I’ve never considered myself a baker, but lately I find myself baking more and more. This is mostly due to clients who love baked goods, but also because I’m feeling more and more comfortable experimenting with baking recipes. I like savory dishes because it’s easy to change recipes and adjust flavors without worrying about whether or not the dish will turn out. Baking, on the other hand, is more of a science. The ingredients work together to create the perfect taste and texture, and if the measurement of an ingredient is even just a little bit off, it could ruin everything. As I bake more and more, however, I’m quickly learning how to adjust recipes to my tastes without creating something inedible, which is changing my mind about baking. Who knows, maybe someday soon I’ll even consider myself a baker.
This delicious recipe for Chocolate & Banana Oat Muffins started as a request from a client. She wanted healthy banana muffins made with oats and a little bit of chocolate. So I made just that, and resulting muffins were a total hit. She even suggested I add them to my blog… which brings me to this post. The original muffin recipe used eggs and milk. But I don’t keep eggs in my apartment, and while we often have milk, I prefer making recipes that don’t require eggs and milk. It’s surprisingly easy to transform baked goods into vegan baked goods, you just gotta know the right tricks. That’s why I adjust most of my sweet recipes to be vegan. Because why not? But I’ve also included the non-vegan variations to please all my amazing readers.
What I really love about these muffins is that they are not only perfectly tasty, but also healthy-ish. I say “healthy-ish” because they contain sugar (in the form of maple syrup and chocolate chips), and while sugar is fine in moderation, it’s still sugar. But otherwise, these muffins are actually pretty healthy. I use 100% whole wheat pastry flour and whole grain oats as the base, mashed banana for flavor and texture, and organic coconut oil for moisture. The result is a tender, flavorful and completely addictive treat that’s totally guiltless… ok, ok – totally guiltless-ish.
Chocolate & Banana Oat Muffins
Yield: 10-12 standard-size muffins Start to Finish: 30 minutes
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain
2 ripe bananas, smashed into a purée (1/2 cup to 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup oil (I like coconut oil, canola oil works too)
1/3 cup dairy free milk (water works too, in a pinch)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with baking cups or grease with oil.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, maple syrup, milk/water, oil and vanilla. In a prep bowl or ramekin, combine 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Wait for the fizz to die down (if it doesn’t fizz, it won’t work).
Add the vinegar/baking soda mixture to the banana mixture. Then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix until well combined. It should be a very thick batter. Transfer batter to muffin tins. Aim to fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating or storing. While they’re still warm, I put the muffins into a large tupperware or ziplock bag, this helps to retain the muffins’ moisture.
Combine dry ingredients – 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1 3/4 cups oats, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine wet ingredients – 2 puréed bananas, 1 large beaten egg, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix wet ingredients into dry until well combined – transfer to muffin tins – bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes
One thing that makes me feel totally on top of life is having a grain-based salad in the fridge for convenient and healthful eating. Unlike lettuce based salads, grain salads get better with time, so they’re perfect as make-ahead meals or for leftover lunches.
The ingredients in this particular quinoa salad are simple but come together perfectly to create a symphony of flavor and texture. Roasted tomatoes, bell pepper and asparagus give this salad richness and depth of flavor. And all three pair perfectly with one of my all time favorite ingredients – creamy, tangy goat cheese. Finally, white onion, chopped dill and lemon juice add freshness and zip. The ingredient list is short but thoughtful, making this salad quick, simple, nourishing and absolutely delicious.
This is a great side dish for simply prepared proteins like chicken, steak or fish. As a vegetarian, I would pair it with roasted cauliflower “steaks” or organic pan-fried tofu. But I usually eat salads like this as the main dish paired with all-natural toasted bread (rubbed with olive oil and maybe some garlic) plus something saucy like hummus or tzatziki. In the words of Ina Garten, how easy is that?
Quinoa Grain Salad with Fresh Dill & Goat Cheese
Serves: 2-3 as a main dish, 4-5 as a side dish Start to Finish: 30 minutes
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, each stem cut into thirds
1 pint cherry tomatoes, any color
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, fine grain
1 cup dry quinoa
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill (approx. 4-5 sprigs)
1/2 cup minced white onion
3 ounces goat cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep vegetables.
Toss red bell pepper strips, asparagus and tomatoes with 3/4 teaspoon sea salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes, tossing once half way through. I use a rimmed baking sheet to conserve the tomato juices.
While veggies roast, cook quinoa according to package instructions. My standard method…combine 1 cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in a small sauce pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 13 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for at least 5-10 minutes.
Toss cooked quinoa and roasted vegetables (including any juices) with lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, dill, onion and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Allow to cool to room temperature. Crumble cold goat cheese into quinoa mixture and toss to evenly distribute. Season with lemon juice and salt to taste. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.
*make it a meal – round out this yummy quinoa salad with some tzatziki sauce (either store-bought or homemade) and some all-natural toasted bread drizzled with olive oil
Yep, this my third grain bowl post this month. Why? Two reasons. First is because I love nourishing bowls of goodness, packed with an array of nutrients, flavors and textures. It’s my favorite way to eat because it’s healthy, convenient, packable, stores well in the fridge and, most importantly, absolutely delish. If you want to make a crave worthy nourish-style bowl, it’s not quite as easy as piling veggies, grains and protein into a bowl. My kind of nourish bowl (aka Buddha Bowl or Grain Bowl) has depth, richness and variety. It takes advantage of seasonal produce, flavor-bombs like garlic and citrus, and requires a tasty sauce or spread to pull it all together. This takes a little bit of time and planning, but it’s worth it. And once all of the components are ready, they’re easy to throw together.
The second reason why I’m focusing on grain bowls is because they’re all the rage these days. Everywhere from fast casual restaurants to fine dining establishments are jumping on the nourish bowl bandwagon. It’s a trend for sure, and food trends, specifically health-supportive ones, are my jam.
So there you have it. One more inspirational nourish bowl to get your creative juices and health vibes flowing. And if you missed the last two, check them out below.
Roasted Summer Veggie Nourish Bowl with Classic Hummus
Serves: 4 Start to Finish: 1 hour Active Time: 30 minutes
For Veggies & Rice
1.5 cups dry brown rice
sea salt, fine grain
2 large zucchinis, cut into a large dice
3 large cloves garlic, minced (2 for zucchini, 1 for hummus)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 orange bell peppers (red and yellow bell peppers work too)
For Hummus (use storebought if desired)
1 14-oz can chickpeas
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoons sea salt, fine grain
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups lightly packed greens (I used red leaf lettuce)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (lemon juice works too)
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook 1.5 cups brown rice to package instructions – it goes something like this – rinse rice in colander, add to small sauce pan with 3/4 teaspoon sea salt and 3 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover with lid. Allow to cook for 35-40 minutes, until water is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to steam, covered, for 10 minutes.
Toss zucchini cubes with 3/4 teaspoons salt, 2 cloves chopped garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer. Toss tomatoes with 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer to baking sheet with zucchini. Cook cherry tomatoes for 20 minutes. Cook zucchini for 30-35 minutes, flipping once through.
Roast the bell peppers. I like to do this over the open flames on my burner, which takes about 8 minutes and another 10 minutes in a sealed paper paper bag or covered bowl. This allows the peppers to steam and makes the charred skins easily peel off. Once charred skin is removed, discard stem and seeds, cut into a large dice. You can also roast the peppers in the over with the other veggies. To do this, remove stem and seeds, dice bell peppers, toss with a little oil and roast for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make hummus. Combine all hummus ingredients plus 5-6 tablespoons water in a food processor or in a hand blender vessel. Use the water to achieve your desired consistency.
To assemble nourish bowls – toss greens with vinegar, sliced red onions and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Divide evenly between 4 dishes. Top each bowl with 3/4 cup cooked rice, 1/4 of all roasted vegetables and 3-4 tablespoons hummus. Garnish each serving with 2 teaspoons toasted pine nuts.
Matt and I are really big on camping. And when I say that Matt and I are really big on camping, I really mean that Matt is a camping pro and I’m along for the ride. That’s not to say I don’t love it though. I actually grew up spending my summers glamping (glamourous, more comfortable camping) on my family’s island in Ontario, Canada. While it wasn’t totally “roughing it”, going to Canada definitely made me super comfortable in nature and without the comforts of civilization. The only electricity on our little island comes from a small generator, which is rarely on. To get to the nearest major grocery store takes hours, and the nearest convenience store is a 40 minute boat ride away. On the island, we spend our time reading, playing cards, hiking, fishing, cooking, eating, napping, crafting and exploring. We sleep on old beds in ancient screened-in cabins, perfect for star gazing as you fall asleep, and we spend mornings sitting around the campfire, looking out over the beautiful Canadian wilderness. Sounds magical, right? To me, it’s heaven. In fact, we’ll be heading to Rickey Island in just over a month. Can’t wait.
In addition to our trips to Rickey Island, Matt and I always find time to do a little camping on our own. We’ve hiked to camp, we’ve canoed to camp, and we’ve car-camped. Car camping is my personal favorite, because you can take more stuff and leave the food and valuables in the car. It just makes it a little more relaxing and a little easier, ideal for a short weekend camping trip. And that’s exactly what we did last weekend. Matt and I joined some of his University of Vermont friends and had a wonderful 36 hours hiking and chilling on the water. This campsite, called Black Bear Campground, was totally awesome. One of my favorite campgrounds so far. It’s located in Phoenicia, a small town near Woodstock, New York. There were beautiful hiking trails, a wide, flowing creek running along the edge of each campsite, and a couple resident black bears. Yes, we saw a black bear and her cub at Black Bear Campground. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think? (I hope everyone picked up on that song reference). After our morning hike, I spent most of Saturday on a chair overlooking the creek with a beer in my hand. It was just lovely. I even saw a group of fly fishers waddle through and one of them caught a fish right in front of me! So cool.
Anyway, being a whole foodie and cooking addict means that I’m not bringing just any old food supply. One of my favorite activities while camping is the food part! I like planning it, executing it, and most importantly, eating it. So what does a vegetarian whole-foodie bring camping that will satisfy both her and her carnivore boyfriend? Well that’s what this post is all about! Four meals and a few snacks that blend together the essential elements of camping food…simple, fun and satisfying. I’ve even included packing tips and essential utensils, to make prep even easier.
Matt and I didn’t arrive at the campsite until 11pm on Friday night, so we didn’t need to worry about Friday night dinner (we ordered pizza while packing up at home). Then for lunch on Sunday we headed to Woodstock for a sit down lunch. Basically this meal-plan covers all the food we needed for all of Saturday and Sunday morning (essentially one full day of camping, plus an extra breakfast before hitting the road on the second day). Use this as a guide and fill it in how you see fit…that could mean an extra dinner and lunch or maybe s’mores supplies for a classic camping dessert by the fire.
I hope my tips, tricks and pics inspire you to get outdoors, take advantage of summer and get a quick camping trip like ours on the calendar.
For Two Egg & Cheddar Breakfast Sandwiches and Home Fries
Cut potatoes and half the onion into a medium dice. Toss with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a thin layer of olive oil to a skillet. Add potatoes and cook over camping stove or fire pit, stirring often to prevent burning. Honestly, ours got super crispy and a bit black/burned on the bottom but they still were amazing! You could also try cooking the potatoes in a foil packet over the camp fire. We didn’t want to start a fire because we were leaving after breakfast to hike, we used a camping pan and a portable flame.
Peel and slice 2 hard boiled eggs. Slice 2 ounces cheddar cheese. Use egg and cheese slices to make sandwiches on the English muffins. Season egg slices with cheese. You can griddle the sandwiches in a skillet/pan over a portable stove top or over a fire pit. Or wrap the sandwiches in foil and heat over the fire. Always be extra careful about burning food while camping, it happens easily.
For Two Hummus Sandwiches
Spread about 1/4 cup of hummus onto 2 slices of bread. Top each slice with 1-2 ounces crumbled feta and the reserved roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts. Top each sandwich with a second slice of bread. Serve with all-natural potato chips.
For Eggplant Burgers and Chopped Salad
Slice eggplant width-wise into 1/2 slices. Sprinkle each slice with salt, allow to sit for 15-30 minutes to let the salt draw out the bitter liquid. Brush each side of each slice with olive oil. Season with pepper. Grill slices on a grate over the fire pit until soft and tender. On a BBQ it takes 3-5 minutes preside, over a fire pit the time will vary depending on the fire. When slices are almost cooked, top with 1 ounce slices fresh mozzarella cheese and allow to melt. Slice tomato. Stuff buns with 1 or 2 eggplant slices, a slice of tomato (seasoned with salt), and basil leaves (or a hefty seasoning of dried basil).
Dump mason jar filled with salad into a large bowl and toss. Serve with burgers.
I also bought a 1/3 lb beef patty for Matt. We grilled it with the eggplant and he topped his burger with both the patty and an eggplant slice.
For Almond Butter & Banana Sandwiches
Spread about 2 tablespoons of Almond Butter onto each of two slices bread. Drizzle with honey or agave (a little goes a long way. Slices bananas and layer over almond butter. Each open faced or top with another slice of bread. I prefer open face (less bread).