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!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pecan Plum Oatmeal (Vegan)

I love plums, but I forget about them all the time. Same with nectarines. Poor stone fruit not getting any love. This week I was reminded of my love for plums when they were only a dollar and change for a pound at the grocery store. Win! (It should be noted that I will notice anything if you show me how inexpensive it is. I don't care what it is, if it's cheap you've got my attention).

Apart from stuffing my face with plums this past week, I've also been trying to figure out healthy breakfasts to bring to work with me. Most mornings my stomach can only handle a small glass of kombucha and a piece of fruit if I'm lucky. By the time I bike to work I'm ready for something more filling, but if I don't come prepared my only option is a muffin the size of my face (or the banana bread that feels like a brick). This oatmeal has been a lifesaver (and waist saver). It's delicious, satisfying and filling, plus it takes less than a minute to put together in the morning. And with these snazzy, perfectly sized Pyrex dishes I found at Target it also helps save the earth from the hundreds of oatmeal packets I could be going through. 

Pecan Plum Oatmeal
  • 1 Cup Old-Fashioned Oats
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegan Sugar (I use Coconut Sugar)
  • 1/4 Cup Pecans, Chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Plum, Sliced, Diced or Chopped
Makes 1 Serving.
Combine all the dry ingredients and stir to avoid any clumps. Add hot water and allow to steep for a minute or two. Stir in the plums and enjoy.

-I buy all my ingredients in the bulk section of the grocery store to save money and packaging.
-I never measure the ingredients in the morning. Once you have an idea of what the amount looks like, just throw it in the container to save time and dishes. I also store the ingredients in jars for easy access.
-When I take this oatmeal on the road with me, I just assemble the ingredients at home and then when I'm ready to eat it, I simply add hot water. 

What's your go-to easy and nutritious breakfast?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins (Vegan)

Bran muffins are one of those great dividers. Like olives, sushi or mushrooms, people either love them or hate them. I have always loved bran muffins. Growing up, I remember my mom bringing home boxes of the day-old muffins from the grocery store and I always wanted the bran muffin. Not the blueberry, not the lemon poppy seed or the corn, I wanted the bran muffin. I'm weird, I know.

Along with great dividers, bran muffins are also many times great deceivers. People tend to just assume they're healthier. Whether this is consciously or sub-consciously, I think we all do it on some level. Unfortunately bran muffins are often times anything but healthy. Out of curiosity, I did a quick Google search  for nutrition facts for the average bran muffin. The results for one muffin? Almost 350 calories with over 11 grams of fat and 23 grams of sugar. Yikes!

But have no fear! I have come up with a solution for us bran muffin lovers! A recipe as nutritious as it is delicious! My recipe has only 160 nutrient-dense calories per muffin with only 2 grams of healthy fat, almost 5 grams of protein and half the amount of sugar that bakery muffins have. Plus they are loaded with fiber (over 8 grams per muffin!), manganese and vitamin B6. Now there's a muffin to feel good about!

Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Spelt Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Wheat Bran
  • 1/4 Cup Old Fashioned Oats
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 2 Overripe Bananas
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 Cup Blackstrap Molasses
  • 1/8 Cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Blueberries
Makes 6 muffins.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Mash in the bananas. Then add the vanilla extract, molasses and maple syrup. Stir in the almond milk until just combined. Carefully fold in blueberries. Line a muffin pan with liners or lightly grease with coconut oil. Fill each muffin liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and cleanly removed. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Then sit back, relax and enjoy a muffin you can feel good about eating.

So how 'bout you, are you a fan of bran?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bell Pepper Rainbow Salsa (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Is it really October already? How the heck did that happen? It snuck right past me, probably while I was watching way too many episodes of a show my sister got me addicted to this past week (anyone else watch Revenge?). 

While it seems like everyone else is celebrating all things autumn, I'm going to hold on to summer as long as possible. Don't get me wrong, I love fall flavors and foods, but it's still 90 degrees here in Texas so those flavors don't taste quite right yet. Plus I'm still getting loads of fresh, tasty tomatoes and peppers at the farmer's market! Don't worry apples, pumpkin and squash, you'll have your turn, just not quite yet.

When I saw this colorful display of peppers at the farmer's market I knew I wanted to make them into salsa. One, because they're so pretty and two, because salsa is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I will use any excuse to make (or eat) salsa!

Not only do these peppers make for a beautiful salsa, they also make for a nutritious snack or topping. The pigment in fruits and vegetables isn't just for fun, it also signifies various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It's nature's way of helping us eat a balanced diet. Notice how the healthiest foods also seem to be the most colorful?

Here's the breakdown:

Red produce: vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin c, lycopene, manganese and fiber.

Orange produce: vitamins a, c, b6, potassium, lycopene and fiber.

Yellow produce: vitamin a, manganese, magnesium, potassium and fiber.

Green produce: calcium, magnesium, iron, lutein and folate.

Blue produce: loaded with fiber and antioxidants.

White produce: vitamins c, k, fiber, folate and allicin.
And that's just a general overview, each color produce packs quite the health punch, so go ahead and taste the rainbow.... vegetable rainbow that is.

Bell Pepper Rainbow Salsa
One of the great things about making your own salsa is that exact measurements aren't needed. Add your ingredients and taste as you go until you like the flavor!
  • 4 Large (8 small) Bell Peppers in various colors
  • 2-3 Roma Tomatoes
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup Onion (for a milder flavor onion, use purple)
  • 1-2 Jalapeno or Serrano Pepper
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste
Dice all vegetables and place in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper until you've achieved the taste you like. Store in the refrigerator. Tastes best if made at least a half hour before serving. Eat with chips or use it as a topping with your favorite dish. Enjoy!

-This is meant to be a simple recipe, but feel free to add cilantro, parsley, lemon or lime juice, cumin or any other ingredients that strike your fancy. Make it your own!
-If you don't want the salsa to taste too spicy be sure to remove the seeds from the jalapeno or serrano before dicing, or just leave them out altogether.

Have you boarded the fall train yet?
What's your favorite fall food?
Or better yet, what's your favorite summer food that you're not ready to let go of?