Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches – Cookbook Review

Curried Polenta - Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches by Maya Sozer

The beginning of each semester starts so brightly.  I have so much energy during those first few weeks and am relieved by the consistent schedule. Working out 5 times each week, homemade meals 6 days a week.  Keeping up with all of my non-school related hobbies like painting and blogging.  The dogs get all the walks they can handle.  I can always tell when I’m spinning out of control by taking a good look at my diet.  Enter week four – the nutrient of highest consumption was sugar. Josh made monkey bread (brownie points), I had about 3 packages of sour patch kids and drank my weight in lemonade.  Luckily, I have Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches by Maya Sozer to get me back on track.

Takeaway Sandwich - Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches by Maya Sozer

Takeaway Sandwich filling

Maya’s cookbook is full of delicious recipes, that despite the name, are good for all times of the day.  At first I was expecting all of the recipes to come together in 5 minutes, have minimal ingredients or be semi-homemade.  Maya takes a different approach in Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches, a lot of recipes require a little bit of time, but with just a touch of planning, your fridge will be like a vegan vending machine for healthy meals and snacks.

Curried Polenta - Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches by Maya Sozer

Curried Polenta with Sautéed Veggies

I eat healthier when my pantry is well-stocked.  This doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend $100 on groceries a week, simply make sure you always have some canned beans, tomatoes, some sort of whole grain and an abundance of fresh veggies.  I am always better off when I spend an extra half hour or hour per week to prepare a few extra items or double the amount of whatever recipe I am making for dinner. Then I can have some grab ‘n’ go meals in the fridge.  Otherwise I eat PB&J french toast at midnight…

My favorites from Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches are the Takeaway Sandwich, Curried Polenta, and Veggie Stir Fry.  I’m going to make the Salted Tahini Spread and Roasted Eggplant Salad later this week.  I’m really tempted to throw chocolate into the Salted Tahini Spread, but that’s against my no-sugar policy for the week. The Roasted Eggplant Salad is an example of a recipe that makes you think ahead, but once you’ve invested in it, it’ll pay you back all week long.

Curried Polenta - Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches by Maya Sozer

Curried Polenta with Sautéed Veggies

I love this approach to healthy eating.  In public health we attribute this approach’s success to making the healthy choice the easy choice. Everyone wants to eat healthy (and delicious), and Maya’s Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches definitely helps turn your fridge around.

Takeaway Sandwich

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 20 minutes
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This recipe first appeared in Maya Sozer’s cookbook, Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches.  This sandwich filling is a cross between a mashed chickpea salad and potato salad.  The result is mind-blowing – why I had never tried this before? The filling is completely gluten-free too!

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (I used peanuts!)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used raisins!)
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • bread or bun & sandwich toppings of your choosing (I recommend thinly sliced tomato and avocado)
  1. Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor. Combine with all of the other ingredients, including salt and pepper to taste, in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Store in a covered container in the fridge.  I portioned mine into small tupperwares that I could easily pack for lunches.

Coconut Curried Polenta

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
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This recipe originally appeared in Maya Sozer’s cookbook, Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches.  Maya pairs the Coconut Curried Polenta with sautéed mushrooms, which is one of my favorite food combinations and my go-to comfort food. Feel free to sauté up some mushrooms with onion, garlic and some seasoning.  I usually have a crisper full of veggies and have a tough time choosing just one, so I made a sautéed vegetable medley to top my Coconut Curried Polenta. This recipe is naturally gluten-free.

  • 18 ounces precooked polenta (about 1 cup dried polenta cooked in 3 cups of liquid, or you can typically find precooked polenta in the produce department of supermarkets)
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (the solid fat found in a can of coconut milk)
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger (tip: use a citrus zester)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet curry (I like Patak’s curry paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Mix the all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the polenta mixture and cook for 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Serve sautéed vegetables over a bed of the Coconut Curried Polenta for a warm, filling and comforting lunch or dinner.


Corn Chowder with Salsa Verde

You know those moments when you look around and realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing? Well, that’s how I feel when I make corn chowder.

Corn Chowder & Salsa Verde - V/GF

It’s my favorite recipe to make. I could break it down and try to explain it, but I don’t want to ruin the experience with an overly analytic play-by-play.  At this point in my corn chowder career each time I make it I get a nostalgic-like experience for the previous time I made it.  Soups are one of the foods that allow you to use the same ingredients but manipulate them in different ways, somehow still resulting in the same soup.  It’s beyond science, it’s magic.

I was graced with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bag earlier this week with four fresh ears of corn, which was the catalyst in this corn chowder equation.  The bag also contained tomatillos, which for some reason never end up on my grocery list and new ingredients are great ways to get your creative juices flowing.  Corn chowder goes really well with classic Mexican ingredients, like avocado and cilantro, so why not make a salsa verde to drizzle over the top of my corn chowder?

Corn Chowder & Salsa Verde - V/GF

You can see from my picture that I’m currently (forever) obsessed with my cast iron pan. I love the deep flavors it brings out and the ease in which I can get that perfect char on veggies. I recommend investing in a nice big cast iron pan, especially as grilling season winds down.

Salsa verde is a green salsa made with tomatillos, or green tomatoes.  Tomatillos are smaller than the typical tomato and come with a paper-like shell around them.  Think Chinese lanterns.  They’re cooked in some way or another, and blended with jalapeños, herbs (typically cilantro), garlic, onion and salt. I used to be intimidated by salsa verde, once a long, long time ago, and I realized  it is freaking simple to make – one of those recipes that makes you vow to never buy the food ever again (*hummus*).  #homemadetilidie

Corn Chowder & Salsa Verde - V/GF

I know I’ve shared a thousand corn chowder recipes, but never with salsa verde, and never with so much passion.

Corn Chowder and Salsa Verde

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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Warning: this may become your new favorite recipe.

Corn Chowder:

  • 2 ears of corn, husked and kernels cut off the cob
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 large russet* potato, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can of coconut milk

Salsa Verde:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, about 3 cups
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I like dill as a weird twist, but cilantro is the traditional herb)
  • 1/4 of an onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, cut in half and the seeds removed
  • dash of cayenne, optional
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  1. Bring a small pot of water to boil.  Add the tomatillos (you can remove the paper-like shells first, or boil them with the shells on and they’ll pop right off – cook’s choice!).  The skin of the tomatillos will start to crack, indicating they are ready to be drained. This should take 4-7 minutes.  Rinse in cold water for about 1 minute to bring the temperature down.  Set aside.
  2. Heat a large pan or a pot with a drizzle of oil.  Add the onions, bell pepper and celery.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the veggies soften and start to brown.
  3. Add the spices and stir. Add the potato and the garlic.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add just enough vegetable broth to cover all of the ingredients. Don’t add too much because corn chowder is supposed to be a really thick and creamy soup.  Bring the broth to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 7 minutes. More broth can be added throughout the cooking process to keep the thickness however you like it.
  5. In the meantime, transfer the tomatillos (now definitely with no paper-like shell) to the blender or food processor.  Add the rest of the ingredients (only start with 1/2 teaspoon of salt) and blend on high for 3 minutes, or until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to add more cayenne or salt.  Place in the fridge to cool completely before serving.
  6. Add the coconut milk to the soup and stir.  Bring the chowder back up to a boil and reduce the heat so it simmers. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are really soft.
  7. Remove half of the soup and blend it with an immersion blender or actually in a blender.  If you’re feeling lazy you can use an immersion blender directly in the soup pot without removing any, but don’t blend all of the ingredients – leave some chunks.  I blend half separately so I can better control how blended to soup gets.
  8. Combine the blended and non-blended soup and add the corn kernels. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

*You can use other potatoes, but the starchiest ones (russets) are actually great for thickening this soup up.


Baked Curry Potato Wedges

Baked Curry Potato Wedges - V/GF

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered my true interest in nutrition is not in what one should eat, but the fact that one should have access to healthy foods and the skills to prepare them.  Written in a sentence, it sounds like the simplest thing in the world. The bottom line is, it’s not just about access. You have to bring access, change preferences so that healthy foods are more desirable, provide education so the food is used properly – all at the same time. And that’s not even considering the politics that are knitted in our meals.

Another part of the problem is food waste. There are tons of programs throughout the country that work primarily to increase access to healthy foods in areas of food insecurity. How is this food being used? How much is being wasted?

There are tons of programs that work to recover food waste to recycle it into energy (think compost). When you hear ‘food waste’ you most likely think of what you scrape off your plate into the garbage at the end of a meal.  That’s the food waste that we, consumers, most often encounter.  We don’t think about the ‘ugly’ foods that don’t sell in the grocery stores, the foods wasted during production – either by farm or factory.

There is a lot of work in food waste recovery, that’s helping to make use of some of the food we, consumers, are wasting, but the answer to reducing food waste is in processing.  As consumers we can stop overlooking the deformed, slightly off-color, bulbous produce. We can plan our grocery shopping a little better so we are buying with a purpose. Ask yourself – ‘Do I think I can use this by the time it spoils?’ We can make use of storage techniques like freezing and canning to preserve food for longer periods of time.

My grocery store has a little section that contains discounted produce due to blemishes.  You can buy bags of 4 to 5 pieces of fruits or vegetables for only one dollar!  The only catch is that you have to use these products within the first day or two of purchasing them because they tend to be closer to spoiling than non-discounted produce.  Being aware of this prevents you from buying what you cannot use.  This is where I often find potatoes.

Baked Curry Potato Wedges - V/GF

I used to buy potatoes by the 2-5 pound bags they are typically sold in, however I started noticing that after a few weeks I had to scramble to make something with potatoes in order to avoid throwing away a majority of the bag.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’d make a big batch of pierogi to freeze or mashed potatoes (which are actually pretty versatile – have you tried throwing leftover mashed potatoes in soup?).  Since I started buying smaller bags of potatoes (these discounted potatoes contain only 4) I am a little more creative in what we make with them – cue Baked Curry Potato Wedges.

The purpose of today’s post is really to encourage mindful consumption of food.  This phrase is often overlapped with comments about healthy eating and nutritional prompts, but it’s more than that – it’s about reducing waste, reducing your footprint, if you will. For some of us it’s about time, do I have the time to prepare this food? It’s about energy, do I have the energy to prepare this food? It’s about knowledge, do I have the skills and experience to properly prepare this food? If not, where can I learn more about it? I know it sounds daunting, but once you get in the habit of thinking about food in terms of reducing waste, these questions will be answered naturally.

Baked Curry Potato Wedges - V/GF

With no further ado – Baked Curry Potato Wedges.  This recipe only calls for 6 ingredients, is naturally gluten free and prep time is only 5-10 minutes, depending on how fast you chop.  The potatoes need a little bit of time in the oven, but if you plan ahead, you can throw them in and then work on the rest of your meal.

Baked Curry Potato Wedges

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Spice up your burger night with these 6-ingredient Baked Curry Potato Wedges.  Gluten free too!

  • about 2 pounds of white potatoes (about 3-4 potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry paste (can substitute with 1 tablespoon curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Wash and scrub the potatoes – you aren’t going to peel them so you need to wash the skins really well.
  2. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Slice each piece in half lengthwise again, so you end up with wedges. If the potatoes you are using are really large, you can repeat the slicing until you have skinnier wedges. Place the potatoes in a large bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the potatoes and mix. Your hands are the best tool for this job, you can really rub the spices and oil into each potato.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the potato wedges in a single layer.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing them around halfway through.* The potatoes are done when they are easily pierced with a fork and have turned a golden color.

*To avoid having to tediously toss each wedge, place a wire cooling rack on the baking sheet and line the wedges up on that. This way air flow can reach the bottom and top of the potatoes.


Nutrition News Update 7.29.16

Nutrition News Update

Nutrition News Update

A lot has been happening in the world of food politics this month, so I thought I’d share some links and commentary in case you’ve missed these headlines.

First up, GMO labeling:

GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, have been a hot topic in the food and nutrition world for a few years now.  Arguments against GMOs relate to transparency and unknown implications on health, agriculture and environment.

Pro-GMO arguments state that GMOs help make agriculture more efficient by creating the strongest, most durable, fastest growing versions of foods.  They also use the matter of improving consumer satisfaction – removing seeds, quick cooking varieties and fruit that tastes like ballpark candy.

Marion Nestle does a nice round-up on her blog about the new bill that’s pending for GMO labeling.  There are three options proposed for how the labeling will work – a QR reader on food labels that would require people to have smart phones, a standard symbol developed by the USDA, or a statement that food contains GMOs present on the food label.  The QR reader is the favorite of the food and grocery industry, because they know people won’t actually use it.  QR readers have been around for years now and I’ve never used one. You need a special app, right? Plus, this is just something that the people who are already aware and concerned will use.  The whole idea behind labeling GMOs is to make this information easier and more accessible to everyone, not just the well-informed.

Another round-up of the GMO bill comes from Civil Eats, an excellent resource for all food news.  As with all politics, the language in the bill has resulted in mixed analysis.  Will commercially grown GMO corn, soy, canola and sugar be included in this labeling? The bill defines bioengineering as “genetic materials that have been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques” but what about other modifications? Soda and other super refined products don’t contain any of the genetic material but are still derived from genetically modified organisms. Salmon is genetically modified using genes found in nature rather than those engineered via in vitro technology.

As of now, GMO labeling under this bill is only applicable to food for human consumption, so pet food is exempt.  Restaurants and similar food retail businesses are also exempt from this labeling requirement.

You are what you eat, right? Not according to this bill, since animal derived products aren’t considered bioengineered if an animal was fed with bioengineered feed.

Next up: the new Food Nutrition Label

On a slightly less skeptical note, health has beat industry with the passing of the new nutrition label designs.

Some highlights include a greater emphasis on calories, including a more realistic representation of what people eat as opposed to what they’re supposed to eat.  Research states that certain package sizes influence how much we eat, so for packages that are technically two serving sizes, like a 20-ounce soda, are now listed as one serving.  You might say that this promotes drinking 20-ounce sodas as opposed to smaller portions, but it really makes the nutrition information more translatable for the consumer.  Think about it, do you do the math, even if it’s a simple calculation, when you glance at a food label? No, neither do I.

The new label also features information on added sugars. This is huge, and received a lot of  push-back from the food industry. New labels will be required to include the amount of added sugar in addition to the natural sugars present. So products like fruit yogurts will list the sugars that are naturally present in the fruit and the sugar they add to make your yogurt taste like pudding. This addition is based on research that says “it’s difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars.”

Other changes include the addition of vitamin D and potassium, updated sodium and fiber related to percent daily value, and clearer language around the percent daily value. All changes appear to be heavily based on nutrition research, which in some cases can be misleading (a lot of industry sponsored studies), with improved consumer health as a priority.

Read more here and here. Click here for a side by side comparison of the old and new label.

Finally, Updated School Nutrition Standards: 

School food is a big issue right now.  Childhood obesity stats are driving the campaign for healthier options offered and more in-depth nutrition and food education in schools. While these standards don’t address the educational component, they are a step forward in providing healthier options for kids.

The standards are based on the Smart Snack Standards introduced in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act.  The Smart Snack Standards include whole grain-rich foods, calorie limits for meals and snacks, fruit and vegetable requirements and other nutrient limits. More details can be found on this pdf.

The updated standards put a ban on marketing of products that don’t comply with the Smart Snack Standards of 2010.  Again, there’s some vague language so it’s unclear whether incentive programs like fast food coupons for kids who read a certain number of books or the box-top incentives will be exempt.

The updated standards include outside food brought into classrooms for birthday parties or other celebrations.  Basically, any food item that affects the group rather than individuals will be subject to the Smart Snack Standards.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which provides free meals for children of low-income families doesn’t seem to be affected too much from the updated standards, but that is likely due to the fact that there are already some hefty regulations on the nutrition content of the meals it provides.

See what Civil Eats says on the matter here.

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie

Summer is tough. Only because my sweet tooth begs for fudgy brownies and cupcakes loaded with freshly whipped buttercream, but my body is telling me that if I turn on the oven I might actually melt.  All of the usual treats, like cookies and cakes and muffins are replaced with ice cream and popsicles.  The heat forces me to be creative, because y’all know I’m still eating sweets.  This recipe for Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie is perfect for beating the summer heat and satisfying your sweet tooth.

There’s something super nostalgic about the creamsicle flavor.  I don’t remember it as a favorite from my childhood, but it still takes me back to summers spent by the pool, my hair green from the chlorine.  My parents always have ice cream in the freezer, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed since childhood, so I think we never had any reason to chase the ice cream truck for one of those creamsicle treats.

But about this recipe…

Vanilla Maple Coco-roons - V/GF

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pies - V/GF

Don’t be turned off by the word “raw”.  This isn’t one of those recipes that makes you dig out your food dehydrator, buried in your basement and launch you into a summer cleaning session that takes three weeks.

The crust of this Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie is made of Coco-Roons, a raw coconut and nut based cookie, and coconut oil. Although these pies still qualify as dessert, they’re definitely a healthier option than the traditional ice cream truck option.  Both the Coco-Roons and the cashew-based filling are sweetened with pure maple syrup, making this dessert free of refined sugars.  You have to think ahead to soak the cashews for at least an hour before you can make the creamy, velvety filling. Then you pop everything in the freezer and let it set up for at least 4 hours before the real satisfaction of eating can happen.  You can make one huge Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pie, or you can make a bunch of muffin-sized pies (the smaller the pies, the faster they’ll freeze!).

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pies - V/GF

Raw Creamsicle Ice Cream Pies

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 30 minutes active, 4+ hours inactive
  • Difficulty: easy
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These summer treats are gluten free, dairy free (obviously) and raw, so they’re a perfect sweet for everyone.  Oh yeah, and the recipe only calls for 7 ingredients!

The Crust:

  • 1 package (6.2 ounces) Coco-Roons (I recommend the Vanilla-Maple flavor or the Lemon Pie Flavor)
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

The Filling:

  • 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour
  • 1 orange, zested and then juiced
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Combine the Coco-Roons and the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a food processor. Process until crumbly, but when pinched between two fingers the mixture stays together.  Prepare your dish – so if you’re using a normal 8″ pie plate, line it with parchment paper that overhangs the edge slightly. It doesn’t have to cover the entire bottom, just enough so that you can grab the two edges and pop your pie out.  If you’re using a muffin tin to make a 8 smaller, single-serving pies, simply line it with cupcake liners! If you’re making a normal 8″ pie, just transfer the crust mixture into the pie plate and then press down to compact the crust, making sure it’s even. If you’re using a muffin tin, place one tablespoon of the crust mixture in each cupcake liner and then press down to compact the crust.  Place the crust in the freezer while you make your filling.
  2. Wipe out the food processor with a paper towel, it doesn’t need to be perfectly clean.  Drain the cashews and place them in the food processor.  Add 1/2 of the zest from the orange and all of the juice. Add the coconut oil, coconut milk, maple syrup and the vanilla extract. Process for a good 5-7 minutes. The mixture should be super smooth and velvety. Test this by dipping your index finger in and rubbing it together with your thumb, if it still feels gritty, keep blending.
  3. Once you reach that velvety texture, grab your crust from the freezer and pour or scoop the filling into the crust.  For the 8″ pie, you’ll just use all the filling so you don’t need to worry about portioning it.  For the muffin-sized pies, start with about 2 tablespoons of filling in each liner and then evenly disperse the leftover filling.
  4. Sprinkle the tops of the pies with the leftover orange zest and place in the freezer to set.  The pies will be set and ready to devour in about 4 hours!




Ginger Soy Green Beans

Maybe I should apologize for every post being about the garden lately. But I’m not really sorry and I am a terrible liar, so what’s the point? I am totally loving having this full-fledged garden and this time of the year is so exciting. Every day we have something to harvest. Every damn day!  I am so grateful to Josh, since he’s the one who has the green thumb and puts it to work.

green beans

What’s an hour spent pulling weeds, harvesting, watering and pruning if you can jump inside and cook up some Ginger Soy Green Beans in less than 15 minutes? Totally worth it if you ask me.

Although my preferred green bean is one plucked off the stem and immediately sunk into my mouth, a quick blanch and swoosh in a sauté pan with a salty sauce does them good too.  That’s exactly what this recipe for Ginger Soy Green Beans calls for. Blanch the beans for 3 minutes and toss them in a saute pan that’s cooking a sauce made with fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce. It’s really that simple – less than 10 ingredients, less than 10 minutes.

Ginger Soy Green Beans - V/GF Ginger Soy Green Beans - V/GF

Ginger Soy Green Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Less than 10 ingredients. Less than 10 minutes.

  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use tamari to make this recipe gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (sesame would be good too!)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts
  1. Heat a small saucepan with salted water.  Allow the water to boil.  Set up a bowl full of ice water on the side.
  2. Prepare the green beans – snip off the ends and rinse them. Set aside until the water is boiling.
  3. Use a microplane (citrus zester) or the small side of a cheese grater to grate the peeled ginger and garlic.  This makes almost a paste-like consistency for both, saves you the time to mince them by hand and allows them to mix into the sauce better.
  4. Stir together the soy sauce, oil, garlic and ginger in a small bowl.
  5. Add the green beans to the boiling water. Keep a careful eye, they should only be in the pot for about 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the soy mixture in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  6. When the beans are vibrantly green, pull them out and toss them in the prepared ice water.  Once the soy mixture is simmering in the sauté pan, add the green beans and toss to coat them with the sauce.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Transfer the beans and sauce to a bowl or dish and top with the roasted peanuts.


Coconut Chia & Watermelon Seed Parfaits

Like/Share this recipe until 7/29 to help me win the Watermelon Recipe Contest sponsored by Go Raw! and the National Watermelon Promotion Board!

You guys! It’s one of the most exciting times of the entire year. Sure, it’s hot. Okay, super hot. And muggy. And the mosquitoes are out in full force. But let’s just take a moment to think about the food. Our garden is producing HUGE summer squash, green beans left and right, leaf lettuce, kale, cabbage, and spinach. I am on edge peeking at the roots of our carrot plants, waiting (impatiently) for the day I see a little orange pop up. I might actually faint.

July means sweet corn, early tomatoes, bell peppers, and watermelon. We were a little late to the game this year, but we’ve got three watermelon plants that should be in full swing by the end of the month.

Watermelon is the nostalgic summer food. It starts early, when you’re a toddler, sitting around a picnic table in a soaking wet bathing suit, dripping in chlorinated water, taking a huge bite out of watermelon slices bigger than your face.   Then, as a teenager, you make a fruit bowl, using the watermelon as the bowl. I’m pretty sure it’s a right of passage to adulthood. The early twenties are obviously full of watermelon margaritas. If they weren’t, you should probably get on that. We come full circle here, as I give you a recipe featuring watermelon seeds. I mean, what’s more adult than eating something you were scared into avoiding as a child.

This recipe is for a contest hosted by Go Raw and the National Watermelon Promotion Board featuring watermelon seeds and flesh. This Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait is fresh, creamy, crunchy, juicy, and sweet. Make it ahead of time for a week of nutrition-packed breakfasts. It’s ideal for Sunday brunches and gatherings since you can have it ready a day early and it looks pretty in a glass – with red watermelon flesh, green apples and contrasting granola and coconut chia.

Watermelon Plant

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait - V/GF

Click here to vote for my recipe! 

Coconut Chia and Watermelon Seed Parfait

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 3 hours, mostly inactive
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Don’t forget to visit the Go Raw Facebook Page to like or share this recipe – Vegan/GF.

Coconut Chia Pudding:

  • 1 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Watermelon Seed Granola Clusters:

  • ¾ cups Go Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds
  • 1 ¼ cups gluten free oats
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup vegan margarine
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 green apples, diced
  • 1 cup watermelon, diced or cut into rings to fit into your glasses
  1. Preheat the oven to 325o
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the coconut chia pudding in a medium sized bowl. Whisk to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the chia seeds have absorbed the coconut milk and the consistency is pudding-like.
  3. Combine the Go Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds, gluten free oats, dried cranberries, coconut flakes, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the margarine and maple syrup over medium heat. Stir until the margarine is melted, then allow the mixture to bubble.  Let the mixture bubble for about 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the maple syrup mixture to the watermelon seed mixture and stir to combine. The mixture should be moist.  Transfer the granola to a lined sheet pan and spread it out evenly.  Bake for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through so it cooks evenly.  Leave the oven on, as it will be used again.
  6. When the granola is done, gently press it onto the pan with the bottom of a spatula. Allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  7. When the granola is cooled, carefully break it into little clusters. Place the clusters back in the oven for 10 minutes.  This helps the granola stay together.
  8. Allow the clusters to cool completely.
  9. To assemble the parfaits, first check that the clusters are cooled and the coconut chia pudding has thickened. In a small bowl or glass cup layer a generous scoop of the coconut chia pudding.  Next add a layer of watermelon seed granola clusters.  Top with apple pieces. Continue with this pattern one more time, making sure you evenly spread the layers so they are visible from the sides of the glass.  You can continue to layer the glasses as many times as you’d like.
  10. Store in the fridge until ready to eat, these can be made up to a day in advance. Store any extra granola clusters in an airtight container or bag at room temperature.

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3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie

Some things, like watermelon, are really easy to trace your memories back to the first time (or early times) and be like, “oh yeah, of course that’s where it all started.”  But other things, like coffee, are a little harder. I’m currently having a chicken-or-the-egg type battle with coffee and being busy constantly.  My heart says I love coffee so much, and of course I started drinking it like a fiend because I love it so much.  But my brain is telling me that I started chugging it back in the early days of college, when late night studying was a regular thing and I worked late at Strong Hearts on the weekends (who wouldn’t need coffee to stay up until 3 am slinging vegan french toast?).  In resolution, I’m just grateful that there’s a drink I love that also serves my chaotic and busy life.

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie - Vegan/GF

Another such drink is this 3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie. Coffee. Banana. Illumin8 Mocha meal replacement powder. The banana adds a little sweetness and bulks up the smoothie.  It’s also the classic on-the-go breakfast fruit if you ask me.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached in my bag and pulled out a banana (the vegan version of pulling a rabbit out of your hat). I made this smoothie with coffee because I’m weird about having two drinks at once, and I’m definitely not giving up my coffee.

Sunwarrior Illumin8 Mocha

The Illumin8 Mocha meal replacement powder by Sunwarrior, was created as an all-natural, no-fuss plant-based protein powder in a market saturated with all sorts of products made with GMO/processed/chemically derived ingredients.  The company’s mission, “to illuminate mind, body and planet…” speaks to me deeply as I strive each day to get closer to a life full of positivity, minimal impact and self-sufficiency.  The Illumin8 meal replacement comes in different flavors, each with the “core 8 nutrients”, giving the product the Illumin8 name.  Plant-based protein from peas, quinoa, chia seeds and more. Complex and gluten free carbs from garbanzo, amaranth and more. Healthy fats, pure vitamins from organic herbs and superfoods – none of those chemically derived vitamins.  Minerals from the sea, probiotics and fiber.  Enzymes present in the appropriate mix to help aid digestion and absorption of all the amazing nutrients in this product.

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie - Vegan/GF

Be careful, you might think it’s a chocolate milkshake!!!

With all the nutrients packed in the Illumin8 meal replacement you can see why this smoothie doesn’t need any more ingredients.  Start your day off right, it’ll be Friday before you know it.

3-Ingredient Breakfast Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

With only three ingredients this vegan and gluten free smoothie delivers on all of your nutrition needs thanks to Sunwarrior’s Illumin8 meal replacements!

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend on high for 3-5 minutes.  Drink up!


Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches


The Fourth of July, and summer in general, as a child meant lots of family picnics, fireworks, lots of swimming, playing croquet and bocce ball, and of course ice cream.  It also meant a lot of ice cream sandwiches.  I can remember one such event, it must have been a rainy day because we were all piled in my grandparents’ garage.  Grandma Junie was passing around ice cream sandwiches, the classic kind (not these fancy Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches), wrapped in paper, Uncle Mike was telling the story about how he shot the Truphents’ dog – a story which my Grandmother had no previous knowledge and I thought maybe she’d drop dead upon learning this.  I suppose this is the way life goes when you have five boys, all close in age, you’ll learn crazy stories about their goings-on thirty years down the road.

I have never really thought of it much until now, but I have quite a few ice cream memories associated with my paternal grandparents. My grandma used to hang out at the ice cream shop in town, I can’t for the life of me remember if she would eat ice cream everyday, but she drank lots of coffee and it always came with a cup of crushed ice, perhaps why I put an ice cube in my coffee.  When I was going through the elementary school swimming ranks my grandpa told me he’d buy me a banana split if I passed my deep-end swimming test on the first try.  Two conflicting things you should know about me here: 1 – I hate swimming, not that I’m bad at it, because I’m actually pretty good, but I absolutely hate it. 2 – I take tests very seriously, I’m a star pupil and I wear that nerd hat like a crown.  That happened to be the first and only banana split I have ever eaten.

So I think I just made the scientific discovery that preference for ice cream is a trait passed on from generation to generation.  My grandparents loved ice cream, my father loves ice cream, and so I love ice cream.  That’s got to be the way it works.

Store bought vegan ice cream has come a long way since the early 2000’s. Back then it was Tofutti, which to this day my brother Nick will still to go to bat for, but I think it’s just nostalgia, or his weird taste buds (that he also inherited from my paternal grandfather).  So Delicious is my favorite, especially Turtle Trails or the coconut milk Cookie Dough.  Just this year Ben & Jerry’s released almond milk ice cream, which, I typically love to hate these things, but I absolutely love the PB & Cookies flavor.

Despite the ease of buying a carton of ice cream, I still enjoy some homemade flavors.  It’s a little time consuming, since you have to wait for it to freeze, but it allows you the freedom to mix different flavors, to know exactly what is in your ice cream (or what is not).  Don’t limit yourself to a pint of some mainstream flavor, isn’t that what the Fourth of July is about – freedom (to make crazy ice cream flavors!).

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwich - Vegan

Before we dive into this recipe, I will warn you that it requires patience and will power.  First you start with the ice cream. It only takes a few minutes to make, but it takes hours to freeze up.  While that’s going, you’ll make the peanut butter cookies.  Then you have to let them cool, and try not to eat one, unless of course, you have an uneven number, and in that case, you absolutely need to eat one.  When the ice cream is finally frozen, you have to make the sandwiches, roll them in roasted peanuts and pop them back in the freezer for a few minutes.  But it’s so worth it, promise.

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 1 hour active, 3-4 hours inactive
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This recipe is a fun twist on your classic ice cream sandwich, with coconut banana ice cream stuffed in between peanut butter cookies.  The cookie recipe is adapted from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, feel free to use you favorite recipe for peanut butter cookies instead.

Coconut Banana Ice Cream

  • 1 15-ounce can coconut milk (full fat, this is no time to be on a diet!)
  • 2 ripe bananas, the riper they are the more sweet banana flavor you’ll get out of them
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Roughly 1 cup of roasted peanuts
  1. Use a blender or food processor to blend the coconut milk, bananas, sugar, corn starch and salt until the mixture is velvety smooth.  Transfer to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Bring the ice cream to a boil, stirring frequently.  Let the ice cream boil for about 3-5 minutes, you’ll be able to feel it thicken as you stir.  Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes or so at room temperature.  Then, if you have an ice cream machine, follow the instructions and use it to churn your ice cream.  This will significantly speed up the freezing process. Otherwise, transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe (preferably glass) container and place in the freezer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the peanut butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and almond milk together until the mixture is well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on a low speed, add the flour mixture in 1/2 cup intervals. If the cookie dough is really dry, add a teaspoon of almond milk.
  5. Scoop out about a tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball and use a fork to flatten it (think classic peanut butter cookie here) on the baking sheets.  The flattened cookies should be about an inch and a half in diameter.  Continue to fill up the tray, the cookies won’t spread much, but try to leave about 3/4 of an inch in between each cookie.  Bake for 8-9 minutes.
  6. Let the cookies completely cool at room temperature.
  7. When the ice cream is set up, use a spoon or an ice cream scoop to get about 2 tablespoons of ice cream in a ball. Transfer the ice cream to the bottom of one cookie and top it with another cookie. Apply gentle pressure to flatten the ice cream a little. Roll the sides of the sandwich (where the ice cream is exposed) in the peanuts and immediately place the sandwich back in the freezer (have an empty tray ready).  Continue until all of the cookies and/or ice cream are transformed into sandwiches!
  8. After the sandwiches have been in the freezer and the peanuts have frozen to the ice cream, transfer the cookies to an airtight container, I usually just use gallon ziplock baggies. Keep in the freezer until ready to devour.

I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman – Anansi Boys, it’s a wild story about long lost brothers and a rich family history of gods and super powers.  To keep track of what I’m reading, head over to my Goodreads account or glance at the widget on the bottom right of this page.  What are you favorite summer reading books?


Granola Bar Round Up

Summer is here.  I don’t care what the calendar says. My skin is a few shades darker and my freckles are popping like crazy.  I even have a Teva tan! The weather forecast is consistently in the 80s here in Central Ohio. It’s summer.

Cage the Elephant at Express Live!

Cage the Elephant concert last night at Express Live! in Columbus.

Summer brings road trips, concerts, long days at the beach, and festivals. Even if you’re staying home, the last thing you want to do is cook.  This is why granola bars are the single most important food of summer.  I always have one tucked in my bag, the freezer always has a dozen ready to go when hunger strikes.  Use your rainy days to get in the kitchen and load the freezer up.  Not only do these granola bars whip up really quickly, but they’re loaded with nutrition – whole grains, omega fatty acids, fiber, protein and tons of vitamins and minerals.

Before I started making homemade granola bars I had a notion that they would be really finicky, crumble apart, and I would end up with granola.  But this isn’t the case.  Well, I have had a few recipe flops, but a good recipe will produce solid bars.  In my experience, it’s all about the details.  You’ve got to press the bars before and after baking. You’ve got to use parchment paper. You’ve got to allow them to cool completely before trying to cut them or take them out of the pan.

Here’s a round up of three recipes I have on the blog right now:

Sweet Potato Coconut Granola Bars – This recipe has just 9 ingredients! It’s gluten free, just make sure you buy the gluten free oats.  The sweet, earthy flecks of sweet potato pair perfectly with the nutty, melt-in-your-mouth coconut flakes.  It’s really a match made in heaven.

Sweet Potato Coconut Granola Bars - Vegan Heartbeats

Sweet Potato Coconut Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bars – um, of course! Banana granola bars were my go-to, until one day I replaced the coconut oil with peanut butter.  The result was life changing.  This recipe only has 8 ingredient! and it’s gluten-free!

Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bar mix

Cherry Nut Bars – Here’s another 8 ingredient, gluten free granola bar recipe for you! This one is a little different. It’s a sticky bar that was created to taste like peanut butter and jelly.  It’s my favorite of the bunch, but a little more labor intensive. You have to cook down cherry juice with agave nectar or maple syrup to make a thick, sugary binder for the bars.  It’s so worth it though, these bars are mouthwateringly delicious.

Cherry Nut Bars

Cherry Nut Bars

Happy Eating!