Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies with Dark Chocolate Drizzle (Vegan)

I've always loved molasses cookies. Soft, chewy, spicy, they are the ultimate winter cookie. My brother used to live down the street from this cute little bakery called Ginger Betty's and as I'm sure you can imagine they sold all types of gingerbread cookies. Among the largest population of gingerbread men and women I've ever seen there can be found a stack of the thickest, chewiest molasses cookies. They were no ordinary amazing-looking molasses cookies, no, they are drizzled in dark chocolate. You know how sometimes you don't even realize something is missing something until you see the new version of that something and you suddenly find yourself thinking, "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?". Well, that's exactly what I thought when I saw those cookies.

On Wednesday Sam and I flew into Boston to begin our ten day vacation visiting my family for the holidays. The trip is flying by so far. I can't believe it's already Saturday. Today we're hanging out with my sister and her adorable dog in their New Hampshire cottage before heading back down to Rhode Island in a couple days. It's been a lot of fun hanging out with the Fam. It's been awhile since we've all been together, especially for Christmas. And it's been really great having Sam around this year!

And since I am in New England where I first discovered these delicious cookies I thought it was only fitting to post them today. I found this recipe last year and it exactly the type of cookie I was looking for. I only needed to make minor changes to get it absolutely perfect. This recipe is so good that I had a friend last year buy me all the ingredients so that I could keep baking him more and more cookies. 

Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies with Dark Chocolate Glaze
Slightly adapted from Lunch Box Bunch
  • 2 cups whole spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2-2 tablespoons ground ginger (depending on how spicy you like them)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil, softened
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegan cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
Makes 2 dozen cookies.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the coconut oil, molasses and vanilla. Mix the wet mix into the dry until the dry ingredients are completely mixed in. Place the dough on wax paper and form into a log, wrap the paper around it and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap the dough and slice it about every half inch and then cut those slices in half. Take the half circles of dough and roll them in to balls and put to the side. Place the cane sugar in the bowl and roll each ball of dough in the sugar and then place the dough on a silpat or greased baking sheet. Flatten the dough slightly. These cookies don't spread too much, I easily fit a dozen on each sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, the cookies should still feel soft when you pull them from the oven, they will harden as they cool.

Allow the cookies to cool on a sheet of wax paper at least 15 minutes. In the meantime, you can begin melting the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler or as I usually do, a heat safe bowl over a sauce pan 1/3 of the way filled with water. Be sure to stir frequently so that the chocolate doesn't burn, it also speeds up the process. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, use the spoon the drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden, to expedite this you can place them in the fridge. You will most likely have some chocolate left over, but I'm sure you'll find a way to put them to good use.

Once the chocolate has hardened serve with a glass of your favorite kind of eggnog. Here are some homemade recipes I've been wanting to try:
Vegan Eggnog-Soy Free -Maple Spice
You Gotta Love Raw Vegan Egg Nog -This Rawsome Vegan Life
Healthy Vegan Eggnog -A Baking Girl

Do you have a good homemade vegan eggnog recipe? If so, please share below!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hazelnut Biscotti (Vegan)

Happy Monday! It seems like it's been forever since I've posted a new recipe. I was busy in the kitchen this past week, unfortunately making a bunch of flops and the experiments that did come out well I managed to get horrible photos of (curse the sun setting so early and leaving me no natural light!). Fortunately, I have an awesome boyfriend who surprised me by building me a photo box! So between that and the Ottlite he bought me, I can take well-lit pictures day or night! Which is great because once I make something it doesn't stick around for long, I don't normally have the luxury of waiting until the next day to take the picture. I have to maintain a now or never mentality. I don't mean any of this as a complaint, I take it as a compliment that my food rarely lives to see the morning light.

Anyway, moving on. I love making biscotti. I'm not exactly sure why, I've always just found it fun. So when I was trying to come up with a Christmas gift to give my boss, I figured what better to give the ultimate coffee lover than biscotti? (I'm also giving he and his wife a bottle of my homemade vanilla extract). I decided to keep with a simple and classic biscotti. Sometimes around the holidays you get so weighed down with such strong flavors it's nice to have something that doesn't overwhelm your senses and of course, pairs perfectly with your morning coffee. For this recipe I again adapted it from A Baking Girl's recipe for her cranberry biscotti. It's just such a great basic recipe! I look forward to many more adaptations! These biscotti are deliciously crunchy and taste fantastic on their own or dipped in a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate. 

Hazelnut Biscotti
Adapted from A Baking Girl
  • 3 cups whole spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar (cane sugar will work as well)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
Makes one dozen.
 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a second bowl, mix the sugar, applesauce, vanilla and coconut oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until just combined. Fold in the hazelnuts.
 Turn the dough onto a baking sheet and form the dough into a flat log that's about 4 inches tall and 1/2 inch thick. Using a butter knife, score the lines of what will be the individual cookies (about every 1/2 inch or so). Bake for 25 minutes.
 Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Allow the dough to cool for 5 minutes then cut the cookies along the score lines and place them on their sides, cut side down. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown, then flip the cookies and bake another 5-10 minutes or until hard and crunchy.
 Allow to cool, then share with a friend over your favorite type of coffee.

What is your favorite holiday beverage?
I'm partial to peppermint mochas or peppermint hot chocolates, heavier on the mint and light on the chocolate.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Raw Brownies with Chocolate Pepppermint Glaze (Vegan, Gluten Free)

I love mint and chocolate together. It's quite possibly my favorite flavor combination. I had been wanting to make a peppermint brownie recipe for awhile now and finally got around to it last week. My original plan was to make it from my nut butter brownie recipe using almond butter instead of peanut butter and adding peppermint extract. But when I went to make them I was suddenly inspired to make them raw instead and I am so glad I did. 'Cause guys, these brownies, they're good.

Plus they're made with only wholesome ingredients. Nuts, dried fruit, oats, cacao and coconut oil. It's a brownie you can feel good about. Yup, I just said that. This is a healthy brownie that does not taste like crap. And don't even think about skimping and leaving out the glaze. It's what makes it, plus that's where all the mint flavor is. So do yourself the favor, take the five extra minutes and dirty a couple more dishes and make that glaze. You deserve it.

Raw Brownies with Chocolate Peppermint Glaze
Makes 1 loaf pan.

For the brownie:
-2 cups raw pecans
-1 cup rolled oats
-8 dates
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-Pinch of sea salt
-2-3  cacao

Place the pecans and oats in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a uniform consistency, it should look like a coarse flour. Add in the dates, vanilla, sea salt and cacao and pulse until it creates a sticky dough.  Scoop out the dough and place it in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Press the dough firmly until it evenly covers the pan. Place it in the freezer. Time for the glaze!

For the glaze:
-1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
-2 tablespoon raw agave
-1 1/2 tablespoon cacao
-1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients until they are evenly combined. Remove the brownies from the freezer. Slowly and evenly pour the glaze over the brownies, use a rubber spatula to even it out if necessary. Return brownies to the freezer, be sure they are on a flat surface otherwise all your glaze will end up in one side. Allow brownies to chill for 15-20 minutes or until the glaze has hardened. Remove from freezer a minute before serving to allow it to thaw slightly. Enjoy your brownie guilt free. Just try not to eat the whole pan, but if you did it wouldn't be the end of the world.

What's your favorite flavor combination?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Vegan Banana Bread Revisited

Happy Tuesday Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend and a fantastic Thanksgiving! My holiday was great, I spent it in the country with Sam's family. His aunt has a beautiful ranch about an hour south of us. We went home that night with a dozen fresh eggs from her chickens, some of her homemade green salsa, at least four pounds of potatoes and a ton of bananas that Sam's grandmother brought. Like, a lot of bananas.

I took this picture after I had already made several loaves of banana bread.
What better way is there to use up a bunch of overripe bananas than to perfect my banana bread recipe? So that is what my weekend consisted of mostly. I even tried making some vegan, gluten-free banana bread, but it just didn't come out right. I have the hardest time baking with coconut flour. I don't know what my problem is. 

Anyway. You may remember I posted my recipe for vegan banana bread back a few months ago. But I posted that from Colorado and the bread didn't rise correctly. Baking at high altitude is not fun. It's frustrating trying to figure out if the recipe is off because the measurements are off or if it's just because you're thousands of feet higher than you normally are. Hence the number of raw recipes I posted while living in Colorado (like this one, this one and this one). I knew my recipe for banana bread was good from the countless times I had made it down at sea-level, but I just didn't like having such flat looking bread in my pictures when I knew that wasn't a true representation of what the bread was like. My initial plan was just to update the photos on the post, but I figured while I had all the bananas I could hope for at my disposal, I might as well experiment a little and perfect the recipe.

After all my experimenting I was very encouraged to find that I really did have a great recipe and it really didn't need to be tweaked too much at all. So I basically ended up just recreating that same recipe, but with some of my new favorite ingredients and simplified it so it only takes one bowl. Less dishes to clean up afterwards is always a good thing.

Vegan Banana Bread
  • 3 Large Overripe Bananas
  • 1/4 Cup Unrefined Coconut Oil, Softened (melted is fine too)
  • 2/3 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups Whole Spelt Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flaxseeds
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
Makes 1 loaf.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas with coconut oil; mix in sugar then the almond milk and vanilla. Add the flour, flaxseeds, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the bowl and mix until combined. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly and the top feels slightly firm. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

-As always feel free to mix in whatever you feel like... chocolate chips, nuts, cinnamon, coffee, shredded coconut, berries....the list goes on...

-This recipe comes out fine without being too dry if you choose to leave out the coconut oil, but I highly suggest adding it. I can't remember what it is...baking soda? bananas? flax seed? something in this recipe mixed with coconut oil gives it a buttery flavor that shouldn't be missed. Plus, coconut oil is good for you :-)

How was your Thanksgiving?
What's your favorite "mix-in" for banana bread?

Oh! P.S.- I have a killer banana ice cream recipe coming your way soon. My other favorite way to use up overripe bananas!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pecan and Craisin Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dijon Dressing (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Can you believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving?! I saw that tomorrow is also the first day of  Hanukkah. I'm not Jewish, but I think it's pretty awesome that those two holidays are falling on the same day and won't again for more than 70, 000 years. Crazy!

I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with Sam's extended family this year and I was asked to bring a salad. I knew I wanted to make something simple because let's be honest, no one counts down the days til Thanksgiving for the salad. I had a rough idea of what exactly I wanted to put in it, but it seemed too simple, incomplete almost. That is until I found this recipe on the Huffington Post's website. It was exactly what I was looking to make, but with the addition of the perfect dressing to tie it all together. Earlier today I prepped the dressing and the pecans so that I could try out the salad to make sure I wasn't bringing something tomorrow that would taste less than delicious. And man, oh man is this good. As soon as I finished eating the salad that I used in these photos I immediately wanted more. You can be sure that I am counting down the hours to when I can eat more of it!

This salad comes together in less than fifteen minutes and features the holiday flavors that we all love while still leaving you with room for the mashed potatoes and stuffing. For the recipe click this link to the Huffington Post's website:

***Note the recipe on the website is for a lot of salad, so if you're expecting a smaller crowd you may want to minimize the amount. I decided to only go with a pound of spinach and adjust the amounts of the other ingredients from there.

I hope those of you celebrating the holidays this weekend have a wonderful time with family and friends!
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!

Do you usually eat salads at holiday meals?
What types of salads do you like to have?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pumpkin Biscotti (Vegan)

I follow a lot of really great blogs that are constantly inspiring me both in the kitchen and in life (click the link on the left for a full list). Last week I stumbled upon a new blog: A Baking Girl. I instantly loved Rossi's site and all her delicious-looking recipes. One recipe for Cranberry Biscotti stuck out to me particularly. Biscotti are one of those things that I love and always forget about (which seems ridiculous since I make coffee for a living and coffee and biscotti are BFFs). I hadn't made any in years and I certainly had never made them vegan.

I also wanted to make something pumpkin because, well, it's pumpkin season and I'm a food blogger so it just seemed like something I should do. I had tried several recipes (scones, chia pudding, ice cream, bars...), but nothing ever tasted right. (Turns out it was the type of pumpkin I was using, or at least I can assume that since as soon as I switched the pumpkin everything I made tasted great). I had 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree left when I stumbled upon Rossi's biscotti recipe which just so happened to call for 3/4 cup of applesauce. Hmmm... I bet I could switch out the applesauce for pumpkin and have pumpkin biscotti, I thought. And Voila! That's exactly what happened. 

Pumpkin Biscotti
Adapted from A Baking Girl
  • 3 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 3/4 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil, Melted
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds, Shelled
Makes 8 Biscotti.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In a second bowl, mix the sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla and coconut oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until just combined. Mix in the pumpkin seeds. 
Turn the dough onto a baking sheet and form the dough into a flat log that's about 4 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. Using a butter knife, score the lines of what will be the individual cookies (about every 1/2 inch). Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Allow the dough to cool for 5-10 minutes then cut the cookies along the score lines and place them on their sides, cut side down. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown, then flip the cookies and bake another 5-10 minutes or until hard and crunchy. 
Allow to cool and then serve with your favorite hot beverage. 

What's your favorite cold weather drink?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Spicy Roasted Green Tomato Spread (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Happy Monday All! (Although, by the time you read this it will most likely no longer be Monday...). I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Mine was very relaxing and ended with Sam and I going to Waterloo to check out a free acoustic set that The Head and the Heart was playing. It was super chill and they're really talented and fun to listen to. What was really exciting is that we finally found a copy of the movie Once there which we have been looking for for probably over a year now. I know, I know we could have looked online, but that felt like cheating somehow.

But about this spread. It's delicious. And spicy. And the perfect sidekick to your favorite sandwich. Or use as salsa on your burrito. We used it on sandwiches paired with a black bean spread that Sam made; very tasty.  Really the possibilities are endless and it's past my bedtime so I'm going to leave it at that and let you creative minds use this spread as you see fit.

Spicy Roasted Green Tomato Spread
  • Approximately 2 Cups of Green Grape Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 1-2 Spicy Peppers of your choice, Diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prep your veggies and place in a pan lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until tomatoes start to look shriveled and golden. Transfer veggies to a food processor and pulse until you've reached the desired consistency. Then spread it on whatever you like however you like. And as always enjoy!

What's your favorite condiment?
Who is your favorite band to see live?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vanilla Cranberry Chia Jam (Vegan, Gluten Free)

My original plan for today was to make a bunch of recipes, photograph them and get them ready to blog throughout the week. This is how my plans always start; thought-out, organized, efficient... but then something always comes along and derails me. Ask anyone who knows me. I am the master of procrastination and side-trackery (yes, I just made up a word to describe how I get side-tracked so easily). Today what threw off my groove was how delicious this jam is. I mean, I expected it to be good, it's cranberries and vanilla and chia seeds for goodness sake! What I wasn't expecting is for it to be downright addictive. What else could be done besides drop everything and share the recipe right away?

Not only is this jam super delicious, it's also crazy easy to make. All you need is a food processor and five minutes of your time (besides the ingredients of course). You literally just throw all the ingredients into the food processor, press puree and let it do it's thing unless it's a smooth consistency. That's it!

Plus, it's healthy!
Cranberries are great sources of antioxidants, vitamin c, vitamin a, carotene, folate, potassium and manganese. Studies have shown that consuming berries have the potential to help protect against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes and bacterial infections. [source]
Chia seeds are full of antioxidants, fiber, protein, healthy fats like omega-3, iron, calcium, magnesium and because of their gelatinous quality, they help clean out your intestinal track of unwanted junk. If this jam doesn't sound like the best topping for toast I don't know what does. 

Vanilla Cranberry Chia Jam 
  • 1 1/2 Cups Fresh, Organic Cranberries
  • 3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • Seeds from 1 Vanilla Bean or 1 1/2 Tablespoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup (or to taste)
  • Dash of Cinnamon (optional)
Makes 1 Cup of Jam.
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until a smooth consistency is reached. Serve on toast, mix into oatmeal, spread on a muffin... get creative! It's especially good paired with almond butter on toast! Store extra jam in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

I think I might make up a big batch, put it in some cute jars and give it out as holiday or hostess gifts! I mean people are probably going to get enough cookies, right?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vegan Blueberry Pancakes with Spelt Flour

Over the last few weeks Sam and I have unintentionally started a tradition. Or maybe it's more of a ritual? Either way, it all started when one Saturday morning I said we should walk to Capitol City Bakery because I had heard that they only have their vegan cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning. It never takes much convincing Sam to eat food, especially food involving sugar, so off we went bringing my roommate's dog along for the walk. When we got to the food truck it was closed. Major bummer. So we headed back to my house disappointed and with our hearts still pining after a sweet and tasty breakfast. 

It was decided that pancakes were the perfect solution. While they are certainly not cinnamon rolls, they are delicious and that's good enough for us. This continued to happen over the next few weeks; we'd take the dog for a walk with the intention of eating cinnamon rolls only to find the bakery closed and end up making pancakes instead. We finally got the hint that they indeed do not have cinnamon rolls nor are they open on Saturdays (they aren't even in that location anymore). However, the plus side to all of this is we came up with an awesome recipe for blueberry pancakes. Seriously, during the photo shoot Sam kept whining, "hurry! I want to eat them!"

So I had him eat this bite which was instantly met with, "That is the best bite of pancake I've ever had". And you know what? I think he might be right. I didn't think I could love a pancake like I love my Toasted Coconut Banana Pancakes, but these, these, are good. Real good. 

Vegan Blueberry Pancakes with Spelt Flour
  • 1 1/4 Cup Whole Spelt Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • Unrefined Coconut Oil for greasing the skillet
Makes 4 pancakes.
Start warming a skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, flax seeds, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add in the almond milk, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar and whisk until ingredients are fully incorporated. Gently fold in the frozen berries. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in the skillet and spread to evenly coat the pan. Pour one quarter of the batter onto the skillet (I find using a 1/3 measuring cup works well) and allow to cook until the top starts to bubble. Flip! And continue cooking for about another 45 seconds-1 minute. If the pancake looks to dark or undercooked adjust the stove temperature accordingly. Continue this with the rest of the batter, adding more coconut oil as needed. Store pancakes on a plate under a clean dish towel until ready to serve. Add your favorite toppings (we made a vanilla honey syrup) and go to town! 

-If you do not have spelt flour feel free to substitute whole wheat flour, just know it won't taste quite as delicious.
-Fresh blueberries are great in this recipe, too. I just only happened to have frozen on hand. If using fresh, I'd advise either adding the berries to the individual pancakes rather than the batter, or dusting them in flour before adding to the batter to prevent it from turning blue.

                                                   What are your weekend rituals?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Quinoa Salad (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Happy Wednesday everyone! Wednesday already. Man, this week is flying by. We're almost already through the first week of November! I can't believe it. I blame the daylight savings this past weekend. It's been getting dark around 6 o'clock here which seems like such a drastic change. Once the sun goes down so does my productivity. I just want to cuddle under some blankets and watch a movie or read a book. Last night, to my great embarrassment I fell asleep at 8 o'clock. 8 o'clock! I feel like such an old lady! 

To help make up for my lack of motivation in the evenings I've been focusing on getting more done during the day while the sun is still shining. So I've been setting my alarm a half hour earlier which allows me to fit in a quick workout and still have time to make myself breakfast before heading out the door to work at 6:40am. Then on my way home from work I take a longer and round-about route on my bike that way by the time I'm home my workout is done for the day. It's been a great plan so far! However, waking up earlier and exerting more energy leaves me hungrier which is where this delicious Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Quinoa Salad comes in. It's great because you can make up a big batch on Sunday and then have lunch all set for the rest of the week. Plus it tastes great hot or cold which makes it a great on-the-go meal.

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Quinoa Salad
  • 2/3 Cup Quinoa
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Small Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Large Sweet Potatoes, Diced
  • 2 Large Collard Greens Leaves*, Stems removed and Sliced
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook quinoa according to package instructions adding the bay leaf to the water. While the quinoa is cooking and once the oven is preheated, place the diced sweet potatoes on a silpat, aluminum foil or greased pan and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until soft. While the potatoes and quinoa are cooking, start caramelizing the onions. To do so, pour the olive oil into a skillet and cook the onion over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the onions begin to brown add the garlic and continue cooking until all the onions are a nice, golden brown.
At this point the quinoa should be about done, once it is, remove the bay leaf and add in the onions and garlic. Once the potatoes are done, mix those in, too. Then add in the collards to allow them to wilt slightly. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and you are done! Portion it out into to-go containers to store in the fridge and lunch is one less thing you have to think about.
*Feel free to substitute your favorite green; kale or mustard greens would be great.

Are you affected by the change in daylight?
What do you do to stay motivated?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

7 Layer Taco Dip (Vegan, Gluten Free)

I know what you're all probably thinking, "Really Joy? This is your Halloween post? Taco dip?!"

I realize that the calendar reads October 31, but I'm just not feeling it. It does not feel like it should almost be November. I thought about sucking it up and posting a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin chia pudding or something, but I forgot to buy pumpkin at the store yesterday, a somewhat crucial ingredient in a pumpkin pudding. Then I thought about waiting to post this recipe until tomorrow, but then I realized I was just being ridiculous. If I want to post a recipe for Taco Dip than gosh darn it I will! 

Ahem. Anyway.

I have always loved taco dips (anything involving tacos, really). I think it runs in my family, like loving ice cream. My sister-in-law, Nancy makes an awesome taco dip. Her taco dip is the reason I didn't survive going vegan the first time I tried. I couldn't resist the cheesy goodness! But that is no longer a problem thanks to this Vegan 7 Layer Taco Dip!

Not only is this Taco Dip vegan and delicious, it is also chock full of nutritious ingredients so there's no need to feel guilty about eating it (especially if you're using veggies instead of chips!). Plus it makes a great healthy appetizer or snack at a party or holiday get-together. 

Vegan 7 Layer Taco Dip
  • 2 Cups Vegan Refried Beans
  • 1 Batch of Guacamole
  • Approximately 1 Cup of your favorite Salsa (amount depends on salsa consistency)
  • 2-3 Large Kale Leaves, Shredded
  • 1/4 Cup Black Olives, Sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
Makes one 9 inch pan.
Simple layer your ingredients. Spread the beans across the bottom of the pan until they make an even layer. Next evenly spread the guacamole, then the salsa. Sprinkle on the shredded kale, olives, tomatoes and jalapenos. Serve with your favorite chips or veggies. Try not to eat the whole pan yourself. 

-If using canned beans be sure to read the label, maybe refried beans are made with lard. I would also suggest mixing in some garlic, cumin and black pepper for a better flavor.
-This dip refrigerates really well if you want to make it ahead of time for a party. It lasted over 24 hours in my fridge without going bad or the guacamole turning brown. It actually tasted better after chilling for a little while. 

Did anyone catch how many times I said "taco dip"? 'Cause it felt like a lot. Also the word "layer" looks like it's totally spelled wrong after looking at it for too long. 

What's your favorite appetizer?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Vegan)

I'm just going to cut to the chase. I loved these cookies! I had never made Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies before, but these were definitely an experiment gone right! These were so good that when I came home Saturday night I had found a note written from one of my roommates to the other on top of the cookies to keep her from eating them all.

I mean, come on, what's better than an oatmeal raisin cookie during this time of year? The combination of chewy oats, sweet raisins and warm cinnamon is exactly what your taste buds are asking for. As usual, this recipe is full of only healthful ingredients no margarine or shortening crap found here, no nasty, super processed sugar, just ingredients you can feel good about, but you still probably shouldn't eat the whole plate.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • 2 Flax Eggs (2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed mixed with 6 Tablespoons Warm Water)
  • 1/3 Cup Unrefined Coconut Oil, Softened
  • 1 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/4 Cup Spelt Flour
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Korintje Cinnamon (If using Saigon or another strong Cinnamon, reduce to 1 Teaspoon)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 1/4 Cup Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/2 Cup Raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, make your flax eggs and set aside. In a large bowl combine coconut oil with coconut sugar until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and flax eggs. Then add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix until combined. Stir in the oats and raisins. Spoon the cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper or a silpat. These cookies do not spread much so there's no need to leave a huge space between cookies (an inch or two should be fine). Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple minutes, then devour. 

-Although it is unnecessary, I found the dough less sticky and easier to handle after it had chilled in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
-When buying raisins, read the label to make sure they didn't sneak in extra sugar, preservatives or other crap and when possible, buy organic.
-If you hate raisins, substitute dark chocolate chips instead. Fill free to mix in your favorite nuts, too!

What's your favorite kind of cookie this time of year?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[Green Thumb] Plant According to Your Regional Climate

Happy autumn, blogworld!

I'm sure many of you read that and think, "Ummm, fall has been around for a while now, chief," and whilst that may be true for most of you, those of us who live in Austin have a different story to tell. I'm loving it, though! (Especially after working in the +100 degree heat all summer.) The weather is cooler, the sky is bluer, and best of all Joy's been making all kinds of tasty treats which means being her taste-testing guinea pig has been all KINDS of delicious fun - even if I am feeling more like a farmhouse pig instead of the smaller, fitter rodent variety of pig. :p

Usually the fall season brings with it increased chances for precipitation, too, which has certainly been the case in Austin lately, and thankfully so! It seems like the more weather reports I hear for the United States, the more I'm told that our country is experiencing widespread drought. I've been working near Austin's famous (possibly infamous by this point) Lake Travis, the single source of water for the second fastest growing city in the country, and I've gotta say, it is a sad sight indeed. I lived in Austin when I was a kid, and my Gramma used to live right next to Lake Travis. It was a beautiful, lush, full body of water fully capable of sustaining wildlife, civilization, and multiple recreational activities, and it was actually known to flood with heavy rainfall.

(Photo courtesy of with text added)
Take a look at the lake today...

Sad, yeah? I'm going to apologize in advance here everyone, because there's a solid chance that I'ma get somewhat preachy today, but believe it or not, there is a green thumb point here, and conveniently it's the first rule of xeriscaping, too: Green Thumb Gardening Guideline #1 - Plant according to your regional climate, or if you'd prefer something a little more catchy, "Just because you CAN plant something, that doesn't mean you should."

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to live in Austin - one step away from being a desert ecosystem - and every day I drive by banana trees, sprawling lawns of tropical grasses, pools and hot tubs, free-flowing water fountains, sprinkler systems, and water features in restaurants and eateries. Ignorance is usually bliss, I understand, but I'm afraid ignorance has turned into intentional apathy in our country.

Obviously Austin's water supply is on the verge of drying up. Water restrictions are in place, drought warnings are everywhere - street side, TV, radio, internet, and every other form of mass media - and yet people are still dropping what we call "straws" into the lake to suck out water which is used to keep their "grass" green (I say "grass," because 99 times out of 100 it's not grass; it's Bermuda or St. Augustine which are both weeds that pose as grass). You can see a couple of 200 ft straws pictured below. 

Did you know that the concept of a lawn originated in England amongst the filthy rich simply as a means of showing everyone, "Look how much space I can afford to waste." If you don't believe me, look it up! And yet somehow, this concept of purposely wasting space, money, and water has jumped the pond to our country, trillions of dollars indebted as it is and dried up as we're making it.

Check it out, guys: just because you live in an area with little water to go around, that doesn't mean you have to settle for rocks and cactus in your yard and dust in your garden. Save for the poles, there are fully edible plants to grow for every region of the world. Here in Austin, just about any plant you can find in Africa or other desert regions will flourish with little to no maintenance: kiwano melon, peanuts, leafy greens, yucca, agave, pomegranate, figs, and blue mesquite & Buffalo grass just to name a few. They take next to no water, they are great producers, and most importantly, instead of contributing to the deterioration of the world climate shift, making those changes will actually help to repair the teeth missing from the cogs which make our planetary clock tick.

If you live in Austin or surrounding cities, here is a short list of plants you should avoid like the plague if you're interested in proper xeriscaping and/or water conservation:
-tropical fruits like bananas, papaya, and guava
-grasses like Bermuda grass, xoisia, and St Augustine
-open outdoor gardens full of cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, and corn

If you're not from around here, post a comment telling me where you're from, and I'll gladly give you a list of what to plant and what not to plant, but guys, the point is that not every plant is meant to be grown in every corner of the world. Doesn't mean we need to do without plants - not at all! Just means you should do some research before you stick something in the ground. (:


What sort of things have you been doing to contribute to the repair of your local and global ecosystem?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cinnamon Things (Vegan)

It's been a very rainy week here in Austin (apart from yesterday which was a perfect, crisp, sunny, autumn day). Rainy, cool weather makes me want to bake and bake specifically with cinnamon. I don't care what I'm making, it's getting cinnamon 'cause it's cold and cinnamon makes me feel all warm and cozy. Unfortunately I used up the last of my cinnamon this week in all of my oatmeal eating (I tried replacing it with pumpkin pie spice -belgh and ground ginger -a little better, but barely). It always surprises me when I run out of a spice, I always expect those little jars to last forever. 

Anyway, I can't get to the store to buy more cinnamon at the moment so I started drooling over pictures of other cinnamony goodness out in the blog world and I decided to share them with you. Plus, it's been a long time since I've done any kind of 'favorite things' post. So without further ado, I give you all of the cinnamon things I wish I could be making right now.

Please note that photos below belong to the original bloggers, to be taken to their site just click the photo.

100% Whole Spelt Cinnamon Raisin Bread - healthier and delicious! Also happens to be vegan and dairy-free |
Cinnamon Raisin Bread -Texan Erin
Cinnamon Raisin bread is one of those foods I'm constantly forgetting about usually until I go out for breakfast and I'm asked what type of bread I want on the side and they list my options. This bread however looks like one that I would not easily forget about. I'll take a slice toasted please!

Baked Vegan Cinnamon Doughnuts -That Kate
Can I just take a moment and say that I love that it's become socially acceptable, even trendy to eat doughnuts. For the longest time it seemed that even looking at a doughnut would have you labeled as a fatty or a Homer Simpson type. Doughnuts are delicious, I'm glad we're done hating on them. And these cinnamon doughnuts look especially tasty!

Cinnamon Rolls with Coconut Frosting and Caramel Raisin Filling -This Rawsome Vegan Life
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Those are raw and vegan cinnamon rolls. What can I say, I am continually amazed by Emily's creativity every time I stop by her blog. Someday I will make these.

Cinnamon Bundt Cake
Cinnamon Bundt Cake -The Misfit Baker
It may just be the fancy bundt pan it was baked in, but this cake is gorgeous. So simple yet so classy. I'm definitely keeping this recipe on file.

Vegan Cinnamon Raisin Pull-Apart Bread
Vegan Cinnamon Raisin Pull-Apart Bread -Kohler Created
I haven't had much, if any pull-apart bread in my life, but this looks mighty tasty. Plus, I'm just a sucker for all things cinnamon raisin.

So there ya have it. I was surprised at how few vegan cinnamon recipes there are out there, apart from cinnamon rolls of course.
What are your favorite cinnamon recipes?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Apple Cranberry Mini-Loaves & Muffins (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We had a very humid, muggy and rainy weekend here in Austin. So rainy in fact that the Austin City Limits Music Festival was cancelled on Sunday. Don't get me wrong, we need the rain, but maybe we could get it a little more spaced out next time to avoid all this flooding.

I took advantage of the rainy, Sunday afternoon and baked up some muffins and mini-loaves that I've been wanting to share with you all. I had been looking for a gluten-free and vegan apple muffin recipe for awhile, as soon as I saw this recipe on The Simple Veganista, I knew that was the one I was looking for. I had planned to post the recipe a couple weeks ago, but when I uploaded the pictures I wasn't too pleased with the results. So I sucked it up and made these delicious muffins again. How delicious are they, you ask. So delicious that the entire batch had disappeared by the time I went to bed last night. 

Apple Cranberry Muffins
Slightly adapted from The Simple Veganista

  • 2 1/4 Cup Almond Meal
  • 1/2 Cup Old Fashioned Oats (be sure they are certified GF for those with an intolerance)
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Unrefined Coconut Oil, Melted
  • 1/3 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk, room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Diced Apples, with or without skin (I kept the skin on)
  • 1/2 Cup Cranberries, either dried or fresh and chopped
Makes 9 muffins or 2-3 Mini-Loaves.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, be careful to not over-mix. Fold in the apples and cranberries. Pour the batter into greased or lined muffin tins or greased mini-loaf pan. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes for muffins and 25-30 minutes for the mini-loaves. Allow to cool before serving and as always enjoy!