Healthy-ish Chocolate & Banana Oat Muffins (vegan optional)

Healthy-ish Chocolate & Banana Oat Muffins (vegan optional)

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

Ingredients

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

To Make

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.


Non-Vegan Recipe

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

Quinoa Grain Salad with Fresh Dill & Goat Cheese

Quinoa Grain Salad with Fresh Dill & Goat Cheese

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

Ingredients

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

To Make

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

Summer Veggie Grain Bowls with Classic Lemon Hummus

Summer Veggie Grain Bowls with Classic Lemon Hummus

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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.

Burrito Nourish Bowls with Roasted Peppers & Tomatillo Sauce

Cauliflower Satay Nourish Bowl

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Roasted Summer Veggie Nourish Bowl with Classic Hummus
Serves: 4    Start to Finish: 1 hour    Active Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For Veggies & Rice

1.5 cups dry brown rice
sea salt, fine grain
2 large zucchinis, cut into a large dice
olive oil
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

For Assembly

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

To Make

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.

Meatless Meal Plan: Car Camping for Two

Meatless Meal Plan: Car Camping for Two

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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.

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My favorite spot while camping last weekend, right by the water.

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.Whole Food Camping Menu.jpg

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View from our campsite. You can see the fly fishers!

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.

 

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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.

Hummus Sandwich

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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. Camping Shopping ListPrep at Home

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).

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The view of Phoenicia, New York while hiking.

Roasted Tomato & Creamy White Bean Pita Sandwiches

Roasted Tomato & Creamy White Bean Pita Sandwiches

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It’s Day 3 of my “debloat and recharge detox” and I’m feeling good and staying motivated. My detoxes are easy in that I’m not seriously reducing calories or only eating cabbage soup. It’s more about portion controlling, loading up on veggies and fruits (even more than usual) and reducing excess fat, sugar and carbs. Because I pretty much always stick to high quality and whole ingredients, it’s mostly about portion controlling and some calorie counting.

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I’m not big on calorie counting for a couple reasons. First is because I’ve spent so much time calorie counting throughout the years that I have a pretty good sense of roughly how many calories are in most foods, allowing me to be unconsciously aware of how much I’m eating. I also don’t like counting calories because I think it can take the fun out of eating a cooking. And lastly, I don’t like counting calories because I find it to be misleading in terms of choosing an unhealthy food over a healthy food just because they are equal in calories. With that said, when trying to trim down and debloat, I’ve found that it happens much faster if you’re staying within a low-to-moderate calorie range. So when detoxing I stay within a 1,500-1,900 calorie range, typically shooting for around 1,600. Obviously this varies by person, but I’ve found this to be a sustainable, satisfying and effective range for myself.

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So the question is, what kinds of delicious and healthy foods do I eat during my detox regimens. Today I’m sharing my recipe for a super tasty pita pocket sandwich that clocks in at about 445 calories. I made these for both Matt and I to bring to work on Monday, and I kid you not, Matt actually called this sandwich one of the best things he’s ever eaten. Matt is the ultimate meat-eater-man so for him to say something so light and healthy is also super yummy means a lot.

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These pita sandwiches are a super simple combination of homemade white bean spread, oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh baby spinach, all stuffed into a Demascus Bakery Whole Wheat Pita Pocket. I buy these pitas at Whole Foods and I like them because they are all-natural, made with only pronounceable ingredients, and cost just $1.50 for a pack of four. When I discovered these pitas, my commitment to a whole-foodie life got so much easier.

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For the white bean spread, I use my Lemony White Bean Dip recipe which is a must-try (it’s what Matt liked best about these sandwiches). But, for simplicity’s sake, an all-natural store-bough bean dip or hummus will work too. My Garlicky Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and some fresh spinach finish off the sandwich, adding depth, flavor and nutrients. And there you have it, a detox lunch that is transportable, satisfying, and one of the best things you’ll ever eat (according to Matt, that is).

Roasted Tomato and Lemony White Bean Spread Pita Sandwiches
Serves: 2    Start to Finish: 45 minutes   Calories: 450 per serving

Ingredients

1/2 batch Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (get my recipe here)
1 14-ounce can Organic Canellini Beans
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Lemon
2 cloves Garlic, crushed, peeled and roughly chopped
4-6 fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pure Tahini (ground sesame seeds)
1/2 teaspoon Dried Basil
1/2-1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
10-15 fresh Baby Spinach Leaves (I like using Organic Girl brand greens)
2 all-natural Whole Wheat Pita Pockets (I like Damascus Bakery brand, available at Whole Foods)

To Make

First, get the cherry tomatoes in the oven (get my recipe here). While the tomatoes roast, make the white bean spread.

For the white bean spread, reserve a 1/4 cup of the white bean liquid, then drain and rinse the beans in a colander. Set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel 3-4 pieces of zest from the lemon (about 1/2 the lemon). Roughly chop them up. Add oil, garlic and lemon peel to a small skillet (the smallest you have). Turn on heat to medium-low. After 2-3 minutes, add basil leaves. Cook for 2 minutes.

Into a food processor, add beans, infused oil mixture (including zest garlic and basil), tahini, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, dried basil, and reserved bean liquid. Pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste (I added 1/2 tsp pepper and 3/4 tsp salt). Pulse until smooth.

When tomatoes are finished, allow to cool. Assemble sandwiches by cutting each pita in half and gently pulling open the pocket of each half. Spread 1/4 cup of white bean spread into each half. Evenly divided cherry tomatoes and spinach leave between pockets.

*if using store bough bean spread or hummus, you’ll need 1 cup for 2 sandwiches (4 half sandwiches)

**if possible, make tomatoes and bean spread in advance and refrigerate. This allows the flavors to fully incorporate and develop.

Best of Basic: Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Best of Basic: Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Every so often, when I’m feeling a little sluggish, or feeling like I’ve been particularly indulgent lately, I like to reset my routine and get back on track. This detox, as I like to call it, could last for a couple days, or if I’m feeling super motivated, a few weeks. With summer just around the corner, I thought it a good idea to do a lengthy detox to kick off swimsuit season… lose the bloat, gain some energy, reset my metabolism and maybe even shed a few pounds. Sounds great, right? You might be thinking “no, that does not sound great”, but I honestly love my detoxes because not only do they make me feel amazing but they’re also quite fun and delicious, when you do it my way.

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Even when I’m detoxing, I refuse to sacrifice flavor or give up on my favorite foods entirely. I hate eating just for the sake of eating. I like to always enjoy and feel good about what I’m eating. So I find creative ways to make detoxing enjoyable. And these roasted cherry tomatoes are a great example of how I add flavor and interest in a light and healthy way. Roasted tomatoes are delicious in salads, on sandwiches, and in pasta, but are equally as yummy when used as a simple side dish to meat, tofu, or fish. I could seriously eat the entire batch in one sitting with only a spoon.

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Roasting tomatoes is super simple because I keep it very basic. There’s simply no need to make it implicated here. Just add a little bit of quality olive oil, some garlic, sea salt, and black pepper to the halved tomatoes, and then roast for 30-40 minutes. Perfection. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and makes them super soft and juicy. They are the perfect way to add moisture and intense flavor without adding excess fat or dairy.

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This batch of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes is for stuffing into pita pockets along with flavorful white bean dip and fresh spinach. This pita sandwich is simple, light, balanced, and will make a perfectly detox-friendly lunch this week. And don’t worry, my upcoming posts will focus on daily detox meal plans and recipes, including this delicious sandwich. Stay tuned!


Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Serves: 4   Start to Finish: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 pints Cherry Tomatoes
4 cloves Garlic, crushed, peeled, roughly minced
1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt (plus more)
1/4 Black Pepper

To Make

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine tomatoes, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a medium size bowl. Spread out onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss, re-spreading tomatoes out into a single layer. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with an additional 1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt and toss. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.

*for simplicity’s sake, I often roast the tomatoes whole and also leave out the garlic and black pepper – cooking time for uncut cherry tomatoes will be slightly longer – bake until most of the tomatoes have bursted and the skins are browning – these tomatoes are super delicious with just olive oil and salt

Vegan Verde Crack Sauce

Vegan Verde Crack Sauce

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For awhile now I’ve been wanting to recreate the Mexican Goddess Dressing from the infamous Chop’t restaurant, a fast casual, create-your-own-salad chain that has pretty much taken over the lunch scene in New York City. Although it moves fast, between the hours of 12 and 2pm on a week day, the line is literally out the door. And it’s easy to understand why. Chop’t is seriously amazing for so many reasons. A friendly and efficient staff, fresh and high-quality ingredients (many of which are locally sourced), and the most amazing salad dressing of all time, their totally addictive Mexican Goddess Dressing.

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Because of their Mexican Goddess, I actually get the same exact salad every single time I go. Every. Single. Time. This tart, slightly spicy, super flavorful vegan dressing is more like a thick sauce. Not only could this sauce be used as a salad dressing, but it would also work beautifully as a dip for tortilla chips, as a salsa in burritos or as an enchilada sauce. I’ve seriously dreamed of all the possibilities, so naturally I made my own version of it (finally!).

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The base of my Verde Crack Sauce is freshly roasted tomatillos. Tomatillos are similar to green tomatoes in appearance and have a refreshing tart flavor. Along with the tomatillos, I also roasted the jalapeño pepper to add some depth and heat. You can control the heat by using one or two jalapeños and removing or keeping the seeds (the seeds are where the heat is). Cilantro, garlic and lime juice are added for even more flavor, and finally, I throw in a rich and creamy avocado.

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This is a great sauce to keep in the archives. In the last week I’ve used it as a salad dressing, a dip and as a suave for my scrumptious, tortilla-free zucchini enchiladas (recipe coming soon). I have a feeling I’ll be making this vibrant sauce all summer long.
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Vegan Verde Crack Sauce
Serves: 4-6 (as a dip or dressing)  Start to Finish: 20-30 min

Ingredients

1 lb Tomatillos
3-4 tbs chopped Cilantro
1 Avocado
1 tbs Lime
1-2 Jalapeños (depending on desired heat level)
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)

To Make

Remove papery tomatillo skins and rinse under cold water. On a foil lined pan, broil tomatillos and jalapeño (whole) until the skins are blistering and partially blackened, and the tomatillos have released some juices. I broiled for about 20 minutes, flipping once half way through. Every broiler is different though so refer to my picture.

Add tomatillos and juice to a food processor. Remove the stem of the jalapeño and remove seeds if desired. I left half of the seeds in to give a bit more spice. Add jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and olive oil to the tomatillos in the food processor. Process for 10 seconds or until smooth. Add avocado, process for 5 seconds or until well blended. Season with salt and pepper (to taste). Process for 5 seconds.

Use as a salad dressing, as a sauce for smothering just about anything, or as a dip with any of your favorite Southwestern and Mexican dishes.

*Makes about 1.5 to 1.75 cups

Best of Basic: Avocado Toast

Best of Basic: Avocado Toast

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I was long distance chatting with my mom the other day, and because our conversations often revolve around food, she was raving about an avocado toast she recently had for lunch at a cafe in my hometown, St. Louis. She then proceeded to ask how to make Avocado Toast. I could feel my face twist up as I thought, “It’s pretty self explanatory, no?” But before saying anything out loud, I quickly realized that, to her point, there’s a difference between smashed avocado slathered on any old slice of bread and a real Avocado Toast. So my mom wants to know how to make the best version of a real Avocado Toast? Challenge accepted. Continue reading “Best of Basic: Avocado Toast”

Greek Style 7-Layer Dip

Greek Style 7-Layer Dip

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House warming party success! Matt and I had such a blast last weekend breaking in our new apartment with all of our New York  friends and quite a few cocktails. Although the party didn’t get started until 9:30pm or so, I still wanted a solid supply of delicious apps and snacks around to satisfy the inevitable munchies. And because I’m fearless, I whipped up two main appetizers that I’d never attempted before, except in my imagination’s kitchen of course. Continue reading “Greek Style 7-Layer Dip”

Vegan ‘Shroom & Barley Soup

Vegan ‘Shroom & Barley Soup

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It’s April. Not a month typically viewed as stick-to-your-bones-soup-worthy. But I am once again reminded that my black and white vision of what the weather should look like during each month is totally irrelevant. Mother Nature does what she wants, and although she had the whole month of March to transition to true Spring, it’s still winter . You see, I can be patient with cold weather in March. But 40 degrees in April is just plain UGH.

However, instead of dwelling on my disappointment and unwavering desire to wear a skirt without tights, I decided to use this annoying down-coat-weather as a reason to make one last batch of hot and hearty cold-weather soup. What kind of soup? Something stick to your ribs, totally satisfying, and 100% healthy. Almost as fast as the idea for soup materialized, the thought of a vegan Mushroom & Barley Soup came to mind immediately. Back in the day, I loved eating my mom’s Beef & Barley Soup, and nostalgia typically drives many of my ideas. So my inkling to make a rich and flavorful batch of my mom’s soup (minus the meat) comes as no surprise.

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Soups are generally pretty simple. Especially when using store-bought broth. This soup is just that: simple. Sautéed vegetables, organic veggie broth, fresh thyme and barley. That’s about it. I use thyme here because I love the flavor of mushrooms and thyme together, and because I find that the combination adds richness and substance that would normally come from the beef. To add even more heartiness and substance, at the very end of cooking I add a cornstarch slurry, which thickens the soup beautifully.

My Mushroom & Barley Soup is definitely one to keep in the recipe box. It is not only super healthy, packed with fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fiber, but it’s also vegan-friendly and oh so yummy. For dinner on Sunday, I made grilled Swiss cheese sandwiches to go alongside the soup, and for lunch leftovers I ate the soup with a couple hunks of bakery-fresh whole wheat peasant bread that perfect for dipping and soaking. Delicious. This soup is just plain awesome. So I guess I’d like to end this post by thanking Mother Nature for giving me the opportunity to create this recipe. But I’d still really like some 60 degree days in the very near future, ok?

Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup
Serves: 4-6   Start to Finish: 90 min.

Ingredients
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 large Carrots, peeled and cut into medium dice
1 large Onion, medium to small dice
2 large stalks Celery, cut into medium dice
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into medium dice
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
Salt
Pepper
1/2 lb Portobello Caps, cut into medium-large dice
10 ounces White Button Mushrooms, cut into medium-large dice
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Thyme leaves, divided
4 cups Organic Veggie Stock
1 cup dry Barley
2 tablespoons Corn Starch + 1/3 cup Water
3 teaspoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or preferred brand added to taste)

To Make

Prep and chop all veggies. I like the veggies big enough to see and taste, but cut to any size you prefer.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add celery, carrots, onion, and red pepper to oil. Toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic to pot, toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon of each). Cook for 5 minutes.badd mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon thyme and season with salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon). Cook for 2 minutes. Add veggie stock and dry barley to pot. Turn heat to high and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer until barley is cooked, 45-60 minutes.

With a couple minutes to go, mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/3 cup cold water. When barley is fully cooked, add the cornstarch “slurry” mixture to pot. Add remaining tablespoon thyme and an additional 1/2 cup water (or more depending on desired consistency). Bring to boil and cook for 1-2 minutes until soup is thickened from cornstarch. Turn off heat. Salt to taste (I added 1/2 teaspoon) and add hot sauce. Note that the hot sauce adds a much need cut of vinegar, it does not make it spicy unless you add more than I did.

The soup is now ready to eat. Continue adding water if desired, to maintain ideal consistency. I like it super thick so I didn’t add any additional water.