Friday, November 29, 2013

Cranberry Kale Salad

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did! I finished the first draft of my 3rd and final proposal, so today and over the weekend, I just need to work on "TOC" style images, presentation, finding typos, and refining my brilliance. After a solid, long work day, I shared Thanksgiving dinner with my two best friends. After dinner-- the menu was shared with you this week-- we ate warm gluten free pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (they work amazingly with oat flour!), a brandy drink I developed that we entitled Pumpkin Desirrrrre, and watched Legally Blonde. What a great celebration! I really look forward to hosting Thanksgiving at my house when I own one and am "grown-up."

To close out the week, I'm sharing the recipe for our Cranberry Kale salad. Kale salads can be a bit mystifying at first, since the leaves are so hearty in comparison to other salad greens and many people have trouble digesting it when it's eaten raw. However, a raw kale salad can be quite tasty! Kale also has the benefit that it keeps with dressing on amazingly: this is a salad you can make with dressing the night before and have no worries about finding a soggy mess in your lunch box the next day. Plus, at least once a week, I tell you about the nutritional benefits of kale and cruciferous vegetables, so you already know how much of a nutritional punch this salad will deliver! Paired with sunflower seeds and olive oil for the healthy fats, this salad is a real winner, especially if you feel you still need to recover yesterday's feast.

Cranberry Kale Salad

1 bag fresh kale
3T balsamic vinegar
3T olive oil
fresh cracked black pepper and garlic to taste
dash of fresh cracked sea salt
1/3c sunflower seeds
1/3c dried cranberries

In a large bowl, combine kale, oil, vinegar, and spices. Reach your hands in to vigorously massage the kale to help the leaves absorb the flavors. Top with cranberries and sunflower seeds. (They'll drift down anyways as your serve it, so don't mix it up or you'll get a concentration at the bottom.) Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

(white bean) Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! For me this is an exciting Thanksgiving, my first as a full vegetarian, but also a sad one. It's my first Thanksgiving that I'm not able to spend in Pennsylvania with my family. While I will have to work through the weekend to finish an application, I am lucky that I am not spending the holiday alone... both of my roommates and my fiance are also over burdened with work and have thus been circumstantially forced to spend Thanksgiving in Cambridge. So this year, I am especially thankful for them! I hope your company is just as good this holiday!

Today I'm sharing a twist on the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert... pumpkin pie. I love the standard pumpkin pie, made with eggs, white sugar, and condensed milk, but I worry for my friends who are allergic to milk and eggs... they are missing out! For them, there are vegan versions, but most rely on tofu to get their creaminess. And for some of us, it's best to avoid soy as well. In addition to avoiding allergens, this recipe is also cost effective. My bag of white beans costs $0.99 (and I only need 1/3), which is way less than tofu, condensed milk, or eggs! While maybe it's best to stick with the original on Turkey day, this version is really great during the holiday season, when you're hankering for something sweet, but want something less decadent. The white beans stabilize your blood sugar as well as pack in some filling fiber and high quality complete protein, so this can make a great snack!

(white bean) Pumpkin Pie


1c wheat flour or Gluten Free Pantry gluten free all purpose flour
2t baking powder
1/3c warm tap water
2T vegetable oil

Combine dry ingredients, then add the wet. Mix until everything is just wet. Kneed just a few times (do not overwork), then roll out on a floured surface. Transfer to a greased 9 inch pie pan. Cut off any excess dough, leaving a generous 1 inch margin around the edge, to fold under and flute the edges. This recipe is designed for a larger pan, so that you should have plenty of extra to work with.

Note: This crust isn't my favorite, but it's pretty good and easy to roll. My family's standard is a shortening crust which is earth-shatteringly good, but I'm trying to come up with something without the weird synthetic oils.

Pumpkin Filling

1 can pumpkin puree (~1.5c)
1 3/4c white beans (or 1 can)
1/2c dark brown sugar
1/4c maple syrup
1T cornstarch
1t baking soda
2T pumpkin pie spice
1T cinnamon

Food process white beans until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and keep processing until you're sure all of the bean evidence is gone.

Note 2: My pumpkin pie is a bit darker than conventional because of my dark brown sugar. Use light brown or even white sugar if this offends you. Although, you would need less of the white to avoid making it too sweet!

Put it together: Preheat oven to 425F, then turn down to 350F. (If you're making everything else at 350, you can cook this at 350F too, without the 425 step. It works just as well.) Add the pumpkin filling to the pie pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a fork comes out clean. If you notice the crust getting too brown, you can cover the crust edges with a "hollowed out" piece of aluminum foil to keep them from burning. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy! You can always pair the pumpkin pie with some pumpkin sorbet like we did.

You can also make "pumpkin cups" by omitting the crust and adding the filling directly to cupcake tins (silicone like the ones I use here works best.) Bake these little guys for 30 minutes.

Hope you're getting to enjoy some good food and spend some time with the ones you love this holiday!
And a happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

You know that delicious (somewhat unhealthy) green bean casserole that is topped with the crunchy fried onions? It's always been a Thanksgiving favorite of mine, and yup! That's what we're making today. The traditional casserole is somewhat of a bummer if you're lactose or gluten intolerant, since the cream of mushroom soup contains both milk and wheat. Well, since I wanted to share with ALL of my friends, I went ahead and made my own cream of mushroom soup, which is free of cream. Now this dish is vegan and easy to make gluten free! The one thing you still have to watch out for, is that most of the crunchy fried onions are still made with gluten. If you can't find gluten free fried onions, you can fry up your own, or use a crunchy topping of broken up tortilla chips and nutritional yeast. If you happen to find gluten free fried onions though, let me know!

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 white potatoes
1 12oz package sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 leek, sliced into coins, then cut in half
1 stalk of celery, sliced
3c water
1T Vegemite or vegetable boullion
garlic & black pepper to taste

1. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes. Boil until soft.
2. Meanwhile, dice leek and celery.
3. In a large soup pot, sautee mushrooms, leeks, celery, and spices in 1/2c broth until tender.
4. Once potatoes are soft, drain and food process into a paste. Add 2c water and Vegemite or bullion and continue to process until smooth.
5. Add the potato broth directly to the pot with the mushrooms.
6. Add the remaining water and bring to a boil.


Cream of Mushroom Soup (above)
1 package french fried onions
(OR 1 3/4c crushed tortilla chips plus 1/4c nutritional yeast for the gluten free version)
1.5lb frozen green beans

Preheat oven to 350F. Add green beans into the pot with your soup, along with 1c french fried onions. Bake for 30 minutes. Top with remaining fried onions and return to oven for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cornbread-(Vegetarian) Sausage Stuffing

It's no secret... I love bread! Naturally, this meant that I always looked forward to the stuffing on Thanksgiving. I wasn't super enthusiastic about Stove Top stuffing, or the stuff that came out of the bird, but once per year, my Mom would use cubes of fresh Italian bread as the basis for our stuffing. Then, she'd add the magic ingredient... sausage! Then this casserole of fresh bread and sausage got baked in the oven along side the bird, for a really killer result. The taste of sausage with the baked fresh bread is really something special. Last year, I made lentil stuffing, which was good, but not quite the same. So this year, I decided to commit to it and buy a package of Trader Joe's spicy Italian vegetarian sausage. You know from my recipes that I'm not a huge fan of these processed meat substitutes, but this one exception was worth it!

Cornbread-(Vegetarian) Sausage Stuffing

Double recipe of Cornbread
1 package Trader Joe's spicy Italian sausage (or any other vegetarian sausage you like)
2 leeks, chopped into coins, then in half
2 stalks of celery, diced
1c water with 1/2T Vegemite or 1 cube bullion (double this for a more moist stuffing)
garlic, black pepper and parsley to taste (~1T each)

1. Bake cornbread. Let cool, and cut 2/3 of the loaf into 1 inch cubes. (The remaining 1/3 can be left in large cornbread sized pieces to be brought as a bonus or for your own consumption!) 
2. Preheat oven to 350F (or leave on after cornbread has cooked)
3. Slice sausage into 1cm thick discs. Brown in a skillet on the stovetop. 
4. In a large bowl, add the bread cubes, browned sausage, vegetable broth, died leeks and celery, and spices. Stir to evenly coat everything. 
5. Add to greased cassarole dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350F covered.
Enjoy! Homemade green bean casserole is on tap for tomorrow!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Homestyle Lentil Loaf

When I was growing up, my mom's meatloaf was my favorite. I could never understand why on TV they would portray meatloaf as this gross thing that should be dreaded for dinner. This was so much my favorite meal, that it became the standard for my Mom to make for me when I came home from college. After weeks away at CMU, home of some of the worst college dining in the country, I would come home to a warm plate of meatloaf, green beans, and boiled potatoes. Heaven!

This will be my first Thanksgiving fully vegetarian, so I have been searching for something that I could make and bring with me as the main course. You know, so that my Mom wouldn't get stressed about the lack of turkey on my plate. I came across this recipe for lentil loaf on Oh She Glows, but decided that, despite the lovely fall flavors, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. After a bit more thought, I decided that it would be great to vegetarianize my Mom's meatloaf, using the exact same recipe and spices, just substituting lentils for ground beef. Lentils are my favorite legume, so I had high hopes for this substitution. While I wasn't quite sure how many lentils would be equivalent to "1.5lb ground beef" I played a bit and here's what I got. The flavor and texture is very similar to my old favorite. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Homestyle Lentil Loaf

3 1/2c cooked green lentils
1 + 1/2T Vegemite (or 2 cubes vegetable bullion, if you don't happen to have it)
2 leeks, chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
1/2c finely ground oat flour
1c quick cook rolled oats
1T cornstarch
1/2t baking soda
1/3c BBQ sauce or ketchup
1T Worcester or soy sauce
1T spicy mustard
2 cloves or 1T powdered garlic
1/2T ground black pepper

1. Starting from dry lentils, cook a 1lb package of lentils in a broth made up of 1T Vegemite (or bullion) in a large pot of water. This can be omitted, but it'll infuse your lentils with more "meaty" flavor.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Food process 1/2c rolled oats to make your oat flour. Add to a large mixing bowl with the cornstarch and baking soda. Mix.
4. Coarsely food process 3c lentils with the leeks, celery, garlic, black pepper, and remaining 1/2T Vegemite (or 1 cube bullion)
5. Add to mixing bowl with processed oats.
6. Add remaining 1/2c lentils, and 1c oats to mixing bowl, followed by remaining ingredients. I usually use my hands to mix this like working clay, as it is quite thick.
7. Press mixture into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour at 350F.
8. Top with an extra squiggle of BBQ sauce or ketchup and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
9. Let cool, slice, and enjoy!

Moving around the plate to cornbread stuffing with (vegetarian) sausage tomorrow!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Teaser

Hello! It's been a pretty eventful weekend, with one of my dearest girlfriends visiting, as well as my fiance, and now my parents are on the way. I also did a cross race today, but it can be summed up by saying that it felt like I was trying to race a track bike over an obstacle course on an ice rink. With temperatures well below 20F with 40mph gusting winds. I spent more time on the ground than on my bike. Needless to say, I am planning to forget that that ever happened.

Anyways, since Thanksgiving is usually a time when concerned relatives worry about your vegetarian habit, I decided that I'd devote the blog this week to bringing you a week's worth of delicious completely plant based Thanksgiving recipes! Here's what's on tap...

I've updated to link to all the recipes! From front & center, clockwise: Homestyle lentil loaf, cornbread (vegetarian) sausage stuffing, homemade green bean casserole, kale and cranberry salad, cornbread, and (white bean) pumpkin pie!

Are you excited? I know you are! Feel free to bring any of these with you where ever you're going, they're sure to please! One tip I've heard for a vegetarian Thanksgiving is to plan to bring your main dish, since you'll be able to have many the sides and that way you'll get a filling protein kick. So we'll start with the homestyle lentil loaf tomorrow. See you then!

A lovely surprise from my fiance!
As a side note, I plan to post one recipe per day, so if you think you want one of these to take with you on Thursday & you haven't seen it by Wednesday, just message me and I'll send the recipe your way! Total prep time for all of these dishes combined was about 2 hours, so this is an easy-peasy Thanksgiving spread.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Friday! This week I'm sharing a fall favorite with you... pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These are a great cookie to whip up this weekend and take with you wherever you're going for Thanksgiving! Inspired by my peanut butter cookies, I wanted to see if I could make a simple pumpkin spiced cookie that was just as good. And I'd say I almost got it: these cookies are very good, and almost by accident, very healthy! Like the peanut butter cookies, I add no oil, but instead of peanut butter I use pumpkin. So the cookie matrix (there I go, using science terms. Too much writing!) ended up fat free.

I also made a wonderful discovery on the chocolate chip front. Over the years, all too frequently I've found myself without chocolate chips when I want to make something with them. It probably has something to do with the fact that chocolate chips are so very delicious on their own that they have a hard time waiting around in my cupboard for the right recipe to come along. Anyways, when I was making these cookies for myself, I found that I was out of chocolate chips. However, I did have a generous amount of healthy fudge in the freezer from last week, so I decided to go for it and see if I could cut the fudge into chunks while frozen and mix those pieces into the cookies in place of chocolate chips. And it worked! These chocolate chunks melt and solidify nicely in baked goods. So feel free to try that variation if you're feeling adventurous!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1c whole wheat flour
1c brown sugar
1/2t baking soda
1T (or more!) pumpkin pie spice
1/2c pumpkin puree
1/3c vanilla soy or almond milk
1c chocolate chips (or 3 pieces healthy fudge, cut into chocolate chunks)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet. Once everything is relatively combined, fold in the chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. This should make ~25 small cookies. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. Because of the pumpkin, these are a very moist cookie. If you prefer drier cookies, keep them in a paper bag, rather an a sealed plastic container. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Superstar Shepherd's Pie

Sorry I didn't post yesterday, it's been a busy week! I've been spending every waking moment devoting myself to writing the application for the job that's the closest thing there is to my childhood dream. I'm conquering my fear of failure and channeling Randy Pausch. I feel like I'm working as furiously as a fall finals week at CMU. This has all consequently left me with a strange desire for the terrible Snack Well's cookies that were available from the vending machines in the basement of Wean Hall. If you went to CMU and studied in the engineering library (the one where you were kicked out for having food & they came to investigate wrapper sounds) you know exactly what I'm talking about... Don't worry, I'm not trying to recreate that recipe!

There's been a lot of talk of healthy shepherd's pies lately. And why not? It's a gluten free dish that really satisfies and is comprised of all kinds of fall treasures. I made this a month back and really liked it, but have been waiting to share it because I was hoping I'd be able to simplify. This version is pretty labor intensive (i.e. it involves lots of pots which then all have to be washed) but it's worth it! My shepherd's pie uses sweet potatoes and lentils with mixed vegetables on the inside and an herbed combination of mashed cauliflower and potatoes for the topping. Sweet potatoes and cauliflower pack a powerful nutritional punch, with both being rich in vitamins and minerals. Additionally, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, so like kale, it seems to be protective against cancer.

Superstar Shepherd's Pie

5 white potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled
1 large sweet potato, peeled, diced, and boiled
1 bag of frozen cauliflower
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
2c cooked green lentils
1c vegetable broth (can be made from bouillon)
1/2 vegetable bouillon cube
garlic, black pepper, and parsley to taste

1. Peel sweet potato, dice, and add to a pot of boiling water to cook until tender (~30 minutes). (Start with the sweet potato, as it will take longer than the regular potatoes.
2. Peel white potatoes, dice, and add to a pot of boiling water to cook until tender (~15- 20 minutes).
3. Preheat the oven to 350F.
4. Add bag of cauliflower to a large microwavable bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes or until tender.
5. Once the white potatoes are cooked, drain. Take about 2/3 of the potatoes and transfer them to the food processor with the cauliflower, spices, and bouillon cube. Food process until smooth but don't over-process. While food processing potatoes (to achieve mashed potatoes) can be dangerous (i.e. they become soup) the cauliflower will keep this mixture more substantial.
6. Drain sweet potatoes. Transfer to a bowl with the frozen mixed vegetables, lentils, and remaining potatoes. Add spices to taste.
7. Transfer vegetable mixture to a greased 9 x 13 pan. Pour 1c vegetable broth evenly over the top. Coat the entire mixture with your cauliflower/ potato mixture.
8. Bake for 15- 20 minutes or until your vegetables are tender. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spicy Kale Mac & Cheese

I've been working pretty hard on various scientific writing exercises these days (grants, technology disclosures, presentations, and now an application) and when I write, I learned long ago that I do it best in the wee hours of the morning. Alone with a cup of coffee before the sun rises, I have a precious hour or two where nothing can distract me from my work. I've heard this is because your brain doesn't fully wake up until you've been awake for 90 minutes or so, which is great because it seems to be the ADD voices that plague me are the last to wake up in my brain.

Anyways, one day last week, I woke up early to do work. So instead of doing my ride first thing in the morning and braving the sub-freezing temperatures, I then had the lovely opportunity to go for a ride midday while the sun was shining. I was wearing my green fleece lined tights for warmth, and I couldn't help but feel like Peter Pan. By choosing to pursue a career path in academia, I feel like I've never had to grow up. (Since I know that at least one of my esteemed professional mentors occasionally reads this, don't worry! I paid for this little "recess" by needing to stay in lab until 10pm to finish my experiments.)

Some parts of childhood we have to leave behind. If we're lucky though, we get to take some parts with us as we grow and change. For me, macaroni and cheese is kind of like that! When I was little, my mom would regularly make us macaroni and cheese with real cheddar and paprika on top. Being a kid, I didn't have good taste, and would always ask for kraft instead. It wasn't until college, after many bowls of "Easy Mac" that I started to truly appreciate a good bowl of homemade mac & cheese. I've never been quite able to recreate her creamy sauce, even with the recipe, but today I'm sharing a delicious plant-based version that is super easy, deliciously creamy, and even boasts some kale and pumpkin to elevate this mac & cheese to a nutritional powerhouse. I normally use a cashew cheese sauce to go with the kale, but was cooking without a food processor in my fiance's kitchen when I discovered that pumpkin could do the trick! With all those antioxidants and cancer fighting flavenoids, who wouldn't love this mac & cheese?!

Spicy Kale Mac & Cheese

1/2lb whole wheat or brown rice pasta
1 package frozen kale
1/2c nutritional yeast
2/3c unsweetened, original soy milk
1/2c pumpkin puree
paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions. In a large pot, add remaining ingredients. Cool kale over medium heat (or high if you're in a hurry!), stirring occasionally to help the flavors be absorbed and to prevent burning. The cheesy kale sauce should be done around the same time the pasta is. Serve sauce warm over the pasta with an extra dash of paprika as a garnish. Enjoy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ithaca & Pancakes

Things have been super busy, both in real life and here on the blog! So today I decided to keep it low key with a fun post about my weekend adventures and a reshare of an amazing and surprising basic pancake recipe. Recounting these fun things is my attempt to relax myself on a stressful Monday. Several grant deadlines, the fall MRS meeting and poster presentation, a final large cell study (crucial to my first postdoc publication), and a surprise faculty position application are all looming in my future before the holidays hit, so I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. This is of course par for the course in academia!

Last weekend, I traveled to visit one of my closest friends in Ithaca, where she just started a PhD program at Cornell. This particular friend really impresses me... after having a front row seat to all of my ups, downs, and straight up frantic freak-out moments during my PhD, she decided that it would be fun to go to grad school to pursue her own PhD. After witnessing my suffering, she knows that PhDs are not for the faint of heart! It was great to catch up with her and enjoy some of the scenery that late fall in Ithaca offers. We went for a lovely hike around Buttermilk Falls and enjoyed some ice cream afterwards before I headed east.

Our Subarus reunited!
The highlight of the weekend though, was these pancakes. She didn't have the ingredients I usually use in her cupboard, so I had to find something else. I was skeptical at first, because they do contain a massive amount of baking powder, but the result was just perfect! Pancakes that cooked quickly to a lovely golden brown, and were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside! I modified the recipe slightly, but you can use the recipe as is: it will result in a thicker pancake, which is just as delicious.

Easy Pancakes

2c flour (you can also use 1 2/3c flour and 1/3c vanilla protein powder, also delicious!)
1T cornstarch
2T white sugar
4T baking powder
2 1/4c vanilla soy milk
2T vegetable oil
generous amounts of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg (~1T each)

Grease and preheat skillet. It's ready when water droplets sizzle when added. Mix the dry ingredients, then fold in the wet. Drop 1/2c batter onto the skillet for a test pancake. Flip when the top is covered in bubbles. Cook the other side ~2 minutes or until it's also golden brown. If you find that the pancake isn't cooked through, add more soy milk to thin the batter. If you find that the first side got to crispy before you flipped it, turn the heat on the burner down just a touch. Enjoy topped with nuts and maple syrup!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beet and Fennel Supper Pie

Today, I'm very excited to be a part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck! This is a super cool event where vegan blogs all over the world are united and linked together to give you all kinds of recipe ideas. Just in time for Thanksgiving!

I'm in love with the idea of supper pies. It's kind of like a plant-based quiche for dinner, but you feel a little bit naught about it since it looks like a pie! I've made a few supper pies, and I've even previously shared a recipe for my Savory Cinnamon Rosemary Squash Pie. For today though, I wanted to use the featured ingredient, beets. I've posted about beets before because they are a really great pre-race food for athletes. Nitrate supplementation has been shown to significantly increase your athletic performance, which may be why my legs have felt so good on the bike this week... I've been taste testing this pie!

Today, I'm combining the fall flavors of beets, sweet potatoes, fennel, and lentils in a whole wheat olive oil crust. I love all of these flavors, especially together but was unsure the best way to present it as a dish. In the end, I'm giving you two options as to how you should make your Beet & Fennel Supper Pie. I was surprised to find that I liked the way the first looked better, but the second "pink" pie has a wonderful pumpkin pie like texture. So you choose! Either way you square it, you'll have a tasty supper with the performance benefits of beets.

Beet & Fennel Supper Pie

1 can sliced, no salt added beets
1 large sweet potato
1 fennel bulb
2c lentils
cinnamon, garlic, salt, and nutritional yeast to taste


2/3c whole wheat flour
dash salt (optional)
1t baking powder
1T olive oil
1/4c warm water

Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine dry ingredients, then add warm water and olive oil. When dough starts to stick together, roll out onto floured surface, then transfer to a greased pie pan. Flute the edges or just press them down with a fork to finish.

Whole Version

Peel sweet potato & cut into cubes. Dice fennel. Drain the beets and place all ingredients into pie crust, including spices to rates. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for 50 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft. At this point, it will seem that the lentils on top have crispified beyond repair, but fear not! Give the ingredients in the crust a good stir and you will find that everything is perfectly cooked!

Pink Version

Peel sweet potato & cut into cubes. Cook sweet potato in a pot of boiling water until soft. Dice fennel. Add fennel, cooked sweet potatoes, beets (including their juice), lentils, and spices into a food processor. Food process until smooth. Transfer this mixture into the pie crust. Cover just the edges with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for 40 minutes. Enjoy!

To see Quinoa Burgers, click here to go to Cubs 'n' Coffee, the next blog in the Potluck
To see Sesame Kale Almond Bowls, to go to Honk if You're Vegan, the previous blog in the Potluck
To start over at the beginning of the Potluck, click here!

Healthy Fudge

Happy Friday! The people have spoken... all you really want from me are healthy dessert recipes that don't taste healthy so here we go! We're back to baked good Fridays! Today I'm giving you my recipe for an especially delicious dark chocolate treat. I really love it, as it is a very versatile, cheap, and healthy chocolate source. If you put it in the freezer, it comes out like a dark chocolate bar. If you store it in the fridge, it takes the consistency of fudge. And if you choose to eat it at room temperature, you can call it mousse! Like Reeses's, there's no wrong way to eat this healthy fudge.

These days, it seems like dates have taken the place of agave as the "now" sweetener. I've always been skeptical, mostly because I could only find dates at Whole Foods for $6.99/lb so thank you very much, I'll go get my brown sugar for 99 cents! However, I recently came across a package of Dole's dried pitted dates for $1.99 so I decided that I should give it a try. It started like many recipes do: with me throwing things I like in my food processor and tweaking until the flavor was right! The result is a deep dark chocolate cup that is surprisingly comprised of dates, unsweetened cocoa powder, maple syrup, and earth balance buttery spread.

The name of today's recipe comes from a high school friend who would refer to these delicious no-bake oatmeal cookies as "healthy fudge." As you can see, in the case of those cookies, healthy is really a misnomer but for this fudge it is not! Each cup of chocolatey goodness only contains 70 calories and 2g fat, with 2g of protein as a bonus. (Compare that to two of the healthy Dove dark chocolate bites, which are a fraction of the size and give you 85 calories, 4g fat, and less than 1 gram of protein.) The cups also contain 6% of your daily value of iron, but do not count on it as a potent iron source. The antioxidants in dark chocolate inhibit iron absorption, but that's ok since they offer a plethora of other benefits, particularly for cardiovascular health!

Healthy Fudge

1/2c dried pitted dates
1/2c unsweeted cocoa powder
1T maple syrup
1T Earth Balance buttery spread

Soak your dates in a bowl of water at least an hour (or overnight). Add all ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth. Like the black bean brownies, patience is really key. Finding unprocessed chunks of dates can really kill your dark chocolate vibe! Taste your "mousse" and add more Earth Balance or maple syrup to taste. (Please note that you may want to add more maple syrup and/ or earth balance.*) Once you achieve a smooth texture and the right flavor, transfer to 6 cupcake wells. (I have these nifty silicone ones which are great for the freezer.) Freeze for chocolate bars, refrigerate for fudge, or enjoy your mousse right out of the food processor!

*Disclaimer: I like my dark chocolate DARK, like >85% cocoa, so you'll need to add more of the other ingredients if you want to tone down the bitterness of the dark chocolate.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vegan Magic Cheese

aka What the heck is nutritional yeast?!

I decided that it's high time that I introduce you to one of my all time favorite foods, Nutritional Yeast.

You've seen it popping up all over my recipes and I have yet to explain what it is and why I think I can use it instead of parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast is a fantastic food with a very unfortunate name. It's also referred to as "nooch" which I think is worse. Thus we decided early on in my plant based adventures that we would call it vegan magic cheese. And nutritional yeast is pretty magical! Nutritional yeast is the same creature that you used to make bread rise, except it's been deactivated after it was allowed to grow for a few days, often on molasses. The nutritional value of nutritional yeast varies from band to brand. Naturally, it is rich in protein, fiber, and many of the B vitamins: usually 2T contain 60 calories and 9g protein. Because it is a staple among vegans, it is often fortified to contain a complete complement of the essential amino acids and vitamin B12. And to top all that off, it tastes like cheese!

Cashew cheese, which most often gets its cheesy flavor from nutritional yeast, is a classic among vegans and it is tasty! Classic cashew cheese is made with just cashews and nutritional yeast, but obviously I have to be different. I add lentils or white beans into the mix just to be different and to round out the amino acid profile. I'm not a huge fan of cashews, (despite the fact that they are rich in many micronutrients and are a complete protein) so if you are allergic to nuts, I think a cheesy spread comprised of just the nutritional yeast and the legumes is delicious!

Vegan Magic Cheese

1/3c nutritional yeast
1/3c raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
1/3c white beans (or another mild legume like red lentils)
1t apple cider vinegar
garlic and salt (if you so desire)

Soak the cashews in warm water for at least 2 hours or overnight (longer will make your job easier!) Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. You may have to add some water, depending on the moisture content of your beans. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beautiful Beet Borscht

Another one from guest blogger, Sam

For most of my adolescent years, there were very few plant-foods I didn’t like – though beets were front and center.  I think my childhood was marred with gelatinized purple slime from a can.  My first CSA in Massachusetts forced tons of beets into my fridge. With so many beets in my CSA, I was looking for ways to readily put them to culinary use.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon an Eastern European staple, borscht – thus propelling my love for beets.  Nowadays, I rarely make the soup the same way twice, though I’ve migrated from my original brothy-style to a hearty stewier version.

Stef has already promoted the stunning athletic benefits of beets. While throwing back a shot of beet juice might be your best bet as an ergogenic aid, loading with beet borscht leading up to a race is a sure-fire way to cost-effectively maximize the performance benefits.  Again, the benefits of cabbage can be found on yesterday’s recipe, and this soup is bolstered with some beans, making this dish a wannabe Laudible Legume.

The mixture is vibrantly colored! Beware, your hands might be stained accordingly.

I like to cook the beets in with the rest of the veggies in order to maximize the nutritional benefits.  They can also be baked first, and then added to the soup as it stews.  Separately cooked and mashed potatoes make for a great thickener, though they can also be stewed along with everything else and allowed to fall apart as the soup cooks. I personally love the anise-y perk of fennel seeds, though they can be omitted for less adventurous eaters.  While this recipe is vegan, vegetarian versions include a garnish of yogurt, sour cream or crème fraiche, and meat-eater versions can include beef, pork, or bacon.


1.5 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seed, chopped fine
1 white onion, chopped
pinch salt
3 small beets, chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, chopped
1-1.5 c water
1 qt vegetable stock (or other broth or water)
1 lb red cabbage, chopped (about half a medium head)
3 medium carrots, chopped
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
15 oz can Northern beans (or other bean)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 t salt, to taste depending on added salt to the canned goods
Cracked black pepper to taste

1) Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Added the garlic and fennel seeds to the heated oil, and sauté quickly to flavor the oil.  Add the onion, salt and beets, and sweat on low-medium or medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent charring.
2) In a separate pot, add the potatoes and water.  Simmer the potatoes for 10-20 minutes, long enough that they can be mashed in the cooking water.
3) Add to the stock pot the vegetable stock, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, beans.  Simmer the mixture for 30-40 minutes
4) Add the mashed potatoes, salt, pepper, lemon juice and vinegar.  Stir to combine, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, until the beets are the desired tenderness. Salt and pepper as desired.
5) Serve hot or cold, and garnish with your favorite version of cultured milk if you wish. Before long, you will be primed for maximal oxygen utilization.

The beets and onions will sweat in their own juices to bring out incredible sweetness. Keep stirring to prevent the beets from charring if they are too tough.

Thanks, Sam! Come back soon!