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Grad School Gourmet: Bean-y Bruschetta (Vegan!)

1 Sep

So I had the privilege to meet dear, sweet blog reader Brenda before she moved away — but I got the most adorable text message from her yesterday saying she made the baked beans (one of my most popular recipes) and loved them, and when the heck am I going to post more recipes?! Well, she said it a lot cuter and nicer than that. <3 Sure, I’ve been super busy, but y’know, the time has come!

Truth is, the BFF Manfriend has been doing 90% of the cooking lately, while I’ve been scrambling. And I don’t mean eggs. In fact, this meal was inspired by the man himself. And his version actually might have been better. Also a true story. I know that you might think, Hey, this has two recipes, it can’t be fast or easy! But I promise – it’s simple, delicious, and can be thrown together in probably fifteen — tops twenty — minutes. I say this with confidence because yesterday I ran to the store down the street, and when I came back, the BFF Manfriend announced dinner was ready. Um. Yes? And you thought the mango heart was sweet.

This the perfect recipe if you (or a generous friend — thanks Ann!) have an abundance of tomatoes from your garden, getting way too ripe on your counter.

The tomatoes are strained of their seeds/juice, cooked down with a little olive oil, and seasoned as a tomato should be — with only salt, pepper, and oregano. The reserved juice and seeds aren’t wasted, though — they are added to lend some piquancy to the other layer of the meal — cooked black beans, which are seasoned with just some salt, pepper, cumin, and a touch of oregano.

Here’s what it looks like when those tomaters are all good and squeezed:

After mashing or blending the bean mixture (the Husband smashes; I blend [lazy]), you spread them on a slice of GF bread, and dollop on a spoonful of Succulent Tomato Topping. With salad on the side, this is an efficient (read: fast), high-protein, nutritious, vegan, and totally delicious meal. I like to think of it as “Grad School Gourmet” — cheap, but with a touch of class. I mean, I used “piquancy” to describe it. That’s not only a GRE word, it’s definitely made the rounds in fine cooking magazines…

NOTE: You do not have to include the strained tomato juices/seeds; feel free to omit the step of adding it to the beans and just dispose of it.

Simple, Succulent Tomato Topping

1.5 TB extra virgin olive oil
5 small to medium-sized tomatoes
1/2 t salt
1/2 t coarse ground pepper
1 TB oregano

1) Quarter tomatoes and remove seed pulp/juice (you can just squeeze them or run your fingertip along the seed line to remove). Reserve juice in a separate container.
2) Coarsely chop tomatoes.
3) Warm olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high, and add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and oregano.
4) Stir occasionally to keep from sticking; allow tomatoes to cook down (5-10 minutes).
5) Turn off heat, and, using a spoon or spatula, drain liquid into the container with the other tomato seed pulp/juice. Taste, add more seasoning if necessary.

Makes about 1/2 cup, depending on the size of the tomatoes. It should be enough for about 4 large slices of bread.

Classed-Up Quick Bean Spread

Reserved tomato juice/seeds from recipe above
1 1/4 C prepared black beans (= 1 14.5 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 TB cumin
1/2 t salt
1/2 t coarse ground pepper
1/2 t oregano

1) Combine all ingredients in a shallow bowl and mash until combined — OR — place all in a blender and process until desired texture — OR — combine in a bowl and use an immersion blender until desired texture. Taste and adjust spicing accordingly.
2) Spread or pour (depending on consistency) over toast, and cover with Simple Succulent Tomato Topping.

Makes about 1 – 1 1/4 cups — enough to top 4 large slices of bread.

Mmm… Bean-y Bruschetta.

Like I said in the note above, the beans will be thicker if you add less (or no) juice. Also, as always, play with the spicing to your preference! These recipes are so simple that the real gem here is just the method; it’s amazing how easy it can be to just put a little bit of a different spin on something traditional, and end up with deliciousness. This felt like comfort food gone… adult.

What surprise meal successes have you had lately?

Asian Peanut Salad Dressing + Dipping Sauce

8 Jul

When I used to go out for sushi on a semi-normal basis, my favorite part wasn’t necessarily the sushi… It was the complementary salad that some of the restaurants I frequented would offer. More specifically, it was the ridiculously delicious peanut dressing that was dolloped on the lettuce leaves. However… the whole “mayo” and “high fructose corny syrup” and “preservative” thang was sort of a turn-off.

Do you want to know something funny? I love lettuce — I will eat it like an apple right off the head, I will chomp on leaves like a rabbit, I will eat a salad without any dressing at all. And I’ll like it. I am not a dressing person… But I also know that I am a freak little different than most people. And since I want to serve healthy food to the people I love, I realize that I’m a lot more persuasive when I serve my veggies with a little somethin’ somethin’ to drench them in. I’m no fool, folks — I am fully cognizant that my friend Joshua comes over to our place to eat solely for the honey mustard poppyseed dressing. Hey, I’m just glad he’s eating a fresh vegetable… those bachelors like to get a little reliant on smoothies and breakfast burritos, from what I hear… (<3 you Joshua!)

When a lovely reader named Brenda asked if I could please post some more dressings (apparently she, too, is hooked on the honey mustard poppyseed), and preferably ones that don’t require a blender, I was more than delighted to oblige. So, here is the first in hopefully a string of successful vegetable-disguising-or-complementing-depending-on-your-perspective dressings! I served an unfortunately water-ed down version of this with the cucumber-wrapped salads (apparently I have sushi on the brain lately, eh?), along with another dressing yet to be published. I tweaked this by eliminating the added water altogether and voila! Perfection. It’s now gone after just one sitting between the Husband and myself. Yes, we like to eat.

The best part? You probably already have all the ingredients, and it takes about 2 minutes total to get everything together, poured, and whipped up. Win!

1/4 C peanut butter
2 Tb agave
1.5 Tb lemon or lime juice (fresh)
1 Tb apple cider vinegar
2 tsp gluten-free tamari (you can sub soy sauce if you eat gluten)

1) Mix all ingredients in a bowl or small glass mason jar. Cover and store in the fridge.

Wow. One step. That’s pretty easy, yes? Not to mention it is crazy healthy! This dressing has a protein punch thanks to the peanut butter, which I don’t think any other variety of salad dressing can boast. It’s also versatile; it would be delicious as a sauce to toss with stir-fry, or pour over whole grains like millet or brown rice (my BFF Manfriend will be coating his pasta with this from now on), or in a number of other delicious scenarios. (Personally, I’ll be eating the salad I just made for these photos. It’s 8am, but I don’t care. It’s awesome. So. Yeah.)

Go nuts with the possibilities! (No pun intended; peanuts are legumes, not nuts…hehe.)

In other news, this weekend, I will be staying up in the mountains with my mom’s side of the family. We get the chance to celebrate my grandma (I called her G-Funk, and yes, she was adorable and loved it) and her life, which ended early this spring. Even though I am saying my final goodbye to one of my best friends (I mean that sincerely), and it will feel strange to be savoring all the things she loved without her, I am so thankful that we get to be together in one of her favorite places, and enjoy nature just as she would have.

What are you doing this weekend?

Have you ever tried the awesomesauce that sushi places serve on salads?

Summer Grilling Marinade

5 Jun

First of all, before you tell me you hate mushrooms, let me tell you a story:

I didn’t used to like mushrooms

My husband didn’t used to like mushrooms.

Kids (in general) didn’t used to like mushrooms.

Guess who’s bringin’ mushrooms back? (Be honest, do you have Justin Timberlake stuck in your head now?)  I threw this dressing together on the fly the other day as we prepared a meal for my in-laws. There was some teasing at the generous amount of mushrooms I had bought, but after they had marinated in this dressing and were served up at the table, even my little one year old nephew was asking for “Mo!” I am taking that as a win. I know the kid loves food, but…hey. A mushroom is a mushroom.

That, and they tasted like pepperoni. In a very vegan way. Or something.

The zucchini we marinated and grilled was delicious as well. We didn’t bother adding the sauce to the onions, as they seem to not soak it up, and are plenty flavorful on their own. You can make these into shish kebabs, broil them, or grill the zucchini in long strips, as we did. (Just try not to engulf them in flames get too much char on them like we did.)

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
2 Tb red wine vinegar
1 Tb white (regular) vinegar
2 t oregano
2 t basil
2 t garlic powder (I rarely use garlic powder, but it’s better than fresh garlic in this case, for texture and a smoother flavor)
2-3 t dried onions
salt and fresh ground pepper

1) In a bowl, mix the olive oil and vinegars together.
2) Whisk in dry spices, and taste.
3) Add salt, pepper, and more or less of any other ingredient to taste.
3) To use as a marinade, pour into a large bag (or a glass baking dish), and add vegetables. Shake to distribute.
4) Lay bag flat, and flip over after 20-30 minutes. Marinate for 40-60 minutes, if you can.
5) Grill or broil vegetables.

We served these alongside whole grain pasta tossed in homemade pesto (obviously, I didn’t partake of this). I remember one summer we had grilled vegetables for the majority of our dinners each week. It got a little out of control…. Even so, we aren’t sick of it, and grilled veggies are the sure sign that summer has arrived! It’s so easy, there’s just no reason to use that processed bottled stuff that’s filled with preservatives and fillers. This dressing is high-fructose corn syrup, metabulsulfite, and Red #40 free, and tasty to boot! It comes together in less than five minutes — just add veggies and walk away for an hour. Zing.

What’s your go-to summer meal?

Spicy Cabbage Soup for Sassy Sinuses

26 May



We meet again.

I am not pleased to see you. There, I said it. I get that you are just hypersensitive and want to be all up in my biznass, but seriously, Immune System – I’m a big girl now and I can take care of myself! You are way too overprotective. It’s embarrassing. I walk around with swollen eyes all day long, totally drained, with these powerful headaches, just because you apparently didn’t get the memo that lilacs are not poison. They just smell nice. Chill out, antibodies.

As a result of this autoimmune fun (and by “fun” I mean “horror”), I was in a daze yesterday. Occasionally, my allergies get debilitating — seriously. I’ll spare you the details, but imagine the worst headcold you can, and then throw some Satan into the picture for interesting twists. Yep, that’s about accurate. It can drag me down to just laying on a couch, mumbling incoherently about how I want BFF Manfriend to “pull the plug.”

He is a patient, saintly man. I know this. (And yes, I did drama in high school — why do you ask?)

Anyway. I suspect there may be an actual cold in the background of the allergies as well right now. It’s hard to distinguish the two sometimes, because they tend to go hand in hand, egging each other on in their torturous ways. So I finally went ahead and tried to make something that would kind of “clean out the attic” – if the attic is my head, and my sinuses are the forgotten corners. (Can you tell I’m still delirious? Good metaphor. Not.) There is one type of soup I crave when I feel unwell – whether it be a flu, a cold, a life disappointment, or a paranoid immune system that hates lilacs (WHO HATES LILACS?!?! Come on, I.S.!) It has to include a tomato base, cabbage, garlic, and some heat. Everything else is take-it-or-leave-it. I made do with what I had, and it was amazing. So, for all my fellow allergy and/or cold sufferers, know that while this won’t cure you, it definitely takes the edge off. And the congestion out.

This is yet another free-and-easy, loosey-goosey, do-what-you-will-and-hyphenate-extravagantly kind of recipe. There’s nothing all that creative going on here; it’s really just vegetables. I’m sure there are a bazillion (roughly) other similar recipes out there. And with good reason. It’s utterly simple – the only added spices are salt, pepper, and cayenne (well, and enough garlic to keep the Twilighters away. Joke.). Yep. It’s easy, crazy healthy (I mean – CRAZY), and comes together in probably 15 minutes. Chop chop, stir, pour, stir, shake, stir, eat. It’s even pleasant to make – rhythmic chopping and a comforting smell wafting through your kitchen. What’s not to love?

The fact that I’m allergic to the best smell in the world – lilacs. Ah. Touché. That’s not to love.

This soup can be eaten cold, like gazpacho, warm/room temperature, or hot. Because things are sort of, kind of, maybe, but not for sure yet, starting to warm up around here (it’s Colorado. We have 4 seasons in every single day so…we have to be noncommittal about our assessments.). I devoured this after I got home from working out – two big bowlfuls. It was spicy enough to keep me downing the H20 to rehydrate, but not to the point that I couldn’t taste and enjoy my meal. It was the perfect ending to my day! And it definitely made a difference in my…uh…overcapacitated sinus cavities, and itchy throat.

It a happily-ever-after soup.

extra virgin olive oil
½ head or 1 very small cabbage
½ small red onion
2 medium-sized carrots
2-3 stalks celery
6-8 cloves garlic (I used 7, varying in size)
1 28 oz can chunky tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
~ ½ C water (optional)
salt + pepper
cayenne (or hot sauce, or both)

1) Chop cabbage by first slicing the head into ribbons, and then slicing in the other direction.
2) Chop onion, carrots, celery, and garlic as well. I like mine diced quite small in this recipe, but do what you like.
3) Drizzle enough olive oil into a large pot so that when heated to medium, it covers the bottom in a thin layer.
4) Add vegetables, salt generously (to make them sweat a little), and stir.
5) Once veggies are starting to soften, add tomato sauce/diced tomatoes. and stir. You may want to add some water to thin it out to your desired consistency — I used about ¾ C or so.
6) Add salt, coarse ground pepper, and cayenne and/or hot sauce to taste. Stir, reduce to a lower heat, and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Serve.

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I like it with some crunch still in the carrots, so my times reflect this. Feel free to cook longer if you wish. It’s even better the next day! I feel so much better after eating this. It’s not a panacea, but it is delicious, healthy, and quick.

Take that, Sinuses.

Do you have allergies? Any special cures?

My doctor relative swears by drinking a teaspoon of your urine in a glass of water every morning. Something about the amount of antibodies… I mentioned this on Twitter once to some hilarious reactions… Thoughts?

(Do you hear the desperation in my voice?)

Booyah BBQ Socca Pizza

22 May

So… About yesterday. Um. My bad. Things were much crazier than I expected, and it is now 1:30am on Sunday as I get ready to finally put my post up. Yeesh. Long day much? Good thing you’re a forgiving bunch ; )

When I prepared to make the BBQ sauce the other day, I was ruminating over what exactly I would use as a vehicle for carrying this deliciousness into my mouth. Sorry, but BBQ sauce is less of a “complement” to food than a food all on its own in my mind… What can I say? I guess that’s another reason my BFF Manfriend calls me The Sauce Queen. I just love condiments. It’s a weakness.

Anyway, obviously I made some portobello burgers and topped them with this smoky, sweet, tangy nectar of the heavens, but I knew this sauce had potential. It could be so much more than a ketchup-replacement. It just needed the chance to shine. So, what do you think my first stop on the Various Sauce Uses trolley was? My other weakness, of course…


BBQ Socca Pizza.

One ticket to Yum Town, please.

If you want to see some of my other socca friends (aka meals), check out this post, and definitely this post. To learn what socca is and see yet another recipe for it, click here.


1/2 C chickpea flour
1/4 C water (feel free to add more if you want a thinner crust, opposite for thicker. Mine was the consistency of pancake batter.)
Generous salt (salt is the main flavoring, so don’t skimp!)
1-3 Tb extra virgin olive oil for pan
Bring-The-Party-In-Your-B.B.(B.)Q.-sauce sauce
organic or vegan cheese
chopped onion (I prefer red, but only had white for this go)
chopped green pepper

1) Mix water, chickpea flour, and salt together.
2) Heat 1-3 Tb extra virgin olive oil on medium in a large, flat skillet/pan. (I used my beloved small cast iron.)
3) Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly with a fork if needed to achieve consistent height throughout.
4) Let the bottom crisp, and when it is sturdy flip.
5) Let the other side crisp as well, and when the texture is right for you, it’s done! (I like mine crisped nearly to a char in some places, as you might see in the photos… It reminds me of woodfired crusts!)
6) Add sauce and toppings, and place under broiler briefly for melting if needed (watch carefully!)

This is yet another wildly easy, throw-it-together-in-10-minutes-and-devour-in-two kind of meal. It puts traditional BBQ pizzas to shame; and to be frank, I think it might have something to do with the sauce. Why lie?

The best part? This is high-protein (from the garbanzo flour), high-fiber (= super satiating), grain-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, and depending on what type of cheese you use, vegan. Unlike other BBQ pizzas, you can name and understand every ingredient in here! I know, right? Best idea ever. (Worst idea ever: take pictures of it in the rain. Photos will not be up to standards. Lo siento.) Just throw some salad on the side and bask in the wonder of your efficient and delectable meal-making. Preferably while watching a Harry Potter marathon with your family, half-heartedly working. (The half-heartedly part wasn’t intentional, but you know how these things go.)

And on that note… Go get your B.B.(B.)Q.-in’ on! Trust me. You will want to have this sauce on hand at all times. It can make anything magical…anything. (I am willing to put my money on the fact that it would even be scrumptious with ice cream. Fact.)

P.S. Props to the commenter who predicted I would slather this on pizza. Total win.

Part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free

Best part of your week/weekend?

Double Dark Chocolate Doughballs

30 Apr

I know…it’s a sickness. I get fixated on things. Beans. Hummus. Doughballs. But in my defense — I think such obsessions really make one exercise some creativity; at first you only think there are so many ways to make hummus. And then you realize that beans and chocolate and peanut butter really do just *work*. And while my doughball flavors might not be the most unique (I haven’t really researched this, but feel it’s a fair assumption in the case of chocolate chip and peanut butter), the fact that they are vegan and gluten-free is. So. Here is one more (I’m not going to say, “one last,” because obviously that would be a lie) doughball variety to add to the growing collection. The best part? I have thrown these together twice in the past two days, and both times it took me about 15 minutes total. As in, mixing, shaping, baking. And at both gatherings, they were a hit!

Do you need further convincing? Let me break it down: chocolate + chocolate + fun shape + super fast + protein = … YES — that’s what it equals! Now go make these and enjoy your Saturday : )

2 C almond flour (you can easily make your own — yay!)
1/4 C cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt (feel free to use less)
1/3 C agave (or honey)
1/4 C coconut oil
1 1/2 Tb vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1/4 C (if desired, vegan) dark chocolate (I used chips, but a bar works just as well), finely chopped, or grated

1) Mix dry ingredients.
2) Mix wet ingredients.
3) Add wet to dry and stir with fork until thoroughly combined.
4) Shape dough into 12-14 small balls. (You may need to wet your hands, but for the most part I didn’t.)
[Avoid making joke about step 4]
5) Place onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350* for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

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More persuasion…

I don’t even actually like chocolate much (and never, ever, ever, evvver milk chocolate — sorry folks), but these. These I love. (And even my picky-eating dad hearted them. That is a feat, if I’ve ever seen one!) Speaking of parentals, mine kindly came to celebrate a big, special day with us (before you ask, no, I’m not pregnant), so I am off to soak up all the joy and love and laughter I can before they have to head home.

And maybe even more doughballs.

I hope you are having an equally wonderful, thankful weekend! Cheers friends!

P.S. I showed my out-of-the-technological-and-pop-culture-loop mom and dad one of my favorite youtube videos… We had such fun laughing with them. If you haven’t watched it, and need a smile (or snort), go to the end of this post. : )

What are you doing this weekend?

Cinnamon (Un) Sugar Dessert Hummus — With Sweet Potato Power!

29 Apr

Not going to lie… I meant to attempt this when I first made my other 3 dessert hummus recipes, but ultimately ran out of time and ingredients. So today, I actually followed through on my conception: something reminiscent of the cinnamon sugar toast I loved in my youth, but packed with nutrition. Dippable, dunkable, spreadable. Snack or dessert. Yum Town. It was definitely worth the wait! When I had the BFF Manfriend taste test it, he said it was like cinnamon frosting. Um…how can that be bad?! We loved it. This is perfect for topping oats (not only a boost of protein, but remember: it tastes like frosting, friends. Frosting.), toast, graham crackers, tortillas, apples, bananas, and pretty much anything that can otherwise be used as a vehicle to your mouth.

Like last time, I want to thank Evan at The Wannabe Chef for the inspiration! After I stumbled upon his dessert hummus, I knew I was in for it. As you can see from that last 3-recipe-post extravaganza — Evan…you’ve ruined me. It’s all hummus, all the time over here now. (Note: I just now saw he has since posted a snickerdoodle hummus, too!)

1 C cooked and well-rinsed white beans (if chickpeas, peel for smoother texture)
2 Tb cashew butter (or any natural nut butter, though flavor may vary)
1/2 C sweet potato puree (or pumpkin puree)
2 t vanilla
3 Tb agave, 100% maple syrup, or honey (I used a natural maple-flavored agave)
2 Tb cinnamon
sprinkle of salt

1) Place all but cinnamon into food processor (or blender) and whir it up until everything is smooth.
2) Add cinnamon (start with just 1 Tb at first if you are cinnamon-shy, adding more as you like) and continue to process.
3) Spoon into a bowl and serve. (Feel free to be real classy like me and drizzle just a little agave on top, and dash cinnamon for garnish. The simple things… The simple things.)

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More flavors coming soon…obviously. ; ) And do I need to tell you how healthy this is? Hellooo Protein!  Oh, and hey Fiber — didn’t see you there in all that deliciousness. Yo! Antioxidants! Didn’t know you were coming to the party — so glad you could make it! Cinnamon, you old anti-inflammatory, how you doin’ these days? (….Annnd SCENE.)

But seriously. This is awesome. If you’re wondering about the sweet potato puree, you can either nuke a sweet potato in the microwave (I don’t have one), bake it in the oven, or boil it on the stove. I boiled mine and processed it before adding other ingredients — it ended up being 1 small tater. Easy peasy!

(Part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday)

What are you doing to celebrate TGIF
(other than wishing ABC would bring the real TGIF back)?

Eating Healthy 105: The Simplest, Healthiest, Quickest Way to Make Dinner

22 Apr

I am so glad you all enjoyed Erin’s guest post! She is a wonderful person. <3

I have been learning a lot this trip. I cannot wait to share everything with you! Oh, and p.s…. I miss and love you! Seriously. I hate not having internet, because it means I can’t converse with you in the comments : (  And that is my favorite. Fo riz. In the meantime, though, I wanted to backtrack a little to the post from earlier this week. A commenter (read her story in the post) asked for a sample menu, and I wanted to dedicate a whole post to one of the easiest, fastest, healthiest, and most delicious methods I use for creating nutritious meals on the fly. I am sure many of you already do something similar, so if have extra tips, please leave them in the comments!

These are the basic steps I follow at least once a week for my 10-minute meals:
1. Take vegetables (make sure some are green) and chop them.
2. Saute them in a large pan with a couple tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, until just cooked, retaining a little crunch.
3. Add a healthy sauce.
4. Serve over brown rice, whole grain pasta, gluten-free pasta, quinoa, millet, or sweet potato.

Stir-frying was a skill I learned from my Dad: if you only have 5 minutes to throw together a meal, make a stir-fry. All the flavor, none of the time. It was one of the most comforting meals for me as a child, and still is. Dad keeps bags of frozen mixed vegetables in the freezer, while I tend to have more fresh produce on hand, as that’s cheaper for me here. It takes about 5 minutes to chop my veggies and 5 minutes to cook them. Bam. Dinner is served.

There is no perfect method, but here are some pointers:

- Be open to what you have on hand. If you think carrots, spinach, and tomato seems like a strange combo, just trust that you might be surprised. Be welcoming of challenges, and try to find something that will bring it together in a harmony you’ll enjoy. Which leads to…

- Break some rules. Not gonna lie, I am really, really good at this. My husband will attest to it; I like to be bad-a. For better or for worse. I skip “necessary” steps, I add too much spicing,  I put sweet with savory, I cut things in my hand instead of on a cutting board (don’t use me as a model, folks…). It makes cooking fun, and has nurtured a lot of creativity and kitchen success. It also used to totally confound my husband. He has since reformed deviated as well. And he has never cooked as well as he does now!

The first rule of Stir Fry Club: Do not talk about Stir Fry Club.

Just kidding. Talk about it. A lot.

- One rule to break with stir-fries? Change your sauce. Mix it up — you don’t have to be all about soy sauce or tamari, or even stick to an Asian flavor base. Get a little crazy and use homemade salad dressing instead. Or a healthy, jarred marinara. Or healthy curry sauce. Or pesto. Or salsa. Or toss some avocado or guacamole in (just be careful about amount if you’re trying to lose weigh). Or hummus. Or mustard (I think HEAB does this often too! My mustard homegirl. <3).

- Another rule-breaker: ditch the meat. It will save time, and can be a lot healthier. Use a can of rinsed and drained black beans or lentils instead! (Or cook your own – DIY coming soon.) I love to add peas for protein (betcha didn’t think I’d throw that in there, right? But believe it or not, they have a fair amount). My husband likes eggs scrambled into his (just break the eggs directly into the pan once the veggies are cooked). With these options, you will still get protein, and won’t have to hassle with cutting it, cleaning it, cooking it, and disinfecting afterwards. Plus, it’s cheaper : )

- Yet another rule-breaker: You don’t have to serve it over rice! (If you do, opt for brown rice.) Explore quicker-cooking and healthier options like quinoa, which is a complete protein, and ready in about 15 minutes. Other ideas are millet, barley (not GF, obviously), (gluten-free) pastas, even plain cooked oats! If you have a microwave (I don’t), just nuke a sweet potato and use that. There are so many options! Explore! Express yaself!

I hope this offers some ideas to those struggling with balancing their busy schedules, tight budgets, and healthy eating. If not, don’t worry…I have more things up my sleeve (I almost wrote “apron”, but realized that might be misconstrued as an advance…awkward).

What is the weirdest combination you have tried, that totally, magically worked? What rules do you break?

Miss you! Can’t wait to talk more soon! xoxo

Vegan Mango Lassi

11 Apr

If you like Indian food, chances are you already know what lassi is. A yogurt-based drink, lassi is usually made with fruit puree and sugar, but can also be savory. Mango is probably the most popular flavor, and once you taste this version, you might understand why. I didn’t like mangoes before I tried mango lassi. Now I heart them. A lot. Seriously. Jump on this trolley, friends. You won’t regret it.

I blame the sunshine. (J.K. Sunshine — don’t leave me! xoxo) With all the warmer weather we’re having (mixed in with the random snow or hail storm, of course), and mangoes on crazy sale everywhere I turn, I had to at least make a valiant effort at replicating the dairy-based lassi for a vegan version. I don’t eat soy, and I didn’t want to have to go through the process of making or buying coconut milk yogurt, etc. I try to keep it simple enough that anyone can try these recipes. A soy-free, dairy-free mango lassi is a true challenge. But I went for it. And…um… I totally lucked out. This was an all-out slam dunk win victory success triumph booyahhh moment.

My BFF Manfriend’s first sip response was, “Does this have yogurt in it?” Obviously, he was perplexed, because we don’t eat yogurt or drink milk. When I told him the ingredients, he was shocked; “That’s all?! Crazy! This is seriously bomb!” And you know what “bomb” means. It means…you better go make this. ; )

1 1/2-2 C frozen mango (start with 1 1/2, add more if your mango isn’t as flavorful)
1 C almond milk (I used vanilla unsweetened)
Juice of 1 lemon (or less)
Stevia (optional — for a sweeter lassi)

1) Place frozen mango and almond milk in a blender. Whir it up until it is smooth and thick.
2) Add 1/2 of lemon juice and blend. Taste and add more if desired.
3) Add additional mango and/or stevia if desired.

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The lemon is not vital, per se; you will still have a delicious drink. However, I added lemon juice to enhance the mild acidic bite, mimicking yogurt in a traditional lassi. I highly recommend using the lemon juice, but you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t ; ) It turns out very thick, like a yogurt smoothie, which I think is awesome! If you prefer it thinner, simply add more almond milk.

Part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays @ Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free

Do you have an old favorite drink or food that you have yet to adapt to your present needs?

(You never know, I might just take the work out of it and create a recipe for you…! :) )

Perfect Pesto — Vegan and Easy

9 Apr

I left you hanging in suspense at the end of this post, didn’t I? Well, I believe it’s with good reason. I know this is perhaps not the most unique of my recipes, but it is simple, made with whole foods, and tastes better than any prepared pesto that has ever graced my tongue. (Does anyone else feel awkward about the word “tongue”? Just me?) Also, it goes from ingredients –> pesto in about 3 minutes. Soo…

I find that having a special condiment on hand that can center a dish helps me to put meals together quickly and effortlessly. That said, if you’re looking to up the gourmet ante on your meal tonight, or quickly throw this together during the weekend so you can have a ready sauce convenient throughout the week, this is your recipe.

Here are some of the numerous ways to use pesto:

- Tossed into pasta
- Spread on toast
- Coating roasted vegetables
- Mixed into salads
- As a marinade
- As a dip (for pita chips, crackers, crudites, or pizza bread)
- Drizzled into soup
- As a sandwich condiment
- Mixed with hummus (but not this kind, heh heh)
- Tossed into any type of grain (millet, rice, etc.)
- Added to lentils
- With white beans
- In broth
- On pizza

Obviously, pesto welcomes experimentation! While most pesto contains expensive pine nuts (last time I looked they were $19/lb, no joke), and parmesan, I have always preferred to make it cheap and vegan ; ) I think you could also make this raw; I believe olive oil is not considered an orthodox raw food, so perhaps just substitute a small amount of avocado or raw oil (coconut?).

1/2 C walnuts
3 cloves garlic
small bunch fresh basil
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1) Coarsely chop garlic.
2) Add walnuts and garlic to food processor or blender. Process until crumbly.
3) Add basil and process until fairly smooth.
4) Add olive oil, process briefly (just until combined — too much will make the oil bitter), then salt and pepper to taste.

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I made this pesto to be one of three sauce topping for our socca pizzas when we watched the NCAA game this week with our friends. I can’t describe the wonder of this combination. The oil from the pesto gave a delicious crisp texture to the crust, and every bite was a balance of the juicy basil and hearty socca.

The other highlighted sauce was this tapenade – it was actually amazing on the crusts!

Action shots of both types of pizza being prepared, caught thanks to the BFF Manfriend:

What are you up to this weekend? Do you prepare food for the week ahead of time?