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10

Sweet and Sour Tempeh Rice

This Sweet and Sour Tempeh Rice Rice recipe is a vibrantly flavorful tropical main dish that is both vegetarian and vegan.

Sweet and Sour Tempeh Rice

Today I’m bringing you this Sweet and Sour Tempeh Rice in partnership with ZICO Coconut Water; this partnership felt like such a no-brainer since coconut water is already usually part of my daily routine. I’ve stuck to ZICO since it’s one of the few brands available in my neck of the woods that doesn’t add sugar to their coconut water. Despite drinking it often as an afternoon pick-me-up, I’ve never tried incorporating coconut water into my cooking before this recipe (outside of throwing it into smoothies). I’ve made a similar version of this recipe with water before but adding ZICO’s new chilled coconut water + orange juice blend brought a deeper sweet flavor (without added sugar) that helped compliment the savory rice and veggies perfectly.

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11

Two-Grain Coconut Date Porridge

This Two-Grain Coconut Date Porridge is simple and nourishing one pot breakfast full of heart healthy mix-ins.

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I had the pleasure of having Kristin Londergan from Radiant Health Ayurveda over to my house for breakfast the other weekend to whip up this. It was such a surprisingly wonderful reminder that the kitchen is meant to be shared and having someone else cook for you (for a change) is such a warming gesture. Kristin and I have been friends for years and I’ve always admired her chosen faith of ditching the day job and finding work in her passion. Both of us are enthusiastic and busy entrepreneurs so we don’t always find time to get together but when we do, it’s usually over a shared meal and brainstorms on how to turn our passions into realistic goals.

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7

Puppy Bowl Recipe Round-Up

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It’s the time of year again which means it’s also time for a Puppy Bowl Recipe Round-Up! I can’t say I’m much for sports but I sure can’t resist an afternoon filled with THE PUPPY BOWL! If you haven’t already, I can’t express how much better your day will be after checking out this year’s line up. Otis, Gordon, and Cornbread already have my heart just from looking through the pictures but I’ll be pleased to watch all of them on Sunday.

To make sure your Puppy Bowl XII is as enjoyable as it can be for both you and your pup (and kitties!), I’ve made a snack round up for the big event! I picked snacks based off of three criteria: is it animal themed in any way?, is it quiet so you won’t miss a moment of commentary? And is it delicious? Of course, all these snacks are also meat-free (always <3) so enjoy!

 

SAVORY SNACKS FOR YOU:

Baked Sweet Potato Samosas: Samosas get an upgrade with this meat-free version made of spelt flour. Make these on Saturday and pre-heat on Sunday afternoon before game time.

Garden Tart with Roasted Red Pepper Spread: The base of this tart is frozen puff pastry for a quick and simple tart that can be whipped up in under an hour.

Chili Lime Popcorn Cashew Clusters: No party revolving around the TV is complete without popcorn! This version is chocked full of cashews and flavors from the chili and lime.

Loaded Bánh mì Sweet Potato Fries: Enjoy next level snacking with these baked sweet potato fries that are then loaded with all the amazingly delicoius toppings you’d fine on a Bánh mì!

Quinoa Onion Rings with Horseradish Dip: Laura Wright is basically a genius and has a way of mixing unusual ingredients together to create something truly amazing. These baked onion rings are coated with puffed quinoa and seasoned with Old Bay.

Chickpea Cobb Salad Cups: Everything is better miniature and these salad cups are yet another example of that. The elements of this salad can be prepared the day before to allow for just a quick assembling session before your Puppy Bowl event.

Baked Cajun Spiced French Fries: simple baked french fries seasoned with cajun. What more could you even need?

Mini Pimento Mac & Cheese Bites: These little bites are a mix between baked macaroni and cheese and pimento dip – how could anyone resist?

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33

Mini Pimento Mac & Cheese Bites

Creamy and cheesy bite size Mini Pimento Mac & Cheese Bites!

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I’ve got some freaking amazing Mini Pimento Mac & Cheese Bites for you all today! But what’s the special occasion, you ask? Well today I am so beyond excited to be a part of Sarah from Snixy Kitchen’s virtual baby shower! Over thirty of us bloggers have come together to celebrate her #cheesebabyshower by posting a cheesy recipe for her virtual celebration!

I’ve spent the past few days thinking of really great talking points for a baby shower (as if I was actually prepping to head to one with all these fine ladies and gentleman) because I’ve never actually been to one before. I honestly just went to my first wedding shower this year so I guess, at 26, I’m a little behind in celebrating all these big adult milestones. Anyhow, while I was thinking of topic points, I caught myself saying ‘No Shelly. Not appropriate baby shower talk’ and realized that my ‘do not bring up at baby showers’ list was as long as my ‘talking points’ list; because I’m not actually at a real shower, I thought it might be nice to share both lists with you:

  • Don’t list: “What are all of the weird pregnancy cravings you all have gotten while pregnant? I’ve never had a kid but imagine I would just constantly be eating a jar of peanut butter and a tub of cream cheese at the same time”
  • Do list: “Can you tell what kind of foods your baby girl likes so far? Does she kick in approval?”
  • Don’t list: “Sarah, can I see your studio set up? I love the lighting in your photos and would love to see how you shoot them!”
  • Do list: “Can I see the nursery? I sure hope it’s Wes Anderson themed!”
  • Very Don’t list: “Aren’t you scared of the whole birth process?”
  • Do list: “What are all the shows you are going to binge watch while waiting to go into labor? I’d recommend Empire, Gilmore Girls, The O.C., and Nashville”
  • Don’t List: “Would you mind if I put ‘Look Who’s Talking On’ on your TV during the party?”
  • Do List: “I made this cheese themed music playlist – can I put it on during the party?”
  • Don’t List: “Do you think I should throw a shower for my new dog? I mean I didn’t spend 9 months growing him but I still really like him.”
  • Do List: “Sarah, I’m really clumsy and am constantly knocking things over when I shoot my recipes. How do you manage to keep it all so together with an additional human inside of you?”

I’d assume that these talking points would get me through at least the first half an hour of the party, at which point I could excuse myself and munch down on all the freaking amazing food there is because everyone at the event would just be a bunch of nerdy food bloggers! Speaking of that…

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31

Citrus and Pomegranate Salad

A tart and juice four ingredient Citrus and Pomegranate fruit salad to cure your winter blues.

CitrusSaladVV14small

First off, in my last post I announced that I had the manuscript done for my book (*happy dance*). As I enter the next stage of the book process, it’s that time where I need your help: I need recipe testers! All recipes are meat-free and I’m looking for cooks of all skill levels! Anyone selected and willing to complete more than three recipes will get a ‘thank you’ mention in the book and anyone willing to test more than five recipes will receive a free copy of the book when it comes out in spring 2017! If interested, please shoot me an email at [email protected] with any dietary restrictions and/or preferences of recipe types (drink, dessert, main, side, etc). Thank you so much to everyone who wrote in and offered to help! I was so surprised and beyond excited by the enormous response I received! I now have all the recipes covered and can’t wait to get share the next step with you all soon!

In other news, we finally got our first snow of the season! As someone who grew up in a town near Lake Michigan, that often times gets lake effect storms as early as October, I was really aching for some snow in my life. I know, I know – it’s a huge hassle to scrape your car windows in the morning and it’s hard to walk the dog with slippery sidewalks and the snow is blinding when you are trying to drive but it makes this whole cold thing feel like an actual season and, most importantly, it covers the endless brown that plagues our fields and our yards, which is now covered in beautiful white dust. That reflection of the snow creates some of the most gorgeous light (for taking pictures like these) and has left me totally satisfied with being stuck inside my house with a bowl of citrus and my Canon camera.

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40

I’m Writing A Cookbook + Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars

Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars

I’ve got some big news for the new year: I’m writing a cookbook! It’s so crazy to type that out! Not only am I writing a cookbook but it’s being published by one of my favorite publishers, Chronicle Books (they put out the amazing Tartine series and Handmade Baking, just to name a few)! It’s a total dream come true and I’ve spent the last year going through a whirlwind of emotions with the whole thing: excitement, anxiety, amazement, doubt, gittiness, exhaustion, joy, nervousness, frustration, and pretty much any other extreme emotion under the sun!

Well, to back up a bit, I said I’m writing a cookbook but I actually already wrote the cookbook – I spent the majority of 2015 working on it and finally turned the manuscript in at the end of December. I know, I know – how did I manage to keep this from you for so long? Why did I keep it from you? Well, I wasn’t sure how to tell you; it’s such a big deal for me that I wanted to throw a huge party and invite you all over and feed you cake to share the good news but that’s not realistic so instead I just kept putting it off…waiting for the right words to come but they never did. Plus, the book doesn’t come out until spring of 2017 so it just felt so far away to mention it. But at the same time, it was so hard not to mention something! To try to explain why I was a little MIA towards the end of last year and to try and contain my excitement and talk about the mundane of everyday when I had just spent 12 hours recipe testing and perfecting a recipe that I wouldn’t get to show you for another 18 months.

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8

25 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes To Start The Year Right

25 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes To Start The Year Right

Do you have your New Years resolutions all figured out? I bet somewhere between the third piece of pie at Thanksgiving and the drive-thru dinner on your way to visit family over the holidays, you told yourself ‘I’ll eat better next year’; I know I sure did! To be completely honest, I’m pretty excited to get back on track with my body and cleanse out that sugar rush. I’m excited because I know eating healthy doesn’t mean having to compromise flavor or texture. I’m excited because I know I can get my mind and body feeling at their best while still enjoying everything I put into my mouth. Here are 25 vegetarian recipes to help you get back on track without comprising.

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7

Dill Buttermilk Dip with Winter Crudités

Dill Buttermilk Dip with Winter Crudites

Well, this is it. This is the last post of 2015 – where the hell did the year go? I’ve got a reflection post I’ve been working on for next week but until then let’s talk about the last big event before we say goodbye to 2015 forever: NYE! I made this really delicious dill dip for you to make for your NYE party. It’s beyond simple and can be whipped up a day before so you won’t have to fuss with it come party time. Oh and you can get as fancy as you want with it by buying all sorts of pretty produce to serve alongside the dip or keep it super simple by enjoying with whatever you have in the fridge.

So, to be honest, I won’t be making this dip for New Years Eve to watch the ball drop with Carson Daly (bummer, I know!); instead, I’ll be dancing my ass off at a friend’s wedding which happens to be catered and it would probably be pretty weird for me to show up with a tin foil wrapped tupperware full of dip in hand, ya know? BUT that is why I made the dip earlier this week so I could pretend like I was preparing for a big NYE party (because I looooove planning) and so all of you can whip up this dip!

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1

Hoosier Rum Raisin Sugar Cream Pie

Hoosier Rum Raisin Sugar Cream Pie

I think my mother has always been in the midst of an identity crisis. She grew up on the south side of Chicago, but yet she decided to settle down and have a family in a small town in Indiana. She’s often complains about the slow pace of life in Indiana: the lack of international cuisine, lack of nightlife entertainment, and the small town gossip. Growing up, when we were at dinner parties or cookouts and someone would say something particularly homey, she would turn to me and roll her eyes while saying through a forced laugh “us city slickers just don’t get it”. I can’t say for sure why she decided to move her life to the middle of nowhere but I think it’s because she has always had a thing for country boys. I have yet to see a photo of my mother and father together in their 20s where my dad isn’t rocking a cowboy hat, and my stepfather was born and spent the majority of his adolescent years on a farm.

My stepfather’s family used to come over once a year, for Christmas, and my mom would put on her best ‘down to earth’ attitude. She would nod and smile when they talked about shooting guns in the backyard for fun or when they’d joke about getting another snake caught in the lawn mower. I remember the first time that my mother decided to make a sugar cream pie for the occasion; she excitedly told me all about the Hoosier staple that the Davis family grew up with and was going to love reconnecting to. I also remember 4 hours after that when she came in defeated and saying the pie tasted like ‘butter. it tastes like pure butter. ICK’ and demanding we throw it away. My stepdad interjected and took a nibble of his own, ‘oh yup. That’s a sugar pie. This is great’ and insisted on us keeping it. The Davis family loved it and it wasn’t the last time that pie showed up at our family gatherings but it was the last time my mother bit into one.

I’d like to say I fall somewhere in the middle of my mom and stepdad’s thoughts on the sugar pie. I mean, for one, it’s butter and sugar so how can you really go wrong? It’s delicious. However, I don’t get that glazed over fondness that my stepdad would get as he bit into a piece. Although it doesn’t trigger memories of running through cornfields or watching the sunset over the chicken coops, I do imagine my stepfather enjoying it with his family when he was my age and that is enough for me to want to make it again and again.

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10

Detox Winter Salad + A VV Video!

Detox Winter Salad

Thanksgiving has officially come and gone. I made you guys an absolutely delicious mascarpone cheesecake recipe with caramelized cranberries that I was planning to share a few weeks ago but the lighting was all wrong and my photos didn’t do justice to how freaking delicious it truly was; unfortunately, those bummer photos translated into radio silence around here the past few weeks. Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you with some delicious Christmas treats instead!

On a happier note though, Wyatt and I hosted our first Thanksgiving feast this year for six other family members and it went off without a hitch. I only burned the cranberry sauce and we didn’t run out of any food. We don’t have a dining room so we transformed the studio by moving all the musical equipment along the wall and setting up my photo shooting table to accommodate 8 people. Wyatt was in charge of flipping the records, cooking the sage gravy, and whipping up the cornbread casserole while I took charge of the pumpkin risotto (vegetarian main), green bean casserole, stuffing, rolls, and appetizers.

Before we go any further, I wanted to show you this awesome behind the scenes Vegetarian ‘Ventures video that my good friend Anna Powell Teeter made me for the about page. If you are a regular then you’ve probably read my writing and seen my photography but I am hoping this video will give you an even closer connection to how it all comes together behind the curtains. Check the video out below or hop on over the to ‘About Page’ to view it there!

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3

Cornbread, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, & Pomegranate Stuffing

Cornbread, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, & Pomegranate Stuffing

Let’s talk about this Cornbread, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, & Pomegranate Stuffing. Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only a little over a week away? How freaking crazy is that? Are you ready? I can tell you right now that I am NOT! I’ve started one of those crazy spreadsheets with cooking temperatures and time length on it – yes, I’ve become one of those crazy cooks!

In other news, I’m actually popping in to tell you how excited I am to be one of Pure Green Magazine’s community leaders for the holiday season! This means I have a little interview and beyond delicious vegan Cornbread, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, & Pomegranate Stuffing recipe over on their website this week!

I still remember the first time I came across a Pure Green magazine in our little corner bookstore. It was volume four and the main focus was food food food (no wonder it grabbed my attention). After reading through the whole magazine all in one sitting, I jumped online to find out more about them and was amazed to find a really wonderful online community that revolved around it. Fast forward years later and I am not only a part of that community but coined a community leader – how cool is that?!

Okay – hop on over to check out this recipe for Cornbread, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, & Pomegranate Stuffing as I’m off to continue planning my fully vegetarian Thanksgiving menu. What are you planning to whip up in your kitchen next week?

 

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8

Plum Galette With Hazelnut Frangipane

Plum Galette With Hazelnut Frangipane

First off, I’m sorry for posting book reviews two weeks in a row but I promise it’s only because I’ve been hard at work getting some holiday recipes together for all of you; I will begin rolling those out over the next few weeks! Plus, this Plum Galette With Hazelnut Frangipane is A-MAZING so what am I even apologizing for?

Can you believe it’s already November? I can’t. I just can’t get over that it’s already dark by six PM and that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away (then again – the 70 degrees weather we’ve been having here hasn’t been helping be to believe this whole November thing). You know what November means, right? It means we (if you are in the U.S.) have to start thinking about Thanksgiving. For the past five years, Wyatt and I have switched off between visiting my family in Northern Indiana and visiting his family in Northern Wisconsin. This year we were scheduled to head up to Wisconsin but after listening to Wyatt complain about the 14 hour drive one afternoon, I go ‘fine. We just won’t go anywhere for it’ and immediately texted my family saying we were going to be hosting Thanksgiving down here in Bloomington (Indiana) if they wanted to come. I didn’t think they’d agree but I got a text back saying ‘sure. we are in’ and here we are – I’m about to host my first Thanksgiving! Yikes! Send good vibes (and delicious recipes) my way asap because I have a feeling I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

 

Plum Galette With Hazelnut FrangipanePlum Galette With Hazelnut FrangipanePlum Galette With Hazelnut FrangipanePlum Galette With Hazelnut Frangipane

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13

Butternut Squash Farinata With Arugula Salad & Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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You know you have an amazing friend when she’ll fly halfway across the country to help ease your stress. During one of our weekly phone conversations, I had mentioned to my good friend, Ella, that I had a stressful fall ahead of me and she took it upon herself to book a plane ticket out here to help. We spent this past weekend trying new recipes in the kitchen, hosting photo shoots by the lake, and finding time to sneak out to surprise parties on Friday night. After four days of cooking, this was our favorite recipe we whipped up.

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0

Pumpkin Pistachio Muffins

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Where the heck has October gone? I had all these fall recipe ideas and they are slowly slipping away as I try to grasp onto whatever is left of the season. I’m so sorry it’s been a little silent over here this month but October is one of my favorite months so I’ve been spending it soaking up as much of the outdoors as possible and shooting as many projects as possible (more on that soon!) before the weather turns us inside.

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9

Roasted Apples With Oats & Salted Molasses

Roasted Apples With Oats & Salted MolassesRoasted Apples With Oats & Salted Molasses Roasted Apples With Oats & Salted MolassesRoasted Apples With Oats & Salted Molasses

I’m writing this evening’s post between washer loads as I get ready for a trip up north. I’m getting ready to go on a mother daughter trip up to Northern Michigan (Mackinac Island, Traverse City, & Sleeping Bear) for the long weekend and am packing my whole closet as I haven’t figured out my fall wardrobe yet (it’s still warm here but will be much much chillier 8 hours north). I don’t think I’ve ever taken a mother daughter trip before but it feels appropriate as last month marked the one year anniversary of my stepfather passing away. I don’t face that fact on a daily basis since I’m so removed down here in Bloomington but I know she does…everyday. And she’s too reserved to ever really talk about it so instead we are going to ignore it and try to create new memories to replace (if only a little) the empty gap in her life that, I can only imagine, she is still feeling.

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15

Pumpkin & Wild Rice Soup

Pumpkin & Wild Rice SoupPumpkin & Wild Rice Soup

I’ve been having trouble nailing down a spot for photos in our new-ish place. The windows in the studio room are both blocked by our front porch so we don’t get much, if any, direct light in that room which has been both frustrating and also a refreshing challenge for me to try out other places of the house. Although most of the photos have been taken in our kitchen, I decided to set up a little shooting area in our garage for some ‘moody’ shots.

We’ve been calling our garage ‘the cabin’ to make it sound more appealing to our delusional minds but it’s far from livable. There are cracks of sunlight that stream through between wallboards, the floor is literally made of dirt, a big spider lives under every object in the place, and cobwebs cover every surface that is not cleaned off daily. Despite these dungeon-like conditions, it also has the most amazing filtered light with two big antique windows facing both north and south and leaving the rest of the space completely dark. There are also random antique house parts scattered throughout the garage (since we share it with our rental company) that just happen to make the most perfect props and backgrounds (like the white door I used in these photos)! This was my first photo shoot in the ‘cabin’ but I am very excited to explore it more and get comfortable with the lighting.

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5

Vegetarian Meal Plan: Indian Summer Edition

IndianSummer

Hey friends! I am starting a new feature today that will be either weekly or bi-weekly (not looking to make any promises because I’m a heart breaker and often times get scattered and don’t follow through on weekly tasks).

The feature was sparked by that pesky question I still get asked often, “What do you eat as a vegetarian?”, despite having 4+ years of vegetarian recipes documented on this site. Also, I want this site to be more than just weekly recipe inspirations – I want it to be a resource for people looking to cut back on the meat they consume on a daily basis.

This feature is simple – it’s going to be a one stop shop assembling three days of vegetarian meals with the last one being a special topic (this week’s is fall feasting). Why three days instead of seven, you ask? Because let’s be real – what is the fun in having every single meal planned out for every single day? This feature is meant to be a starting point to help you begin to get creative with planning out vegetarian meals in your own kitchen. Use these three days of meals as a guide for figuring out what you do and don’t like (because we all know that we won’t continue on with a lifestyle if we can’t stand it. Don’t like beets? Don’t cook with them!). Also, I give a dessert option with each day but you obviously don’t need to be making sweets everyday (unless you want to and if that is the case, all I have to say is treat yo self!) – treat those suggestions and pick out one or two favorites for the week.

Still with me? Cool! Let’s start:

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13

Vegetarian Baked Potato Waffles With Coconut Bacon

Vegetarian Baked Potato Waffles With Coconut BaconVegetarian Baked Potato Waffles With Coconut BaconVegetarian Baked Potato Waffles With Coconut Bacon

A comfort food recipe feels appropriate for the first day of fall, no? We spent this past weekend visiting eating our way through Chicago and it felt so good to be back in the windy city. I spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Wicker Park in high school (since I grew up in the suburbs) but we don’t really find time to go up there much now that it’s much farther away.

While visiting, I found myself walking into every bakery we passed and ended up stumbling into an amazing diner / bakery over by Permanent Records while we were waiting for our dinner reservations to be ready. I only devoured a little french toast cakeball (which was, no surprise, A-MAZ-ING) but I glanced through their entire menu while we sat around waiting. Beside there being breakfast bahn mi sandwiches and an Elvis brunch platter, there was a mention of baked potato waffles that stuck with me for the next few days. I have no idea of how they serve theirs but this recipe is how I imagined the vegetarian version of it when reading the menu.

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18

Simple Parmesan Couscous Salad

Simple Parmesan Couscous Salad

After dinner each night, Wyatt and I have been enjoying a drink on our porch with the smell of humidity tingling our noses, the endless buzzing of bugs in the distance, and quality conversation. I’ve started to look forward to these quiet moments in each evening with him; they feel like the true Midwest summer memories I long for in the dead of winter. They also remind me of our college days when we’d hurry up to finish our homework so we could drink beer on friends’ porches. With Labor Day behind us, I’m already noticing pumpkin-spice-flavored everything showing up on end caps and fall activity guides dotting my Pinterest feed. It’s hard to image letting go of perfectly ripened tomatoes, crisp corn on the cob, and porch evenings when it’s still warm enough for lake swimming.

Keeping with my summer theme of ‘simple in the kitchen’ (because I’m not ready to let fall in), I have teamed up with Green Giant for one last post on how to whip up an easy #weeknightdatenight meal for you and your significant other (check out the other collaborative recipes here and here. Today’s post features a simple ‘pasta’ salad with the characteristics of a grain salad. The chickpeas in the salad make it hearty enough for a meal while still keeping you from feeling weighted down.

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11

Drownie (Brownie Affogato)

Drownie (Brownie Affogato)

Hey Friends! I’m back after an unintentional two week hiatus! To be completely honest, I made these cherry fritters for you all a few weeks back but had trouble finding the light in our new house and wasn’t happy with how the photos turned out (although the actual fritters were beyond amazing)! I’m still experimenting with the best spot for photos in our new house (as you can probably tell since these ones are all over the place) but hoping to get back into my groove soon!

Since I was away, I’ve had a birthday, hosted a few housewarming gatherings at our place, and spent most of the evenings on our porch with a summer ale and good conversation (true Bloomington pastime) to soak up the last nights of summer.

Drownie (Brownie Affogato) Drownie (Brownie Affogato)Drownie (Brownie Affogato) Continue Reading →

29

Sparkling Peppered Plum Blush + Let’s Celebrate: VV Turns 4!

BlushCocktail (32 of 37) copy

Blogiversary (did I seriously just use that term?), we meet again. This time around it’s VV turning four but how has it already been a year since the last one? It’s very strange for me to think about – four years doesn’t sound like that long but I can’t even remember what it was like not to have this little blog around. To shoot photos in my free time. To obsess over new recipes and cookbooks. To sell my photography on the side. To ramble on and on about my dog, boy, and life changes.

Not only am a really grateful for all the amazing opportunities I’ve been offered from this blog but I’m so grateful I was talked into starting it as a creative outlet. My Ma has recently started talking about moving out of the house that I was mostly raised in and when she was cleaning out the basement, she came across dozens and dozens of my journals. I’ve kept a journal since I learned to read – some were filled with words, others with sketches, many with magazine clippings, and most with a combination of all those things. She was telling me about all the journals she found over dinner one night and I excitedly asked if she had brought them with her. She gave a nervous chuckle and said she had tossed them as there were dozens of them that she couldn’t imagine I’d want to store them. I had to hold back tearing up – I know her intentions were not at all to upset me but I was upset. I’m not sure why I hold those journals so close to my heart or why I even started writing in a journal to begin with but I was beyond bummed. I had always imagined giving those journals to my daughter one day to let her get a glimpse into what I was like at that age and to let her feel a little less alone when she was going through social trouble at school (which is absurd since I don’t even want kids).

There is something about reflecting on my old writing and knowing that all the problems I was worried about worked themselves out… that is so relieving. Or reading through and realizing how much my dreams have changed and that is okay. Or stumbling upon an entry of a memory I had completely forgotten and reconnecting with the emotions I felt during that moment. Whenever I start to feel too stressed about how things are currently going, I like to reflect on my old writings to escape to simpler times – maybe it’s because I have a terrible memory or maybe it’s because the written memories are never quite how I had been keeping them stored in my mind.

BlushCocktail (23 of 37)

Anyhow, I stopped keeping written journals when I started VV as my writing energy goes into posts like this and I prefer to tell most of my story through photography these days. Here’s to always keeping the memories logged somewhere (that your Mom hopefully can’t throw away – ha!). Also, here are the past Blogiversary posts because it’s fun to reflect:

VV Turns One! // Butterscotch Roll-Up Cake
VV Turns Two /// Spicy Double Chocolate Cookies With Cappucino Frosting
Creamy Peanut Butter Pupsicles (VV Turns Three)

 

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15

Chipotle Tahini Harvest Bowl

Chipotle Tahini Harvest Bowl

This is the first meal I’ve cooked in our new home. I was a little nervous at first as it’s always difficult, as a photographer, to find your new light. But I was eager for the challenge after having the same studio room to work out of for the past three years. I was worried for nothing, as our new house has the best natural light of any place I’ve ever lived in (probably one of the main reasons I was drawn to it).

We went house hunting a few months back when I got really fed up with our oven being broken for 2 months and not being able to get it properly fixed by our landlord. We weren’t very serious about moving but when we walked into this place, I knew we had to snatch it. The whole place is lit during the day with light coming in through huge windows located throughout the place, and the kitchen came fully equipped with a dishwasher and brand new cabinets (neither luxuries I’ve had while renting). It’s really hard to find decent homes in a college town because they are usually dumpy college homes that landlords don’t want to put money into (rightfully so since most of them just get trashed). We are, however, not college kids and have struggled with finding a nice place with a great location (that happens to be close to the university). We got really lucky with this place as it had just been redone by the new owner since she had planned to live in it but got a sudden job offer in Seattle. I’m hoping to have some photos for you once we get all settled in but for now this little recipe will have to do.

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14

A Mountain Wedding

I still remember clearly when it all started. I was still in school and my brother was living in Denver but commuting to Boulder daily for work. He would make the rounds calling family members back in the Midwest to catch up during his commute. I’d get a call from him every few weeks and we’d chat about how my schooling was going (I was still at Indiana University back then), his skiing adventures, his new friends in Colorado, and updates on family gossip. One evening, when we were getting ready to say our goodbyes after a short phone chat, he paused and then goes ‘so…there’s this girl and I’m thinking about taking her on a picnic in the mountains. I want to ask her to go to this ski prom thing we have and I couldn’t think of anything else…’ he trailed off, obviously treading lightly with the conversation and not sure where to take it next. I was speechless and in shock; after 20 years of being his sister, he had never confided in me about any girl in his life. Us Germens tend to keep to ourselves with the majority of our emotions and chat in two word sentences; opening up about emotional topics usually takes weeks of passive aggressive prying. After regaining myself and realizing that he was asking for confirmation that this was a good idea, I quickly jumped in and told him how perfect that would be to take her on a mountain picnic to their favorite skiing spot. He said ‘okay, cool’ and that was that. The next time we chatted, I asked how it went and he said ‘really well’ (see? Two word answers are what I usually get out of him) and I responded with ‘You really like this girl, don’t you?’ and he goes ‘Yeah, I think I really do’. And that is when I knew this one was going to be different.

Fast forward five years and we are on my way back from their gorgeous mountain wedding. Yup, that’s right – I am still in shock that my only sibling is finally married and that he is at that point in his life. In the past month, he has bought a house in Denver, bought a mountain condo, and got married to the love of his life (while I’m still over here trying to figure out how to live paycheck to paycheck). Needless to say, I’m beyond excited for him and can’t wait to see everything continue to unfold with his new life.

Anyhow, we headed to Colorado a week early so we could do some exploring with my family. We went camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, ate our weight in donuts in Denver, and wondered the state for five days leading up to the wedding. I was a bridesmaid in the actual wedding so I didn’t get a chance to take photos on the day but here are a few snapshots of the rest of the trip:

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12

Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps

As mentioned in my last post, it’s a crazy time of year for us over here with moving, having visitors, weddings almost every weekend, and a big 10 day vacation approaching fast. And somehow I bet we aren’t the only ones – isn’t funny how it works out that the days are so much longer this time a year but they go by so much quicker?

With all that being said, I’m going to admit to you that I’ve hardly cooked a full meal in almost three weeks. Sure, I whipped up some delicious food last weekend but other than that, we’ve been surviving off of bagels and thai takeout. I finally said enough a few days back and whipped up these lettuce wraps and you know what? Not only did I finally make dinner but I recruited Wyatt to help me and make a date night around it – no packing boxes, no entertaining guests, no walking the dog, just two hours of putting on a record, enjoying each other’s company in the kitchen, and then sitting down to a meal together. It was such a relief; heck, even Wyatt was having so much fun that I talked him into putting this ‘his’ apron on (and he NEVER lets me dress him).

This recipe is not my standard recipe that I post around here (where all of the ingredients are pulled from my garden and I make the base from scratch) because, well to be honest, sometimes that’s just not realistic. Sometimes you are tired or you don’t have time to make something from scratch or you would just rather enjoy the company of your significant other than zero in on a super complicated meal. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to not be able to do it all and it’s okay to need a little help sometimes. I feel like our food society has turned into this wholefood movement that has become so beneficial to us in so many ways but also puts a lot of pressure on us to make everything from scratch. It shouldn’t be that way – make an elaborate meal when you have time but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Instead of turning to the take-out menu, I’d recommend trying a simple recipe that has a little help with your freezer section because sometimes that’s all you need to still get in your vegetable quota for the day.

Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps2Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps3Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps4

Green Giant was also kind enough to offer a gift basket of goodies to giveaway for your next #WeeknightDateNight! The basket includes one 12-inch non-stick (PFOA-free) Calphalon fry pan, a wooden sauté paddle, love birds salt-and-pepper shakers, his & hers aprons, and two coupons for the new Green Giant Sautés. We received the same gift box in the mail before whipping up these wraps and had fun planning a night around them (I even got Wyatt to wear the apron! #win). The giveaway will be open until Tuesday, August 4th so make sure to take a few quick seconds to sign up below before then!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Coconut Thai Tofu Wraps recipe below:

Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps4Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps5Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps6

These coconut thai tofu wraps are a twist on a more extensive recipe I made back in the day but the prep time is cut in half by using the Green Giant sautés. If you have the time (or can’t find the Green Giant sautes in your area), I recommend checking out the original recipe but this one is just as delicious and even faster to whip up. Also, I kept the tofu matches around the same size as the vegetables but you can chop them smaller if you aren’t crazy about tofu and want to have it masked more by the sauce.

Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps
 
A refreshing and addictive Coconut Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce or endive
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1 package of Green Giant Thai Coconut Sautés
  • Juice of half a lime + more slices for garnish
Instructions
  1. Chop the end of the lettuce or endive and peel off each leaf layer for your wrap. Rinse and set aside (some of the inner sections may be too small – you can save them for a later use or chop them up and throw it into the vegetable saute at the end).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add in the garlic and ginger and sauté for about one minute or until fragrant. Next, add in the tofu, Green Giant vegetables, and packet of seasoning (included with the sautés) and sauté for five to eight minutes. Remove from heat and top with the chopped peanuts (also included in the sautés) and juice from half a lime. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve by scooping a few tablespoons of the sauteed mixture into each leaf cup (the exact amount will depend on how big your leafs are).

 

This post was sponsored by Green Giant but all opinions in this post are of my own. Thank you so much for helping to support brands that keep VV thriving.

23

Vegetarian Garden Tart With Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Spread Recipe

Vegetarian Garden Tart With Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Spread RecipeVegetarian Garden Tart With Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Spread RecipeVegetarian Garden Tart With Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Spread Recipe

This vegetarian tart recipe was inspired by the madness of moving. A little over two weeks before we move (with a 10 day vacation to Colorado in there) and I’m starting to get into ‘OMG WE HAVE SO MUCH SH*T’ mode. Okay, to be real, I have so much sh*t and it starts with the kitchen – two blenders, really? Four bottles of vanilla extract? A freezer full of unidentifiable leftover soups and stews? I’ve managed to accumulate an awful lot of unnecessarily junk within the three years we’ve lived in this house and somehow have to sort through it in the 7 evenings I have free between now and when our new lease starts.

With all that being said, I’ve found the easiest (although not the fastest) solution so far in the kitchen as been to eat my way through it. A perfect example of this is this tart – I came across an unopened box of puff pastry in the freezer and decided to top it with all the leftover veggies that I could find in the crisper. The sauce was inspired by an unopened roasted red pepper jar that has been hidden in the very back of our way-too-tall-for-me pantry cabinet (a jar that I most likely had inspirational ideas for at one point but it got lost in the mix somehow).

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