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Vegan

Homemade Coconut Chai Latte

February 26, 2015

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Hey friends! Just popping in real quick to let you know that there is a new VV recipe over at 80Twenty this week! It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for this never ending cold so many of us in America is enduring right now!

Okay – that is all for now. I’ll be back in a few days with another warm and comforting recipe!

 

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Multi-Grain Knots 2 Ways: Parsley-Garlic & Cinnamon-Whiskey Sugar

February 22, 2015

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Remember when I used to post about salads and juices and the benefits of food healing? Well those topics feel miles away as this Midwest February demands carbs, alcohol, and anything else that is going to fatten me up and keep me warm. Honestly, if I wasn’t so set on turning these into garlic knots and sweet rolls then the bread would have just been fantastic on it’s own; I sometimes struggle with my loaves coming out dense  but these were light (despite using whole wheat flour!) with a wonderful crunch on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.

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As you may notice, this post is crowded with photos; I’m trying out something new today. Instead of photoshopping my photos side by side (since my site doesn’t allow me to put photos next to each other – grrrr), I just made them all HUGE! The only problem with that is that there are now SO many of them which makes me think that I probably spend way too much time editing photos to begin with and I could have just shown you a finished product shot and been done with this post five hours ago. Ugh, unfortunately that is not how I work – my words aren’t usually that inspiring (hey, I know where my strengths and weaknesses are) so I strive to lead with gorgeous photos. Anyhow, I’m sorry if it’s crowded – I’ve already spent all afternoon editing photos so I’ll keep it minimal with the words to try and tone down the scrolling. Maybe we’ll end up being really into it this way and it will feel less crowded with time? Or maybe I’ll go back to the side-by-side photoshop edited photos that look so uninspiring when pinned and awkward when linked to on Facebook. Who knows – we’ll see.

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Gin & [Blood Orange] Juice

February 15, 2015

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I have all sorts of opinions on being an adult. I really really dislike it most of the time; in fact, not only do I dislike it but I’m pretty darn awful at it. I’m the kind of person who needs to set monthly reminders to pay the billz on my cellphone, ical, and fridge yet still forget to pay it until the 3rd notice, in which they threaten to turn off our water, arrives in the mail (this is also the kind of things that really ticks off the boyfriend / roommates which is another annoying adult thing: being held accountable for your mistakes). Ever since I graduated from college (note: it’s been YEARS since I graduated so I really should be adjusted by now), I’ve groaned at the concept of having to spend 40 hours of my time a week at work in order to pay the rent in this small college town. I’ve agonized over the right foods to put into my body in an attempt to take care of myself. I’ve bitched and bitched about how insanely expensive things like health insurance and dentist appointments are. I’ve had numerous nightmares about going to jail for doing my taxes wrong and not being able to pay rent because I blew all of my paycheck on records.

Sure, it felt easier when my parents were footing the bill and I could skip class to cure a hangover at the local diner BUT being an adult isn’t all bad. In fact, being an adult can be down right fun at times. You can go a whole month without doing your own laundry and no one will say anything. You can re-arrange your entire living room on a Sunday afternoon and no one will get angry because its your living room. You can spontaneously adopt a dog. You can eat french fries and ice cream for dinner while sitting in front of the TV and watching Gilmore Girls. You can spend all of your money on records and wait to pay the bills until next month (oh wait…).

For Christmas, I was given a bottle of Hendrick’s Gin by one of my accounts (yup, I have ‘accounts’ that I work with on the regular – very adult). Gin is my thing – the rest of my office enjoys whiskey (or so I told myself that) so I decided to just bring this bottle home for a rainy day. The adult thing to do would have been to stop drinking $5-a-bottle gin after college but I hadn’t kicked that habit yet; well not until I started making drinks from this bottle of Hendrick’s. This stuff is fantastic and it’s not even that fancy or expensive. Like my adult paycheck could afford a bottle of this a month and I plan on adding it into the budget (the expendable part that I usually just reserve for netflix and cookbooks). The best part? It’s so good that you don’t even have to really add that much of a mixer. Heck, enjoy this stuff on the rocks if you want…although I recommend adding a splash of orange juice for the perfect winter relaxer. So, what I am trying to say is, be an adult and buy adult alcohol so that you can enjoy cocktails for what they really should be: mostly alcohol!

Anyhow, is it just me or was that kind of a weak punch line… I don’t know where I am going with this. I’m 25 years old. I’m an adult and it’s cool but also sort of hard and mostly confusing but also really fun. Oh and I think about growing up way too much…when I’m not too busy being grown up.

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Winter Panzanella Salad With Cornbread Croutons + A GIVEAWAY!

February 10, 2015

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It has been a very long time since I hosted a giveaway around here. I am beyond thrilled to let you know that the wonderful folks over at Turntable Kitchen hired me to create the recipe for their February pairing box. I had so much fun with it – the dreary and cold days are never ending in the Midwest this time of year so I let my imagination drift away to blissful summer days that revolve around endless afternoons with friends at the lake. The box was loosely inspired by summer camp – with a healthy Midwest vegetarian twist, of course (just my style). So, what I am trying to say is that this month’s pairing box is going to be a real treat that you won’t want to miss! I mean, it’s going to feature 3 never-before-seen Vegetarian ‘Ventures recipes! As an avid reader, I didn’t want you to miss out on these recipes so I’m giving you a chance to win a 3 month subscription to Turntable Kitchen’s pairing box which will start with the February box that I recipe developed for! What’s in the pairing box, you ask? Well here is what you get:

  • An exclusive 7″ vinyl
  • Digital mixtape
  • A premium ingredient
  • 3 seasonal recipes
  • Tasting notes

Here is a video to learn more about the pairing box (which, by the way, usually costs $75 for 3 months and I am offering a chance to win it FOR FREE below):

The Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box Experience from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

Okay, in case you aren’t sold yet, I’ve made a short list of reasons why you need this pairing box in your life:

  • It’s almost Valentine’s Day and this would be the perfect gift to impress that hot hipster that you’ve been trying to snag for months now
  • You are a vinyl enthusiastic and on a mission to collect every vinyl to ever be made so you must seek out these exclusive TTK 7″s immediately
  • YOLO. Treat Yo ‘Self. Whatever you want to call it, you love receiving gifts and this is a specially curated one that will arrive at your doorstep every month (until I cut you off…which will be in 3 months)
  • You like music and cooking. If that is the case then this is especially for you.
  • You always knew the coolest bands in college but then you got a corporate job and don’t have time for hobbies like rummaging through vinyl at record stores, hanging out in sweaty bars waiting for midnight sets to start, or reading every ‘rising artist’ article posted on Pitchfork. This delivers vinyl and mix tapes from new and upcoming bands right to your doorstep. (PS I should note that this scenario is highly unlikely because why would you have time for my wordy blog posts but not time for searching iTune’s daily ‘indie spotlight’ section or whatever they call it these days?)
  • You like cool stuff and this is cool and I am giving you the chance to potentially win this contest and try it out for free so why not?

(side note: Dang I’m good at this! It’s like I sell vinyl records for a living or something…)

Cool? Cool! Now enter this giveaway already!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Oh and here is a simple winter salad that is perfect with leftover cornbread or as an excuse to whip up a batch.

Winter Panzanella Salad With Cornbread Croutons

Serves 6 as a side or starter

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, cute into 1 inch wedges
  • 3 cups brussel sprouts, halved
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt / Pepper
  • 3-4 Thyme Sprigs
  • Lemon or Orange Wedges
  • Parmesan, to spring on top (omit if vegan)

For the cornbread croutons:

  • 2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove crushed

For the cornbread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 baking sheet with parchment paper. Squeeze the lemon juice into the milk and set aside for at least 5 minutes. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the coconut oil, maple syrup, and milk mixture. Slowly whisk together the wet ingredients and then start incorporating the dry ingredients as you whisk until a thick batter is formed. Spread evenly in your baking pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Slice the bread into 1 inch squares to make them ‘croutons’ and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Combine the crushed garlic with the olive oil and brush over the croutons. Stick on the toaster setting in your toaster oven for 5 minutes (or until browned) or into your boiler for 1-2 minutes or until crispy.

For the veggies: Raise the oven temperature to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out the seedy insides of the butternut squash and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Transfer the butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and onions to the prepared baking dish and lay out in a single layer. Top with olive oil, salt, pepper, and toss until everything is completely coated. Bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and browned. Remove from heat and let cool. Toss with the cornbread croutons, a squirt of citrus, some parmesan (if using), and serve warm.

How To Make A Quick & Healthy Cheese Plate [Vegan Option] /// Roasted Curry Sesame Almonds

January 25, 2015

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For today’s post, I’ve paired up with the fine folks over at Kite Hill to bring you a simple and straightforward guide to creating a healthy cheese plate.

I notice the same goals popping up again and again on my resolution list come January: try to eat healthier, get outside more in the cold months, be more social, etc. On this year’s list was ‘host more friends‘ so I jumped at the chance to work on a cheese plate when Kite Hill contacted me about sending over some cheese to try. Wyatt & I recently signed a lease to a smaller (but newer) house that we’ll be moving into in this summer so I’m feeling the urge to have as many gatherings as we can while we still have a huge dining room for game evenings, a big fenced in back yard for grill outs, and a roomy living room for movie nights.

Hosting a cheese and wine party (or even just starting out an evening with a cheese plate) doesn’t have to exclude all of your vegan friends. Because of places like Kite Hill, there are now delicious nut-based cheeses that are just as diverse and interesting at the ones you pick up at the local dairy farm. The cheese plate I made here featured cheese exclusively by Kite Hill but I plan to mix and match my cheese plates in the future with both dairy and non-dairy options to please any kind of guest.

Below you will find some tips and tricks that I’ve discovered along the way on how to assemble a quick and healthy cheese plate along with a recipe at the bottom for some zesty roasted almonds that are the perfect accompaniment to all of your favorite cheeses.

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Cheese: Use a variety of hard and soft cheeses. For dairy cheeses, use a few that you know are crowd pleasers and then a few that most people probably haven’t tried yet. For non-dairy cheeses, you can make your own for a personal touch or an array of store bought versions (I’d recommend Kite Hill, Herbed Chao Cheese, etc). Also a great way to make cheese your own is by creating a flavorful cheese ball out of ingredients that are already in your pantry.

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Vegetarian Ventures Guilt-Free Gift Guide

December 17, 2014

 

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Sure, it’s already the middle of December but do you really have all of your holiday shopping done? Oh, you do? Well dang – cheers to you for being way more on top of it than me and this conversation can just go ahead and end right now. Oh wait, what was that? I misheard you? Phew – I was beginning to think I was the irresponsible one in this friendship!

Are you one of those people who agonizes over where your product was made, the material that was used to make it, the animal products (or lack there of) that went into it, and the foot print it took to have it shipped to you? Well then you are pretty damn picky and exactly like me! You could just do two click shopping on Amazon and hope it all shows up at your doorstep next week or you could make sure that the money you spend is an example of what you believe in and who you think you should support. We have all learned to vote with our money by shopping at the local farmers market and support local farmers but what about everything else we purchase? What about the furniture you decide to fill your home with? Was it made in a sweat shop on the other side of the world? What about the toys you purchase for your niece and nephew? And the shoes you got on sale at a department store last week?

I don’t know where you live (thankfully – that could get creepy!) so I can’t tell you where to shop locally but I do have a few gift ideas that are perfect for any location. Hopefully these products will help you get off that fence you were dangling on with what to get your boyfriend, niece, wife, etc:

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Pomegranate Cranberry Rum Punch With Candied Rosemary

November 16, 2014

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I know I know – I disappear for a whole month and when I come back, I only have a simple drink recipe to give you? I can explain. Our oven was broken – for six weeks. We rent our home so it wasn’t as simple as dipping into our saving to invest in a new one; instead, it was a constant battle of calling and emailing our rental company, them ordering parts, installing those parts (3 different times), and it still coming out broken. It was frustrating and I may have had a few meltdowns that made me disgusted with even bothering with the kitchen for a few weeks. Yes, I could have used the stove-top to whip you something delicious but it was the frustration of the whole thing that really unnerved me every time I walked into the kitchen and the annoyance took all my creative drive right out of me. So yeah – I was feeling negative the last few weeks and really didn’t want to bring you into it..I am hoping you understand. After a particularly nasty call I made when we were told it was fixed (for the second time) and I whipped up a big batch of cake batter only to find that the oven stopped halfway through the baking process, Wyatt snuck out of the house and returned with a toaster oven the size of our real oven. I am now able to bake you cakes, pizzas, breads, and so much more in this giant toaster oven so watch out – there will be lots more recipes very soon!

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Until then, I bring you a cocktail recipe! Thanksgiving is approaching fast and we are switching up the tradition this year. In years past, Thanksgiving prep was actually great practice for the freelance world; I would spend weeks researching recipes by scanning through magazines, Pinterest boards, and the indexes of my favorite blogs. I’d make lists of 30 to 40 recipes that would then be dwindled down to 10 or so by my stepdad and ma. We would then spend two solid days cooking (these are now shoot days in my freelance life) and prepping the food. It would all end up with a huge feast that we’d present to the whole family. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case this year due to my stepfather’s passing two months ago and my mother not ready to carry out that tradition just yet.

Instead, I will be heading up the the northern part of Wisconsin (brrrrrrrr) to celebrate with Wyatt’s family in their cabin. I am excited to start this new tradition with Wyatt’s family but am also bummed I won’t be taking control of the food this year. Wisconsin may only be 2 states away but the drive is 13 hours and I can’t imagine that a cake or pie will fair well in the back seat with Tuko.

So alas, I am throwing in the towel and only bringing ingredients for a cocktail recipe instead. Besides the obvious point that these ingredients will travel well and it’ll be easy to prepare, I am hoping to bring a bit of my family’s tradition with me to Wyatt’s event. It is not that this particular cocktail is an old family recipe but that my family has always celebrated with alcohol. Both sides of my family are German and we all tend to be heavy and joyful drinkers; I realize some families have negative views of drinking as it leads to dramatic arguments and un-controllable negative habits but not with my family. My family works hard and we also play hard; my mother and I have at least one ‘mother-daughter pool day’ a year in the summer months that consist of drinking sangria and lounging by the family pool, my grandparent’s drank a Manhatten together every evening as they talked about their days for over 50 years, my father pulls out the bottle of Jack whenever his old college buddies come into town and they drink rum and cokes while reminiscing about their old prank days, and my mother and I always get a boot full of glühwein during the holiday season when we go up to Chicago for Christmas shopping.  Similar to food, it’s nice to be able to take a sip of a certain cocktail and have my mind transported to a moment in time that I had shared with loved ones.

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Salted Maple Dark Chocolate Raspberry Crumble [Vegan Option] + Raspberry Picking

October 5, 2014

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Caroline and I took a short drive into the country yesterday in search of an apple orchard that would fulfill our fall fever. We knew the moment we were close because the vast open corn fields were upbruptly interrupted with what seemed like skyscraper-high blow up bounce houses and multi-colored tents popping up in the distance. As we approached the entrance, we realized we had no idea what we got ourselves into with police officers directing traffic and fields filled with minivans. Luckily, the apple orchard was large enough that we could find pockets of solitude to snap some photos of the gorgeous apple trees and our picking adventure. After we had our fill of the apples, we headed back to the entrance to pay and inquired about a ‘Pick Your Own Raspberry’ sign that was near the parking lot. The worker handed us a bucket and told us to head across the street if we were interested in berry picking. To our surprise, across the street was a whole different story; the sound of children squealing and the constant need to dodge groups of people disappeared. Not only was the berry field completely void of cars, but also of people in general. We were shocked to be the only ones out there picking thriving raspberries while hundreds of families pushed their way through the crowds for apple-flavored everything just yards away. It was a small oasis of solitude in an otherwise crazy tourist attraction and we were surprised to unexpectedly stumbled upon it. Cheers to the bright red underdog of the season and here are a few photos from our adventure:

 

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Vegan Corn Cream Soup With Cornbread Croutons + National Chicken Month

September 21, 2014

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One of my very close friends recently decided she wanted to stop eating meat so she came to me as for suggestions on where to begin. I was able to send her a long list of blogs, cookbooks, and resources for her new found dietary adventure and was very flattered to help. I try to not be preachy here on VV but my vegetarian beliefs are strong and I’m so very grateful to be used as a resource for helping others find their footing in the world of vegetarianism when they are ready.

There are times where I honestly forget that my diet is any different than most Americans. I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years so the thought of ordering a steak at a restaurant never even crosses my mind. Yes, I sometimes bring it up but I like to let my recipes speak for themselves and for you to want to dive into them because they look and taste delicious. I want you to forget that my recipes are even vegetarian and for you to decide to make them because they are what sound good to you at the time.

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Perhaps if we knew each other in real life then I may be more open to offering up my vegetarian beliefs to you – when you could sit down next to me and see that I am a totally normal person who loves Seinfeld marathons and strong drip coffee just like everyone else. But we are not right next to each other and you don’t have any confirmation that I am in fact a level headed human (except maybe through the words posted here on VV). This means flashing a slaughter video of animals being mistreated would most likely be found as appalling and, at the very least, a horrible start to a friendship. This is unfortunately the approach that many animal activists organizations take and, although I do support them, I do not feel comfortable posting their traumatic content on VV. With that being said, I was contacted by ASPCA (The American Society Against the Cruelty of Animals) earlier this week about National Chicken Month and found their campaign to not only be void of preachiness but straight up educational. The video they sent me was tasteful and informative. Heck, they aren’t even telling you to give up eating chickens but just to be mindful that the chickens you do eat have humane living and slaughter conditions (which…maybe it’s because I’m a vegetarian but sounds like a no brainer).

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Grilled Pretzel Panzanella Salad + A Summer Stock Up Giveaway

June 30, 2014

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If you are located here in the states then you are probably having a hard time getting into the groove of this week knowing it’s going to be a short one. With Friday being a national grill-copious-amounts-of-food holiday (oh and a celebration of the countries birth), I’ve got grilling (and eating. and watching fireworks. and swimming) on the mind.

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Living in a smallish town has it’s perks – it is easy to walk to the local co-op to grab vegetables for dinner. Taking a nightly bike ride is never interrupted by honking cars. You don’t ever have to wait for a table at your favorite local eatery and weekends are spent swimming at the neaby lakes and quarries. The downside is that sometimes resources can be limited – in this case, pretzel bread. I love making homemade bread but it’s not the first activity I get excited about when it’s already 90 degrees in my kitchen. My lack of success after adventuring to 3 grocery stores, 2 co-op stands, and our local bakery to find pretzel bread only made me more determined. If only we had a Trader Joes around here… I kept thinking, which just enraged me more. Finally, I took a deep breath, pulled out my rolling pin, and whipped up 6 mini-loaves of pretzel bread.

Do you need to make fresh bread for this recipe? No. In fact, I may even advise against it since you’ll need to then let it sit for several days to become stale enough to truly be panzanella. But, if you are feeling overly ambitious or lack pretzel bread in your town, like me, then feel free to start on this a few days early with the bread and come back to it when the bread has become slightly stale.

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Tips For Living a Vegan Lifestyle + A Giveaway

April 29, 2014

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How to Be Vegan By Elizabeth Castoria struck me in a way that the majority of vegan books weren’t able to in the past. So many of the books I’ve read about making the transition into veganism focus primarily on your diet. Although what you eat is very important as a vegan, diet is only one topic of many that this book touches on with chapters dedicated to diet, travel, manners, and lifestyle.

My favorite part about this book is, right off the bat on the first page, she breaks all expectations down and reminds you that no one can be vegan all the time. That right there immediately lifts so much pressure off any aspiring vegan. She also manages to be so witty throughout the whole book and makes sure to mention all the things you can buy and eat as a vegan instead of the  usual ‘no this or this or this or this’.

One really unique topic in the book that struck me as super informative was the part on how to eat vegan while traveling. I often times worry about what I’m going to eat while traveling as a vegetarian and can only imagine it has to be 100x worse for full on vegans. Elizabeth gives great tips for not only the airport but also how to handle being vegan in foreign countries. Plus, if you really are stranded somewhere without any vegan options, she’s got 50 recipes listed in the back of the book for you to whip up in your Airbnb kitchen.

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This may sound surprising with all the vegan book reviews I’ve done around here but I’m not actually a vegan. I do eat vegan sometimes but if my body is craving an egg or a cheesestick, I’m not going to deny it. I believe strongly in listening to your body and my body has told me time and time again that it craves protein in the form of cheese and scrambled eggs (and I also believe everyone’s body is different so you should take some time to figure out what your body is telling you!). With that being said, I am still fascinated with the vegan culture and actions I can take to harm less animals in my everyday routine.

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Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake [with vegan option]

April 14, 2014

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Every year our local radio station puts on an all day music event in the park. To me, it always marks that first day of true spring in Bloomington. It is often times the first Saturday that its warm enough to grill out and enjoy a picnic in the park while listening to some wonderful local and national music. It also usually lines up with being the first Saturday that the outdoor farmer’s market is in full swing.

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This year’s event was this past Saturday and the spring fever did not disappoint. I started the day with a walk to the farmer’s market and enjoyed smelling all the budding trees along the way. The sun was out and we welcomed temperatures above anything we’ve felt in 6+ months. I spent the afternoon planting wildflowers and playing around in the kitchen with the sun streaming in (oh what a difference it makes!).

We grilled out for dinner and I whipped up a cake for our guests. Ha, I know – a cake for a grill out? You can tell I’m rusty since a well disciplined griller would have found something that could be made over the hot coals. Unfortunately, it’s still a little early for berries and our citrus bounty has long since disappeared so cake it was! Delicious, moist, chocolatey cake – I must add!

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Chickpea Magazine Spring 2014

April 10, 2014

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Spring is here and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep busy all winter long while hiding from the polar vortex. It’s silly how things pop up in waves but it seems like a lot of work I did the past few months is all becoming available this spring. First up, this article in the newest edition of Chickpea Magazine. It’s their Spring 2014 issue and I wrote an article on how to prep your garden.

Chickpea Magazine is a vegan, wholefood, and ad-free quarterly magazine that showcases everything from irriesistable recipes to seasonal photo essays to useful how-tos. You should most certainly become familiar with the magazine if you haven’t already – its wonderful!

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Baked Vegan Maple Bacon Donuts

March 10, 2014

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I’d like to think I live in a pretty progressive town for it being smack-dab in the middle of cornfields (also known as the ‘meat-and-potato region’). Bloomington, Indiana is home to around only 40,000 people (80,000 if you count the students from the university) yet we have 4 co-op grocery stores, an entire street dedicated to ethnic restaruants, a vegan diner, numerous international grocery spots, a bike trail that runs the length of the city, and bakery dedicated to only serving vegan goodies.

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I bring this up because our local vegan bakery specialized in baked (or cake? I’d like to think they are the same thing but my boyfriend said this is 100% false) donuts. Theres always an array ranging from traditional toffee to more unique lavender-lemon. My usual go-to (after the huge cinnamon rolls and buckeyes) is always their maple bacon donut. They are wonderfully sweet with a hint of smoke from the coconut bacon.

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Gingerbread Syrup /// DIY Gifting

December 9, 2013

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Yikes, another sweets recipe? The holiday season has once again taken over and I can’t seem to get my mind to focus on anything else. I feel a little guilty about how sugar-laden VV has been over the past month (I’m not exaggerating. don’t believe me? Look here. and here. and even here). I feel like I’m setting a bad example after I went on that long rant last week to you guys about how switching to a vegetarian lifestyle is a healthy choice. So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is that for every sweets recipe I post on here, there are 10 salads being eaten in the days between which are not getting photographed / recorded. And that being a vegetarian is not an excuse to skip dinner because there is meat in it and jump right into dessert. But… do you know what is an excuse for that? The holidays! And they are here – so why don’t we just indulge for a little longer? Come on – what do you say? Well stuff our faces with fresh lentil soup and kale smoothies come the New Year – I promise!

My initial thought when deciding to make this syrup was that I could use dates as the sweetener and do a little bit of healthy twist on it. But I also wanted to make this syrup for far-away friends and I was worried about the dates not being able to travel halfway across the country without spoiling, ya know? What an awful greeting to an old friend – ‘Hey! Here is a package of spoiled baked goods for you! Enjoy! Hope ya don’t get too sick’. It just didn’t seem worth the risk. So, instead, I stuck to the good ‘ole fashion recipe that we’ve been making every year around this time. Silky and sweet – so you only need a few teaspoons. Perfect in your hot cocoa or morning cup of coffee. A great addition to a festive cocktail or to drizzle over baked goods. When deciding that I wanted to make some festive care packages for old friends, I couldn’t think of a more versatile gift.

In addition to this syrup, I’m including some homemade vanilla extract (that has been aging for 5 months now), my Sweet & Salty Curry Molasses Popcorn, and Baker Royale’s Cookies & Cream Bark (which was really just an excuse to buy another package of Newman-Os) in the goodies I’m sending to friends.

Next up – family packages! What are you DIY gifting this year? I need some more inspiration!

***REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter to win the book bundle I am giving away! Entries will be accepted until next Sunday so hop on over here and sign up!***

 

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Nutmeg Banana Carrot Muffins /// Some Words on Sugar Substitutes

September 29, 2013

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Today is Sunday, September 29th. Today is a very very special day. Or should I say tonight? Yes, tonight is a very very very special night. Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad. It is when three (four?!) years of pain-stakingly frustrating tension is finally resolved (or at least we hope it will be). There is only one problem: we don’t have cable. How did we watch all the other 61 episodes then, you ask? Well you can stream them on the network’s website the followig day after an episode has aired. Which I am usually totally fine with. But this is the season finale of the whole series. And I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to go into work tomorrow and have to keep my ears shut the whole day. Or spend the next 24 hours avoiding my newsfeeds on facebook and twitter. I want to experience it along with the rest of America.

So, how will I do this, you ask? Well, I’m not sure. But I sure as hell want to be prepared with baked goods when I figure it out. I’m thinking…bribing frineds with these muffins? Or the bartender to turn it to AMC with these little handheld cakes. Or maybe even going over to our new neighbors house and using these muffins as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ peace treaty right when the show is starting (that way I can peep in the door and see if they are watching it. ‘OH! You guys are watching Breaking Bad?! We were just about to put it on. Maybe we should all watch it together. I also have some local cider and whiskey I can bring over, if you’d like….’). You know, those kinds of things.

 

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Oh no. This post was supposed to be a distraction from thinking about Breaking Bad. Okay, what were we talking about before I so rudely changed the subject to a drug-ring-themed-pop-culture-television-drama? Oh yeah, muffins. And not just any muffins – muffins exploding with nutritional benefits like dates (fiber, iron, calcium), bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C), nutmeg (iron, magnesium, calcium), and carrots (vitamin A). These are nutritional enough for breakfast but satisfying enough for dessert. And even scrumptious enough to bribe your friends with.

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Vanilla Bean & Fig Shortbread Drizzled with Honey Glaze

September 8, 2013

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This past week has been wonderful. It was my birthday on Wednesday and I’ve been spoiled silly by so many wonderful people. Packages in the mail, trips to the city, visits from my mother, late night dinners. All this positive attention reminded me that I can also spoil myself a little -I decided I was entitled to as much sangria and shortbread as I please during this week. I whipped up a big batch of sangria and peach shortbread last Sunday and spent the week picking away at it. Heck, I even ran out of shortbread by Wednesday and whipped up another batch; this time I whipped up these fig shortbread bars.

Sometimes you are kind of nervous about getting older and the only cure is large amounts of butter and sparkling wine. Oh and having amazing people in your life.

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream [Vegan]

September 1, 2013

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There is so much fall going on around Pinterest these days; I find it to be both appalling and kind of exciting. Maybe it’s this streak of 90 degree weather or my longing for copious amounts of curry in my stomach or the desire to wear knee high socks but I am feeling ready for it. [Heck, maybe I even already bought a can of organic pumpkin for vegan fall baking].

My brain feels so fried from this heat that I’ve managed to stumble into a mundane food routine of salads for lunch and veggie sandwiches for dinner. That is about it….Well, almost it. The other summertime food that has been a regular lately is greek yogurt and homemade granola. So much so that I am starting to think we may need to take some time off from each other soon or we may not be able to stay friends.

Thus, in an attempt to keep yogurt off my long list of hated foods (right next to beets and jello), I decided to try cashew cream in my breakfast parfaits. I originally made the cashew cream to lather on eclairs (…more on that in the coming days) but haven’t looked back at yogurt in weeks.

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The cashew cream only takes a few minutes to whip up and usually lasts me 3 to 4 servings of breakfast. It’s sweeter than yogurt but not so much that you feel guilty about enjoying it for breakfast. Feel free to enjoy with whatever granola you have on hand but I highly recommend trying out this quinoa version. The toasted quinoa gives the granola a crunchy texture unlike any kind of granola I’ve had before. And it’s a complete protein so you’ll be really ready to start your day right. ‘Nuff said?

 

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream

Inspired by Gourmande in the Kitchen & Cashew Cream adapted from Oh, Ladycakes

For the granola:

  • 1 cup tri-colored quinoa (or 1/2 cup red + 1/2 cup white), rinsed super well
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
  • vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod discarded (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (or any baking oil you’d prefer)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey (or more maple syrup to keep vegan)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, divided & lightly crushed

For the maple cashew cream:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 dates, pitted
  • 2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want to make it)
  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pint blueberries

Submerge cashews in water and let soak overnight.

Remove pits from dates and let soak with the cashews 30 minutes prior to making the cream.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine the quinoa, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the vanilla bean seeds in a mixing bowl. Fold in the oil, maple syrup, and honey. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out as much as possible. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to keep from burning. After 30 minutes, add 1/4 cup crushed pistachios to granola and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Drain cashews / dates and place in a food process or blender. Add the maple syrup and 1/4 cup water. Blend. If too thick, gradually add more water a tablespoon at a time until a desired consistency is reached (I like mine at the consistency of greek yogurt – thick and sustainable but a little fluffy).

To assemble: Layer the cream followed by the cooled granola followed by blueberries and garnish with crushed pistachio and cinnamon.

 

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Fresh Squeezed Bloody Mary with Rosemary Infused Vodka & Goat Cheese Olives

July 15, 2013

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I’m all about playing around and inventing new cocktails (see: Loaded Hibiscus Arnold Palmer, Blueberry Basil Peach Fizz, etc) but sometimes you just need to go with a traditional cocktail. And NOTHING (I mean NOTHING) is better than a fresh squeezed Bloody mary during peak tomato season. It’s savory and spicy and elegant and just darn right delicious.

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There is this AWFUL local sports bar that we used to go to on Sundays because it was right next to our old house. And when I say awful..I mean awful. Big screen TVs so loud that you can’t hear the person next to you, bland bar foods that leaves the one vegetarian option of french fries, and snooty blonde waitresses that pay you no attention knowing they’ll get bigger tips from the table of men across the room. But despite the terrible service and atmosphere, I became addicted to their signature Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t even know I LIKED Bloody Mary’s before I had one here. It was like a meal in a glass…savory, peppery, and full of spice. This is what got me hooked.

This takes quite a few tomatoes to make a decent amount of juice so this is a recipe you’ll want to make at the peak of garden season. Plus, this cocktail will taste the best with in-season, right off the vine, tomatoes. None of the ‘recipes’ below are exact. Unlike baking, making cocktails is all about experimenting and working in your personal preference. Like it spicy? Add more sriracha. Like it strong? Up the vodka ratio.

Also, I recommend not wasting the leftover tomato skins – I just put mine in the freezer for the next time I make some vegetable broth but you could also use them to make tomato paste or even just chop up and throw in a salad.

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Rosemary Infused Vodka

  • 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 cup clear vodka

Combine vodka and rosemary in a clear glass jar and seal. Stick in the fridge and let infuse for several days (I did mine three days ahead of time). Shake once a day. Strain rosemary and use the infused vodka in all your favorite drinks.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Olives

  • 1 jar of green olives, drained and rinsed
  • 3 ounces of goat cheese (or chèvre)
  • Salt/Pepper

Mash the goat cheese with a little salt and pepper. Stuff the peppers with cheese. (Yup – that’s it).

Fresh Squeezed Bloody Marys

  • Assortment of Heirloom tomatoes (amount depends on size and desired servings. I used 4 large tomatoes per a serving), halved
  • 1 ounce of Rosemary infused vodka (see above) or any vodka you have on hand
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • dash worcestershire sauce (vegetarian version)
  • dash of Sriracha (you can even make your own over at Reclaiming Provincial)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Celery sticks, for garnish
  • Rosemary, for garnish

Squeeze the tomato insides into a blender and do a quick puree until smooth. Add in the vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, horseradish, worcestershire sauce, sriracha, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt / pepper / sriracha to your liking. Fill a glass with ice and pour cocktail into glass.

Garnish with celery, rosemary, and goat cheese olives.

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce

July 8, 2013

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I don’t know about you but the term ‘enchilada sauce’ doesn’t exactly conger up fresh and summery images. It mostly makes me think of that dark, musky isle in the already dingy international grocery store where you have to brush the dust off the can before picking it up and throwing it into your cart. This off-putting imagery doesn’t happen with all mexican food. In fact, tamales conger up wonderful memories of watching my step-mother whipping up several dozen in our kitchen when I was little. And tacos make me think of fresh grilled pineapple and strong margaritas. But I don’t know – there’s something about that enchilada sauce…something about the old-fashioned design on the cans that make me think it’s been on the shelf since that art was in style in the 80s (maybe even 70s?).

That was until I decided to start making my own. And everything changed in the enchilada world for me. It doesn’t taste like the enchilada sauce from the can…it taste so much fresher. And though it’s not the flavor your tongue is expecting at first, you will glow with the realization that this is how enchilada sauce is supposed to taste. Fresh and spicy. A little tomatoey, peppery, and full of heat. Of course, the amount of heat you’d like to create is up to you. Different peppers will result in different spice levels so go ahead and get acquainted with what peppers work for you (okay, so maybe that link is a little over-kill but it’s sort of fun to realize that all these peppers exist..)

This recipe isn’t challenging but there are lots of little steps – mostly simple ways to remove the outer peels from the tomatoes and peppers to create a creamier sauce. Don’t feel discouraged by the wordy directions below – it won’t take long and you’ll have deliciously fresh enchilada sauce in no time!

PS – Oh…and it’s vegan!

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 fresh red chilis, sliced in half with the seeds removed
  • 1 1 /2 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade)
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut a large X in the bottom of both
  • 2 jalapeños (or 1 poblano pepper)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • salt/pepper, to taste

Add vegetable broth to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add chili peppers and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat but DON’T drain the broth. Set aside.

Chard the jalapeños by placing them directly over a gas burner flame until blackened on all sides (or broil in your oven). Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a plastic sandwich bag. Let steam in the bag for about 15 minutes and peel the skins right off. Cut in half and remove seeds. Set aside.

Bring another saucepan full of water to a boil and get a bowl full of ice water ready. Add tomatoes and blanch for a minute or two or until the skins peel right off. Remove from heat and transfer tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Peel tomatoes and then dice.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent (about 7 minutes). Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chillis with the vegetable broth liquid, jalapeño, oregano, and cumin. Let simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Once slightly cooled, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

Use right away or store in the fridge for up to four days.

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Homemade Raw Vegan Fudgsicles

June 20, 2013


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Anyone who is familiar with raw “cooking” will find the ingredients in this recipe as no surprise. But for those of you who aren’t, stay with me. I’m looking at people like you, Mother. The kind of people that scoff at green smoothies and kale salads (“Ew. You don’t actually drink those, do you?” my mother ALWAYS says when green smoothies are brought up.) The reason this recipe may seem weird is because the word ‘fudgsicle’ usually congers up images of pre-packed, ice cream laden, milky wonderfulness. But what if I told you that we could achieve that creaminess without the ice cream? Without even the milk. In this recipe, we use avocados as the “cream” base but still load it (of course) with chocolate and [natural] sugar (delicious delicious agave).

The cocoa does a wonderful job of taking over the flavor AND color so you don’t have to worry about trying to force feed your friends a weird greenish looking ice pop. In fact, they probably won’t even be able to taste the avocado at all if you don’t mention it!

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Oh… and did I mention that these little pops are HEALTHY?! Forget that post-dairy bloatedness that often comes with consuming a pint of ice cream. These little pops are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, and vitamin E (just to name a few wonderful things found in avocados). So instead of feeling guilty about reaching for that popsicle in the fridge after dinner, you can get excited about getting an extra punch of nutrients while eating your dessert!

I rolled my popsicles in coconut, chopped pistachios, and sprinkles but feel free to have fun with it. Use whatever nuts you have on hand or roll them in something you know your boyfriend will love (butterscotch chips? chopped hazelnut? dried blueberries? potato chips?).

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Raw Vegan Fudgsicles

Makes 4 large fudgsicles (this will vary depending on the size of your popsicle molds)
  • 2 large ripe avocados (3 if they are small)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (most are vegan but double check before purchasing)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • ~1/4 cup water

Topping suggestions: 

  • chopped pistachios
  • shredded coconut

Use a mixer to blend together the avocados, cocoa powder, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and water. Blend until light and fluffy – if stiff then add a little more water. Divide among popsicle molds and let set in the freezer for at least 5 hours (I let mine sit overnight… just to be safe).

Enjoy once frozen or roll slightly softened popsicle in nuts, coconut, or both.

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Coriander Hummus

June 17, 2013

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Did everyone have a fantastic Father’s day? What wonderful thing did you do for our Father? I drove eight hours to see Fleetwood Mac in Chicago with my Father on Friday (although…he paid for the ridiculously over-priced tickets so we are probably even). My father ALWAYS had a Fleetwood Mac album on in the car when I was little and it’s one of the rare moments I remember singing and dancing with him. It was awesome growing up on Fleetwood Mac, I’ve always wanted to see Stevie Nicks in person and she did not disappoint.

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Here’s a simple hummus recipe for you. I decided to put the ‘flavoring’ in the top and keep the hummus itself super basic (mmmm garlic garlic hummus). You don’t HAVE to peel the chickpeas but I read about doing it over at Smitten Kitchen a few months back and am totally hooked. I’ve ruined 2 blenders by overheating them when making hummus and this takes the majority of the work off the blender. Plus, it leaves your hummus so smooth that you’ll never need the store bought stuff again.

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Coriander Hummus

  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

 

  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds, toasted and crushed (instructions below)*
  • 3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

 

Peel the chickpeas by lightly pinching the bean and the outer shell should come right off in one big peel. Repeat with the rest of the chickpeas. Transfer the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, and olive oil in a blender (or food processor) and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt, pepper, or more lemon juice. Transfer hummus to a big bowl.

Place the coriander seeds in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constituently for about two minutes or until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a mortar and pestle to crush. Sprinkle crushed coriander seeds over the hummus followed by sprinkling the cilantro.

Serve with pita and fresh veggies.

 

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Loaded Hibiscus Arnold Palmers

June 2, 2013

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Somewhere down the line I picked up this habit of “loading” my drinks with fruit and herbs. I could probably link this on my mother for exposing me to sangria at such an early age. Or blame it on drinking the same boring glass of soda water for lunch for over a year that I was bound to start throwing extra things into it. Either way – I’m hooked. There is something so elegant and fancy about adding a little bits of color and infusion into your everyday drinks. And it’s a great way to use up fruits and herbs leftover in your fridge – wilted herbs will perk up when placed in water so no need to waste your good ones on this drink!

This Hibiscus Arnold Palmer is summer in a glass. Not only is it full of homemade lemonade and fresh iced tea but it’s also chocked full of lemon slices, blueberries, and mint leaves. Heck, if I would have had cucumber lying around then I could have thrown that in there too!

Do you drink hibiscus tea? 99% of tea that I drink is in the winter and hibiscus is one of the few I reserve for iced tea and summer picnics. If you don’t have much experience with hibiscus tea then I would recommend the Republic of Tea’s Natural Hibiscus – it’s wonderfully delicious and makes a mean iced tea. And no, I’m not endorsed by them (other than that fact that I buy their product) so feel free to give me suggestions if you have a better hibiscus tea to try! There are supposed to be many health benefits links to this tea as well – ranging from lowering blood pressure to being chocked full of antioxidants.

I do hope to make my own hibiscus tea from scratch in the near future for you guys but until the flowers bloom like crazy on my plant – store bought tea will have to suffice. I do, however, make the lemonade from scratch in this recipe to guarantee a fresh and dizzying lemon punch. The following recipe uses agave as the sweetener in the simple syrup but feel free to use equal parts sugar if that is what you have on hand. Also, I keep mine pretty tart so if you like it sweeter than up the agave ratio or add more agave at the end to adjust flavor.

 

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Loaded Hibiscus Arnold Palmer

  • 1 cup lemon juice (from 4 large lemons) + extra sliced lemon for garnish
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 3 1/3 cups filtered water
  • 4 cups prepared hibiscus tea, cooled
  • handful of mint leaves, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, for garnish

 

In a small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup water with 1/3 cup agave syrup. Bring to a boil, stir until combined, and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a pitcher.

Juice the 4 lemons and transfer juice to the pitcher. Add the extra 3 cups of water to dilute the lemonade. Pour in the prepared hibiscus tea and garnish with lemon slices, blueberries, and mint leaves.

Serve over ice at your next cookout or picnic adventure.

 

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Mango Cucumber Salsa

May 22, 2013

It’s finally time! After five loooong, cold months – fresh produce is back! And I’m not talking about those root vegetables that taste like dirt (sorry, beets. You just don’t do it for me). I’m talking about spinach that was picked earlier that day and strawberries that were carried on a truck from down the street.

This salsa is great in it’s simplicity. It’s wonderful when produce is so fresh that you don’t need a ton of added ingredients. Dip this salsa in tortilla dips or use as a topping for tacos, veggie burgers, or anything else that sounds delicious!

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Cucumber Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango, peeled and diced (pit removed)
  • 1 red chili pepper, diced
  • 1/2 english cucumber, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • juice from half a lime
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped
  • squirt of sriracha (optional, add if you’d like to add a hint of heat)

Combine the mango, pepper, cucumber, cumin and mint in a bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over the salsa and stir until everything is coated. Season with salt and sriracha.

 

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