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  • 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! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  • 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! 

  • Summer Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie with Coconut Oil Crust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    For The Coconut Oil Pie Pastry:

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

    For The Filling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Pastry ingredients, ready to party:

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

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

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

    Some simple slicing, chopping and measuring for the filling!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fried Summer Squash or Zucchini Pasta Salad

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

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

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

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



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

    For the Zucchini/Summer Squash:

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

    For the Pesto:

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

    For The Salad:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Everything for the pesto into a blender or food processor:

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

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

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

  • Pina Colada Smoothie + CSA Weeks 1 & 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Strawberry "Milk"shake

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

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

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

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

    Cheers, and happy "milk" shaking!!



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

    Chocolate Sauce:

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

    Milkshake:

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

    Coconut Whipped Cream:

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

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

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

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



    The stuff you will need:

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

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

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

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

  • Socca: French or Ligurian Flatbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    Optional:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Cheers!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

  • Rhubarb Crisp

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

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

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

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

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



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

    Crisp Topping:

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

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

      Rhubarb Filling:

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

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

    2. For the topping:

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

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

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

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



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

    Tossed and ready to be topped:

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

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

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

    And maybe seconds...because we can!

  • Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



    Everything in the pot, ready to go:

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

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

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

  • All Hail (Vegan) Ceasar Salad

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

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

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

    Notes:

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

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

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



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

    Dressing:

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

    Nutty "Parmesan" Sprinkle

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

    Salad:

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

    Optional Add-Ins:

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

    2. Chop any vegetables for the salad. 

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

  • Blueberry Chia "Jam" Bars

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

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

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

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



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

    The Oat Base and Crumble:

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

    The Blueberry Chia "Jam":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    The "Jam":

    The jam all cozy with the oat base:

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

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

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

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

  • Smoothie Guide V1.0

    Ok, so it has been busy in my world! After recovering from a cold, I have been struck with the spring-cleaning bug! I have also been on the search for lighter recipes, refreshing drinks and produce...I can't wait for spring! Our first CSA box comes in April, and yes, I did a dance last night in our kitchen when I realized this awesome fact!!

    What else does spring mean? Running outside, and training for races! I will be running the Crazylegs Classic 8K in April, and the Madison Half Marathon in May. I have my goals...one of them being roping my best friend into running the half with me! I have also set a 2:00 goal for this half. How will I accomplish that? Well, eating nourishing and healthy foods of course! And maybe a bit of running, speed training, and hills. Hills for Health I like to say...or repeat to myself mid run-up Bascom hill!

    Smoothies can be overwhelming. So many options...so many weird seeds...nut butters? Powders? Kale? Spinach? Beets?? Protein powders? Really, the question is what you CAN'T throw into a blender, and call a smoothie. To help a friend who is embarking on the smoothie quest for the first time, I put together a guide. It includes four of my go-to smoothies, along with a lot of other information I have gathered over the past year. I won't bother with all those details here, but I WILL go over my 4 go-to concoctions. Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes I do go crazy and throw random fruits and vegetables in my blender and hope for the best. But, it is nice to have those fail-safe recipes for when you're just not feeling creative...or crazy. And heck, you may even impress yourself with some beautiful and delicious concoctions!!

    So here they are...in all their glory-my 4 smoothies that never fail me, and a few notes for good measure:

    • I almost always add 1 TB of chia seed OR flax seed, and 1 TB of hemp seeds to all my smoothies. I do this for healthy fats (hemp has a perfect ratio of omega 3:6), fiber, protein, and a extended feeling of "fullness". Hemp seeds have ~3g protein/TB, so are a great option for protein boosts. They also boast complete proteins-hooray!! You can also boost protein by adding a scoop of plant-based, unsweetened protein powder of choice (I don't use these, so can't give recommendations! I hear Sunwarrior and Vega are great).
    • I use ripe bananas that have a few spots since I like mine to be fairly sweet. I use either fresh or frozen. Buying in bulk and freezing is a great way to stock-up and save time. Use less-ripe bananas for less banana flavor and sweetness. Don't like bananas? Substitute a few soft dates in their place, just take note that the smoothie yield will be less and may be a bit sweeter.
    • I always use unsweetened milks, or pure coconut water. Plain water will work in a pinch, too!
    • If a sweeter smoothie is desired, simply add in 1 or 2 fresh, soft dates (usually found in the produce or refrigerated area). I usually use the Medjool variety since they are readily available. Dates are loaded with fructose, fiber and other beneficial nutrients, so are the healthy way to boost sweetness.
    • I almost always add a squeeze of citrus: lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit...the vitamin C helps the absorption (via a reduction reaction) of non-heme iron found in leafy greens, and also brightens flavors. Added bonus: vitamin C helps inhibit that pesky enzyme that causes fruits and vegetables to brown (polyphenol oxidase).
    • Freezing greens is a great option, too. See HERE for a great guide.
    • I do not add any sugars or use any sweetened plant-based milks, rather I rely on the natural sugars present in fruits. Add a date or two if you want a sweeter smoothie.
    • These are all gluten-free, added sugar-free, paleo-friendly, and can be soy-free by using a non-soy plant milk. Nut-free smoothies can be made by substitutuing sunflower seed butter for any nut-butters and using a non nut-based plant milk. 
    • You can make smoothies the night before, or prep up to adding frozen ingredients for a speedy smoothie making process. Simply make it, and pour into a glass or jar with lid. Shake before enjoying.
    • Add any "enhancers" of choice, like maca powder, fresh ginger, fresh tumeric, spirulina, wheat grass powder, etc..as you desire. I ilke to start with 1 tsp of these ingredients, a work up from there.
    • You can pre-portion all your smoothie ingredients, save liquids, into plastic bags or jars with lids (like mason jars) and store in the freezer for super-speedy smoothie making. Simply dump the prepped ingredients in blender, add liquids and blend.
    • I always use glass jars or glasses for smoothies. The acidic ingredients can leech chemicals if allowed to sit in plastic. Mason jars are cheap and sanitary. Yes, a touch hipster, but indeed very functional too. It will make your grandma proud, too (or angry if you steal her canning supplies...don't do that). 
    • Finally, once you get the hang of it, you don't need to measure for perfection! Just estimate it for less dishes and smoothie-making confidence. You CAN do it!!

    For all the recipes, simply add all ingredients to blender and blend. All recipes yield 1 12-16oz smoothie. If you are using a low-powered blender, I find that blending the greens with any nuts/seeds and the liquids FIRST, then adding remaining ingredients after gives smoothest results, especially with hearty greens like kale. 



    Smoothie #1: Kale-Blueberry

    This smoothie is a beautuiful shade of purple, and the berries help mask the strong flavor of kale or other greens you add. This smoothie is great with spinach, and may be a better option for lower-powered blenders.

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, coconut water or water
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • Squeeze of citrus
    • 1 cup (about 3 leaves) kale 
    • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, or other berry of choice
    • 1 banana
    • Optional: 1 TB coconut cream, 1 tsp maca powder
    • a few ice cubes 

    All the ingredients, and the finished smoothie. Note: I only included 1/2 cup of frozen blueb's in this smoothie since I was running low on dishes...ha.


    Smoothie #2: Green Machine

    This was my first go-to green creation! It is summery, and adding a TB of coconut cream gives it a tropical feel. Making this one with coconut water is extra-awesome. Adding fresh ginger makes it a spicy tropical treat!

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, coconut water or water
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • squeeze of citrus
    • 1 to 2 cups cup kale or spinach
    • 1/2 cup pineapple, fresh or frozen
    • 1 banana
    • Optional: fresh ginger, 1 tsp maca powder, 1 TB coconut cream
    • a few ice cubes

    Everything you'll need, and the finished smoothie (hemp seeds not included):


    Smoothie #3: Just Beet It

    You can't "beet" the color of this one if you use red beets! Golden beets also work, and have a more delicate, less earthy flavor. Start with 1/2 cup beet, and go up from there once accustomed to the flavor of the beets. Roasting the beets prior to blending for conventional blenders is recommended, otherwise the smoothie will be quite thick and fiberous (but still tasty!). Beet roasting is very simple: wrap washed beets in tin foil, and roast at 400F until a knife is easily insterted (45-90 minutes depending on size of beets). Cool, and then peel skins away with your fingers-they will come right off! Chop into small cubes, and store in fridge for up to 5 days, or freezer for up to 2 months. You may be able to find pre-roasted beets, just be sure the only ingredient is beets and no seasoning or vinegar!!

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, coconut water or water
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • squeeze of citrus
    • 1/2 cup red or golden beet
    • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, cherries or strawberries
    • 1 banana
    • optional: 1 TB coconut cream
    • a few ice cubes 

    The beets! So pretty...just don't wear a white shirt when peeling them...


    Smoothie #4: Plant Protein Power

    This smoothie is loaded with protein: the nut (or seed) butter, hemp seed and (if using) soy milk (if using) all combine to give you a smoothie loaded with plant-based nutrition. Each TB of hemp packs in 3g of complete protein, so add in an extra TB if you want more. Be sure to only use nut and seed butters that have simple ingredient lists-only the nut or seed, plus sea salt if desired, should be in the product. Drink this before or after a workout, or even for a treat. Adding an optional date or two, a TB of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder makes it super delicous-and perfect hot weather pick-me-up alternative to a shake or "frosty"! Add a teaspoon of the powerful cruciferous maca powder, and you'll want to fly to your next task or workout!

    • 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, using soy for extra protein
    • 1 TB flax or chia
    • 1 TB hemp
    • 1-2 heaped TB nut or seed butter, like peanut butter or sunflower seed butter
    • generous pinch cinnamon (I like a lot, so add 1/2 tsp)
    • 1 banana
    • optional: 1 TB carob or cocoa powder, 1 or 2 soft dates, 1 tsp maca powder
    • a few ice cubes

    The hemp seeds, cinnamon and maca powder:

    The finished smoothie, in the sunshine...so perfect for a warm spring day!So there you have it! If you have a blender and a few ingredients, you are only a few moments away from a delicious, noursihing and satisfying breakfast, meal replacer in a pinch, snack or pre/post-workout drink! No excuses here-and just in time for spring. Get on the smoothie train now!

  • Best Vegan Pumpkin Bread + Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

    The bananas! What would we do without frozen bananas?

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

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

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

  • The Beginning + Easy Vegan Granola Bars

    So it starts! Welcome to the dirty sifter. I am still figuring out and tweaking the details on here, and hope to get them all straightened out soon. I am not tech-savvy, so patience is key! Other than that, I'll dive right in, since these amazing granola bars should be made as soon as possible! Since we have begun the new year, I know that many of us are making resolutions, or are making every effort possible to stick to resolutions that are already underway. If you have resolved to eat more grains, get more fiber and healthy fats into your diet, reduce or eliminate refined sugars, or to bake more healthy treats, these bars are for you. Still craving a sweet treat in the afternoon (like a holiday cookie + coffee)? Try one of these with a cup of tea. It will tame an afternoon sweet tooth in a nourishing way!

    Since the new semester starts in two weeks, I am hoarding healthy go-to snacks and meals in my freezer. This is a normal thing for me-so don't be alarmed. And I am certain I am not alone. When embarking on a new journey or phase in life (big or small!), I find it comforting and reassuring to go into it armed with healthy fuel. Case in point: I feel awesome about myself even when I wake up late, 10 minutes before I have to leave for class, and grab one of these filling bars with a quickly made mason jar of tea and piece of fruit for breakfast. Sitting in lecture, instead of dwelling on how hungry I am or how late I slept, I feel smug while snacking on my meal, because hey...it only took me 30 seconds to put together and literally throw into my bag. But then I realize I forgot to put deodorant on...oh well! Win some, lose some. Regardless, quick meals and snacks for the win in 2015!! 

    These bars orginated from a recipe on ohsheglows. Is there any recipe that Angela whips-up that isn't amazing??These are no exception. I absolutely love that the binder and major sweetener in here is ripe bananas-an ingredient that is easy to source, affordable, great-for-you, and almost always on-hand. I have made these bars 5 times now, and have tried the following variations with great success:

    • Added up to 1/4 cup chia seeds
    • Added 2 TB ground flax seeds (these make the bars a bit gummy-but still delish)
    • Used sesame seeds in place of hemp hearts
    • Used other fruits and nuts 
    • Added 1/3 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (the large shreds or the finely shredded)
    • Added 1 to 2 TB liquid sweetener, like agave, brown rice syrup or maple syrup, for more sweetness 
    • Used 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup oat flour OR spelt flour if I don't have time or patience to process 1 cup of the oats into a coarse flour
    • Added other spices to compliment the add-ins: nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and ginger are my favorites

    My favorite combination so far has been pecan, cherries, coconut and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), but so far, all of the combinations I have thrown together have been wonderful (and approved by my boyfriend). A close second was the date, walnut and coconut combo. However, as I was making this batch (which is also super tasty), I was thinking about using dried apricots next time. And maybe some dark chocolate too....So, please be creative and have fun with what you put in these. It may even be great recipe for kids to help with!

    The recipe below contains the general guideline for quantities of how many nuts, seeds, and spices to add, so as long as you keep that in mind while keeping the amount of oats and/or flour and bananana as-is, you're golden. Cut into standard bar-sizes, or smaller for quick bites. I like to wrap my bars indiviudally either in aluminum foil or parchment tied with kitchen string. Store wrapped bars in a container or zip-lock bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

    We're all in this together-so I wish everyone a year filled with wellness, veggies, and energizing food! 

    What are your goals or resolutions for 2015? And what did you choose to mix into these bars? Do share!

    Note: use certified gluten-free oats and/or oat flour if needed, and do not us the spelt as it is not gluten free, rather it contains a more "soluble" form of the two proteins that make gluten. If allergic to nuts, sub-in more of your favorite seeds (and vice-versa). 

    Cherries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, dried cherries and coconut version of these bars! Yum!!



    Quick and Simple Vegan Granola Bars (refined sugar-free, gluten free, oil free)

    Yield: approx. 12 large bars

    • 2 cups rolled oats OR 1 1/2 cup rolled oats plus 1/2 cup oat or spelt flour (see note above)
    • 3 medium or large ripe bananas
    • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
    • Other desired spices, such as nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
    • 3/4 to 1 cup dried fruit, like cherries or dates, chopped into small chunks
    • 1 1/2 cups nuts, chopped into small pieces, or use sliced almonds
    • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or sesame seeds or pepitas
    • 1/4 cup hemp hearts (or more sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or pepitas)
    • 1 to 4 TB chia seeds
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • Optional: additional seeds, nuts, dried fruit for sprinkling on top of the batter pre-baking 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.

    2. Line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper (or a pan of similar size; a larger pan will give you thinner bars and vice versa with a smaller pan).

    3. Measure out all nuts, seed and dried fruit, and toss to mix in a bowl. Set aside.

    4. Peel, and remove strings from bananas. The riper the nana, the sweeter and more banana flavor. Smash thoroughly in a large bowl. Mix in the vanilla, salt and cinnamon. 

    5. In a food processor, blend 1 cup of the oats until a coarse meal forms. Alternatively, use 1/2 cup oat or spelt flour, and measure directly into the bowl with the mashed bananas.

    6. Mix in the remaining ingredients, taking care that the batter it thoroughly mixed. Taste it for sweetness, spices and salt, and adjust if necessary.

    7. Dump batter into the prepared pan, and using your hands (I find that wetting my hands slightly makes the batter stick less), firmly and evenly pack it into the pan. Sprinkle additonal nuts, seeds and/or coconut on top for looks. 

    8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, baking more for a firmer bar. Allow to cool completely before cutting and wrapping. Store wrapped bars in a container in the freezer for up to 2 months. This helps keep the nuts and seeds crunchy, dried fruit soft, and the bars fresh-tasting. 



    The mix in's all ready to go! In the bowl: walnuts, dried cherries, large-flaked coconut, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

    The riper the banana, the sweeter and more banana-flavor these bars will have. Peel, and mash those 'nanas!

    I am in love with the new whisk I got from my boyfriend for the holidays...

    Mix the oats, priocessed coarse oat flour OR oat/spelt flour, and mix-ins. Taste, and adjust spices, sweetness (you can add 1 to 2 TB liquid sweetener, like agave, if desired) and salt. Once to your liking, plop the mixture into the lined pan. The final mixture should be sticky, moist, but not overly-so. If it is a tad runny, add a TB or two more of oats and/or oat/spelt flour.

    Using your hands or a pastry roller, flatten to an even layer, pressing into the pan. If needed, wet you hands a bit to help prevent the dough from sitcking to you.

    Sprinkle on addtional nuts, seeds, dried fruit for looks (aren't they pretty?). Bake the bars at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then cut into desired bar size. Wrap individually, and freeze for up to two months. These aren't at all super firm when out of the freezer, so enjoy straight from there or throw into your bag for later in the day.

    My bars are fairly large, but cut them in whatever size you feel like.

    Place into a container or bag (remember: re-use those plastic bags!), and stash in the freezer.

    And have a snack-because you deserve it! :)

    Thanks for stopping by!