Hosting A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Posted on: November 21, 2013

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(Although I wish this was my own feast that I was muchin’ down on, it is not. As a change of pace on VV, I’ve borrowed most of the photos in this post so please click on the images to check out more beautiful photos from the original authors)

 

I’m a total planner. Anytime my boyfriend mentions he’d like to go on a trip somewhere, I’ll have a full day by day itinerary wrote up and emailed to him by the following evening. He usually has forgot he even mentioned anything by the time he receives the email but I know he has to smirk a little in that moment he opens it to find days (usually by the hour) planned out with restaurants, museums, sights, road stops, forests, and campsites. At least, I know I smirk a little when I re-read those emails. I don’t realize I’m doing it but I’m being exactly like my father in those moments. He would take us all (my brother, my three cousins who lived with us, and my step-mother) on a two week vacation every August when I was growing up. For the months leading up to it, he would pull out the atlas after dinner and compare tourist books (this was before the internet was a real big thing) to what was along the route. I remember how playful he always was in those planning moments and he’d tease me with comments like ‘should we go gambling in Vegas or take that 7 mile hike all uphill to see the rock that resembles a monkey head?’ (as if either of those things were appealing to a 10 year old).

Most of these trips I plan are just ideas – tucked away in email folders – never to actually be carried out. Sometimes I wonder if I have more fun planning adventures then actually taking them. There is just something comforting about these plans being there – comforting in the sense that if we did ever decide to sneak away to the Smoky Mountains or Lake Powell or Montreal at the last second, we wouldn’t miss a thing because I’ve got an itinerary for that!

Anyhow, I bring this story up because I planned out Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is sort of like a trip – you spend months planning and prepping only to have it carried out in one big meal. The funny thing is I’m not even hosting Thanksgiving this year. We always have Thanksgiving at my parent’s house up north and all I do is pick out a few recipes to make the day of and demand a Tofurky. However, even though I’m not hosting Thanksgiving, I still made a Thanksgiving menu. You know, just in case I ever feel like throwing a Thanksgiving dinner on a non-Thanksgiving holiday or something? Okay, that sounded crazy. I just mean that I did it because I enjoy planning. Planning can be a hobby, right?

So, to get to the point, if you are looking to host a Vegetarian Thanksgiving this year or just still need a few ideas on some sides, here is how I envision the perfect Vegetarian Thanksgiving:

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Savory Pumpkin Hand Pies

Posted on: November 19, 2013

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Being a vegetarian at your boyfriend’s family Thanksgiving can be madly intimidating. Or going home and explaining to your family for the first time that you no longer will be eating your aunt’s legendary roast. Although it’s never fun having to repeat yourself over and over to every person at the gathering about why you aren’t diving into that meat, it’s something all of us vegetarians (and vegans!) have had to endure. Instead of spending your entire evening avoiding eye contact with everyone in the room in an attempt to avoid that ‘dietary needs conversation’, whip up a batch of these hand pies to win everyone over. No meat lover will miss the meat in these little pockets of savory deliciousness and they might just agree that these would make a better main course (or appetizer or side or all 3).

Although eating a giant turkery for Thanksgiving is ‘traditional’, I say the hell with it! Let’s make our own tradition!! You aren’t constrained to eating that one meat that is ‘traditional’ and you can play around with any food you enjoy. And, in my opinion, I think these little pockets of pot pies are better than any dried out turkey I was served as a child.

 

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Hop on over to DeSmitten Design blog for the full recipe and learn more!

 

Caramelized Cranberry & Brie Pull-Apart Bread

Posted on: November 12, 2013

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Are you guys ready to talk about Thanksgiving? Excellent because it’s been on my mind a whole bunch lately and I am wearing my excitement on my sleeve. Holidays weren’t something I truly appreciated until I moved away and spent months upon months away from my family (it also helps that, in the more recent years, I’ve become obsessed with food as well). These days, it seems like I get more and more excited about the holidays sooner and sooner. Hell, I was ready to start talking about stuffing at the end of September!

 

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Currently Lusting: Gourmande In The Kitchen

Posted on: November 7, 2013

Currently Lusting is a bi-weekly series which features blogs that VV finds particularly inspiring / creative / beautiful or probably all three. Although we’d like to pretend that all of these ideas spring from these wonderful brains of ours, that is just simply not the truth. We pull so much inspiration and ideas from other blogs that I think it’s really important to acknowledge these people and the hard work they put into their virtual spaces. Want to create a truly gorgeous blog? I think the biggest step is having an inspiring set of other blogs that constantly makes you want to make yours better.

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I came across Gourmande In The Kitchen last year when searching for the perfect gluten-free birthday dessert recipe. The friend who I was making the dessert for, at the time, was very new to her gluten-free diet and I could tell she was bumming about the notion that all gluten-free desserts are dry / crumbly and not worth wasting a birthday on. Instead of trying to master a gluten-free cake on the first try, I came across Sylvie’s Chocolate Date Caramel Walnut Tart and fell in love. The birthday girl could not believe the tart has any sort of food “restrictions” like gluten-free, vegan, and even being grain-free.

 

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Favorite Winter Recipe

Posted on: November 5, 2013

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I am so very pleased to share my favorite kitchen trick over at Livia Sweets for her usual Tuesday Tutorial feature. Hop on over and check it out!

 

Vanilla Bean & Espresso Granola

Posted on: November 3, 2013

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Keeping it simple for today’s post. Sometimes you have the energy to make a 20 step breakfast recipe and other times you just want to be able to throw something together in five minutes, stick it in the oven, and crawl back into bed with your coffee for another hour. Yeah, I don’t care if that makes me sound lazy. You think I’m lazy now, just wait until the frigid months of January and February roll around. Ha, no but on a serious note – I’ve just been super busy getting some really great guest posts together for the month of November (more on that in the coming weeks).

I actually made this granola recipe back in September and am just now getting around to posting it. I originally had made it for my stepdad’s birthday (I made him a bunch of baked goods and sent out a little care package). However, I had been putting off posting this because I really wanted to make my own coffee extract first. Have you ever made coffee extract? I’ve only ever made vanilla but it seems silly to not experiment with other ones. Unfortunately, so far I’ve been pretty un-enthuised with the end results for my coffee extract. I really wanted to be able to make an extract out of leftover coffee grounds but have been unsuccessful as of now. So, for the time being, I am sticking with using part of an espresso shot in the recipe below.

 

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Maple Apple Bars /// Apple Picking

Posted on: October 27, 2013

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I know, I know. Every food blog out there right now has gorgeous pictures up of them apple picking. But what’s one more?

Apple picking is a sign that the air has become crisp and the days shorter. We usually go apple picking at the same place every year but found this new gem of a farm this fall. It’s huge with windy isles filled with dozens and dozens of apple flavors. We adventured right around dusk while the lighting was magical and the the farm was void of families.

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Currently Lusting: Reclaiming Provincial

Posted on: October 24, 2013

Currently Lusting is a bi-weekly series which features blogs that VV finds particularly inspiring / creative / beautiful or probably all three. Although we’d like to pretend that all of these ideas spring from these wonderful brains of ours, that is just simply not the truth. We pull so much inspiration and ideas from other blogs that I think it’s really important to acknowledge these people and the hard work they put into their virtual spaces. Want to create a truly gorgeous blog? I think the biggest step is having an inspiring set of other blogs that constantly makes you want to make yours better.

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I found Reclaiming Provincial when searching for bitters recipes. If I could choose to get a drink with any blogger out there, it would be Carey. That girl knows how to make a serious drink! (Don’t believe me? Look here. Or here. Or here). It was her bitters knowledge that drew me in but it was the homemade Sriaracha recipe that made me know I’d forever want to follow along with Carey’s food adventures.

 

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Chickpea Tomato Minestrone [with vegan option]

Posted on: October 21, 2013

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When reflecting on past gardens, I can’t help but be grateful for the fact that I was able to have an inground garden this summer. In years past, I’ve always moved in August and had failed attempts with transplanting tomato plants and herbs. This means that the last time I had a real garden was when I was little and my parent’s let me pick out what I wanted to grow. And that was gourds – I remember distintcly only wanting to grow gourds and my parents thinking that was a little funny (although I wouldn’t understand why until many years later… when I realized they are really not very useful in the kitchen).

But anyhow, this year… this year I was able to go all out. No more of that half assing tomato and basil plant in a few pots. Nope, Nope. This year I wanted a garden both in the back and side yard (one for full sun and one for part). We planted tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, scallions, lemongrass, cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapeños, rosemary, sage, and so on. Some of them flourished (lemongrass, scallions, kale, tamotoes) and some of them never quite got off the ground (potatoes, cucumbers…). But whether they grew to monstorous portions or stayed micro size, we tried to harvest and enjoy them. We harvested everything in September but the swiss chard and lemongrass.

 

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I’m not sure what I was waiting for with the swiss chard but I knew I was ignoring it until a sign occured. Whether that sign was a must-try recipe or the first frost biting at it’s leaves, I knew I needed a sign. Perhaps it was because the leaves were coming in so beautifully with the colored veins speckled through out them. Whatever it was, I knew I didn’t want to waste these greens by burying them at the bottom of a recipe.

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Sweet & Salty Curry Molasses Popcorn

Posted on: October 14, 2013

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I was hoping to post this recipe yesterday for you all to make on your lazy Sunday but that seems to have not happened. So now we are just going to have to eat popcorn for breakfast. Or as an afternoon snack (that’s a really good idea! Why don’t I do that more often?). And if we don’t have time for that, then we’ll just have to have a lazy Monday night movie and popcorn session. Okayyy? Okay.

In the cool weeks of October, we host weekly bonfire and horror movie nights at our place. Being a baker, my favorite part about hosting is having delicious snacks and drinks whipped up for everyone to enjoy. Although I wish I had hours and hours to spend making pies and sangria, we host the movie nights on Wednesday so I work all day. That means I have about 45 minutes to clean and get everything in order before our guests come over. Although I sometimes plan ahead and whip up a Pumpkin Pie or caramel corn the night before, I usually am scrambling the day of. And that is how this popcorn recipe was invented. Using what I had on hand, I wanted to have a big bowl of unique and delicious popcorn to create more of a movie atmosphere. The best part (in addition to it being absolutely delicious) is you can whip this up in 10 minutes and then still have plenty of time to get to tiding up the house.

 

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Currently Lusting: Princess Tofu

Posted on: October 10, 2013

I  am starting a new bi-weekly series on the blog today: Currently Lusting. It’s going to be about a blog I find inspiring or creative or beautiful and probably all three. Although I’d like to pretend that all of these ideas spring from this wonderful brain of mine, that is just simply not the truth. I pull so much inspiration and ideas from other blogs that I think it’s really important to acknowledge these people and the hard work they put into their virtual spaces. Want to create a truly gorgeous blog? I think the biggest step is having an inspiring set of other blogs that constantly makes you want to make yours better.

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The first blog in this new series is Princess Tofu. Phi is one of the first and few (I need to get better about this!) bloggers that I reached out to through email. She had posted a picture on her blog where she made a fish out of onions – it was both quirky and artistic but most of all just plain awesome. I had wanted to tell her how much I loved it soo soo much but her comments page was acting funky. I decided to let her know through email and we’ve been blog buds ever sense.

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Pumpkin Pie with Salted Molasses Créme Fraîche /// Let’s make Pumpkin Puree from Scratch

Posted on: October 7, 2013

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 Think caramel is the only sweet topping you can salt? Think again. Imagine this salted molasses as the darker-spicier-brunette sister to the blondie we know as salted caramel. It also has that addicting sweet / salty flavor profile but with a bit of a richer flavor. I’m really not sure why caramel gets all the attention and why we don’t salt more sweet syrups. Why not salted honey? salted molasses? salted date syrup? Salted agave nectar? Based on how this pie tasted…I think I’m on to something here.

 

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Besides the salted molasses, the other secret ingredient that really sets this pie apart is the use of vanilla beans. Vanilla extract is great when you want to infuse your baked goods but there is nothing better than speckles of fresh vanilla seeds. I stuck them in both the custard filling and in the molasses drizzle. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry vanilla beans (I know many don’t – shame on them!) then I highly suggest hopping over to J. R. Watkin’s site and picking up some of theirs. They were kind enough to send me some samples a few weeks back and I was legitimately blown away. I’m the kind of person who usually buys the beans in bulk and these beans put all of those to shame. These beans were some of the freshest I’ve ever baked with (and I, weirdly enough, have a lot of experience baking with vanilla beans. Check out here and here and here and here and here and here for written proof of it).

 

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

Posted on: 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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Homemade Pumpkin Pasta with Goat Cheese Whip & Browned Butter Sage

Posted on: September 27, 2013

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You know, I was so proud of myself for thinking about using that can of pumpkin before October rolled around. I was like ‘damn, I’m going to beat the pumpkin craze this year for sure!’ and then I waited 3 days to post this. And now this recipe is in the dead middle of all the pumpkin blondies and nutmeg dutch babies. Oh well. This was my attempt to create a ‘savory’ dish with the pumpkin instead of the sugar overload that October tends to bring (helloooo Halloween!).

 

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Chickpea Dumplings in Curry Tomato Sauce

Posted on: September 22, 2013

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I know you were starting to worry. You were starting to wonder if my diet really could consist of sugar and alcohol based on the recipes that have been posted on VV the last month or so. So, in an attempt to show you a some-what ‘normal’ side of my diet, I’m posting this dumpling recipe which is an evening go-to in our home. Curry is always welcome around here and we tend to make it about once a week in the cooler months. I like this recipe because it breaks up the usual vegetable-sauce-rice ratio and has protein-rich dumplings cooked right in. Also, the best part about the dumpling literally steaming into the sauce is that it doesn’t take any longer than it would for you to simmer a pot of homemade curry sauce.

This recipe is traditionally prepared by frying the dumplings but I’ve chosen to steam them in the tomato sauce instead for both time and health sake. Think of it as an Indian-curry version of chicken and dumpling stew. Except the sauce plays a much more flavorful part than in our traditional comfort stew. The dumplings end up gooey and steaming them in the sauce lends to the dumplings soaking up the flavors around them.

We serve ours over basmati rice but you can make it a little bit healthier by substituting brown rice. We also like to top ours with greek yogurt for an extra creamy consistency but it’s plenty flavorful without the yogurt if you are trying to keep it vegan.

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Fall Lusting

Posted on: September 17, 2013

[Insert huge rant about everything going wrong. I originally had 3 paragraphs of a rant here but it all seemed so petty after re-reading it. Funny how sometimes you just need to write out your problems to be reminded how good you really have it]

What’s a girl to do when she feels like all the little things seem to be going wrong? Take a deep breathe..and notice the smell of fall in the air. When did that happen? Was it when I was in the kitchen bitching about my eclairs not coming out after 3 hours of baking? Or when my computer kept crashing every time I tried to upload a photo? Or maybe it was when I was on an exhausting 5 day long business trip in Atlanta…it must have been then? Yeah, that was it. Not that I’m complaining about it. A hint of crisp in the air is always so relieving against my tense body and created a surge of excitement in me earlier this week. A surge of excitement for pumpkin flavored everything, late night bonfires, big sweaters with knee high socks, and warm cups of tea. Let’s just take another deep breath and look at some fall-themed inspiration, shall we?

 

   

 

FASHIONING /// I live for over size sweaters and knee high socks. Thanks to past end-of-the-season sales, I’ve managed to collect knee high socks in pretty much every dark shade of blacks, greys, greens, and blues to ever exist. And my need for thrifting always keeps me stocked on over-size, funky geometric shape patterned sweaters.

CRAVING /// Pumpkin flavored BAGELS?! Yes yes yes, please!

INSPIRING /// Chai smores? Talk about a perfect fall dessert for the next time we have a bonfire. Fall for me means Chai flavored EVERYTHING. Can’t wait to see what I come up with for VV this fall.

CREATING /// And speaking of bonfires… another favorite fall activity! We usually host horror movie nights once a week in the fall leading up to Halloween. This also usually entails a bonfire and big sweaters. So many favorite things in one place. Now…if only I could get myself to like scary movies….

What are you most excited for this fall?

 

Vanilla Bean & Fig Shortbread Drizzled with Honey Glaze

Posted on: 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]

Posted on: 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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Summer Recap Zine // Vegetarian Ventures Issue 1

Posted on: August 29, 2013

 

I already showed this on VV’s Facebook and Pinterest yesterday but I wanted to share it with all of you. I created a short Summer recap zine with some of my favorite highlights for what has been going on around VV this past season.

I am totally hooked on independent magazines right now. Having articles published in Chickpea, Incadenscent, and Remedy Quarterly has made me realize how fun it is to see your work in print. There is something so satisfying about being able to stack your pieces of creative work on a shelf instead of in a hard drive. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet but there is nothing better than being able to flip through pages of inspiration over and over again.

In addition to hoping to write a small recap zine every season, I’d really love to start making a collaborative publication in the near future. I really enjoy the community that is built around having a blog and would love to expand it beyond guest posts and re-pins. You know, something physical [eventually] and filled with recipes, adventures, tricks, tips, guides, drawing, a cute name (Toast? Hibiscus?), and (of course) beautiful photography. I realize that will mean recruiting a co-op of writers, adventures, photographers, taste-makers, bakers, and designers (these people could be YOU. Yes? No? Maybe?). Until then, I’ve got my VV recap zine to get my technique down.

What independent zines have you been lusting over lately? I’ve been SO into Kinfolk, Pure Green Magazine, and Weekend Almanac.

Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas [For one]

Posted on: August 21, 2013

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Wyatt is off at a Black Sabbath concert tonight . No, I’m not sure why – he’s not a 60 year old fan or a metal head of any kinds [but this is beside the point]. The point is that I’m here alone tonight. I decide to have a sort of girl’s night…with myself. Yoga, red wine, and a chick flick (Bridesmaid to be exact…hey, don’t judge! Everyone ALWAYS references it and I have no idea what they are ever talking about). This is a special treat because I’m usually get suckered into alien, death-centric, action flicks and a case of beer.

This also meant I was on my own for dinner this evening. Any normal American would have probably just got chinese take-out but I was excited by the thought of not having to worry about another person’s needs / preferences. Both polenta and chickpeas are two things Wyatt isn’t really that crazy about – and I totally disagree. I personally don’t think there could ever be anything wrong with a big bowl of corn creaminess that takes on the subtle flavor of whatever cheese you decide to melt into it. And as for chickpeas – give me them anyway you’d like: blended, roasted, sautéed, or panfried.

Needless to say, I’ve settled in for the night with this big polenta bowl and my boxer dog, Tuko. If you need us – we’ll be over here watching some girls relieve themselves in wedding dresses because of some bad Mexican food they ate (gross! Sorry, Bridesmaid reference?)

When pan frying the chickpeas, make sure you use just a big enough skillet so that they can lay evenly in one layer but not so big that you have to use half your bottle of oil. And as for the pesto, I’ve been into using kale (since it grows like wildflowers in my garden) but went with basil on this one since it’s finally basil season – feel free to use whatever leafy green you have on hand!

 

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Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas

  • 1 cup dried polenta
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ounces goat cheese (or more if you are like me)

 

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt / pepper

 

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from a can or from dried)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt / pepper
  • oil (I used olive but you could use vegetable as well)

In a food processor or very powerful blender, combine all the pesto ingredients and blend until a smooth paste forms. Add more olive oil if needed to reach your desired consistency. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta and lower heat to medium low. Whisk continuously until the polenta has become thick enough that it won’t stick to the bottom. After fifteen minutes of simmering, stir in the cheese and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium. Add chickpeas, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Sauté for ten to fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined tray. Let sit for a few minutes to crisp up.

Mix the polenta, chickpeas, and pesto all together and enjoy!

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VV Turns 2 /// Spicy Double Chocolate Cookies with Cappuccino Frosting

Posted on: August 17, 2013

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Yay – today Vegetarian Venture’s has officially been around (and active!) for two years! It seems both unreal and yet two years doesn’t seem that long. I can’t remember my life without this creative outlet and can’t imagine what I did with all my time before baking, cooking, photography, styling, and playing with food?

The world as I know it has changed drastically since 2011. Two years ago, this guy didn’t exist:

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And I didn’t live in our blue house with this guy:

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Two years ago I was going to school part time and working at a local co-op grocery store. The co-op had this wonderful shelf in the fridge called the ‘chump shelf’ and was filled with any sort of unsellable item that were up for grabs – day old baguettes (perfect for french toast), pints of berries with one moldy piece, two day old tabbouleh (everyone know it’s better after it’s aged a bit), blemished organic produce, bulk bags of grains that people bagged up and then decided against buying, etc. As a student trying to live cheapily and still obsessed with food, this was the most amazing shelf for me. I would come home beaming every night with bags full of free food and feed my entire house full of college roommates. The food I brought would often times be a weird mix of ingredients and that was what sparked searching through recipes and blogs and eventually starting VV to document my adventures.

Two years later and I do not still work at the co-op (but still live right down the street from it and shop their almost everyday), have graduated college, and don’t have a house full of roommate to feed. I do, however, still love blogging and spend most of my free time cooking for my boyfriend / boxer.

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Currently Crushing

Posted on: August 11, 2013

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In an attempt to not completely fall off the grid during the ‘dog days of summer’, I thought I’d fill you in on a few things I’ve been up to aside from cooking. With my kitchen lacking air conditioning (UGH), I’ve been keeping the cooking to a minimum and mostly sticking to veggie centric salads, staple recipes that I know are quick, and grilling outside.

Anyhow,  I’ve been turning to other outlets of inspiration – mostly spending a large portion of my free time reading and thought I’d share a few recent favorites with you guys.

Top right: I found this back issue of Pure Green Magazine at a local bookstore and am totally in love. This particular issue is their ‘food’ issue and features articles ranging from the history of ancient grains to a step by step on how to make the best coffee. It has become a new indie magazine staple to add to my shelf alongside Chickpea Quarterly and Kinfolk.

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Grilled Maple Bourbon Glazed Panzanella Salad

Posted on: August 7, 2013

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My idea for this was to make a savory bread salad without it turning into bread pudding or baked french toast (which was sightly harder than you might think). But adding tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil (peppers would be good too!) – it creates that sweet and savory sensation which is irresistible in this salad!

This time of year is all about cooking with fresh-from-the-garden produce. It’s that time where salads shine and raw is more. This makes me appreciate the method more than ever. No 30 steps involved in getting to that end casserole or sautéing followed by roasted following by rolling followed by baking. With fresh summer recipes, it’s about slightly cooking (if at all) to achieve a hint of flavor that accents the fresh flavors of your colorful produce.

I think this is the reason I love grilling so much. It’s simple and feels very natural to grill veggies over an open fire to bring out their flavors. Or to slightly caramelize fruit until it melts in your mouth. This salad is bursting with raw flavors while meshing perfectly with the smoky nuance of the bread and fruit.

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And yes, I burnt some of the bread (see picture above – maybe it was because I was grilling in high heel sandals?!). That is one of my favorite parts about cooking… even after years in the kitchen (or in this case…the back yard), I’m still making mistakes and learning. I’ve been camping most weekends for the last month so my delusions about knowing my way around the grill were at a record high. Wyatt usually takes charge of the grill and you can most certainly tell by the state of that piece on the way left.

Also, moving on from talking about this salad, I wanted to let you know that I know that I’ve been a little absent on here lately. It’s not my fault… well sort of my fault. Summer has brought house guests staying for days on end (and more coming!), random cross country adventures, and desires for new hobbies. But I do have to admit, even after having loads of fun with these out-of-the-ordinary adventures, I still always want to come back to cooking. Flying 10 hours across the country is really just an opportunity (in my mind) to gather new recipe inspiration from road side diners and produce stands by the ocean. Taking up sanding is just an excuse for me to build more shelving units for blog props. You get the picture…I miss being around here and am glad to be back. : ]

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Grilled Maple Bourbon Glazed Panzanella

Serves 2
  • 1 loaf of day old bread (I used a baguette), sliced in half
  • 1 large cucumber or 3 small cucumbers, sliced into bite size strips
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Combination of Stone fruit (I used 2 peaches and 2 plums), halved
  • Handful of basil, torn
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • dash of Salt / Pepper

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In a small saucepan, whisk together the glaze ingredient and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside to thicken (about five minutes).

Start the grill. Brush the bread and fruit with honey bourbon glaze. Stick on the grill (watching closely!) and brown on each side. Time will completely depend on how hot your coals are but mine took about a minute on each side for bread and 3 minutes for the fruit.

Dice the bread and fruit into bite size pieces and toss with cucumber, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, 2 Tablespoons leftover glaze, salt, and pepper. Serve warm.

 

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Pacific Coast Exploring – Part 2 (Oregon)

Posted on: July 31, 2013

…And here is Part 2 of our coastal exploration (check out Part 1 here). These pictures are mostly all taken in Oregon and on the way to Portland. I wish wish wish wish wish I had an excuse to move to Portland – I would be so close to the ocean, mountains, Redwoods, waterfalls, rivers, drip coffee, blueberry bourbon basil donuts (Yup – that’s right. Thank you, Blue Star), and so many other things.

 

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Pacific Coast Exploring – Part 1

Posted on: July 29, 2013

I apologize for the lack of ‘food’ posts this week but I have a good excuse. I’ve been 2,000 miles away from my kitchen on an epic road trip starting in San Francisco and trailing up through Portland. This last week has been a whirlwind; 12 hours of flying, 2 major cities, an epic ocean, 10 hours of driving, two picnics, one amazing friend, endless seasonal food, and dozens of mix CDs later…I come to you with a recap of my week in the form of photos.

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Let’s start with a little background to set  this photo story up. This is Ella – within the past five years, we’ve been friends, roommates, class mates, and now exploration partners. While I’ve been off having a day job and manning down this wonderful VV blog, she’s been busy living out of her car and traveling the country while working on organic farms and gaining wilderness training in dozens of national parks. Although I love my cushiony life in the Midwest, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of her adventures and made a promise to meet her in San Fran at the end of the summer. I flew from Indianapolis to Atlanta and then to San Francisco. She picked me up in her car-turned-home and we were off along the 101 for the next three days.

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And this is me. I probably didn’t need to introduce myself because you probably already know me – whether it’s through this blog, or in person, or from the gossip channels known as the internet (okay, let’s be real – you probably don’t know me because of that). But just in case, and for the sake of this picture story, this is me. The 20-something, sort-of-paranoid, adventure-lusting, food-lover.

 And this is the a photo tour of our journey through California (Part 1).

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