Monday, September 30, 2013

Pistachio Chia Pudding (Vegan, Gluten Free)

My dad has been working really hard over the last few months to lower his cholesterol. This means greatly decreasing the amount of meat and ice cream he consumes which is basically like asking the cookie monster to give up cookies. Which I heard may have actually happened.. Are the rumors true? Is he the veggie monster now?

Anyway, I wanted to throw my dad a bone. He recently asked about me about chia seeds and after I explained how healthy they are (full of fiber, protein, omega-3s and more) he asked my mom to pick some up the next time she went to the grocery store.

I gave him some general uses for chia seeds, but I thought I'd give him a recipe created specifically with him in mind. Knowing how much my dad loves pistachios, I'm hoping this can be a new healthy treat for him. I hope you enjoy it, Dad! I'm proud of all your hard work!

Pistachio Chia Pudding
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • 1/3 Cup Pistachios (I found some already shelled in the bulk section at Whole Foods)
  • 1/4 Cup Pistachios, chopped, for garnish
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Sweeten to Taste using Agave or Pure Maple Syrup (about 2 Tablespoons is a good starting point)
Makes 2 Servings.
Combine all the ingredients (apart from the pistachios for garnish) in a blender and blend until the mixture becomes a smooth, thick consistency, about 1-2 minutes. Pour the pudding into serving dishes and allow to set for an hour in the refrigerator. Feel free to garnish before or after refrigerating. Serve and enjoy!

Looking for more Chia Pudding recipes? Check these out:

What's your favorite Chia Pudding recipe? 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Eggplant Bruschetta (Vegan)

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fun and relaxing weekend. I took part in a ridiculous scavenger hunt yesterday to win tickets to Fun, Fun, Fun Fest here in Austin. I didn't really care so much about winning the tickets which is probably a good thing since we didn't win. What can I say? I was wasn't willing to get a tattoo or shave a 1/3 of my head just for some festival tickets. Oh well. It was a good time. But today is Monday which meant back to the daily grind.

As I was listening to my new round of lectures today for school a particular quote from New York Times Columnist and Cookbook Author, Mark Bittman, stuck out to me, "The more you know what's in your food, the more you know how it's produced, the angrier you'll be". I have to say I agree with this statement 100%, at least in my experience. However, I would also add to it that once you have educated yourself on the food systems in this country and have gone out and grown your own food, or purchased organic, locally grown food and have created a meal with your own two hands, that that meal will much more satisfying. 

That was exactly the case with this meal. When you use wholesome and fresh ingredients there is no need to create a fancy dish, the flavors will speak for themselves. I used only organic and locally grown ingredients to make this bruschetta (the olive oil, salt and pepper weren't local, but we can look past those things, yeah?). 

When I saw the loaf of Rosemary Olive Bread and the most beautiful eggplant at the Farmer's Market the other week, I felt like it was just begging to be turned into bruschetta. This is the way I've been trying to plan my meals lately; by wandering around the Farmer's Market and being inspired by the local produce. I encourage you to try it and if you do, let me know what you make!

Eggplant Bruschetta 
*Please note that all measurements are an estimate, which is one of the great things about this recipe, you can just make it up and add things as you go along*
  • 1 Small Eggplant
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 3-4 Medium Sized Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1 Cup Kale, Chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Whatever Fresh Herbs you can get your hands on, I used Basil and a little Oregano
  • 1 Loaf of Vegan Italian Bread, I used Rosemary Olive Focaccia bread, but I will be using this recipe next time
Preheat the oven to about 475 degrees or a low broil temperature. 
In a pan or skillet, saute the onions and garlic over medium heat, in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the onions begin to look translucent.  Add in the tomatoes and eggplant and cook until most of the liquid has cooked out of the tomatoes. Turn off the burner and add the kale. While the kale is wilting, slice the bread and brush one side of each slice with a thin layer of olive oil. Place the slices on a cookie sheet. 
Spoon the sauteed vegetables onto each slice of bread, I like to add as many vegetables as each slice will hold. Once each slice is assembled, put the cookie sheet into the oven and toast the bread for about 5-7 minutes or until it begins to look golden brown, keeping in mind that the bread will only get harder once it's removed from the oven. Allow to cool for a couple minutes and then serve the bruschetta as an appetizer or as the main meal accompanied by some salad and/or soup. If you want to get really fancy, drizzle each slice with some balsamic vinegar just before serving.

What inspires you to cook?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

[Green Thumb] Why Greens Taste Best in Winter

Hey Everybody! Hope your week is going well. I'm excited to present you with the first official installment of the Green Thumb series...

Hello blog-readers, -writers, -collectors, and basically anyone else I missed...maybe you're just bored or sick like I've been. Either way, I think I've got something for you today that I'd bet you didn't know. We'll call this Green Thumb Fact #1.

We're going into fall...I say that somewhat presumptuously, because here in Austin it's still mid- to upper-90s every day. Most of the country, though, has transitioned into cool season planting which means all sorts of leafy greens, root veggies, and dark green veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. These crops are grown during the coldest months of the year for a few reasons...
1- More popular fruiting veggies like peppers, melons, and tomatoes can't withstand the cold temperatures.
2- Although greens can be grown in most areas even during the warmer months, they typically require more water to sustain themselves - a commodity which is increasingly rare during the summer months.
3- (The reason I'm writing...) Greens, the healthiest of all veggies, taste best when grown in cold weather.

If you're like me, you probably heard people say things like that until you simply accepted it, but unlike me, you may not have searched out the reason why...did that make sense? Anyway, greens taste best when grown in cold weather, plain and simple. Kale, being the hardiest (and healthiest) of the leafy greens, can actually withstand temperatures of -10 degrees! I grew up in Iowa, and not even I can (or want to) withstand that kind of cold. Blech!!

Regardless I'm sure plenty of you have seen perfectly healthy kale or chard or spinach plants in the summer, though, so why is it that kale tastes best when it's been dug out from under a foot of snow? The answer? Because a large part of the composition of almost every leafy green or root crop is starch, and just as starch that's ironed into a shirt stiffens said shirt, so too does the sun stiffen the leaves of dark green crops during warmer months. Cold weather, on the other hand, breaks down those starches into sugars, and come on guys...let's be honest. Who doesn't like sugar? I certainly do...just ask Joy! :p

So armed with that knowledge, the next time someone you know - maybe friend, family member, or the produce vendor at your local grocery store - says greens taste better when they're harvested in the winter, ask them why. I'll betcha most of them can't, and won't you look smaht when you can enlighten them! ;)

What's your favorite winter veggie?
What questions do you have about gardening?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vanilla Almond Freezer Fudge (Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free)

Happy Monday!
I hope everyone had a delightful weekend! My weekend basically consisted of watching movies (Lilo & Stitch is on Netflix!), finding a new favorite restaurant for Thai takeout, the farmer's market, a Target run and hanging out with Sam. I also babysat for some friends in desperate need of a night out on Saturday; Sam came too (it was his idea in the first place), plus I am basically clueless when it comes to children. Case in point: I changed a diaper for the first time this weekend, I am 26 years old and had never changed a diaper before. I also tried to go paddle boarding Saturday afternoon with a new friend, but after much miscommunication and riding my bike around town, it just turned into hanging out and drinking smoothies which is totally cool with me. 

Sometimes it's nice to have a simple, chill, laid-back weekend. And sometimes it's nice to have a little something sweet to snack on during a movie, something that's really easy to pull together. You may remember a few months back I posted a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge, well, I've got a new one for you. Vanilla Almond Freezer Fudge. It's perfect for when you want something sweet, but not super rich, but are too lazy to make something complicated or wait for it to bake. You just simply mix the few ingredients in a bowl, stick it in the freezer and minutes later you've got some fudge. Does it get any better than that?

Vanilla Almond Freezer Fudge
  • 1 Cup Almond Butter, room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup or Agave (or Honey for non-vegans)
  • 1 Tablespoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Vanilla Bean, Scraped
  • 4 Tablespoons Coconut Oil, softened
Makes 1 loaf pan, approximately 8 squares.
Simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Line a loaf pan with wax paper. Pour fudge mix into the pan, smooth it out with a spoon or spatula and place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Once hardened, remove from freezer and slice into squares. Store in the freezer.

-If you do not have a vanilla bean, double the amount of vanilla extract, if a stronger vanilla flavor is desired, try tripling it.

What did you do this weekend?
What's your favorite easy-to-make sweet treat?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[Green Thumb] An Introduction.

Hey all!
I had mentioned the other day that I would be starting a new feature on the blog about growing your own gardens hosted by Sam. For those of you just tuning in you can read a little about him here, here and here. I have never met anyone more passionate about organic gardening, plants and educating others about these topics so in my opinion he's the perfect person for the job! I've asked him to write a little something introducing himself to you all which you will find below accompanied by various pictures I've taken in his gardens both here and in Hawaii. So without further ado... 

What's up Bloggas?! This is crazy!

When Joy asked me if I'd be interested in writing a little for her blog, how could I refuse? I am, after all, her biggest fan AND the one who greedily eats more of her food than the rest of you combined, but beyond that I figured it'd be an awesome way to share a little about what I'm passionate about. Joy and I get along for a plethora (oh the vocab!) of reasons, but without a doubt the most relevant is that our passions complement each other: I grow the food, and she cooks it! Match made in heaven right? I agree.

We'll get to that a little more soon, but for now I just wanted to share with you what you can expect out of me, and I'm hoping it'll inspire you guys (yes, I live in Texas, and no, I don't say "y'all") to get back to the basics, too. 

I believe in three very simple concepts that are 100% universal...or at least they were once upon a time:

1- Everyone should grow at least a portion of their own food.

2- Everyone should lead healthy, active lives.

3- Everyone should take care of the planet we call home.

Simple stuff, yeah? Now granted, not everyone has ten green thumbs like me; not everyone has a lot of free time or a job that gets them a killer tan and workout every day; not everyone cares about the future. That's why I want to blog with Joy, though! I want you all to know and see and [hopefully] geek out about how easy it really is to make these concepts a reality in your life, because man...few things are more satisfying than eating your first home-grown-BY-YOU tomato or better yet, sitting down to a meal wherein every single item came from your own homestead, time, and energy. I'll show you how to do it, teach what to look out for, and if you're nice, I'll even teach ya some tricks that will give you bragging rights in your community!

I'm not big on shorthand, but I feel it's necessary at this point to say, "Oh em effing gee this is going to be awesome." Yeah. That just happened. I'll be in touch...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Giant Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies & Where I've Been.

Happy Monday Everyone!
I hope you had a wonderful weekend and week and weekend before that! It's been awhile since I've posted. My computer is on it's deathbed. I tried to blog a couple times, but my laptop would not have it. Today it's cooperating so I'm going to fill you in on where I've been and share a tasty cookie recipe I made this weekend. Sound good? Cool. Let's get to it then.

Sam and I have been checking out the local farmer's market scene. We've gone to three in the past week. And I may check out another tomorrow.

I bought eggs for the first time in who knows how long. And my, are they tasty! It's amazing the difference in appearance and taste when it comes to fresh vs. store bought eggs. But I suppose you could say that about anything fresh and local.

I am also LOVING that they sell kombucha at the farmer's markets here! My all-time favorite brand of kombucha is Buddah's Brew and it is so cheap when you buy it at the farmer's market. Only nine bucks to refill a growler! The best flavor in my opinion is Pineapple Super Greens (which I also bought, but is not pictured), the flavors pictured here are watermelon and peach. I should also note that not all three of these growlers are mine, that would just be ridiculous.

Saturday night Sam and I checked out Sweet Ritual, a vegan ice cream parlor! I got a waffle cone with Cookies & Cream and Biscoff Cookie flavors and Sam got a Strawberry Milkshake. I loved the Cookies & Cream flavor so much that Sam decided to buy me a pint to take home. 

Last week Sam made us tuna melts for dinner one night. I love having him around for many reasons, but one of them is that he's a great cook! I always thought tuna melts were disgusting until he made me some. He used fresh ahi tuna steaks, locally made garlic mayonnaise, and pepper jack almond cheese -so delicious! If you all are interested in the recipe, I think Sam may let me post it :-)

It probably seems like my life revolves around eating and buying food, but I swear I do go to work and sleep and study and hang out with people. It's just that for work I sell food and coffee, I study nutrition and I'm usually making or eating food when I hang out with people. I do promise that I do not sleep eat like Liz Lemon, though. 

Anyway, let's get to those cookies!

For this recipe I used two of my new favorite ingredients: whole spelt flour and coconut sugar. I like using the spelt flour because in it's whole grain form it has a bit of a nutty flavor which I think works great in baking rather than using processed white flour or strong flavored whole wheat flour. The coconut sugar I like because palms are a more sustainable source of sugar, it doesn't spike your blood sugar as much as cane sugar does and it has a slight caramel flavor that I really dig.

This is my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. I originally came up with it last year and it has been serving me well ever since. I altered it slightly this time using the two ingredients I mentioned above, big chocolate chunks instead of chips and I made them giant! Because let's face it, sometimes you just want a cookie the size of your face.

Giant Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  • 2 Flax Eggs (2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed mixed with 6 Tablespoons Warm Water)
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut Oil, softened
  • 1 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups Whole Spelt Flour
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 3/4 Cup Vegan Dark Chocolate Chunks
Makes 6 Large Cookies.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make flax eggs and set aside. In a medium size bowl, mix together the coconut oil and sugar, add the flax eggs and mix well. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt, stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chunks. 
Using an ice cream scoop, spoon the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Place cookie sheet in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies start to look darker on the edges. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Pour yourself a tall glass of almond milk and enjoy a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.

What have you been up to this past week?
Do you have a computer brand you would recommend to someone in the market for one?
Do you enjoy going to farmer's markets? Do you have a favorite?