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Chai Latte Pancakes + A Giveaway

Okay, so I have a confession. I don’t really like water…I know that sounds weird and maybe it’s because the water in my town is HEAVILY polluted but it just does not do it for me. Soo…bland. I’ll drink it if it’s boiled and has tea steeped in it..or if it’s gone through the process of being brewed into coffee. Other than that, I stick to sparkling water. The heat wave that struck the Midwest this July really got me addicted to canned seltzer water…and to flavored fizzy water. And here I am, 3 months later in a bit of a rut with my 4 cans of flavored sparkling water a day. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my sparkling water but, for a change of pace, I was very excited to try out this new all natural bubbly “soft drink” that Cascal approached me about it.

Cascal All Natural soft drinks are crafted with natural juices (no added sugar except from the juices) and fermented for fuller flavor. At first, I was a little put off by the word ‘soft drink’ because sugary pop comes to mind and I do not usually drink soda. However, this stuff is not the average soda you are used to getting at McDonalds. It reminds me of a mix between my beloved seltzer water and a sparkling juice. The end results are just terrific.

A few of my favorite parts about this soda? Well, they have AWESOME and intriguing flavors. My favorite was the Crisp White which had notes of Pear, Apricot, and Magnolia. Even the one with a chocolate note (Ripe Rough with notes of Chocolate, Rose, and cherry) had a refreshing and not overly sweet flavor to it. And if I have not convinced you already, each can is only 60-80 calories. 60-80 calories for a soda? Ohh yeah!

Anyhow, if you are into trying these out, head to your nearest Whole Foods to pick up your favorite flavor or enter my giveaway for a chance to win a sample pack! The sample pack will have the following five sodas in it:

Crisp White – With notes of pear, apricot and magnolia

Ripe Rouge – With notes of cherry, rose and chocolate

Fresh Tropical – With notes of mango, jasmine and kaffir lime

Bright Citrus – With notes of lemongrass, tangerine and pineapple

Berry Cassis – With notes of black currant, tangerine and lemon

And now for the fine details…

How To Enter:

Leave a comment below telling me your favorite fall soup recipe.

For Extra entries:

Like Cacal or Vegetarian Ventures on Facebook and leave a comment below saying you did


follow Cascal (@CheersCascal) or Vegetarian Ventures (@shellywester) on Twitter and leave a comment below saying you did!
***Make sure to include your email in the comment below so I know how to get a hold of you! This giveaway will be closed on Friday, November 2nd at 10 PM Eastern time and is (sorry!) open to US residents only.***

This is now closed!


Oh, also, shifting topics…I have a recipe for you! Here is a recipe for some vegan chai latte pancakes that I created using a combination of Isa Chandra’s Chai Latte Cupcakes and Perfect Pancakes recipes!

Perfect way to brighten up your morning on these gloomy fall days!

Chai Latte Pancakes

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons canola/vegetable/coconut oil
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 black tea bag or 2 teaspoons loose leaf tea
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • dash of vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until just boiling. Remove from heat, add in tea bags, and cover. Let steap for 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves. Make a well in the center of the dried ingredients and add the oil, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until everything is well combined.

Heat a large skillet over medium and pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet (you should be able to make 2-3 at a time depending on the skillet size). Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Serve warm with cocoa powder and syrup.


Homemade Caramel Corn

When I was in middle school, I would sometimes go to work with my Ma in the mornings and then walk to school [since it was right down the street]. This meant that there was about an hour where I would just be hanging out around her office doing “homework” (which was actually just me distracting her or going through the stuff in her office). My favorite time of year to be around was after the holidays because she would have lots of edible gifts that she received from employees/clients. Chocolate bars were a popular choice but as a little kid, I was always drawn to the GIANT tin of popcorn that had a tiny paper divider splitting the caramel and cheese popcorn [when you are little – everything is cooler when it’s in mass quantities]. I always liked taking the divider out and mixing the two flavors…which was probably my first introduction to the ‘sweet/salty’ combination. [and look at me now! 10 years later and I can’t imagine eating caramel without some big hunks of sea salt on top!]

Anyhow, so fast forward to present [~ 10 years later]: We’ve been having weekly movie nights on Thursdays which has given me a chance to make some treats for guests. Popcorn seems like the likely suspect for a movie night so immediately I thought of my Ma’s caramel popcorn recipes (which was actually my Grandma’s). This stuff is amazing…I mean..melt-in-your-mouth, can’t-stop eating-until-it’s-gone amazing. I tweaked the recipe slightly to fit what I had in my pantry and used agave nectar instead of corn syrup (sorry, Ma) but it was just as fantastic as I remember.

The moment that the popcorn came out of the oven and the sweet caramel smell filled my kitchen, I started nibbling at it… like, uncontrollably nibbling at it. And then before I knew it…a large chunk of the popcorn was gone (and the guests had not even arrived). I started pondering if this amount of popcorn was going to be enough (don’t get me wrong…it makes a ton of popcorn…but this stuff was good and I didn’t want it to be gone before the movie even started). So I started brainstorming ways I could make it last longer and that is when I remember the old cheese/caramel mix. Boom! Perfect. I [sort of cheating…] ran down to the co-op and bought a bag of cheesy popcorn [I know, I SHOULD have made it from scratch…but to be fair…I could not find any recipes that could truly capture that cheesy, powdery texture that the store-bought has. And…at least I went organic with it!]

And thus, the popcorn was a hit! It was [almost] gone before the movie started but lasted long enough for everyone to get their fill. The point of my story? Well 1. I like to ramble and 2. plan for the fact that you may eat half of it beforehand and 3. include the cheddar popcorn or just eat the caramel corn by itself…it will be irresistible regardless.



Homemade Caramel Corn

  • 2/3 cup corn kernels
  • vegetable or canola oil (amount depends on the size of your pot)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1/8 cup agave nectar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • salt
  • store-bought cheddar cheese popcorn, optional

First, pop the popcorn! You can either use your favorite method or follow mine. In a large pot with a lid, pour oil until it just coats the bottom. Place two kernels into the pan and heat over medium (with the lid on) and wait until the kernels pop (this will let you know the oil is ready). Once they pop, immediately add the rest of the kernels and stick the top back on. Shake the pot back and forth across the burner (this will be loud and a workout for your arms – both are good for ya!) and continue to shake until all the popcorn has popped (shaking will keep the popcorn from burning). Remove from heat once all the popcorn has popped and set aside.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, agave, and cream of tartar. Bring to a boil and boil for five minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda.

Pour the heated mixture over popcorn and stir until all the popcorn is coated. Transfer popcorn to two cake pans or 1 baking sheet (if using baking sheet, make sure not to spill it in the oven!). Cook for 2 hours and stir every 30 minutes.

Enjoy warm with all your friends!



Spicy Orange Tofu

Orange tofu! The name sounds kind of weird but it’s a spin off of the famous Orange Chicken that you can get at your local Chinese take-out. Chinese take-out is something I ate a lot growing up so the cravings for it are more frequent than I’d like to admit. Although I can’t get it at most restaurants anymore (they only serve chicken versions), I can make my own! Which is probably for the best because all that MSG makes me soooo sleeepy anyways….zzzzzzz

This recipe is super similar to my General Tao Tofu recipe but with a different sauce. As I’ve mentioned before, I make that General Tao a lot.. so sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and this recipe was the perfect answer to that. It’s a bit sweeter but the sriracha gives a lingering kick to leave you feeling oh so satisfied.

So there it is! Recipe number 2 on this “Tofu Adventure” was a success [although…was this cheating since this method of preparing is already my go-to tofu cooking method? Ah, whatever. Let’s count it as a win]. If you’re into tofu like I am, feel free to check out the first part of “Tofu Adventure” where I made some delicious Pesto Tofu Scramble!



Spicy Orange Tofu

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 1 pound of extra firm tofu (drained and cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons canola/vegetable oil


  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • dash of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of sriracha (more if you like it spicy!)


  • Rice
  • Steamed broccoli
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish


Start by making the sauce: Whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar, orange juice, ginger, garlic and sriracha. Taste test and add more sriracha is it needs more spice. Set aside.

In another small bowl, whisk together the egg replacer with 3 Tablespoons water. Dip tofu in this mixture until completely coated and then sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cornstarch over the tofu until it’s completely coated.

Next, In a large pan fry the tofu by added them to a medium heated pan with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in it. Flip the tofu after about 2 minutes or until it is browned on all sides. When done, turn heat down to medium-low and pour in the orange glaze. Fold the glaze into the tofu and cook down to desired consistency.

Serve warm over rice and with steamed broccoli. Top with sesame seeds and perhaps find some vegetarian crab rangoon to top it all off!



Muesli Bread

I know I push making homemade staples on you guys (see: DIY ketchup, Vegetable Broth, Pumpkin Granola, etc etc etc) but I only do it with the best intentions in mind. It’s healthier, you know exactly what is going into your body, and it often times taste better. I totally get that you aren’t going to always have time to make everything from scratch but you really should make some time now and then to make homemade bread. It may sound unnecessary when you can walk down the street and pick up a loaf for 4 dollars but let me tell you…nothing compares to homemade bread. There is something so satisfyingly addicting about fresh, steamy, buttered bread hot out of the oven. It’s more addicting than that chocolate you sneak after dinner… than that giant triple espresso latte your body tells you it needs in the morning…this stuff is probably more addicting [and healthier] than crack [although I have no real life experience to testify this – sorry!].

Anyhow, cooler weather means we can turn our oven on for more than 20 minutes without fainting..or worse yet, feeling guilty about having it on. It means we stay in doors more [unless you are a skier…then you are gearing up for your most busy season. Luckily, my brother go the skiing bug in my family so I can safely say I prefer the indoors during the cooler months] so we have more time to prep the dough, we have more excuses to heat the house by turning the oven up, and we have more reason to “carb-up” [probably not a word but I’m using it] so our bodies can use those calories to keep us warm. Okay, maybe I am over exaggerating a bit…it is still 60 degrees out there but when you are dealing with something as amazing as fresh bread, you NEED to extend the bread season as long as possible. So put your slippers on, turn that oven up, and start shivering so your body can crave those carbs!

Last “bread season” I tackled Garlic Naan, Breadmaker Jalapeno Cheese Bread, Pretzel Bread, Fall Focaccia, and Oatmeal Honey Buttermillk loaves (my personal favorite) – to name a few. This season, I am starting it off with this breakfast Muesli Bread! I am really gonna have to go big this season because this bread is already one of my favorites! Not only is it gorgeous to look at but it’s bursting with flavor from the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit! We ate this for breakfast with a thin layer of butter and strawberry preserves…oh. my. goodness. I wish breakfast could be this indulgent all the time!

Muesli Bread

adapted from Minimalist Baker
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 1/4 cups flour + more for dusting
  • 1/2 Tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 Tablespoon fast acting yeast
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries (or any dried fruit you’d prefer)
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped

In a small measuring cup, combine the warm water and yeast and set aside (this will give the yeast a few minutes to ‘activate’ and start foaming). Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Slowly add the water mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined (this will either take a sturdy spatula or maybe even your hands…the dough will be very sticky).

Once the dough has formed a ball, place in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Look sit for 1 hour in a warm spot and then transfer to the fridge for an hour.

Once the dough is ready, remove from the fridge and transfer to a floured counter top. Knead the dough a few times and then add in the almonds, pumpkin seeds, and cherries. Knead until everything is incorporated (try to keep the add-ins as much in the middle as possible because they tend to burn if they are sticking out on top).

Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Adjust your oven racks so there is one on the lowest spot and then one in the middle. Place a metal or cast iron (NOT GLASS) pan on the bottom shelf and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Let dough rise for about 20 minutes or until the oven has preheated. Stick the dough into the preheated oven and pour a cup of warm water into the metal pan (it’ll steam – don’t worry! It’s suppose to!) and cook for about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven once the top is browned and serve warm with butter // jam.


Pesto Tofu Scramble with Roasted Tomatoes

Morning, Morning, Morning! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Mine was filled [again] with all my favorite things: friends, hiking, yoga[ing], cooking, and exploring. It’s been so beautiful here with the leaves changing that I’ve felt the need to get outside as much as possible before the cold comes in! We are going to Denver this weekend so I’ve been trying to get my Midwest Fall crammed into 3 weekends this year instead of 4. Here are a few pictures from the hiking /// Fire Tower adventure yesterday:

This weekend was also great because it felt like a bit of a staycation. On Saturday night, Wyatt and I skipped out on our usual bar spot and went drinking at a small Irish pub instead. I had never really drank there before and it was such a wonderful, new experience. The place is full of great lighting, has a rustic pub feel, and delicious cocktail combinations! Definitely my new favorite “date spot”.

And then on Sunday we spent most of the day hiking with some friends. On the way back from the hike, we went out to eat at this little touristy restaurant called ‘The View’. This place is down by the lake so it’s a ways away from Bloomington and we have passed it dozens of times but never thought to stop. It was a pretty good experience [minus some terrible music playing]. The atmosphere was laid back and they had some delicious homemade veggie burgers and ginger sprinter.


And now let’s talk about food! I have a very love//hate relationship with tofu. I can make an amazing General Tao Tofu dish like no one’s business but then there are often times that my tofu comes out crumbly//mushy//sad when I step out of my comfort zone with it. And thus, I have decided that I love [when things go right] tofu too much to be discouraged about trying a new recipe out of fear it won’t come out. I am planning to try a new tofu dish at least one a week for the next month to hone in on my skills and figure out what works/does not work for me when it comes to this protein packed beast [and perhaps I’ll try tempeh next month…and then seitan…etc].

I started my new ‘Tofu Journey’ [can we call it that?] with this scramble. I’ve made many tofu scrambles before and sometimes they turn out just right…but other times they turn out watery or dry or bland. I wasn’t going to let some bad attempts discourage me this time though. I thought about failed attempts in the past and what went wrong…the final verdict to making a good tofu scramble [I decided] was 1. watch it closely to make sure it doesn’t get dried out 2. Pick a flavor combination and stick to it so that it doesn’t end up bland or have too much going on 3. Don’t get impatient…make sure you let it get to the right consistency before taking it off the stove top.

Pesto Tofu Scramble with Roasted Tomatoes

Serve 3 (or a hungry 2!)

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 block firm (or extra firm) tofu
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto (I used my frozen pesto)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt / pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil and salt / pepper and place onto a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes (I like my tomatoes to still have a bit of shape but feel free to roast for longer if you like them to be broken down).

In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium. Add the chopped onions and cook for about 5 minutes; add the garlic and cook for another two. Next, squeeze the tofu over the sink and try to ring out some of the water. Crumble the tofu over the pan and saute for about ten minutes (this will depend on how moist the tofu is so this is the part where you watch it very closely…cook longer if it’s still mushy and add a tablespoon or so of water if it dries out). Add in the prepared pesto and cook for another two minutes. Remove from heat and top with roasted tomatoes.

Serve with soy yogurt and blueberries. Or with a big side of home fries.


Searchable Saturdays

1. Using balsamic vinegar AND peppercorn in a cocktail? I’m intrigued.

2. David Lynch has been in my life a lot lately. We recently started rewatching Twin Peaks (it’s one of my favvvs) with some friends and have been selling through his limited edition Eraserhead LPs like hotcakes at work. This means it was no surprise that I was highly amused by this recent interview with him about his food habits and this video of him making quinoa (which is just sooo….David Lynch).
3. I love love love this DIY on how to make an old backpack into a cute vintage-esque flower purse!

4.  So in love of the concept of the Makeshift Society. I wish that we lived in a big enough city to make our own clubhouse…Midwest edition!

5. With the days getting shorter, I’ve been thinking a lot about lighting in our home and am starting to contemplate replacing some of the light fixtures that came with our renter home. Maybe Ombre lighting?

6. It’s Saturday? I could use a Spicy Bloody Mary. Right. Now.

7. We made these pumpkin donuts this week for a movie night and they were fantastic!


Mmmmkaa! And now I am off to find myself a Bloody Mary…

Have a wonderful weekend!




Apple Latkes

Latkes for dinner?! Yes, please! My family is very German and every December we go up to the German market (Christkindlmarket) which takes place in downtown Chicago. The market runs for the whole month of December and people from all over Germany fly in to sell authentic goods which include candies, food, music, and decor items. To me, Christkindlmarket consists of warm mulled cider, loads of German chocolate, and potato pancakes lathered in apple sauce or sour cream (also known as latkes!). And although the chocolate is…well chocolate (need I say more?) and the cider is alcoholic enough to warm you from the inside out…it’s the latkes that get me oh so excited every year. There is nothing better than warm, fried potatoes lathered in apple sauce (this may sound weird to non-Germans but have you tried it? It really is amazing!).

Okay, that is enough day dreaming about winter already (yuck, what was I thinking?!). Not my fault though…I totally got the new ‘Thanksgiving’ edition of the Food Network Magazine in the mail today. Too warm out to be thinking about Mushroom Gravy and Stuffed To-furkeys? I’d say so. But, a craving is a craving so in an attempt to cool down my potato latke need…I made a fall version! Apple latkes! What a perfect idea! I, of course, did not top them with applesauce (wayyy too much apple in there) but did lather them in butter and maple syrup (since anything in pancake form has the right to be enjoyed with maple syrup. period.)

These little pancakes were awesome. They were flavorful, moist, fluffy, and full of fall spices. I would recommend these for a crisp fall breakfast served up with a batch of mimosas (or if it’s too early for you to start drinking then why not some sparkling cider?).


PS I had never been to the Christkindlmarket website until today – woah! I promise there are no giant fairies in wigs or bad typography to be found! Just lots of chocolate, alcohol, and fried foods.



Apple Latkes

  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg, cloves, and allspice
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup grated apples, about 2 apples (peeled and grated) – spritz a little lemon juice to keep from browning if you peel ahead of time
  • Vegetable oil

Whisk together the eggs and yogurt. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in the egg/yogurt mixture and apples. Fold everything together until incorporated.

Oven medium heat, warm enough oil so that there is a thin layer of oil in your skillet. Add about a 1/4 cup of mixture into the hot oil (I cooked 3 at a time but it will depend on how big your skillet it) and make the latkes in batches. Let them cook for about 4 minutes on each side (this will completely depend on how hot your oil is so watch them closely and adjust accordingly). Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Serve warm with lots of butter and maple syrup!



Spiced Bread Pudding // Collaboration with Dishes Undressed

Happy Tuesday! I’m here today with another collaboration with Angie from Dishes Undressed and this one is our dessert edition! I had her try out my vegan cobbler cake [which sure does look delicious!] and she had me tackle this mouth-watering bread pudding.

Okay, so let’s talk pudding. The REAL kind of pudding…not the stuff you get at the store that is in powder form and you add milk [or something to that nature] to make it come alive [do people still do that? I remember my Dad making us pistachio pudding a lot like this when I was a kid]. I’m talking about the traditional puddings which are created from recipes filled with generations of memories. I never grew up on those puddings and have sort of been making up for lost time. Earlier this month, I whipped up my first ever persimmon pudding and have enjoyed several batches of the stuff since. And now, here I am, trying out bread pudding for the first time. Who knows what’s next! Maybe I’ll try to conquer rice pudding  [again, do people eat that stuff?]. Do you have a favorite pudding recipes? I think I might just have to go on a pudding kick to find mine!

So…my first experience with bread pudding. I was a bit unsure of what to expect but was smitten by the idea that the ingredients were so similar to my favorite breakfast food ever: french toast. I mean, anything that encourages eating french toast more than just before 10 AM is a keeper in  my book. Anyhow, so the result was similar to baked french toast but soften. It was moist, spongy, and full of spices. The warm jam with the perfect sidekick to bring out the sweetness of the pudding. I adapted mine slightly from Angie’s recipe to accommodate what I had on hand.


PS- One last thing! I am a total instagram, bloglovin, and facebook addict [do you follow me on all these things??]. I am, however, totally clueless when it comes to Twitter but I’ve decided it’s time to make the plunge! That is right, VV is offically going to be on Twitter so please hop on over and…say Hi or whatever you do on Twitter. [Username: ShellyWester]



Spiced Bread Pudding

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 thick slices of stale bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
  • fig jam, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and arrange the bread pieces on a small pan.

Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrap out all the seeds. Discard the pod and place seeds in a small saucepan with the milk and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately remove from heat and let cool.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Once the milk mixture is completely cooled (we don’t want the eggs scrambling now!), slowly add it into the egg mixture and stir until combined.

Pour over the bread pieces and let sit for ten minutes. Pop it into the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the top is browned and crusty. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a small saucepan, warm the jam until it becomes runny. Swirl into the bread pudding and enjoy right away! Perhaps along side a big mug of chia tea or with a blanket on your hammock.





Moody Monday /// Maple Glazed Acorn Squash

Good Afternoon! I am feeling particularly moody today because I am just not ready for the weekend to be over. Luckily, I spent all weekend doing things I wanted to do….hiking, exploring, cooking, baking, yoga[ing], etc. On Saturday, Wyatt and I took the afternoon to explore some new shores along Lake Monroe. We have our normal spot that we always adventure to in the summer to bask in the sun, play our favorite tapes, and dip our bodies into the lake. However, now the weather is too cool for that we decided to spend our time walking along the shores and taking in the beautiful fall leaves, crisp breeze, and sound of the water against the rocks. It was such a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

And, on the way back into town we stumbled upon an abandoned water-slide (how random is that to just find a giant water slide in the woods?). It was built out of cement and runs 400 feet. After some research, we discovered it was an old attraction from the 70s that was quite popular back in its day but was eventually shut down because of larger theme parks that opened up in the area. It’s too weird to think that we have probably passed by this place dozens of times and never thought to look closely.

Anyhow, here are a few pictures from the adventures (some really weirdly saturated photos…they transferred from my phone weirdly…but I kind of like it. Look at how blue Wyatt’s sweater is in the last one!):


And, as usual, to go with my Moody Monday Theme…I will be keeping the recipe super simple today! This roasted acorn squash is perfect to go with any weeknight stew or even as a side at your next holiday dinner. Just take ten minutes to prep and then pop in the oven for an hour while you prep the rest of dinner! So easy!

I should let you know…this recipe may be simple but this side is packed full of flavor. The drizzle of maple syrup helps bring out the natural sweetness that shines through when roasting squash. It’s the perfect side to counteract that savory main dish.

Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash

adapted from SpoonForkBacon
  • 1 acorn squash, center removed and
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the acorn squash into equal slices and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, brown sugar, sage, and salt.

Bake for 40 minutes (and flip halfway through). Drizzle maple syrup over the squash and cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve warm!


Searchable Saturdays

We made it! It’s the weekend! I don’t know what it is like by you but it’s GORGEOUS today in Bloomington, Indiana. I am going to keep this short because we are getting ready to head out for a day hike///picnic (could be one of the last ones this year!).
Here are a few inspirations from the week:

1. A fantastic tutorial on adding borders to scenery pictures which triggered me playing around with the picture above.

2. I eat A TON of salads and have been trying to make my own salad dressing as much as possible. Here is a great article on understanding what make’s a great vinaigrette!

3. Along the lines of salad…do you know how to properly use your refrigerator for produce? I didn’t before reading this.
4. Not going to lie…our house is [very] old and now that it is too cold to have the windows open, it gets musky REAL quick. DIY all-natural air freshener? I think so!

5. More wonderful photography tips that every blogger should know!

6. We made this amazing butternut squash pasta with friends earlier this week. I am already craving more!

7. Apple Butter mustard? Yes, please!


Fall Quinoa Salad with Apples, Pecans, and Cranberries

Good Morning! I know I’ve already mentioned this in previous posts but have you checked out Chickpea magazine yet? I am so excited that they have officially starting shipping out the fall issue this week. I cannot wait to snuggle up on the coach with my puppy and a big mug of chai tea while I swoon over this issue’s recipes and articles!



Anyhow, today I am sharing a recipe for a quinoa salad. Do you like quinoa? Did you try that Southwestern Quinoa Salad I posted about awhile back? If you have not tried it, I highly recommend checking this grain (is it a grain or a seed?) out. It has such a unique, light and filling texture//taste that it really is hard to explain. This salad is super simple and easy to make so this would be a great introduction to quinoa for you. The hint of cinnamon counteracts the tart apples to make a flavorful and filling side dish.



Fall Quinoa with Apples, Pecans, and Cranberries

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tart apple, diced (sprinkle a little lemon juice on the apple chunks to keep from turning brown)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (or cherries or whatever else you like dried!)


For the dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • dash of cinnamon
  • salt/pepper

Bring the water a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and add in the quinoa. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and “fluff” the quinoa with a fork.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and add to cooled quinoa. Mix in the apple, pecans, and cranberries into the quinoa.

Serve warm or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.



Homemade Vegetable Stock

So I should start by letting you know that I’m a produce addict. Between our weekly CSA box, Farmer’s market, and local co-op, we probably spend more money monthly on organic vegetables than we do on all our utility bills combined. This means that we end up with a garbage full of scraps almost every week. The “right” thing to do would be to start composting but for many [including us] this does not seem like an option. For 1, we rent so the idea of starting a compost for 9 months and then leaving the remains for the next tenant to deal with is just rude (could you imagine having to deal with a compost pile if you didn’t know what you were doing?). And secondly, we don’t have a proper place for it. Our backyard is fenced in but that is Tuko//Taco//Teekee territory and even if we got a bin for it, our little puppy is a nosy creature and would find ways to munch down on composting parts (which would not be the healthiest for the little guy).

Anyhow, I feel bad about not being able to compost. The amount of scraps we create is discouraging and I do believe that there is a lot of nutrition tossed away with those onion ends, zucchini peels, and herbs that have sat out for just too long. Luckily, I discovered that you can use those scraps to make vegetable broth. It’s quite simple: you just throw your scraps into a zip lock bag in the freezer and whip up some broth when it’s full. This is a truly great time to do this with soup season approaching!

A few reasons why we think you should make your own broth:

1. It’s a way to use up all those vegetable scraps and not waste those ‘on-the-verge’ of spoiling vegetables (just throw them in the freezer when they are too far gone to eat raw but not yet moldy)

2. You know exactly what is in your broth and don’t have to worry about preservatives or other chemicals sneaking into your food

3. It makes using vegetable broth so easy! You don’t have to worry about using up only half a can of because you have a stock pile in the freezer that allows you to only take out what you need

4. The broth will stay good in the freezer for several months (I’ve read different things about the exactly length of time but I’ve heard anywhere between 3 and 5 months. If you are unsure if it’s still good, use your nose! It’s the best judge)

Well, there ya go. Are you convinced yet? I mean, come on! I know you are planning to make loads of soup in the next couple of months…why not have fresh vegetable stock easily accessible for you? I’ve done a lot of research on what you can/can’t freeze and everyone seems to have a different opinion so here is a general list that I use (feel free to just google it if there is a specific vegetable that you aren’t sure about):

  • Onion//leeks//scallions (red will dye your broth a bit pink which I don’t mind but if you do then just omit)
  • Peppers
  • eggplant
  • root vegetables (beets will also dye the broth purple – again, omit if you aren’t into that)
  • mushrooms
  • herbs (basil, sage, rosemary, cilantro, etc) – this includes the stems!
  • garlic
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • fennel
  • celery

Got it? Easy. Now just start a small stash in your freezer and make some broth when you’ve accumulated around 4 cups. It literally takes the same amount of time it would take to boil some dried beans (you DO make your chickpeas//black beans from dried, don’t you? Maybe I should do a post on that topic as well soon). I usually prep my food for the week every Sunday afternoon and made the broth along side cooking some black beans. So easy and only takes about an hour.

PS- I should note that you don’t need to use frozen vegetables by any means! If you just want to make some broth (not out of leftover scraps), just pick up 4 cups worth of organic produce at your local co-op and follow the same directions below.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

  • 4-5 cups of vegetable scraps (see list above), chopped
  • Flavoring (bay leaf, a few peppercorns, herbs, etc), optional
  • garlic clove, optional
  • Tomato chunks or 1 Tablespoon tomato paste, optional



Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water (just enough so all the veggies are covered). Bring water to a boil and let simmer for an hour (don’t let it simmer for much more or it starts to lose flavor.

Strain the vegetable mixture and discard the scraps. Let cool completely and either use right away or freeze/refrigerate in quantities that will suit you best (I froze them in ice trays and just made note that 6 broth cubes = half a cup).

Store in fridge for up to 5 days and in freezer for up to 3 months.

Use in all your favorite soups, stews, curries, and risotto including Curried Butternut Squash Soup, Fall Curry, and French Onion Soup.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese Croutons

And here I am again with more butternut squash in my life (as if that amazing Galette was not enough!). What can I say? Eating in season has been so easy since our bodies were made to adjust to the seasons. All I’ve been craving for the past two weeks have been soups loaded with winter squash and apple-coated everything.

And I am excited to share with you goat cheese croutons! Have you ever had croutons made out of cheese? OH MY GOD. I cannot believe it took 23 years on this planet to discover these little things! They bring shame to that stale old bread that you use to call “croutons”. For real, image this: gooey, breaded chunks of cheese hidden in your bowl of already delicious soup. It’s like a cheese stick in your soup! But even better because it’s homemade and filled with GOAT CHEESE. Not so bad…am I right? I’m excited to experiment with this more as the winter progresses….perhaps try other cheeses? They will need to low in fat content so that they don’t melt in the cooking process. Hmmm…perhaps feta or Parmesan chunks ? Or maybe even find a better technique for sealing the cheese in the breadcrumbs and branch out to Gruyere or brie. Oh man, the options are endless!

Anyhow, regardless of the croutons, this soup is really yummy. Flavored with curry powder and roasted butternut squash, this recipe is a keeper! I recommend roasting the squash ahead of time since it takes an hour and then you can prep the rest in 20 minutes.

Lastly, you should know that I adapted this recipe from SpoonForkBacon. It’s one of my new favorite food blogs and although I don’t eat bacon (thank goodness that I don’t have to worry about that bacon shortage coming!), I do find the food photography incredibly inspiring and highly suggest that you all hop on over and check it out!



Curried Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese Croutons

adapted from SpoonForkBacon
  • 1 large butternut squash, sliced in half with seeds removed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons chives, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk (you can use regular as well if that is what you have on hand)

For the croutons:

  • 3 ounces goat cheese,
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet with the cut sides up. Stick 1 tablespoon of the butter and brown sugar in the cavity of each side. Roast for 1 hour or until the flesh has softened all the way through. Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle. Remove skin and discard.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the onions and saute for about five minutes or until softened. Add in the chives, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and squash. Stir until combined.

Next, pour in the broth and let simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and use an immersion blender (or let cool enough to stick in the regular blender) and puree. Return to the stove top and simmer over medium low for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk.

To make the croutons:

Leave oven preheated at 375 degrees.

Make 12 (or 15 if you want them smaller) balls of goat cheese. Place the flour, breadcrumbs, and egg all in separate bowls. Roll the balls into the flour, egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Place onto a greased baking sheet and cook for about 15 minutes (flipping halfway through). Make sure to keep your eye on them and remove when browned (some will take more or less time depending on how big your croutons are).

Serve the soup with croutons or crispy bread.





Feta and Chives Beer Bread

I’ve been feeling very inspired today. Do you ever have those days where you go to check your “inspiration feed” [mine is bloglovin’ but any sort of RSS feed is what I am referring to] planning to look for ten minutes and then one blog leads to another which leads to an idea which leads to lots of online “reasarch”? Of course you do…I mean you are on a blog right now reading this and there is a good chance if you stumbled upon VV that you were also on some sort of blog journey at one point.

Anyhow, I stumbled upon ‘Going Home To Roost’s’ monthly membership (that is only 5 dollars, might I add) where you get weekly newsletters filled with tutorials, e-courses, designs, etc. This led to me (of course) signing up and reading her e-courses triggered thoughts of the classes that I’ve taken in the past (Blogging Your Way and A Beautiful Mess) so the afternoon turned into lots of reflecting on concepts and ideas that were brought up in those classes. Anyhow, I bring this up because you should hop on over to Going Home To Roost if you are looking for some inspiration and consider signing up for her monthly plan. A lot of bloggers say that paid subscription for extra content in the way of the future for bloggers. It’s sort of a cool concept (who doesn’t like exclusivity?) and at 5 bucks a month…I bet we could handle it!



And now, let’s talk about food. This is probably one of the easiest recipes I have/will ever posted. I’ve actually made beer bread way more than any food blogger should EVER admit [ but it’s totally not my fault!]  I could make the fanciest truffle pasta or elegant french soup with Gruyere croutons and Wyatt would reply “are we having beer bread with that?”. Seriously, anything that you can dip bread in…he requests beer bread as the side. I’ve made fresh baguette and seasonal Foccaccia but he always goes back to asking about the beer bread. And so here we are, it’s probably the trashiest American bread to ever exist but it’s SO easy (no rise time) and actually can be rather addicting.

Another thing that is great about beer bread is its super versatile. I added feta and chives because that is what I had on hand but in the past I’ve added sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, sage, cheddar, etc etc. The options are pretty endless! All you have to do is think of a combine that goes well together and do it!

So whip this up next time you are planning to spend hours making a soup (so then you don’t ALSO have to worry about an elaborate bread to go with it) or need some spongy bread for warm gooey grilled cheese.



Beer Bread with Chives and Feta

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 12-ounce beer
  • 2 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a small loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Add in the beer and stir until just combined. Fold in the feta and chives.

Cook for 50 minutes or until the top is crusty.

Serve warm with soups and sandwiches!








Searchable Saturdays


Tuko//Teekee//Taco and I waiting outside while Wyatt picked out a movie earlier this week. (ps- follow me on instagram: shellywest)

And here are a few things that inspired VV from around the web this week:

1. Made these tofu tacos for dinner the other night and they were FANTASTIC! The tofu was so flavorful and the avocado cream was smooth and filling!

2. This cute DIY on how to color dip your utensils is so adorable and simple! New weekend project? I think so!

3. This weekend we are sitting a cat who has more more instagram followers than Wyatt and I combined (x2). Totally weird.

4. Katrina did a store profile on a The General Store in San Fransisco and I want EVERYTHING in it. I LOVE the simplicity of the geometric wood blocks. How cool is that? And the abstract fruit and veggie posters? Yes, please!

5. One of my favorite recipe books ‘Homemade’ now has a sequel called ‘Homemade Winter’ which I CANNOT wait to get my hands on. I made these Gingerbread Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting from it last year and they were absolutely irresistible!

6. Not that I’ve started my Christmas list already but… I kind of have. I am dying to get my hands on this new iphone case and this jacket. Ah yeah, I’ve got the fall clothing bug.

7. And lastly, why is everything Joy the Baker makes so freaking irresistible? I’m not even that big of a donut fan…



Pumpkin Swirl Cocoa Brownies

I was doing so good in September…constantly cooking with fresh produce, little butter, and smaller portions. And the yoga…2…3….4 times a week! It was excellent. But then my fall taste buds kicked in. The first time I gave into the apple crisp because it was my way of welcoming in Fall. But then I made those pumpkin cinnamon rolls…and then the persimmon pudding. And here I am again with ANOTHER sugary, buttery, delicious fall dessert. It’s like my taste buds are saying ‘yeah…that summer eggplant was good…but now it’s time for mounds of sweets disguised as fall.’ Ah well, I own a food blog for goodness sake…can I really beat myself up for cooking [baking] delicious treats? Oh..I’m going to use that excuse more often!



All guilt aside, these brownies are super rad. I LOVE chocolate (Hey, I am a girl…) but these brownies give chocolate a whole new meaning. They aren’t the over dense, gooey bars that force you to slurp down a giant class of soy milk afterwards. They are airy, melt-in-your-mouth, and the pumpkin keeps them from becoming overbearingly sweet. AND they are seasonal so it’s totally acceptable to make them now before it’s not fall anymore! Plus, it’s Friday. Who doesn’t want to treat themselves with a big batch of brownies on their Friday night? Have I convinced you to pull out your baking supplies yet? Come on, seriously, what are you waiting for?



Pumpkin Swirl Cocoa Brownies

Adapted from YumSugar

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of cayenne (optional but highly recommended!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar + 2 Tablespoons
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 by 9 inch square baking pan.

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup chocolate chips and butter over medium-low heat until it is melted and smooth (stir frequently to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn). Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer [I know, we are using LOTS of dishes for this one], combine the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar. Beat until incorporated (about three minutes). Turn mixer down to low, slowly add in the dry ingredients, and then turn back up to medium for another minute.

Divide the batter in half and split it among two bowls. First, add the chocolate mixture into one bowl and add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and oil to the other bowl. Mix each batter until everything is incorporated.

Alternate between the two batters by pouring a combination of both bowls into the prepared baking pan. Use a toothpick to “swirl” the pumpkin into the chocolate and then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

Serve warm with ice cream or apple cider.







Butternut Squash Galette with Sage and Cheddar


Do you guys all follow me on instagram [ username: shellywest – if you don’t, you should!] ? Well, if not then you missed this picture of these adorable mini-cucumbers that I posted the other day (don’t they look like tiny watermelons? how bizarre is that?!). Anyhow, we got a handful of these at the farmer’s market this week and they taste like a super crunchy cucumber and I bet would be perfect in salads.

You know what else I got at the Farmer’s market? A big, beautiful butternut squash. Yup, that’s right. Fall vegetables are in full bloom and they look like this…



Looks delicious…right? Oh and to the left of that is some sage from my sunroom. The sun room has been seriously lacking in the ‘sun’ part lately so most of the herbs are looking pretty sad. Luckily, sage is a tough little guy and has still been thriving. He (or it…or she) looks like this:



Seeee…isn’t she lookin’ good? I even have her in a self-watering plant so she can take care of herself. Oh, and there’s my maroon knee-high socks too…sorry but it is fall. And if there is anything I take seriously this time of year, it’s socks and sweaters. A girl needs the proper accessories [socks] to pull off her fall attire. OH! and while we are on the topic of my thriving sage [or did we already switch topics?] …



Look at that texture! Sage, you really know how to show off. oh…speaking of texture…

Haha. Sorry to all of you who are just trying to get to the recipe… I am making all of you go through half a dozen photos first! I promise I’m just trying to prep you for all the delicious things that will be going into this galette. But I’ll stop babbling about…socks and fall and texture so that we can get to why you are really here….

Butternut Squash Galette

adapted from Bust Magazine

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seed, and cubed
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg + 1 Tablespoon water

Lets make the crust: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Use your [clean] hands to massage the butter into the flour mixture until a coarse dough as formed (a few large chunks of butter leftover is a-okay). Next, slowly add in the water a tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a thick ball.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead for five minutes or until the dough is completely combined and no longer sticky. Wrap in parchment paper and let chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

—-fast forward 30 minutes [or enjoy those 30 minutes by watching your dog try to get peanut butter of the top of his mouth, dance to your favorite vinyl, look up some David Bowie photos online, shave your legs, etc] —–

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from fridge and roll out onto a floured surface. You want your dough to be as close to a circle as possible and about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Combine all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and spread in the center of the dough (leave about 2 inches around the edges). Fold the edges in over part of the filling.

Whisk together the water and egg wash and brush over the crust.

Cook for 40 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has browned.

Serve warm with cider [or other fall paraphernalia – like a hot toddy]



Spicy Jalapeno Corn Hummus

Heyyya! Happy gloomy, gloomy Tuesday. As a way to kick up this chilly and droopy day, I made some spicy hummus to warm you up! Well…I didn’t exactly make it for you. I made the hummus for myself but I do have the recipe to share with you so that you can make it too! It’s the perfect afternoon snack to fill you up and give your metabolism an extra boost (did you know spicy food does that? How cool!)

Anyhow, I’m off to do more logo design proofing followed by a lazy evening filled with warm apple cider and Parks & Recreation marathons.



Spicy Corn Jalapeno Hummus

  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 large ears of corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • sriracha, optional (if you like it super spicy – add a few drops at the end)




Roast the jalapeno however you’d prefer. I stuck mine over my gas stove (see photo below) but feel free to use the broiler as well.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and saute for about 7 minutes or until they are soft and browned.

Combine, the jalapeno, corn, chickpeas, olive oil (start with 2 tablespoons and add more if it’s too thick), tahini, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender (or food processor). Mix until everything is incorporated and the desired consistency is reached (add more tahini or olive if it’s still too thick and adjust flavor to your liking with the salt/pepper/lemon juice).

Fold in some sriracha if you want an extra kick and serve with warm pita.


September Highlights

Heyyyaaa. Happy…Monday? And October…WOAH. weird. It seems like it was just yesterday that it was my birthday (September 4th). This month flew by but lots and lots of yummy things were made in the process.





Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites:

1. At the beginning of September my CSA box was OVERFLOWING with zucchini. This meant we we made a new zucchini bread recipe almost daily. These dark chocolate zucchini muffins were probably my all time favorite (who doesnt like eating chocolate for breakfast?!). But I was also pretty impressed with the Savory Feta Zucchini muffins….

2. Everything is better with avocado! We learned that this summer when people start throwing avocados in things from baked sweets to smoothies. This dip is no different and makes everything you might stick in it irresistible. Oh, and the homemade potato chips aren’t so bad either!

3. Mmmm…some of the last bits of summer in a bowl. I still firmly stand by the belief that the best kind of recipes are simple so that the delicious flavors of the ingredients can shine through. And this dish is a perfect example of that. Ripe tomatoes and crusty bread help to bring out all the flavors of summer in this Panzanella.

4. And finally, the last week of September I let myself give into fall and whipped up everything cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin flavored. Although the pumpkin cinnamon rolls and apple crisp were freaking amazing dishes, the pumpkin granola was my favorite because it was sooooo simple and I was able to enjoy it for days after.

Oh and the biggest excitement this month was seeing my article about the Midwest Vegan Food Scene in Chickpea magazine! I have been such a huge admirer of Chickpea magazine for so long that it was really great to be a contributor this time around!!



And now let’s take a look at October!

October is going to be an exciting and busy month. Wyatt and I will be heading to Denver at the end of the month to visit my brother and a few relatives, my blog make-over will [hopefully] be finishing up, and I have loads of recipes in store that consists of lots of root vegetables and fall squash!

Oh and how about a fall goal list? We posted one on the fridge a few weeks ago and I am happy to say we already have crossed a few things off the list. Here is what it looks like:

1. Go apple picking

2. Have horror movie nights

3. Finish my blog make-over

4. make homemade cheese (gonna happen this season!)

5. Go on a fall camping trip

6. Enjoy a bonfire

7. Make pumpkin flavored donuts and dog treats



Persimmon Pudding

Persimmon pudding + vanilla bean ice cream = !!!

Last Sunday I attempted to go apple picking at a nearby orchard with Wyatt and a few friends. Although all the apples had already fallen from the tree, we had an enjoyable time checking out the tiny orchard shop filled with homemade dips, vintage candies, fresh produce, and more. As we were exploring, I came across a random cooler in the back corner labeled ‘persimmon pulp’. I had never heard of a persimmon before and was rather embarrassed when I sloppily tried to pronounce it only to be corrected by a nearby friend. He continued to tell me that his parents have a persimmon tree, they made pudding out the fallen fruit every year, and he had even made a short video about the process.

So… as a learning experience to myself (and perhaps you!), I purchased a container of the pulp and stick it in my fridge for later use.

And thus, later came this morning when I thawed the pulp and whipped up my first ever batch of pudding! If those pumpkin cinnamon rolls and apple crisp tasted like Fall then this taste like Thanksgiving [am I allowed to use events as describing words for flavors? well, I just did]. It’s loaded full of nutmeg and cloves and has a similar texture to pumpkin pie filling. Oh man, it’s so yummy!

I followed this video by my friend David Woodruff to make my own amazing persimmon pudding and I suggest you should too:


Searchable Saturdays

Insta-portrait with Tuko. Yes, that is right, I am the most annoying dog owner ever and always want to take pictures with Taco/Teekee when he is sound asleep (I can’t help it! That is when he is the cutest!)


And here are a few inspirations that I came across this week….

1. As anyone who has read my blog this summer knows, I have been crazy about coming up with cocktail concoctions so this little tutorial was incredibly informative! And… beautiful photos never hurt!

2. I’ve never made a cheese plate before but these pictures are sure as hell making me want to….

3. Tomorrow is a national free museum day which reminded me that I really would like to go to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the St. Louis City Museum before it gets too cold. AND, my friend just informed me of an awesome Mid-Century Museum nearby that we must check out. Museums on my fall to-do list? I think so.

4. I don’t really talk much about music on VV which is weird…since my day job does consist of working for 25 independent indie-rock labels…anyhow, this is a video from Moon Duo that is too awesome not to share.

5. I’m obsessed with trying to improve my photography skills and here are a few tutorials that I was super into this week: The Language of Photography and Get That Blurry Background

6. Oh! We hosted our first ‘Horror Thursdays’ move night this week and I made Joy The Baker’s giant skillet cookie for it. It. was. so. delicious!


Okay, well it’s too nice out to be on my computer right now. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and enjoys a lovely lunch picnic today!


Fall Apple Crisp // The Worry Worm

This is a picture from a fall afternoon [ last year ] that Wyatt (pictured above) and I spent laying by the water and having long conversations. Today, I wish this was us again. Life [ for no particular reason ] has been really stressing me out lately. I’m not sure what exactly happened but it was like something inside of me snapped when I graduated from college [about six months ago] that turned on my “worrying” button. Before that, I was known for being the “laid back” friend who never took anything seriously. I always trusted that what was happening was supposed to and that I felt pretty much invincible. This all changed, however, when I started my “real-world” journey and I began feeling the weight of all my decisions being put on me. If I don’t take care of myself, something terrible COULD happen to me. What I put in my body does actually affect my mood/general feeling. If I don’t pay attention while driving, I could get into a car accident. It has been a large reality check for me and really unearthed my way of thinking.

I bring this up because this un-nerving feeling struck me again this morning [ and has thrown the whole day off ]. Why? Because I read an article this morning about Trader Joe’s recalling their peanut butter due to salmonella contamination. This happens to be the same kind of peanut butter that I opened and gobbled down last night. I mean, realistically, I would already have been feeling the negative affects of the peanut butter if it had been affected. There is just something about the fact that a comfort food [ that I eat almost every day ] could turn and harm you. Arg.
Anyway, I am getting way too serious for even my own liking so let’s shift gears…eh? Enough about my hang-ups. Cool? Cool.


Instead, let’s talk about fall comfort desserts. I love love love apple crisp because not only is it filled with cinnamon and oats but its 50% fruit [ which makes it totally acceptable for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert, etc… right? ]. And you know what’s even better about this recipe? Wyatt picked it out so it has wayyy  more butter than any recipe I would have approved of. That is probably what made it sooo freaking delicious. Shhhhh….don’t let him know that I admitted to that!

We attempted to go apple picking last weekend which ended up being a huge fail. Supposedly, the season is off because of the bad Midwest drought and the early frost that struck us last week. Ah well. We still picked up a bundle of apples and some recipe cards (they always have a stack of homemade recipe cards by the check out counter at the orchard). We made an apple pie from these cards last year and it was to die for (which is where my assumption comes in….old fashion = SO much butter // heavy cream). Anyhow, this recipe is from one of those cards and was nothing short of amazing.

I’d suggest making this when you are trying to impress guests (sadly, most of them aren’t going to be impressed by your low-carb fruit cake) or when you really want to capture that “fall is in the air” feeling. Don’t forget to serve this crisp warm with a big helping of vanilla bean ice cream.

Apple Crisp

  • 6 large tart apples
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

Grease a 9×9 pan and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prep the apples by peeling, coring, and dicing them. Add the lemon juice, corn starch, and sugar to the apples and place in the baking dish.

In another bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Dice the cold butter into chunks and use your fingers to work them into the mixture until the dough is coarse and combined. Fold in the oats and then evenly top over the apples.

Cook for 45- 50 minutes or until the top has browned.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly while you prep the ice cream (!!).

Serve warm and gobble up while enjoying the crisp breeze on your porch.


Pumpkin Granola

And so we continue our fall theme with another pumpkin recipe! And weirdly enough…another breakfast recipe! [ Not that you can’t also eat granola for a dessert or as a snack or just because it taste good ]. Although we all wish that we could eat cinnamon rolls for breakfast everyday, it’s probably not the healthiest choice imaginable. I would probably find it hard to get up and do yoga every morning if I had just downed 3 cinnamon rolls for the third time that week. Anyhow, what I am getting at is today’s post is about a more of a….sustainable breakfast choice. Think of cinnamon rolls as your weekend breakfast and this granola can be your simple and quick weekday indulgence. Throw some Greek yogurt // almond milk // soy yogurt in a to-go cup and top it with this granola + maybe some honey // agave or sliced apples as you run out of the door [ oh, and don’t forget to bring a spoon! ].

So, on that note, I have a confession. I LOVE parfaits and went through a big phase where I would whip them up for dessert [ as an attempt to avoid getting the ‘I should make brownies because I’m craving sweet’ thought that often follows dinner ]. However, I always bought granola from the store and this is my first attempt ever at making it myself. Damn, I am kicking myself now! Reasons why this should have been on my radar years ago:

1. It’s stupidly cheap to make your own! For 5 cups of organic rolled oats, it cost me 2.19 to get from my bulk section. Yeah! Do you have any idea how much 5 cups of oats it!? It’s a lot. Goodbye $4.69 box of organic Cascade Farm’s granola! You will never fool me again.

2. It’s SO SO SO easy to make. I throw all the ingredients together in 5 minutes and then did my entire morning yoga routine while they cooked. This meant…I had to wake up maybe 10 minutes earlier than I usually do. And then you have enough granola to last for twice as long as those skimpy pre-packaged boxes of cereal do.

3. You know exactly what is going into your granola. None of that hidden corn syrup or extra dose of sugar that you always pretended was not in there. And it also gives you total control! Don’t like your granola sweet? Cut back on brown sugar! Don’t like dried cranberries? Swap out for dried cherries! So easy!
Anyhow, I hope that I’ve inspired you and that this recipe gives you that extra push to try out making your own granola!



Pumpkin Granola

Adapted from Two Peas & A Pod
  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey (or agave to make vegan)
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, apple sauce, honey, and vanilla. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet and stick in the oven.

Cook for 40 minutes (stir the oats around halfway through cooking time). Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Fold in dried cherries.

Let cool completely (this will help crisp it up!) and then sprinkle over yogurt//milk//whatever you are feeling.

Store in an airtight container.




Vegan Pumpkin Cinnanom Rolls with Maple Glaze


Ah, Tuesday. Sometimes I feel like Tuesday is worse than Monday because you’ve already got back into the swing of things but still have so much more time before it’s the weekend. But there is a cure for the Tuesday blues and that cure is Cinnamon Rolls! [How could you possible be down when you have a fresh, warm and gooey cinnamon roll in your belly?] What about cinnamon rolls with an extra kick of pumpkin in them? Oooooh yeah! I’m sold. I became hooked on what I called cinnamon roll “spin-offs” after I made those Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls. Oh goodness. Nothing like taking something already delicious and making it even better.

And so, it’s officially fall for me because I cooked with my first pumpkin of the season. Ah, I love it! How can you not get excited about a season that features pumpkin, cinnamon, apples, and cider?!? I just don’t understand.

These were amazing but I will, however, add more pumpkin next time around. You could definitely taste the pumpkin but it was subtle. Also, don’t forget to prep these SEVERAL hours before you want to indulge since they take two rounds of rising (I started them the night before and then let them rise all night which worked as a perfect way to cut out an extra hour and half in the AM.

Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from EatLiveRun
  • 2 Tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch + 3 Tablespoons water (mix together so that a gel forms)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice


For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon


For Maple Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Almond Milk


Heat the butter and almond milk over low in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and is incorporated. Remove from heat and wait for the mixture to cool slightly (should be able to touch the milk with your finger and not be uncomfortable) and add the yeast. Let sit for five minutes or until the yeast becomes foamy.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch/water mixture with the pumpkin. In the bowl of your stand mixer (with the dough attachment) combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add in the pumpkin mixture and turn the mixer onto medium until everything is combined. Next, add in the yeast mixture and let the dough knead for about five minutes. The dough should end up elastic and firm.

Transfer dough to a greased mixing bowl and cover. Let rise for an hour (or overnight).

Go do some yoga. Turn the vinyl over. Dance with your puppy. Or take a nap. Or whatever you like to fill your time with.

Transfer dough to a flour surface and roll out to form a large rectangle shape. Mix the filling together in a bowl and sprinkle on top of the dough. Roll dough by taking the long ends and forming a long cylinder. Cut in the middle and then cut each of those pieces into thirds (you should end up with 6 rolls). Stick in a greased 8×8 cooking pan and cover. Let rise for another 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake rolls for about 30 minutes or until the tops are browned. Remove and let cool.

While cooling, prepare the glaze! Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until it starts to gel. Pour over the rolls.

Enjoy warm and with tea or coffee.



Moody Monday // Pumpkin Spice Mix

I know we are all super excited for Fall but it was still quite the slap in the face this morning when we woke up to it being 39 degrees out. I’m not complaining or anything but HOW DO PEOPLE GET OUT OF BED WHEN IT’S COLD OUT? I can already foresee many [many] lazy days in bed with my macbook and hot tea in my near future.

Anyhow, I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. We tried to go apple picking yesterday but the Midwestern drought that struck our entire month of July seems to have thrown off the growing season and all the apples had already fallen from the trees. Ah well, at least we got some yummy apple cider and fig jam out of the experience (and persimmon pulp…more to come on that in a future post…).

Here are a few pictures from a mid-week dinner picnic we went on last week. Nothing like watching the sunset over the lake to cure the mid-week blues. [warning: sorry cat lovers but there are A LOT of dog pictures to follow…Tuko was being extra photogenic that day and seems to have jumped into 90 percent of my photos from the evening]:




So yeah, last week I promised you that I would get the last bit of summer out of my system and move onto fall this week. That means that I won’t be posting that absolutely delicious bruschetta recipe I had hope to but I will be posting lots of cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin themed recipes this week. MMMMMMM.

Oh, and speaking of cinnamon…let’s start the week off with an essential: pumpkin pie spice. I grew up using pumpkin pie spice that was prepackaged from our grocery store but did you know it’s ridiculously simple to make your own? And on top of that, you can make it with spices that you more than likely have sitting in your pantry. How cool is that? So why not whip up a batch to use in all your fall baked goods, to sprinkle on top of warm oatmeal, and to spice your cider with?


Pumpkin Pie Spice

  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix together and sprinkle over everything. BAM! That’s it.

Store in an airtight container with the rest of your baking spices.