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

White Three-Bean Chili (vegan | gf)

White Three-Bean Chili (vegan | gf)

After about a month, I’m back in action here on radiatefoodvibes.com. Time flies even more than usual lately. As I continue the very early phases of building my own brand and my own business, in addition to learning everything and anything I can about professional cooking, my personal recipe development has slipped a bit. But now I’m back at it.

Today’s post is a veganized recipe of the white chicken chili I made for a client this week. I loved the creaminess and richness of this hearty chicken chili combined with the sweet crunch of the fresh corn kernels. All I needed to do was omit the chicken. I then decided to take it even further and omit the cream as well (aka veganize it). I’ve been going a little heavy on the dairy lately and a detox-friendly soup is exactly what my body is craving right now. So no cream in this one (although I have the option to add it in the recipe below). You may be wondering how I achieved the creaminess without adding dairy or gluten (yes, it’s also gluten-free). No brainer. I turned to my beloved coconut milk and it worked perfectly.

This White Three-Bean Chili is creamy, satisfying, filling and nourishing. I also consider this dish to be detox-friendly (you know, for when you’re trying to balance out an indulgent weekend or healthily shed a few pounds). This is because it’s packed with complete protein and fiber thanks to the beans and the corn.

Beans make up the bulk of this chili. I use three different types of beans in this recipe, all of which are great sources of gut-cleansing fiber and energizing protein. Corn is sometimes confused for a vegetable, but it’s actually a grain. Not only does corn add flavor and texture to this chili, but it also combines with the beans to form a complete protein. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids required by the human body. Animal proteins (meat, dairy, eggs) are complete on their own, so when eating a plant-forward diet it’s essential (pun intended) to eat a variety of plant-based protein sources to ensure you’re getting all nine essential amino acids.

Although this recipe can be made year round using canned or frozen corn, I recommend cooking up a batch ASAP to fully take advantage of the fresh summer corn that’s in peak season right about now.

White Three-Bean Chili

Serves: 4-6 Start to Finish: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, small diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery ribs, small diced
sea salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3-4 cups all-natural vegetable stock
1 4-oz can diced green chilies (I used mild)
1 14-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-oz cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 ears fresh corn, husked, kernels cut off (approx. 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (or use heavy cream if desired)
1 tablespoon arrow root powder or other starch of choice such as corn or potato (omit if using cream)
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
4 radishes for garnish, sliced or matchsticked (optional)

To Make

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, celery and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onions begin to release moisture. Stir occasionally.

Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander and black pepper. Stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add 3 cups vegetable stock, beans, corn kernels, green chilies and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Add up to 1 additional cup of vegetable stock to achieve desired liquid to solid ratio.

Turn off heat. Stir in coconut milk or heavy cream. Return to heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Meanwhile, mix together 1 tablespoon arrow root powder (or other starch) with 2 tablespoons cool water. Mix well to form a “slurry”. Add slurry to soup. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon lime juice and sea salt to taste. I added another 1/2 teaspoon or so of sea salt.

If using heavy cream instead of coconut milk – be careful not to full-on boil the cream after adding to the chili, it could curdle (yuck). I recommend adding a tablespoon of the hot chili liquid into the cream to temper it before adding to the pot. You can omit the arrow root slurry if using cream instead of coconut milk. The soup should thicken with just the cream and a quick simmer session.

Best of Basic: Loaded Italian Pasta Salad

Best of Basic: Loaded Italian Pasta Salad

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Is it possible that June is already coming to an end? Fine by me, because I’ll be spending the first days of July on vacation. A glorious 10 day vaca in a remote area of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada, it’s pretty much my favorite place on earth. You see, my extended family owns a modest island, smack dab in the middle of the wilderness, and it can only be described as rustic, comfortable, and totally epic. We sleep in sleeping bags and spend 80% of the day without electricity. We spend our days on the lake and evenings by the fire. And the breeze coming off the water at night, while falling asleep in the open air cabins, is pure magic.

This year, I’ll be heading up a bit earlier than usual and spending the first week of July on the island with my parents. But that means, I’ll be missing America’s birthday. I first want to say that I’m not trying to make a political statement here. Although I’d be lying if I said moving out of Trump country hasn’t crossed my mind. But I love the States, and because I’ll be missing one of the best celebrations of summer, I wanted to share a perfect (and easy) recipe for a BBQ-must-have… Loaded Italian Pasta Salad.

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I actually developed this recipe a couple weekends ago when I was visiting my hometown, St. Louis. While everyone else enjoyed this delish pasta salad alongside turkey burgers, I instead, topped it with a medley of grilled veggies, making it a scrumptious main dish for a meat-free eater. Added bonus, this salad can be made gluten-free (using a gluten-free pasta) or made vegan (by omitting the fresh mozzarella balls). Finicky foodies rejoice!

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Other than being diet-restriction friendly, this “best of basic” pasta salad is amazing for two reasons. Firstly because it’s a cinch to make. In the time it takes to cook the pasta, the remainder of the ingredients are ready to go. Then all that’s left is a chill session in the fridge to bring everything together. The second reason is because this pasta salad is packed with fresh flavor from basil leaves and cherry tomatoes, texture from al dente pasta, beans and artichokes, and health supportive because of protein, fiber, vitamins and healthy fats. Finally, the simple vinaigrette, flavored with oregano, dry mustard and garlic powder, brings it all home by adding even more flavor and richness. This pasta salad is seriously perfect. So if you’re looking for a clean, balanced and crowd-pleasing pasta salad to be your go-to summer side dish, look no further. This is it.

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loads of roasted veggies + pasta salad side dish = delish main meal

Best of Basic: Loaded Italian Pasta Salad
Serves: 8 (large side dish portion)   Start to Finish: 30 min + chilling time

Ingredients

1 lb (16 ounces) pasta of choice* (see below for notes)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1.5 teaspoons sea salt, fine grain
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or granulated garlic)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup, or sweetener of choice, optional**
1 12-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 12-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 5-oz can sliced black olives
1 5-oz can pimentos
25 medium basil leaves, about 1 small package, chopped or cut into chiffonade
8-oz fresh mozzarella, I prefer the mini balls (if using a large ball, cut into small pieces)

To Make

Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and pasta. Cook until al dente. I usually drain the pasta about 1-3 minutes earlier than package instructions say to cook. The best way to know? Try 2-3 noodles. When some noodles are cooked and some noodles seem under-cooked, they’re ready. After the pasta sits in the dressing, the underdone noodles will finish cooking. Avoid over cooking noodles, they will far apart after marinading.

While water boils and pasta cooks. Prepare dressing. In a blender, or using a hand blender, combine ingredients olive oil through maple syrup. Blend until fully emulsified. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ingredients white beans through pimentos.  Toss with cooked/drained pasta (still hot) and prepped vinaigrette. Allow to cool down to room temp (about 10 minutes). Toss mozzarella and basil with pasta salad. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until fully chilled. However, the longer it sits, the better it gets. Make 1 day ahead if possible.

*Pasta Options
– I chose an organic, white flour variety for a classic pasta salad
– Use whole wheat for additional fiber, a chewier texture and a nuttier flavor
– Use a gluten-free pasta if desired, I love Banza brand
– As for shape, penne, fusilli and bowtie are my top choices – I used penne here

**I think a bit of sweetener (just 1 tbs for 8 servings) makes the dressing more palatable and makes the salad more of a crowd-pleaser. Feel free to omit the sweetener or add less

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Spicy Buffalo Brown Rice Bowls (Vegan Optional!)

Spicy Buffalo Brown Rice Bowls (Vegan Optional!)

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If you saw last week’s post, you knew this one was coming. Last week I posted my recipe for a booming food trend, Vegan Buffalo “Wings” made with cauliflower florets. I’ve been meaning to make these for quite some time now, and I seriously can’t believe it took me so long because they are absolutely amazing. The push I needed came last week when Matt’s brother and fiancée, in town for their engagement party, we’re coming over for week night dinner and I needed something fun, healthy and delicious to cook up for them. So I checked my list of recipe ideas, saw buffalo cauliflower wings, and got a genius idea…Buffalo Brown Rice Bowls. Casual yet creative, tasty yet nutritious. Perfect.

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The idea for a brown rice bowl topped with buffalo wings was inspired by a popular fast-casual restaurant in my hometown of St. Louis called Crazy Bowls and Wraps. CBW, as St. Louis-ans like to call it, has been around forever, even before healthy fast-casual joints became a thing. CBW offers customizable rice bowls, salads and wraps with all kinds of creative fillings and options. One of my absolute favorites is the buffalo fried tofu, so it wasn’t hard to come up with the idea for a buffalo cauliflower brown rice bowl.

I’ll admit, I was intimidated starting this dish. I’d never made baked cauliflower wings before and I was cooking for company. There are definitely times when my kitchen experiments fall short of my vision and expectations, but fortunately, this was not one of those times. The baked buffalo cauliflower wings turned out fabulously, and the bowls came together beautifully. Score!

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I love the idea of layered bowls when serving a crowd. It makes it easy for each person to get exactly what they want. Plus, bowls like this are easy to eat. But I don’t need company to make bowls like this. In fact, last night for dinner I made Mexican rice bowls with roasted potatoes and peppers, cabbage, shredded cheddar and marinated tomatoes. When it comes to “bowls”, the possibilities are endless. Whenever I don’t know what to make, I start with a starch like rice or orzo pasta and simply add toppings according to a theme (Mexican, Greek, Italian, Asian etc.). That’s actually a really good tip if you’re ever struggling with what to cook. I use it all them time.

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If you’re new to rice bowls, this is a great one to start with. The spicy, crispy cauliflower compliments the fresh veggies and creamy sauce perfectly. It feels so indulgent, but it’s really very balanced. And it’s also a lot easier than it sounds. These bowls are seriously so yummy and I highly recommend trying them out, STAT. I know I can’t wait to make them again.

Buffalo Brown Rice Bowls
Serves: 4   Start to Finish: 1 hour 15 min

Ingredients

1 batch Buffalo Cauliflower (get recipe here)
1 cup Brown Rice
Sea Salt
8-10 ounces chopped Romaine Lettuce (1, maybe 2 heads)
10 ounces Cherry Tomatoes
2 large Carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 cup Dressing (get my creamy blue cheese dressing here or use the vegan recipe below)

Creamy Vegan Dressing
1 cup Vegan Mayonnaise (I like Follow Your Heart brand)
2 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk or water
3/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
3/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley

To Make

Make rice. Add 1 cup brown rice, 2 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt into a medium sauce pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to lower summer, cover with tight fitting lid. Simmer for 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat when finished, allow to sit covered until ready to assemble bowls.

While rice simmers, preheat oven to 450 degrees and get the Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” started (get recipe here).

While cauliflower bakes, make dressing by combining all ingredients for vegan dressing (ingredients above) or make my yummy blue cheese dressing (get recipe here). Set aside in fridge.

Prep veggies. Chop lettuce. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Prep carrots. I like making “carrot shavings” for salads. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off long strips of carrots, then run your knife through the strips to make shavings.

When cauliflower and rice are finished, assemble the bowls. Divide lettuce into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with rice, tomatoes, carrots, buffalo cauliflower “wings” and 2-4 tablespoons dressing.

Dig in!