Escarole (Pronounced “Shkodole”, FYI) & Beans Inpsired Soup.

Let’s just start off with the very predictable comment on this weekends weather… oh. my. gosh. SNOW. More snow than I have ever cared to see at one time. But, I will say that seeing my busy city neighborhood completely quiet and shut down was pretty nice.

Thankfully we live on a main road that that lies perpendicular to two other main roads. Our friends Kiki & Cheech live on a one way on the street that is parallel and directly behind ours. That street does not get paved.  A bunch of our awesome friends cleared a path to their car, and through the street because Kiki is getting sort of close to the due date of their second kid; a boy. He and Jackson are gonna be buds.

Anyways, Saturday night  we were fortunate enough to be able to walk around the corner, and through that path they worked so hard to clear, and have quality time with some of our best friends! As Joe and I were making the familiar stroll down familiar streets, I couldn’t help but realize it was a completely different experience. No traffic. No noise. It was so still. Looking to the left down the long stretch of road that borders our street I could see two more people walking in the distance in the middle of the road. To the right there was a man walking along on his way. It made me wonder what life would be like if it was always like this. What if there weren’t so many cars that rushed by or crowded streets? What if we all had to walk every where we went? Was this what is was like back in the day? What would life be like? I liked the thought of it honestly. I guess it was just a really great change of pace in that moment.

Out of my head and back to reality we arrived safely and spent the evening communing, eating, and playing a game that is kind of like a cross between Catchphrase and Charades. It was amazing fun. We had so much fun that we went back Sunday morning to share breakfast, worship, and listen to a recorded sermon by our friend and lead pastor Justin Kendrick. It was City Church‘s first ever “Church on the Couch” since service was cancelled due to the weather. Nothing better than sharing a meal and having church in the living room with your closest friends. Pretty close to how the New Testament church did it! I must also add that one of my friends is gluten free, so for breakfast I made the best ever blueberry muffins  sans gluten by subbing oat flour for the wheat flour and they were a hit. Still completely amazing and the best ever vegan gluten free blueberry muffins.

Along with all of that was lots and lots and lots and LOTS of shoveling. I am happy to be pregnant, but am even more happy that I am pregnant because of the fact that I did not have to shovel. HA! Is that selfish? 😉 Man my friends and husband worked their butts off. The hubs didn’t go into work today, and yet more work had to be done un-burying  my car and our friends Teresa’s car that were parked at the top of our driveway. I thought it would be the perfect day to make a comforting pot of hot soup. I could not help but think of one my cute Italian grandma and mom prepared, and still prepare, often as I was growing up: escarole and beans. Only 1. I’ve never made it before. 2. I didn’t have escarole. 3. If I had escarole I wouldn’t want to clean it. One day I will actually make escarole and beans, but today I made a soup inspired by the idea of greens and beans. 🙂 (Is it just me or is it fun to say “shkodole”?! It just sounds better that way. If you don’t say it that way, you should.)

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c soy chorizo (You could use any of your favorite soy sausage, crumbled, or even crumbled tempeh if you prefer.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 c veggie broth (I used low sodium.)
2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 c packed kale, chiffonade (rolled up and sliced thin) (You could use any green of choice really: spinach, swiss chard, a combo, etc.)
1/2 c fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp sea salt (If using a higher sodium broth you may want to start with 1/2 tsp and add more if needed.)
fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Heat a large pot on medium heat. Drizzle oil, add onions and pinch of salt.
Once the onions begin to brown and turn translucent add the chorizo. Sautée until browned, about 5-6 minutes, then add the garlic. Sautée for another minute then add salt, pepper & veggie broth.
Cover, turn up heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling remove lid, reduce heat to a simmer and add in the beans.
Let the beans cook for 3 minutes then add in the kale or greens of choice. Once they have wilted stir in the basil.
Turn off the heat, cover and let the flavors meld for 10-15 minuted before serving. Unless you are ravenous, then eat it right away. 😉 Serve over quinoa, pastina, orzo, or some crusty bread.

Note: I used a spicy chorizo, but if you are not using a spicy protein you can add some crushed red pepper for a nice kick and added flavor.

Now I am going to enjoy the rest of this quiet rainy snow day with my hubby before it is somewhat back to the hustle and bustle tomorrow.

How are you all holding up after Nemo?? Any comfort food that’s been getting you through?

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Reason # 874382 It’s Easy Being Vegan…”Best Ever {Vegan} Blueberry Muffins”.

One of my favorite things to do is recreate yummy looking recipes to become its vegan counterpart.

It is my opinion that, if you give it the good old college try, you can be pleasantly surprised at how great things turn out vegan.

I am always up for that!

So, naturally, when I cam across a recipe for the most delicious home made blueberry muffins I had ever seen, but discovered they were loaded with butter (and a bit too much sugar for my liking), I set out to make them vegan. (Also, let’s face it; vegan or not, the general public in the U.S. could stand to live with less dairy & sugar in their diet.)

Outcome: I was not disappointed.

Complete. Deliciousness.

Best Ever Vegan Blueberry Muffins

recipe source: Adapted from A Cook’s Quest, “The Best Ever Blueberry Muffins“.

Streusel Topping

2 T white sugar
2 T brown sugar
1/3 cup oat flour flour (Grind old fashioned oats in a food processor or spice mill.)
2 Tbsp of whole old fashioned oats
Zest from one lemon
5 T melted coconut oil

Muffins
2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen, thawed & drained)
3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (to make gluten free sub oat flour. You can make your own by grinding up 2 1/2 c of gluten free oats in a food processor or spice/coffee grinder.)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 Tbsp of water)
4 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), melted (You can also use coconut oil here. note: If/when adding the melted coconut oil to the recipe it may begin to solidify, which is no big deal really, but just work quickly.)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup vegan buttermilk (1 cup of unsweetened almond or soy milk + 1 Tbsp of white or apple cider vinegar, whisked together til foamy.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
Mix streusel ingredients together with a fork until combined & set aside.Adjust oven rack to position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare standard muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray, liners, or if you are like me, make shift liners made out of parchment paper.

Prepare your flax eggs & set aside to thicken. Prepare buttermilk mixture & set aside.

Bring 1 cup blueberries, 1 Tbsp water,  and 1 tsp sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing the berries with your potato masher or fork several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced by about half.  This will take about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate medium bowl whisk remaining 3/4 c sugar, agave and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and well combined. Slowly mix in melted butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining 1 c blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be lumpy; do not over mix.)

Using a scoop (I used and ice cream scoop) or large spoon, divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Completely fill each cup. Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle streusel evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

I got 12 muffins out of this recipe.
My husbands response: "Eat your heart out McDonalds! I'll take a muffin from foodformyhouse any day..." #win

My husbands response: “Eat your heart out McDonalds! I’ll take a muffin from foodformyhouse any day…” #win

I am going to try it with strawberries next I think! You can use this recipe as a base & use any fruit you like.

Other Nutritional Info…for all the food & nutrition education junkies:

You may notice I cut some some of the sugar & substituted it with agave. Agave is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index. According to a comparison of agave vs. granulated sugar, white sugar has a glycemic index in the high 60’s, but agave generally scored under 30. It does have calories, but it is low-carb compared to regular sugar, which is why it is a good alternative for diabetics; it does not spike the blood sugar quickly. Also, agave is plant based & completely vegan. Some granulated sugars are filtered using animal bone char. For this recipe the granulated sugar I used was Bob’s Red Mill Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar. It contains more of the natural nutrients found in sugar cane than refined or processed sugars.

Familiar with Dr. Oz? He is pretty popular nowadays. His website provides a detailed explanation of the health benefits of coconut oil. I will let you read up on that on your own!

One of my friend Alayna‘s favorite desserts are home made lemon bars, which apparently would be really hard to make vegan. This just may be my next attempt! Anybody ever done it before??