I mean, they are totally virtuous, full of high-quality healthy fats, fiber and complex carbs. And don't taste like cardboard, as I find many pre-made granola bars do. These dudes are a perfect snack to go with all those hot cups of coffee/tea that the cold and (sometimes) dreary February/March inevitably comes with, along with the sharp cold that seems to even be here in CA...This is my spin on one of my favorites, and a classic combo (fig + walnut, see recipe here!): apricot bars made with fruity CA extra virgin olive oil, nutty coconut and a hug rubble of CA walnuts. They are really all very delcious when in close proximity in a bar. My inspiration for the apricot came two-fold: first, my boo does not adore the crunchy seeds in dried figs; second, I had spectacular apricot and dark chocolate rugelach a few weeks ago that keeps re-surfacing in my mind (so really I think I should just get on with it, and make rugelach!). But anyways, the bars are a fabulous showcase not in cookie form of the declicious and nutritous power of apricots. 

    Tuck away in the fridge or freezer to keep them cool and ready for your snacking pleasure. For an extra gooey treat, just warm up in the oven or zap in the microwave for a few seconds. I don't mind a dollop of plain greek yogurt on these either, and would wager that a scoop of ice cream would be mighty fine, too.Note on the Apricots: If you cannot find the dark and mysterious and slightly musty Turkish apricot, not to worry. You can totally use their bright-orange cousins! I just love the caramely flavors of Turkish apricots. Just be sure that when you're buying dried apricots, that there isn't any added sugar or other ingredients. If you do not have a well-stocked bulk aisle, and can only get the bright-orange dried apricots, that is ok-they likely contain sulpher dioxide, which is added to permanently interact with with the polyphenol oxidase enzyme (PPO) that turns fruits and veggies brown once cellular integrity is compromised, and the enzyme interacts with the various phenolic compounds found in fruits and veggies (i.e. when cutting, smashing, drying, etc....this lovely enzyme is why bananas and apples turn brown after you peel/bite/cut into them).



    Apricot, Coconut & Olive Oil Bars // makes 9 hearty snack-sized bars //

    Base and Topping:

    • 1 ½ TB chia seeds or ground flax seeds or 1 large egg
    • ¼ cup (63g) water
    • scant 2 cups (about 250g) walnuts
    • 3/4 cup (about 60g) dried, unsweetened coconut
    • 2 cups (200g) rolled oats (not instant oats)
    • ¼ cup (60g) mashed banana, unsweetened apple sauce, or milk of choice (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
    • 2 TB maple syrup or honey
    • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ¾ tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp baking powder

    Apricot Filling

    • 2 cups (300g) dried apricots, using un-sulphered or turkish apricots if possible
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • Zest of 1 orange
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • Juice of 1/2 orange (about ½ cup)
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • Water, if needed
    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8”x8” pan, or line with parchment paper. Start the apricot filling by simmering all the ingredients in a pan, adding a TB or two of water if needed. There should be about 1” of liquid in the bottom of the pan, but this doesn’t need to be exact. Cook until the apricots plump up and are soft enough to puree, about 10-15 minutes on medium heat.  Off the heat and allow to cool while you proceed.

    2. Meanwhile the figs are simmering, prepare the base and topping mixture: in a food processor, pulse 1 cup (100g) of the oats until a coarse flour is made. Add in scant 1 cup of the walnuts, along with the salt, about 2/3 of the unsweetened coconut (reserve some for topping the bars), baking powder and sea salt. Pulse to make a medium-fine meal of walnuts. Set aside.

    3. In a large bowl, mash the banana. Add in the chia/flax/egg, water, oil, maple syrup/honey and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add the dry mixture in the food processor bowl, and the other 1 cup of oats, and mix thoroughly.

    4. Pat about ⅔ of the mixture into the lightly greased 8”x8” pan, taking care to have a relatively even layer and compact mixture to prevent the bars from crumbling while cutting and handling.

    5. In the bowl of the food processor or blender (no need to rinse it from the oat mixture): Puree the warm apricots, scraping the down the food processor as needed until smooth. Spread the mixture over the dough layer in the pan, spreading as evenly as possible.

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

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



    Choose your egg! Add either the flax/chia egg mixture, and your desired plant milk or mashed banana or applesauce to the coarse walnut/oat/coconut/baking powder/cinnamon/sea salt mixture, and mix mix mix! You'll have a kinda sticky-gloopy situation on your hands, but all is well. Trust. Ok, so at this point, you should have pureed your stewed apricot mixture. It should be thick, but still be moist enough to spread easily. Moist. I kinda disklike that word but we'll roll with it. After patting 2/3 of the base mixture into the greased or parchment-lined 8"x8"x pan, schmear as evenly as possible the apricot goo. Mmm...Top with the remaining base mixture (so really, making it the topping now!), walnuts and coconut. Press just kinda firmly to tell those loose bits and pieces that you are the boss and that they will stick and be friendly with the apricot filling. They all won't cooperate, but that is cool. Snack on some grapefruit wedges, too. Bake until the walnuts and coconut on top are lightly brown, and the aroma of musty and sweet dried apricots fill the air. Slice, serve, save, enjoy...repeat!

  • Prepared-ness with Smoothies + Some Tips

    Hey, hello, hi! What do ya know? It is citrus season! And I am not freezing my butt off. Welcome to CA, eh? It feels good to be prepared and to feel good about the decisions that we make, yes? Yep. Rocking back and forth between options isn't always a good thing, so settling down and planting your feet is good for the mind. I believe that is called indecision, and 2018 is my year to intentionally STOP toruting myself through my insane ability to be indecisive. 

    Striking the balance of "being prepared" and "over thinking" is pretty common for me. But! I do think that one cannot overthing the prepared-ness of smoothie-ing. I don't think it is ever a bad idea to have some nourishing, quick and satisfying tricks up the sleeve, ya know?

    Since moving, my beloved blender has been packed away...for about 6 months. But now, she is back out, and ready to rock n' roll. How about yours? Perhaps once of your resolutions is to eat more fruits, veg and nuts/seeds/all the good-for-you birdfood? If so, I love love love my blender, butttt I realize that this is an investment, and if saving $ is also a 2018 intentiom for you, I can highly recommend (this is my own opinion and based on my own use/my boo's exentisive research in his quest to find a reasonably price but powerful blender) these two options: Option 1 & Option 2.Ok. So, let's get to it. Smoothies can be  prepped. Place all the goodness into re-sealable and re-usable bags* or containers that you have. Make an assembly line of sorts. You'll need:

    • Fruit: bananas, mango, citrus, pineapple, blueberries, cherries...you name it, you blend it! Life hack: Trader Joe's has some of the best deals on frozen fruits. Avocado also adds creaminess, but I'd recommend that you add this right as you blend because it'll get brown if you freeze it.
    • Sweet: Add a date or two, or use an extra banana if you have a sweet tooth (raises hand...)
    • Nuts/Seeds: chia, hemp, flax, cashews, almonds, walnuts, coconut (dried or even frozen coconut flesh) nut/seed butters work too, especially if you have a lower-powered blender. I love to have sunbutter, peanut butter or tahini in my smoothies. 
    • Some Tang: greek or plain yogurt, lemon, lime! Balances the sweetness of fruit and is good for your insides.
    • Some Protein Power: I really like this one for a dairy option, and this one is my favorite for a plant-based option (<---Thrive market is a great resource for discounted natural foods!).
    • Liquid: you'll add this once you're ready to blend. Plant-based or regular milk, water, coconut water, go nuts. I usually blend with water or unsweetened plant-based milk, like almond or soy or coconut. 
    • Tip: Pinch of Sea Salt! Really, just a pinch. I usually grab for my Maldon because it is on my counter! This brings out the sweetness and rounds out the flavors, just be sure you check if you use nut/seed butters as sometimes the salt is already in there.
    • *I know that this looks like an insane amount of plastic bags, but rest assured, I re-use mine several times, and always recylce. You probably should, too.

    Ok, so my smoothie prep this week went like this:

    • Spinach, Carrot, Banana, Orange, Fresh Ginger Root, Flax
    • Spinach, Banana, Peanut Butter, Cinnamon
    • Tahini, Strawberry, Banana, Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon
    • Strawberry, Pineapple, Flax, Pumpkin Seeds, Coconut, Banana
    • Blueberry, Peanut Butter, Natural Cocoa Powder, Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon, Pinch of Sea SaltThe coconut chunks I scored from Trader Joe's are a perfect sub for ice! They give the smoothie texture and lotsa good fats. Pretty sure I have seen these at Whole Foods as well. Give them a go!Ok, and go! We are off to a very healthy and bright and DECISIVE 2018! 

  • Happy Holidays + A Shakshuka Recipe

    Happiest holidays to you. I hope you are cozy and warm and full of good food and cheer. I hope there is also wine/beer/your favorite beverage in hand many times between now and new years, and perhaps even after. Tis the season!I hope lots of delicious food finds a way into your belly. If you happen to want to make your belly happy, might I suggest some shakshuka for breakfast/brunch/dinner? Simple, yet so flavorful and just a little naughty with the runny egg yolks, crusy pieces of bread/pita, and scattering of salty feta (or swoosh of greek yogurt or some chevre). Oh and some parsley or really any greenery (thyme! sage! cilantro!) for color and freshness at the end. Perfect to make ahead (the sauce that is), and then enjoy a few days at a time. Easy for entertaining (either yourself or others around the holiday). Make one egg, two, three...five or six. The sauce is easily doubled, just be sure to use a big enough pan to hold the goodness and cradle the eggs when cooking to just-set-softness. And yes, I know that it is tomato season, but no bother: canned italian-style plum or San Marzano tomatoes work the best here. And yes, as for the red bell pepper, you can find the best looking ones in the produce area. If you are so inclined, you can roast them to concentrate their flavor, but I find that between the olive oil, smokey paprika and flavorful cumin, even the sub-par bell peppers can make magic here.

    Traditionally served with a soft, pia-ish bread, I love shakshuka with pretty much any toasty, bready carb. Tartine sourdough! Lavash! Naan! English Muffins! We're going around the culinary globe here...just be sure you have some sort of toasty carb to dip into the rich sauce and gooey egg.Cheers to you, and all your delicious adventures. I hope your season is merry, bright, and filling. 

    Note: guides for this shakshuka were Yotam's found here, Deb's found here, and finally my revelation about finishing the eggs in the oven to perfect softeness is from the New York Times. So, this is "a" shakshuka recipe, as I expect you to make it your own, too. Last note: I have used Oaktown Spice Shop's harissa powder in shakshuka and I love it; but never fear, you do not need harissa for this recipe-it will be just as delicious without. 



    Shakshuka // makes enough sauce for 2 hearty servings of two to three eggs each, or 4 smaller portions with 1 egg each; overall, this makes enough to cook 4 to 6 eggs depending on how saucy you'd like your bowl of shakshuka // 

    • 1 28 oz can italian-style (san marzano) whole peeled plum tomatoes, cut directly in the can with a pair of kitchen hears
    • 1 large onion, sweet or red, diced medium-small
    • 3 TB olive oil
    • 1 large or 2 smaller sweet red peppers (I use red bell but any sweet variety work), cut into medium pieces
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp tomato paste (optional, but adds a round sweetness if your tomatoes are a bit acidic; add a pinch of sugar instead if needed)
    • 2 heaped tsp paprika, using either or both sweet or smoked
    • 1 heaped tsp cumin
    • 1 heaped tsp harissa powder or harissa paste (use caution if spicy, and add to taste!)
    • pinch hot chili flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)
    • sea salt and black pepper to taste
    • 4-6 eggs
    • Feta cheese, fresh chopped parsely/cilantro/thyme
    • Warm and crusty bread, pita, etc. of choice

    1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper, and cook on medium heat until extremely soft and the onion is light brown. This will take 10-15 minutes. 

    2. Add the garlic, and cook for a few minutes until the garlic aroma mellows. Add the paprika, cumin, harissa and tomato paste. Cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Scrape any cooked bits on the bottom of the pan off and into the suace. Season with salt and pepper, then simmer until the sauce is thick enough to hold its shape when you make a small indent with a spoon (about 10-15 minutes on medium heat)*.

    3. Preheat oven to 375F. Once pre-heated, make wells in the hot sauce with a spoon, and gently crack the eggs into a well. Carefully transfer into the hot oven, and cook for 10-15 minutes until the eggs are just set. You want to whites to be set, but the yolks to be runny.

    4. Serve immediately, sprinkling bowls generously with herbs and feta. Enjoy with warm, crust bread or pita. 

    *this would be the point at which you could stop, and save the sauce for the next day. You could even freeze batches of the sauce. Re-heat in a pan, and proceed with recipe. 



    So quick, so comforting, so flavorful. 

  • Meyer Lemon, Fresh Cranberry & Walnut Scones

    The holidays are here! FTW? How did this happen so quickly? It seems like only yesterday, I was arriving in California to start my adventure in chocolate. Time flies. 2017 has flew by. So many ups and downs and in betweens! My most recent notable experience was a close interation with the Oakland Police Department, since my car got jacked (i.e. stolen). In the end, it was a pretty amazing experience, and I now know that generous and kind people are all around-yes, even in Oakland! It is not that as I doubted that, but, perhaps it just really struck a chord with me since this was my first "oh shit..." experience since moving from Wisconsin (long story short: my car was stolen, and some awesome people called it in when it rolled up to their house). 

    Speaking of in-betweens, I have always wondered the difference between a scone and a biscuit (yup, just went from car theft to baking-see how I did that?). I am certian that if I were brought up in the south, or accross the pond, I would have a more firm stance on this. But I don't, seeing that I am a Wisconsin girl, through and through.But what I DO know is that fresh and tart cranberries (preferrably from WI!), creamy butter (Clover has been my go-to since moving to CA), crunchy walnuts (from CA!) and sweet meyer lemon zest (duh, from CA!) are bound to get along in what I think is a scone. According to the internets, scones are sweeter, have a tighter crumb, and may or may not contain egg. And I guess that biscuits are not to have little bits of nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, or really anything "chunky". The more ya know...Carry on, I say! (or, Forward! The motto of my motherland). The base of these is a little different from my rhubarb and buckwheat scones, with the inclusion of eggs, and the fact that this recipe yields roughly twice as many scones. The eggs add more adhesion to the dough, and give the crumb a more delicate texture (i.e. they are less crumbly/rubbly than scones sans-eggs) with more of a lift. I initially was going to omit the eggs, but stumbled on this useful page from King Arthur. But never fear, if you wish to omit the eggs, you can follow the template for the rhubarb and buckwheat scones and sub-in whichever flours you would like, with other add-ins like fresh cranberries and walnuts (but note, I have not specifically tested other combinations...let me know if you do in the comments!).Side note: for you vegans out there, I see that Dana has provided a wonderful vegan scone recipe that is quite close to the King Arthur template, but utilizes luxurious virgin coconut oil and nutritious flax egg! 

    These scones are...festive...speckled with all those dark tart red cranberries, studded with toasted walnuts, and so amazingly fragrant with meyer lemon zest, which is encouraged to release all of the essential oil power by rubbing the sugar with the zest. I encourage you to not skip brushing these with cream/milk, and sprinkling with crunchy demerara sugar; the sweet crust that forms on top is such a perfect compliment to the tart, zingy cranberries.And one last note (becuase as you all notice, I am all about the notes, especially ones that allow flexibility in our lives): one of amazing thing about scones is that you can make them ahead of time, freeze them, and bake them off fresh when you wish straight from the freezer. So...really...this makes an ideal holiday morning treat. Or afternoon tea-time treat. Or coffee snack. Whatever. They are especially delicious drizzled generously with honey (to counter those tart, beautiful cranberries), still warm from the oven. Go full authentic and eat with clotted cream (or maybe some greek yogurt?). Best the day they are baked, but revived with a quick heat in the oven the next day, I hope you enjoy these and have an amazing holiday season!



    Meyer Lemon, Fresh Cranberry & Walnut Scones // Makes 8 very large scones or 16 small scones or quite possibly 12 mediums scones // 

    • 1 ½ cups (140 g) fresh cranberries (or frozen), either chopped by hand or in a food processor into medium sized pieces
    • 1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts, crushed into small-ish pieces
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • zest of 2 meyer lemons (or substitute 1 regular lemon and 1 orange)
    • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour (210g)
    • 1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour flour (113g)
    • 1 TB baking powder (12g)
    • 3/4 tsp sea salt (3g)
    • Freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 stick (8 TB) butter, cut into small-ish chunks, very cold (straight from fridge)
    • 1/2 cup plant-based milk or cream/moo milk, plus 1 TB for brushing tops
    • 2 eggs

    To Finish:

    • 4 tsp demerara sugar, or coconut sugar, for sprinkling on top of scones
    1. Measure the sugar in large bowl, and zest citrus on top of sugar. Rub the sugar and zest together until fragrant and incorporated.

    2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg over the lemon zest sugar in the large bowl. Mix everything together thoroughly with a fork. 

    3. Cut butter in using pastry cutter or the fork, or, use your fingers. Butter chunks should be about the size of peas and dimes, with some a little larger and a little smaller. Using your hands at the very end to rub the butter between your fingers and thumbs to create sheets of butter to form flatter pieces of butter that will create layers and lift when baked. Work quickly to not melt the butter with the heat of your hands. 

    4. Stir in the almond milk/egg mixture, mix for a few stirs, then add the cranberries and walnuts. With a spatula, mix briefly, but confidently, until mostly no dry patches remain (but a rough, shaggy texture with dry-ish spots here and there is perfect!). Turn out onto a lightly floured board, gather the dough, divide in roughly have and stack the pieces, repeating this once more for optimum layering of butter for flakiness. Divide in half, and form each half into a 6” diameter disc that is 1.5” thick. 

    5. Cut each half into 4 triangles for huge scones, or 8 triangles for smaller scones, or even 6 triangles for medium-ish scones (if cutting the discs into 8 each, they will be small-but don't worry, they rise and puff), and place on a lined sheet tray. Freeze for 30-45 minutes (or, freeze all the way, wrap individually once firm, place in a bag or container and bake off as directed when desired).

    6. Preheat oven to 425F. When heated, take scones from freezer, brush with cream or milk, and sprinkle each with ½ tsp (or a generous pinch!) of demerara sugar.

    7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and fragrant. Frozen scones may need a minute or two more. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy! These are best fresh, but baked scones can be freshed in a hot oven (350F) for a fe minutes. Cheers!



    Fragrant meyer lemon zest is rubbed into sugar...the best type of aroma therapy in the kitchen! Chopped cranberries (either fresh or frozen work here, I used frozen, and chopped them in the food processor). The color is so damn festive!Walnuts, a natural pair with cranberry!Alright. You've measured/weighted and sifted, now to cut in the butter. Using your fingers, working quickly, is encouraged. Flat, larger pieces will produce puffy, layered scones. Then, we confidently and quickly stir in the milk and egg mixture. The key phrase for scones: hot shaggy mess. Literally. This will look like a goddamn nightmare, but never fear: the shaggier, the more "undermixed", the lighter the scone. Seriously. You cannot go wrong. In goes the rubble of cranberry and walnuts! A quick stir and fold of sorts with a spatula to get it all in there...still a shaggy hot mess...you're doing great...you just gotta trust your inner baker here. Alright. The scone batter gets a quick pat down. Sliced. You got it...if you're feeling greedy, cut into larger triangles. If you're feeling more petite.......then cut each disc into 8 triangles. I guess you try cutting each disc into 6, and settle in the middle...whatever you want!The chunks! The butter! The love! Ahh. You nailed it!Get these ruby-speckled babies into the freezer. Clean up your mess. Make a coffee. Maybe just admire one more time how just kinda cute these little dudes are...Love it. Ok, carry on. Get your oven preheated. Brush with milk or cream. Sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake bake bake...coffee coffee coffee....(or tea? I dunno..whatever you want!)...Just enjoy! Share, repeat. Happiest baking to you all!

  • Summer Berry, Cornmeal & Buckwheat Coffee Cake

    Hey! Hello! How is your summer going?

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

  • Frittata: A Tribute

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Banana Bread Granola

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    The stuff:

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

  • Rhubarb and Buckwheat Scones

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

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

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

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

    Lightly adapted from the Bojon Gourmet and Food52. 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Sourdough Bread Pudding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



     

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

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

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

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

    My major changes to the original recipe include:

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

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



    Fig and Walnut Bars // Makes 9 ~1.5"x1.5" bars, or 16 ~1"x1" bars // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; refined sugar-free; soy-free // (Don't miss the Apricot-Coconut & Olive Oil version of these bars!**)

    Base and Topping:

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

    Fig Filling:

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

    *I grind flax seeds in my coffee grinder. I like to freshly grind my flax, and use right away, since these little dudes are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids; I sometimes store smaller quantities in the freezer in a jar. You may also substitute this flax/chia egg with 1 large egg, preferrably locally produced!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  • Browned Butter, Buckwheat & Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Cozy Cream of Millet and Broccoli Soup

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!



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

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

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

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

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



    Sun in a cup. You deserve this, everyday. 

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Batter:

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

    For The Middle & Topping:

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

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

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

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



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

  • Super Simple (and flexible) Spelt Focaccia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Holiday Cookie Line-Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Get to it! Cheers my friends!



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

    For The Soup:

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

    For The Beans:

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

    For The Lemon Tahini Drizzle:

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

    For The Gomasio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Bourbon, Pecan and Salted Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

    You get all that in the title? Bourbon. Pecan. Salted Dark Chocolate. Banana Bread. 

    "Bread". Becaus let's be real here: this loaf is verging on a cake. Which, in my book, is just fine!

    This loaf came about when I was feeling a little (ok, a lot) down and sad. And for some reason, baking in general made me feel whole and happy. Sharing also made me feel good. I mean, when does it not? But it was that much better. This loaf, or cake, is not complicated, but the pay-off is great. Yes, you do need to get out your cutting board and a sharp knife to chop the pecans and dark chocolate (and yep, feel free to nibble away while you do, because....I know I am not the only one who does that). But I assure you, this is worth it. Also, lately I have been LOVING the heck out of my dough whisk. It truly does a wonderful job in thoroughly mixing quick breads, but not over-beating them to produce a tough, tunnel-ridden loaf. I got mine on Amazon, and highly recommend this tool for anyone who, like me, struggles to not over-mix quick breads! Game changer, for sure.Now, if you are looking for a more wholesome, more in-tune with your perhaps upcoming 2017 New Years Resolutions to Not Eat All the Sugar, check out the following: Gluten Free (but not full of weird flours) Banana Bread and/or Best Banana Bread for a vegan loaf. If you are looking to sabotage your health goals in a more gentle way, check out my Browned Butter Banana Bread! See, I got your back, whatever your goals may be! Heh...

    However, if you are in need of....

    • A sweet treat to go with your coffee early in the morning, when drinking all the hot things flood your mind as soon as your feet hit the cold kitchen floor
    • An easy, but special, host or hostess gift for an upcoming Holiday gathering
    • A relatively quick and fuss-free dessert, made even more indulgent covered with a quick chocolate ganache
    • A feel-good baked treat, to shove in your face by yourself or to share with others
    • Using up those overripe bananas languishing in your fruite bowl alongside that pomegranate you think is too beautiful to open, and those super sweet clemintines that come around this time of year
    • Something to bake to make your new apartment smell less like weird cleaning chemicals that the cleaning crew used to sweep your apartment of all traces of human DNA 

    Bonus round: this loaf smells like banana heaven while baking. All bananas go to heaven. Yep. Gather your bananas. Treat yourself to a bar (ok, or two!) of your favorite dark, salted chocolate (my favorite is Theo's Salted Dark Chocolate). Rummage your liquor cabinet for your bourbon. And splurge on those pecans in the bulk aisle, because this is soooo worth it. Happy baking, and stay warm!

    Notes: My first trials of this bread were using walnuts instead of pecans (see above picture of slices), but the pecan version overwhelmed me with the power of pecans to stand up to the robust flavors (like dark chocolate), and the sweetness in this loaf. But, feel free to use walnuts if you can't find or don't want to use pecans. As for the chocolate, I guessssssss salted chocolate is not required, but is a really, really lovely touch here, and also balances the sweetness of this loaf. Additionally, I have a weakness for the shards and chunks of chocolate that result when you chop the chocolate, rather than simply using chips, in this loaf but either work. Finally, the bourbon is not required, but strongly encouraged. If you don't have bourbon, a dark spiced rum (like Meyer's) will work beautifully, as would any other spicy, dark alocohol. If you don't have or don't want to add the booze, just add another dash or two of vanilla extract, and carry on! And finally, a word on sweetness: invariably, the ripeness of your bananas will influence this. You can bump up or knock down the brown sugar accordingly (using less for riper bananas, and vice versa). Similarly, if you want to verge more on cake territory, use the full 3/4 cup sugar. 



    Bourbon, Salted Dark Chocolate and Pecan Banana Bread // makes 1 standard 9"x5" loaf // certainly not gluten free, for sure not vegan, not a hint of plant-based, and full of refined sugar //

    • 4 large very ripe bananas
    • 1/3 cup (75g) melted virgin coconut oil or butter
    • 3/4 cup (145g) brown sugar, or use 1/2 cup (100g) for a less-sweet loaf
    • 1 egg, using locally sourced and/or organic when possible
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 TB bourbon
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
    • 1 1/2 cups (190g) unbleached, all-purpose flour 
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped dark salted chocolate, such as Theo's Sea Salt bar
    • 3/4 to 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9"x6" loaf pan. Chop the chocolate into small to medium chunks/shards, and do the same with the pecans. Larger pieces are ok, as this makes for a lovely texture and visual appeal as the loaf is sliced. 

    2. Smash the bananas in a large bowl using a fork or potato masher. Add the melted coconut oil or butter, the egg, the vanilla, the sea salt, the bourbon, the cinnamon, the nutmeg and the ginger, and mix well. 

    3. Sift the flour directly into the wet mixture in step 2. Stir breifly, then add in the chopped chocolate and pecans, stirring just to combine. 

    4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top if needed. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until the loaf is deep golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool for 10-15 minutes, and then carefully slide a knife or off-set spatula around the edges, and release the loaf from the pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to throughly cool, if you can, before slicing. If you wish to pour a chocolate ganache or glaze over the top, you must let the loaf cool all the way before doing so. Loaf may be stored, covered or in a container, in the fridge for up to 1 week, or be frozen whole or in slices, for up to 1 month.



    1. Chop chop chop....Measure/weigh, mash, crack that egg, add the booze and vanilla...re-assure yourself that this is going to be amazing, because you are amazing!Sift, gently stir, then add the chopped goodies...briefly stir once more to bring the batter together.Pour. Admire the textures and colors.Bake, enjoying the lovely aromas!And you've done it. Look at you, all on top of your banana bread/caking skills! Go you. Enjoy as desired, either plain, sliced in thick pieces, or drizzle with your favorite chocolate glaze or ganache once cooled. 

  • Bourbon & Browned Butter Apple-Pear pie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Bourbon + Brown Butter Apple-Pear Filling 

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Buckwheat Waffles + Stewed Apples

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

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



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

    Waffles:

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

    Spiced Stewed Apples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

    Did someone say easy gluten-free bluberry muffins?

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Favorite Buckwheat Pancakes

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

    I think the BIGGEST learning curves have been the following:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

  • Strawberry + Raspberry Crisp with Fresh Ginger

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

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

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

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



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

    Filling:

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

    Topping:

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

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

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.

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

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

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



    Baked up and ready for some lovin'

  • Date, Cacao & Peanut Energy AmazeBalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Banana Cream Filling: 

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

    Crust Layer:

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

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

    For Layering:

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

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

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

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



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

  • Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Dip

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

  • Homemade Toasted Coconut Milk + Chia Bowl

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

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

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



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

    Toasted Coconut Milk:

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

    Chia Pudding:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Favorite Lentil Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Lentils:

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

    Dressing & Other Add-Ins:

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

    Some (My Favorite) Serving Suggestion:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

  • Blueberry, Sunbutter + Cacao Smoothie

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

  • Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Citrus + Spicy Root Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Cashew Milk

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



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

  • Simple Cacao (or Cocoa) Oat & Date Bars

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

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

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



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

    Crust & Topping

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

    Filling

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • The Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Crust: 

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

    Filling:

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

    Whipped Coconut Cream:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

  • Happy Halloween + Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Pumpkin Pie: Two Classic Recipes

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

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

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

    Our plant-based "custard" secret weapons:

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

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

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

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

    And now, for the crusts:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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

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

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

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


     Wash and dry the tomatoes...

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

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

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



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

    • Red Peppers

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



  • Simple & Satisfying Split Pea Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Soupin'!!



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Pumpkin Cake:

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

    Streusel:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

  • Sweet Potato, Coconut + Carrot Soup

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Autumn'ing!



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

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

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

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

    All of the spices....

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



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

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

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

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

    Or...

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Everything in the blender:

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



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

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

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

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

    Getting all cozy in here....

    Pour sauce over the top...

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

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

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



  • 7 Vegetable Power Soup + New Goals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Done! Super quick and satisfying. 

  • Easy Cauliflower Cheeze Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Notes: 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

    After about 1 hour:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Crust:

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

    Filling:

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

    1. Prepare the crust as described in this post. 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Mix mix mix...

    Plop into the pastry bottom:

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

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

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

    And go back for seconds! Happy summer'ing!

  • Citrus & Basil White Sangria

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



    All the stuff!

    The citrus. I love the colors!!

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

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

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

    Cheers to summer!

  • Green Juice Smoothie + CSA Scraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Green Juice:

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

    Smoothie:

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

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

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



    The fennel and celery trimmings, ready to be washed.

    The juice! How crazy green is this?!

    The stuff you'll need for the smoothie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



  • Easy Zucchini Gratin

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Gratin:

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

    For The Vegan Parmsan:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    The vegan parm, up close. And personal.

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

    Everything all ready for the hot oven:

    30 minutes later....

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

  • Strawberry Jam (Lower Sugar!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Jam:

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

    Optional add-ins to try:

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

    Tools You Will Need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Summer Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie with Coconut Oil Crust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Coconut Oil Pie Pastry:

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

    For The Filling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    9. Place the pie on a sheet tray lined with parchment (to catch drips and for easy clean up), and bake the pie at 400F for 10-12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F and bake for another 40-55 minutes, or until the top and edges are golden and the filling is bubbling throughout the entire pie. Place on a cooling rack, and allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours. The juices will thicken and settle during this time! Slice into generous pieces, and serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping! 



    Pastry ingredients, ready to party:

    The cold coconut oil cut into the dry ingredients. Pea-ish size chunks are the goal!

    The pastry. I put mine back into the bowl, covered and chilled for 1 hour to let the gluten relax and coconut oil firm up a bit again. You want all those lovely specs of coconut oil, that will make for a super flakey pie crust!

    Now, the filling! The stars of the pie: freshly piced strawberries and rhubarb. So beautiful!!

    Some simple slicing, chopping and measuring for the filling!

    A gentle toss with a few spices, some sugar and sweetener, pinch of salt and some lemon.

    Now, roll the pastry...you can totally do this! Doesn't have to be perfect-it is a pie! Call it rustic...

    For the lattice top, I like to use a pizza cutter for easy strip cutting and a small offset spatula to help me get them off the floured surface. Simply cut 1/2" to 3/4" strips from the reserved ~1/3 pie pastry. Lay half all accross the filled pie: 

    Now, simply pull back every-other strip you just placed on the pie, and lay another strip down...see, easy! Martha and Betty have nothing on you. You can weave pie pastry!!!It is ok if a few strips break...just piece them back together-no one needs to know. And DONE! You did it! Trim the excess strips, tuck under with the 1" overhang of bottom pastry, and crimp. 

    Brush with milk of choice (I used almond), and if needed, pop into the freezer to firm-up that coconut oil. This ensures that the coconut oil is solid when it goes into the oven, which is key for that flakey crust we all love. No shame in having 3 giant freezer bags full of strawberries and a pint jar of gin in your freezer at this time of year! (ps: yes, that image is sideways, my real-life freezer is not). 

    Ok-we are ready to bake! The first minutes at 400F ensure lots of heat to melt the solid oil FAST, and create lots of steam to make the crust flakey. This also helps cook the crust fast, so less of the fruit juices seep in. No one likes a soggy bottom. We turn the oven down to 350F for the last 40-55 minutes to cook the fruits, concentrate the juices, and crisp the crust even more. 

    Be sure that the crust is nice a brown, and that the filling is bubbling throughout the pie. You want to see bubbles in the middle before you take the pie out. This tells you that the filling is cooked through, and won't be super soupy when cut into. Also, I highly recommend that parchment paper-this pie has no mercy when it comes to overflowing! Totally worth it. 

    And pat yourself on the back, because you are now a pie master! Serve with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping. I love Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss in Vanilla Island. Happy Summer-ing!