Perfectly Perfect Kale Chips

Because making veggies into chips combines two of my favorite things!!!!

One of my favorite vegetables out there is kale. It is so rich in nutrients and so versatile. I was in Whole Foods this week and they were having a kale sale, so I picked some up with no real plan for what I was going to do with it. Last night lentil soup was on the menu and I wanted something with a crunch for a different texture to go with it, and when I spotted the kale in the fridge I immediately thought, “KALE CHIPS!”. 

(Here is the lentil soup recipe. Many people asked for the recipe when I posted a picture of our dinner! I posted it on my IG account [@foodformyhouse], but figured I’d link it here too.)

The chips came out perfectly crispy, and were so satisfying paired with the warm hearty soup. So, I figured since I loved them so much, and since I thought pairing them with soup was a fun idea, I want to share how I made them!

I really really love lacinato (or Tuscan) kale. It’s leaves are more flat than curly kale (making it more ideal for making chips, IMO), and it has bumps running throughout. I read it has the nickname “dinosaur kale” because it kind of looks like dinosaur skin. As far as flavor goes, it has a bit more of a milder, more delicate flavor than curly kale. Here is a picture so you know what I am talking about and can find it in the store:

Lacinato Kale

Lacinato Kale

Ok so what you need:

1 bunch of lacinato kale

olive oil

salt

pepper

garlic powder

That’s it. 

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. (The idea is to cook the kale low & slow which dries it out PERFECTLY!)

Line 2 sheet trays with tin foil & set aside.

Untie your kale bunch and separate the leaves from the thick stem in the middle, leaving them as long halves. You can cut them away or just run your pointer and middle finger down either side and tear them away. They don’t have to be perfect. As the stem gets closer to the broad top of the leaf it gets softer, so some leaves may be small enough where you can just leave the leaf whole and cut the thick end of the stem off. Put them in a colander and wash the leaves, then run them through a salad spinner to dry them well. You want them to be nice and dry which will help them crisp up nicely.

(side note: after you wash your leaves rinse the left over stems in the colander and then throw them in a freezer bag to freeze. Save all your veggie scraps throughout the week like this, then when you have a couple bags full toss all the scraps into a crock pot with some garlic cloves and bay leaves, cover with water and simmer all day to make your own veggie stock. Strain and store broth in the freezer and/or fridge! I never spend my $$$ on veggie broth anymore.)

Separate the leaves into 2 equal bunches on each sheet, drizzle each bunch with a small amount of olive oil, then salt, pepper & garlic powder all to taste. Toss with your fingers to coat evenly, then arrange the leaves on the tray so there is as little over lap as possible.

Stick the trays in the oven and bake for 75 – 90 minutes until the leaves are perfectly crisp.

voilà!

voilà!

I have to say that while my husband and I were filling up on a veggie soup, my parents and brother were eating hamburgers and I suggested putting the crunchy kale on their burgers, and they loved it!! So — for all you meat eaters out there, you can make these next time you make your burgers as a light side or burger topper too!

Kale, a veggie that can be loved by all. 😉

Enjoy!!!!

A (Perfect) Very Veggie Thanksgiving.

Since I have eliminated meat from my diet, holidays have always been a bit tricky. I mean, Thanksgiving pretty much revolves around the turkey in my family…you know, after the antipasto course, then that lasagna or manicotti, and then finally after the turkey soup. Meat and dairy overload. I decided right away to make myself something delicious and vegan to bring to my parents or my in laws, so that way 1. the expectation is not on them to make me something tasty, and 2. I wouldn’t look at my plate and think it was completely lame and feel left out.

Year number one of being a vegan on thanksgiving I made one of my favorite vegan recipes that I even make on non-holidays. It also happens to be on one of my favorite blogs: Oh She Glows (Vegan Recipes by Angela Liddon)!! The recipe is Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf. If Thanksgiving was a loaf, this would be it. 😉 My meat eating family enjoyed this also.

so yum

so yum!

Last year I was pregnant and saw an instagram post from nom yourself (Which, by the way, go follow her is you have not already. Your mouth will water all day long and you’ll be so inspired by her vegan creativity! @nomyourself) that featured Gardein Turk’y Cutlets and it looked so dang good that I decided then and there that’s what I’m making myself for Thanksgiving this year. It was perfect & even came with it’s own gravy. I loved stacking my bites…turk’y, gravy, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce. Not home made, but still an enjoyable option.

Simple, easy, tasty.

Simple, easy, tasty.

This is year 3 of a meatless Thanksgiving for me, and as soon as I saw this recipe I KNEW it was this year’s winner. A new blog I came across this year, and another favorite of mine, 86 Lemons, featured this recipe recently: Stuffed Squash with Cherry Apple Almond Couscous. I love the combination of cherry and almond, how the dijon really brings all the flavors together, and that this recipe uses couscous. You also really can’t go wrong with a stuffed squash on Thanksgiving! Can’t wait to share this one with my family this year.

Amazing flavors!

Amazing flavors!

These are just 3 options, out of SOOOOO many!!!

Here is a link for 37 vegetarian recipes if you are still looking for more.

Here is an amazing post from Oh She Glows giving tons of vegan options.

I also have a yummy soup and puree featuring a classic Thanksgiving veggie, parsnips.

About 4-5 years back I started a tradition of making a pumpkin trifle for Thanksgiving. It was such a hit, it is requested by multiple people every year. Last year I finally made a home made vegan version and I plan on making it this Monday for a Friendsgiving party we are attending. I am also going to do it refined sugar free this year and will definitely be posting the outcome!!!

Hope you all have a wonderful, thankful, blessed holiday, and that your hearts, as well as your plates, will be full!

A Weekend of Fall Flavored Brilliance.

This weekend I had two brilliant food ideas that utilized more fall festive food items I had stocked in the kitchen.

One: Dinner Friday night.

As you may remember, my husband is kind of obsessed with parsnips. I had pumpkin on hand and had been wanting to use it in a savory dish…so, I guess you could say lightning struck my brain and it hit me…pumpkin parsnip puree. This was the whole dish:

pumpkin parsnip dinner

Coconut milk infused rice, topped with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and of course the crowning glory – pumpkin parsnip puree.

A few people have asked me for a recipe, so I decided to blog it! Ok, so listen…I’m kind of the queen of just winging it in the kitchen when I am getting creative and don’t always measure; I eyeball and taste, eyeball and taste. BUT I have a pretty good idea of what I did here and did my very best with a recipe. It’s so yummy!

Ingredients:

For the rice:

approx. 1 Tbsp butter (I use organic earth balance buttery spread – coconut or canola oil would work too.)

2 cups dried brown rice

1 can lite coconut milk (full fat is fine if you desire or only have it on hand)

2 cups water

1 tsp salt

3 dried bay leaves

For the puree:

5-6 parsnips (I used one whole bag from Trader Joes.)

1 cup + 2 Tbsp plain pumpkin puree (Trader Joes organic is my fave.)

2 Tbsp plain non dairy milk

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt (start with 1/2 tsp, you can always add more)

3-4 grinds of fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried thyme (pinch it between your fingers to release more flavor before adding it!)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp maple syrup

For the veggies:

1/2 one large white onion, thinly sliced

8 oz package of white button mushrooms, sliced (baby bellas would work too)

2/3 of a 6 oz package of fresh baby spinach (about 3-4 cups I’d say) (frozen would work if you let it thaw completely then squeeze out extra liquid, then use 1.5-2 cups)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

First start the rice. Heat a medium sized pot over medium high heat and throw in the butter and rice. Stir it around to melt the butter and lightly toast the rice for 3-5 min. Add in the coconut milk, water, salt and bay leaf, cover and turn the heat up to high. Once its boiling turn the heat down to low until the water is absorbed. (Follow the cooking directions on the rice you have. If it calls for a higher ratio of liquid just add more water.)

While the rice is cooking add another medium sized pot to the stove filled half way with water. Add a pinch of salt, cover and turn the heat on high. Once the water is boiling add the peeled and diced parsnips. I let them boil for a few minutes then turn the heat down slightly to cook until they are fork tender (about 10 min or so).

While the rice and parsnips are cooking work on the veggies. Heat a cast iron skillet (or large skillet) over medium-medium high heat and pour in canola oil. Add the sliced onion and mushrooms to the skillet. You want the onions to caramelize and the mushrooms to brown a bit so do not add any salt yet. That will cause the veggies to release liquid and they won’t brown. So, give the onions and mushrooms a good 10 minutes or so until they get soft and get some color. Then add the garlic and the salt & pepper. If they seem to stick to the pan or the garlic starts to brown add a splash of water. Once the garlic has cooked for 30-60 seconds add the spinach and stir to incorporate. Let it cook until the spinach has wilted. Turn heat to low, drizzle with truffle oil, stir and let sit until ready to serve.

At this point your parsnips should be done, and your rice should be close to done, if not done. Drain parsnips and add them to a mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin and milk and mix with and electric mixer to combine and create a smooth mixer. Then, add remaining ingredients and mix again to combine. (A food processor would work great too, I may try that next time!)

When rice is done remove from heat, remove the bay leaves and fluff it with a fork.

To serve spoon some rice onto the plate, top with the veggies. I scooped the puree into a plastic baggy, snipped the end off and piped it around the rice and veggies! All of the components tasted so yummy on there own, but they were THE PERFECT combination for stacking bites. A little rice, a little veggies, a little puree. Serious perfection. The flavors went so well together!

Saturday morning is when brilliant idea #2 struck me: Coffee. I have been less than impressed with the coffee I bought on sale at the grocery store recently; so I thought, how could I jazz up the flavor of my coffee???

gb spice tea

Make use of this delightful seasonal gingerbread spice tea!!! I prepped my coffee maker to make a 4 cup pot of coffee, then cut open 2 of these tea bags and added it to the grounds, along with just a drop of vanilla extract. Honestly guys, the flavor rivaled that of any Starbucks seasonal beverage! SO good. It’s my new morning beverage addiction.

So there you have it. A weekend of fall flavored brilliance.

Coming up I am going to be posting about what vegans/vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving! It’s not all about the turkey! 😉 What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes??

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?

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??

Vegan Chocolate Chip “Oreo” Brownie Bars with a Holiday Twist!

My husband had his company Christmas party tonight, to which they do not invite spouses. hmph! LAME.

Anyway, I was sitting here, alone, eating some ginger snaps with almond milk & realized it’s been over a month since I’ve posted! (How does that happen?!)  AND that I promised an amazing veganized recipe for chocolate chip oreo brownie bars that can easily be made with a holiday twist!

I am definitely in the Christmas spirit since we put our cute little tree up a couple weeks ago, and went into NYC this past weekend to see the tree in Rockefeller Center, as well as eat lunch at Serendipity and stroll through both Central & Bryant Park.

Hubby at Serendipity

Hubby at Serendipity

Us at the tree in NYC...

Us at the tree in NYC…

I personally like our tree better. :)

I personally like our tree better. 🙂

Back to the baked goods…

I for one love new dessert recipes, as well as switching it up during the holidays from the typical cookie or pie that usually appears on the table.

I found the original recipe for the goodies to follow from Kevin & Amanda, then made the appropriate changes to make it vegan, and maybe a liiiiiitle bit healthier.

Holiday Chocolate Chip “Oreo” Brownie Bars

First off, preheat oven to 350 degrees. And let me just say right off that it may seem like a lot to make brownie & chocolate chip cookie batter for 1 dish, but it’s super easy, goes super fast & is totally worth it! Now go for it & let everyone tell you how amazing you are.

For the Brownies: (altered from here.)

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1.5 cups sugar (I use raw (turbinado) sugar pulsed in a spice mill to make it finer)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup water

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder & salt. Add in the water, apple sauce, oil, & vanilla, then mix until well combined. Set aside & prepare chocolate cookie batter.

For the Chocolate Chip Cookies: (altered from here.)

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegan margarine at room temp. (Earth Balance has a variety using veggie, soy or coconut oils)

1/2 cup organic brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar (again, I use raw sugar pulsed in spice mill)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup mashed banana

12 oz dairy free chocolate chip (I use Trader Joes brand usually)

Directions:

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate large bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and banana. Add the dry ingredients to this and stir until combined well.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Holiday Twist!

Heck yes.

Heck yes.

OK – To Assemble:

Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper and press the chocolate chip cookie dough into the pan to form the bottom layer.

Next, place the Candy Cane Joe Joe’s in rows over the chocolate chip cookie dough. You should get 4 rows of about 7 cookies.

Finally pour the brownie batter over the whole thing.

Cover the pan with tin foil & bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil & then bake for 15-25 minutes more until fully cooked. You do want it to be nice & fudgey though!

Let them cool before cutting so it sets nicely & enjoy.

so. stinkin. tasty.

so. stinkin. tasty.

I am sure that your family & friends will LOVE this & you even more for making it!

Tomorrow is ultrasound day to reveal the gender of our little one, but we are going to have the tech put it in an envelope & open it on Christmas morning for memorable Christmas surprise. I have a fun plan to reveal the gender to our families that day and will be sure to share it with you all.

Hope you take time to enjoy this season amidst all the holiday preparations!!

Tuesdays…and Eggplant Basil Curry.

Tuesdays are busy.
I’m typically up around 6:15-6:30 in the morning and have about an hour of devotion time – reading my bible, prayer, worship, journaling, drinking tea…you know, all that good stuff. Then I’m off to work around 9 until 4:15 usually, get home, make dinner, head to the yoga studio for 5:30, clean and check people in, take class from 6:30-8, tidy up, head home, and sit down to eat dinner around 8:30 or 8:45 with the man of my dreams. Then it’s just kind of random tasks or wind down time until bed. Phew.
I’m sure you all know what it’s like! 🙂
I say all that to say, Tuesdays are typically quick and easy meal days. But that doesn’t mean it’s gotta skimp on taste!
A while back Joe & I went on a date night to Thai Pan Asian, a restaurant in New Haven, and I had an eggplant curry dish that I LOVED…and devoured. I love curry, remember??
This past Tuesday I thought I’d try my hand at crafting a dish with some ingredients from that date night meal.
I had an hour from when I got home from work to cook, clean up a bit, change, and be at yoga; so I chose to serve it over quinoa because it cooks a lot faster than rice. Other than that, my plan was keep it a simple, one skillet process that is still yummy. End result: success.
Eggplant Basil Curry with Quinoa
serves 4-5
Ingredients:
For quinoa:
1.25 c dry quinoa
2.5 c water
For curry:
Olive oil for pan
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 of large eggplant, or about 3 c or so, 1 inch cubes
One 15oz can chick peas, drained & rinsed
2 hot house or beefsteak (so ironic) tomatoes, cut into medium chunks
2-3 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp of crushed red pepper (1/2 for mild spice)
2 Tbsp of agave or honey
1/4 c veg broth
14 leaves fresh basil, chopped (see my favorite way of cutting leafy things…)
Directions:
Heat a large cast iron skillet, or other large skillet to medium high (7 or 8) heat.
Add oil and toss in eggplant and salt. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is browned and starts to become tender.
*Start quinoa while eggplant is cooking.* (read package for instructions, but generally: put quinoa & water in a pot, cover with lid & bring to boil. Once boiling turn heat to low & simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff. )
Stir in chick peas. Cook for a couple minutes then add tomatoes, 2 Tbsp curry, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, agave or honey & veggie broth.
Turn the heat up to high and let liquid come to a boil for 3 minutes then turn heat to low. Let it simmer on low for about 8-10 minutes until tomatoes are rendered down & eggplant is soft but not mushy.
Turn off heat, stir in basil and let the flavors meld for a few minutes. Taste to see if you need more curry or salt and add as your taste buds so desire. Then, serve over quinoa and enjoy!

Scrumptious – that’s a good word.

I am trying to get better at the whole measuring thing because I’m typically winging it, or eye balling it and going by taste!!!
I offer my experiences and encourage you to experiment, have fun and make it your own!
So, yes, Tuesdays are busy days…but being in the kitchen, preparing a meal for my husband and I to enjoy, grounds me again to gratitude in the present moment, and brings me back to that thing called joy.
Maybe your busy day is Monday or Wednesday, or every day these days. Find joy in the little things. See the every day moments you’ve become tired of in a new light. Life suddenly becomes more simple.
And at the end of the day, there’s always a simple plate of eggplant curry to delight you along the way.

A Few of My Favorite Things.

Happy 4th of July my friends!

July has always been my favorite month. I was reminiscing about this to my hubby as we were driving through some back roads near our home town a couple of days ago.

For one, I absolutely LOVE summer. Sunshine, waves crashing, sand beneath my feet, a cool breeze blowing through my hair…it all rejuvenates my soul.

It is the season for picnics, the char of grill flames, bonfires and fireworks. Utter delight.

And it also helps that my birthday is July 6th. 🙂

Every single year growing up my parents had a HUGE 4th of July party that doubled as a birthday party for my twin, Erica, & me. I am pretty sure that every human being that my parents ever had contact with came to this shin dig. Even family from out of state – Long Island, Staten Island, California, etc – would come. It was so exciting to see everyone, and it became such a highlight of the summer.

As you can imagine, Erica and I were in our glory. We had a massive in-ground pool and decent sized back yard, and we would run around and play with our friends and cousins like party animals. There was always a clown, or some form of entertainment, that undoubtedly picked us out of the crowd to be an assistant, or make us a balloon animal because we were the birthday girls. It may not seem that thrilling now, but back then it was a kid’s dream!

As the sun went down my daddy prepared an awesome fireworks show. One year he destroyed the grass in our front yard with “The Waterfall”. I just remember a long wire being tied from one tree to another one across the yard, and a colorful blast of glittery sparks cascading down to the ground for what seemed like FOREVER. It was a hit with everyone, except for maybe my mommy when she saw the big patch of dirt that was left where lush green grass once grew. Worth it.

These are such fond memories. Looking back now I understand why a love for summer, and this month especially, is engrained into my being! I look forward to making special memories like these with my husband and the children we will have.

Today, we are going to be celebrating this day at a picnic with some dear friends from our church community, City Church. The hosts, Joe & Nancy, dominate on the grill. They make a mean burger & grilled pizza! They were also kind enough to provide veggie burgers…yay!

As a vegan, especially just starting out, it can be intimidating to go out to typical functions that are meant to be enjoyed with loved ones. Maybe vegetarian or vegan options are not always provided, which leaves you worrying about what you can or can’t eat.  Or, you end up eating something you really don’t want to, then potentially start feeling guilty about it. Who needs a damper like that getting in the way of fun and making fond memories?!

I have learned to not set myself up for failure and stay prepared. It may seem simple, but you’d be surprised!

Amongst all of my other loves is my love for home made veggie burgers. There are a couple veggie burger recipes that I adore, one of which I am sharing with you today. When ever I make them I wrap 2 individually in plastic wrap and throw them in the freezer so they will be ready to take with me when needed. This has been a life saver multiple times already this summer!

Now, this recipe is super simple & super easy – whether you’ve been in a hospital for 7 hours and need a quick dinner, or want a tasty veggie burger to take to take to a picnic, it’s a winner.

Puttanesca Inspired Veggie Burgers

(recipe adapted from Isa Chandra’s Quinoa Puttanesca)

Makes 6 Burgers

Ingredients

1 c cooked quinoa

2 cups oat flour (old fashioned oats + food processor = oat flour.)

1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, pureed in food processor (chick peas work fine too.)

1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax meal + 3 Tbsp water, whisked together)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c kalamata olives, sliced

1/4 c capers

1 c crushed tomatoes (+ some for topping, optional)

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp marjoram

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp if you don’t so much care for spice)

2 tsp fennel seeds

Directions

Add all ingredients – except the crushed tomatoes – into a large mixing bowl and use hands to combine until incorporated.

Once incorporated add 1/2 c of crushed tomatoes and combine with hands. You want it to be kind of like the consistency of chop meat, so slowly add as much of the remaining crushed tomato as necessary to get a mixture that is moist, but slightly sticky & able to hold the shape of a burger.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat, drizzle with olive oil and mold 6 patties while the pan heats up.

Cook the patties for about 6 minutes or so on each side, or until they have a nice brown.

Serve on a delicious bun of your choice & enjoy!

For toppings I enjoy warm crushed tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, fresh basil leaves, lettuce & a pickle on the side!

dee-licious.

Great news – they taste even better on the grill – so get out there and fire it up! 😉

What fun traditions do you & your family have? Do you have any tricks or tips that help you stay prepared for picnics and BBQs?

Have fun at all your holiday festivities!!

I Witnessed a Baby Being Born

I witnessed a baby being born. Yup. Did.

When? Two weeks ago now, June 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm, to be exact.

I had the amazing privilege of supporting my twin sister, Erica, as she and her husband, Ebiel, welcomed their 3rd child, Lera Emery, into this world.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I’ve seen tons of “A Baby Story” on TLC, and have had semi-detailed conversations with my friends about their labors and deliveries, but still. When it comes down to it, what is it like to be IN the room; to be inches away from a woman pushing out a child? It’s one of those things you can’t really be fully prepared for.

So, I gave myself the job of being the best. encourager. ever. Whatever was happening, I was going to be nothing but encouraging, and do everything in my power to make my sister happy and as comfortable as she could possibly be. I think it went incredibly well. But that’s just me. I wasn’t the one in labor. 😉

It wasn’t an incredibly long process. I arrived at the hospital around 3:30 pm, met my sister and Ebiel in their room around 4:30 pm, and by 7:57 pm there was a new, beautiful, little person in the room.

Lera Emery moments after birth!

Such a cutie.

Some highlights:

  • I, oh so sneakily, got my sister some crackers and peanut butter when she was technically not suppose to eat any solids. She was hungry!
  • In an effort to help a sister out, I was holding a leg while reaching back to prop up her upper body. The nurse told me I would be sorry the next day if I did that. “Pick one: leg or back.” In my head I was like “pssssh lady, I work out. I got this.”  But, in reality, I respected her professional opinion and opted for the leg. Haha.
  • At one point I had my knee on the bed, and it definitely was in some kind of bodily fluid. My reaction: Whatevs. She’s my identical twin. We lived in each others’ bodily fluids for 9 months. Roll with it.
  • Oh my gosh PLACENTA. Seriously it looked other worldly. The doctor was standing next me as one of the midwives had her hands in it, scoping it out. I turned to him and said, “What the heck is that, and what is she doing?” He explained that that’s where the baby lived (midwife then lifts it up and stretches it out to reveal my niece’s past living quarters. Thanks.), and the other side was where it was attached to my sister (midwife turns it around and points out said area). They just check it out make sure nothing  weird is going on inside of it. That was better than any biology class experience I’ve ever had.
  • Seeing this:

    New life; Mami & Papi holding their bundle for the first time. Precious.

Oh, and the hospital food was not too shabby either.

Curry tabbouleh, falafel & veggie soup. Good fuel.

I know, I totally built up your appetite right??

It was honestly the most beautiful and miraculous thing I have ever experienced.

I am so grateful to have shared that moment with my sister and brother-in-law, and that I will have that special memory to forever share with my sweet Lera girl.

Being a Ti Ti, as I am so endearingly called, is one of the greatest joys of my life. Our nieces and nephews are such little treasures.

One day, when I am a mom, I will be more prepared for such an honorable role because of them. I thank them so much for that. And for all the ways they fill this life of mine.

Leilani, Lyric & Lera. Little loves.

After being in a hospital for 7 hours, we needed a quick and easy go to meal. Stay tuned for that recipe! 🙂

Sweet Tooth Secret Weapon

It happens to all of us…some more frequent than others…but, sooner or later, it happens…the attack of the sweet tooth. Dun-dun-dun.

Maybe you are like me, and chocolate – luscious, dark, pure, delicious chocolate – makes you weak in the knees.

It is challenging being health conscious and vegan to find quality, wholesome & dairy free chocolate. Not to mention, that typical store bought chocolate is loaded with processed sugar, milk fat, preservatives & other processed ingredients.

Question – Do you ever wonder why you urgently crave sweets or chocolate? Do you ever wonder what the heck is going on in your body when you indulge in the sweet treat your co-worker brought in for an office birthday, or splurge on the $10 box of candy at the movie theater and chow down? I do. So, being my curious self, I did some research, and here’s what I discovered:

Serotonin is the body’s natural feel-good brain chemical. Sugar raises the serotonin level in our brain, which causes a chemical high mentally, and that, in turn, results in a lifted mood. Ever have a rough day and demand chocolate like a baby screams for a pacifier? Just me? Anyways…

This is a momentary high! Eventually excess sugar consumption, especially processed white and brown granules, and varieties of glucose, fructose & sucrose, will throw the body’s natural serotonin balance off, and even lessen the body’s natural production of serotonin, as your brain becomes addicted to getting the serotonin high artificially. No thank you. (source)

Aside from this, there is a laundry list of negative effects that refined sugar has on the human body, including: speeding the aging process, free radical formation in the bloodstream, suppression of immune system, depleting the body’s natural nutrient stores, toxemia in pregnancy, fueling cancer cells & much, much more. (source)

Someone help a girl conquer the attack of the sweet tooth with something that won’t ravage my body!!

Enter: CHOCOHOLISTIC.

You may have heard that I have a knack for winning free things lately. And you may remember that I attended the CT Veg Fest last weekend, and that my favorite item was Chocoholistic. Well, guess who won a free box of Chocoholistic chocolates…Me! And y’all should know more about it.

Kenzie Harrick, creator of KHolistic & Chocoholistic, sent me a sweet handmade package of her delicious chocolates, and I was THRILLED to receive it!

Cute little package.

They come 9 in a pack…some were obviously eaten at this point. Couldn’t resist.

Kenzie describes her product this way: “The only chocolate you can eat everyday that will improve your health while you eat it!” Conquering a sweet craving, while boosting my health? That is my kind of chocolate.

Savor, I will. Or did, actually.

Chocholistic redeems the true value of chocolate. As we can learn from Chocoholistic’s website, chocolate eaten the right way can powerfully support the immune system, be anti-aging, be a happy “medicine”, support weight loss, provided non-stimulant energy, and promote longevity! These chocolates are raw, herbal, organic, sugar free, nut free, soy free, dairy free, corn free, wheat & gluten free, non-GMO and are chock full of superfoods. Some of the ingredients include:

Cacao – supports heart health, relieves stress, relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure, has anti-inflammatory functions, & is highest food in antioxidants, which boosts immune system and fights aging.

Chia Seeds – great Omega 3:Omega 6 ratio, supreme energy food, contributes to mental health, bone health, breast health & prenatal health.

Coconut Oil – antimicrobial oil that kills unwanted bacteria, viruses & parasites, a fast absorbing fat that does not affect the waistline, lowers cholesterol & triglycerides, provides energy & boosts immune system.

Passion Flower – soothing mood booster that calms anxiety, promotes happiness, helps eliminate stress & promotes good sleep.

Reishi – medicinal mushroom known for outrageous immune support & helping the body return to homeostasis so it can operate at optimal efficiency. It has a variety of vitamins & minerals. (source)

Could you tell they are hiding all that good stuff in there?! Sneaky buggers.

Wondering how they taste? YUMMY. You bite into the handmade morsel and it hits your tongue with the deep taste of pure cacao, with hints of herbal notes and the perfect amount of sweetness. It also has an enjoyable slight grittiness that adds a perfect texture. It pairs well with morning coffee, afternoon tea, wine after dinner…and anything anywhere in between.

I so enjoyed experimenting with different ways of enjoying this chocolate treat. Here are some of my faves:

In a smoothie!! (2 bananas, 1.5c blueberries, 2c almond milk, 1c spinach, 1tbsp flax seed meal, 2 coarsely chopped Chocoholisitic chocolates and blend for 2 smoothies!)

Grainy cracker topped with almond butter and shaved Chocoholistic chocolate. Fun late night snack.

Keep a look out for more from the talented Kenzie Harrick & Chocoholistic…like the new Goji Superberry flavor!

Oh, and you’re welcome for your new sweet tooth secret weapon. 🙂

Do you have any fun healthy treats that you go to when you are in need of the sweet?? Do share, friends!