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21

Pumpkin Pie with Salted Molasses Créme Fraîche /// Let’s make Pumpkin Puree from Scratch

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 Think caramel is the only sweet topping you can salt? Think again. Imagine this salted molasses as the darker-spicier-brunette sister to the blondie we know as salted caramel. It also has that addicting sweet / salty flavor profile but with a bit of a richer flavor. I’m really not sure why caramel gets all the attention and why we don’t salt more sweet syrups. Why not salted honey? salted molasses? salted date syrup? Salted agave nectar? Based on how this pie tasted…I think I’m on to something here.

 

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Besides the salted molasses, the other secret ingredient that really sets this pie apart is the use of vanilla beans. Vanilla extract is great when you want to infuse your baked goods but there is nothing better than speckles of fresh vanilla seeds. I stuck them in both the custard filling and in the molasses drizzle. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry vanilla beans (I know many don’t – shame on them!) then I highly suggest hopping over to J. R. Watkin’s site and picking up some of theirs. They were kind enough to send me some samples a few weeks back and I was legitimately blown away. I’m the kind of person who usually buys the beans in bulk and these beans put all of those to shame. These beans were some of the freshest I’ve ever baked with (and I, weirdly enough, have a lot of experience baking with vanilla beans. Check out here and here and here and here and here and here for written proof of it).

 

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15

Nutmeg Banana Carrot Muffins /// Some Words on Sugar Substitutes

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Today is Sunday, September 29th. Today is a very very special day. Or should I say tonight? Yes, tonight is a very very very special night. Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad. It is when three (four?!) years of pain-stakingly frustrating tension is finally resolved (or at least we hope it will be). There is only one problem: we don’t have cable. How did we watch all the other 61 episodes then, you ask? Well you can stream them on the network’s website the followig day after an episode has aired. Which I am usually totally fine with. But this is the season finale of the whole series. And I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to go into work tomorrow and have to keep my ears shut the whole day. Or spend the next 24 hours avoiding my newsfeeds on facebook and twitter. I want to experience it along with the rest of America.

So, how will I do this, you ask? Well, I’m not sure. But I sure as hell want to be prepared with baked goods when I figure it out. I’m thinking…bribing frineds with these muffins? Or the bartender to turn it to AMC with these little handheld cakes. Or maybe even going over to our new neighbors house and using these muffins as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ peace treaty right when the show is starting (that way I can peep in the door and see if they are watching it. ‘OH! You guys are watching Breaking Bad?! We were just about to put it on. Maybe we should all watch it together. I also have some local cider and whiskey I can bring over, if you’d like….’). You know, those kinds of things.

 

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Oh no. This post was supposed to be a distraction from thinking about Breaking Bad. Okay, what were we talking about before I so rudely changed the subject to a drug-ring-themed-pop-culture-television-drama? Oh yeah, muffins. And not just any muffins – muffins exploding with nutritional benefits like dates (fiber, iron, calcium), bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C), nutmeg (iron, magnesium, calcium), and carrots (vitamin A). These are nutritional enough for breakfast but satisfying enough for dessert. And even scrumptious enough to bribe your friends with.

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14

Homemade Pumpkin Pasta with Goat Cheese Whip & Browned Butter Sage

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You know, I was so proud of myself for thinking about using that can of pumpkin before October rolled around. I was like ‘damn, I’m going to beat the pumpkin craze this year for sure!’ and then I waited 3 days to post this. And now this recipe is in the dead middle of all the pumpkin blondies and nutmeg dutch babies. Oh well. This was my attempt to create a ‘savory’ dish with the pumpkin instead of the sugar overload that October tends to bring (helloooo Halloween!).

 

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52

Chickpea Dumplings in Curry Tomato Sauce

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I know you were starting to worry. You were starting to wonder if my diet really could consist of sugar and alcohol based on the recipes that have been posted on VV the last month or so. So, in an attempt to show you a some-what ‘normal’ side of my diet, I’m posting this dumpling recipe which is an evening go-to in our home. Curry is always welcome around here and we tend to make it about once a week in the cooler months. I like this recipe because it breaks up the usual vegetable-sauce-rice ratio and has protein-rich dumplings cooked right in. Also, the best part about the dumpling literally steaming into the sauce is that it doesn’t take any longer than it would for you to simmer a pot of homemade curry sauce.

This recipe is traditionally prepared by frying the dumplings but I’ve chosen to steam them in the tomato sauce instead for both time and health sake. Think of it as an Indian-curry version of chicken and dumpling stew. Except the sauce plays a much more flavorful part than in our traditional comfort stew. The dumplings end up gooey and steaming them in the sauce lends to the dumplings soaking up the flavors around them.

We serve ours over basmati rice but you can make it a little bit healthier by substituting brown rice. We also like to top ours with greek yogurt for an extra creamy consistency but it’s plenty flavorful without the yogurt if you are trying to keep it vegan.

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9

Fall Lusting

[Insert huge rant about everything going wrong. I originally had 3 paragraphs of a rant here but it all seemed so petty after re-reading it. Funny how sometimes you just need to write out your problems to be reminded how good you really have it]

What’s a girl to do when she feels like all the little things seem to be going wrong? Take a deep breathe..and notice the smell of fall in the air. When did that happen? Was it when I was in the kitchen bitching about my eclairs not coming out after 3 hours of baking? Or when my computer kept crashing every time I tried to upload a photo? Or maybe it was when I was on an exhausting 5 day long business trip in Atlanta…it must have been then? Yeah, that was it. Not that I’m complaining about it. A hint of crisp in the air is always so relieving against my tense body and created a surge of excitement in me earlier this week. A surge of excitement for pumpkin flavored everything, late night bonfires, big sweaters with knee high socks, and warm cups of tea. Let’s just take another deep breath and look at some fall-themed inspiration, shall we?

 

   

 

FASHIONING /// I live for over size sweaters and knee high socks. Thanks to past end-of-the-season sales, I’ve managed to collect knee high socks in pretty much every dark shade of blacks, greys, greens, and blues to ever exist. And my need for thrifting always keeps me stocked on over-size, funky geometric shape patterned sweaters.

CRAVING /// Pumpkin flavored BAGELS?! Yes yes yes, please!

INSPIRING /// Chai smores? Talk about a perfect fall dessert for the next time we have a bonfire. Fall for me means Chai flavored EVERYTHING. Can’t wait to see what I come up with for VV this fall.

CREATING /// And speaking of bonfires… another favorite fall activity! We usually host horror movie nights once a week in the fall leading up to Halloween. This also usually entails a bonfire and big sweaters. So many favorite things in one place. Now…if only I could get myself to like scary movies….

What are you most excited for this fall?

 

22

Vanilla Bean & Fig Shortbread Drizzled with Honey Glaze

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This past week has been wonderful. It was my birthday on Wednesday and I’ve been spoiled silly by so many wonderful people. Packages in the mail, trips to the city, visits from my mother, late night dinners. All this positive attention reminded me that I can also spoil myself a little -I decided I was entitled to as much sangria and shortbread as I please during this week. I whipped up a big batch of sangria and peach shortbread last Sunday and spent the week picking away at it. Heck, I even ran out of shortbread by Wednesday and whipped up another batch; this time I whipped up these fig shortbread bars.

Sometimes you are kind of nervous about getting older and the only cure is large amounts of butter and sparkling wine. Oh and having amazing people in your life.

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14

Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream [Vegan]

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There is so much fall going on around Pinterest these days; I find it to be both appalling and kind of exciting. Maybe it’s this streak of 90 degree weather or my longing for copious amounts of curry in my stomach or the desire to wear knee high socks but I am feeling ready for it. [Heck, maybe I even already bought a can of organic pumpkin for vegan fall baking].

My brain feels so fried from this heat that I’ve managed to stumble into a mundane food routine of salads for lunch and veggie sandwiches for dinner. That is about it….Well, almost it. The other summertime food that has been a regular lately is greek yogurt and homemade granola. So much so that I am starting to think we may need to take some time off from each other soon or we may not be able to stay friends.

Thus, in an attempt to keep yogurt off my long list of hated foods (right next to beets and jello), I decided to try cashew cream in my breakfast parfaits. I originally made the cashew cream to lather on eclairs (…more on that in the coming days) but haven’t looked back at yogurt in weeks.

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The cashew cream only takes a few minutes to whip up and usually lasts me 3 to 4 servings of breakfast. It’s sweeter than yogurt but not so much that you feel guilty about enjoying it for breakfast. Feel free to enjoy with whatever granola you have on hand but I highly recommend trying out this quinoa version. The toasted quinoa gives the granola a crunchy texture unlike any kind of granola I’ve had before. And it’s a complete protein so you’ll be really ready to start your day right. ‘Nuff said?

 

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream

Inspired by Gourmande in the Kitchen & Cashew Cream adapted from Oh, Ladycakes

For the granola:

  • 1 cup tri-colored quinoa (or 1/2 cup red + 1/2 cup white), rinsed super well
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
  • vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod discarded (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (or any baking oil you’d prefer)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey (or more maple syrup to keep vegan)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, divided & lightly crushed

For the maple cashew cream:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 dates, pitted
  • 2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want to make it)
  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pint blueberries

Submerge cashews in water and let soak overnight.

Remove pits from dates and let soak with the cashews 30 minutes prior to making the cream.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine the quinoa, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the vanilla bean seeds in a mixing bowl. Fold in the oil, maple syrup, and honey. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out as much as possible. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to keep from burning. After 30 minutes, add 1/4 cup crushed pistachios to granola and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Drain cashews / dates and place in a food process or blender. Add the maple syrup and 1/4 cup water. Blend. If too thick, gradually add more water a tablespoon at a time until a desired consistency is reached (I like mine at the consistency of greek yogurt – thick and sustainable but a little fluffy).

To assemble: Layer the cream followed by the cooled granola followed by blueberries and garnish with crushed pistachio and cinnamon.

 

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9

Summer Recap Zine // Vegetarian Ventures Issue 1

 

I already showed this on VV’s Facebook and Pinterest yesterday but I wanted to share it with all of you. I created a short Summer recap zine with some of my favorite highlights for what has been going on around VV this past season.

I am totally hooked on independent magazines right now. Having articles published in Chickpea, Incadenscent, and Remedy Quarterly has made me realize how fun it is to see your work in print. There is something so satisfying about being able to stack your pieces of creative work on a shelf instead of in a hard drive. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet but there is nothing better than being able to flip through pages of inspiration over and over again.

In addition to hoping to write a small recap zine every season, I’d really love to start making a collaborative publication in the near future. I really enjoy the community that is built around having a blog and would love to expand it beyond guest posts and re-pins. You know, something physical [eventually] and filled with recipes, adventures, tricks, tips, guides, drawing, a cute name (Toast? Hibiscus?), and (of course) beautiful photography. I realize that will mean recruiting a co-op of writers, adventures, photographers, taste-makers, bakers, and designers (these people could be YOU. Yes? No? Maybe?). Until then, I’ve got my VV recap zine to get my technique down.

What independent zines have you been lusting over lately? I’ve been SO into Kinfolk, Pure Green Magazine, and Weekend Almanac.

19

Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas [For one]

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Wyatt is off at a Black Sabbath concert tonight . No, I’m not sure why – he’s not a 60 year old fan or a metal head of any kinds [but this is beside the point]. The point is that I’m here alone tonight. I decide to have a sort of girl’s night…with myself. Yoga, red wine, and a chick flick (Bridesmaids to be exact…hey, don’t judge! Everyone ALWAYS references it and I have no idea what they are ever talking about). This is a special treat because I usually get suckered into alien, death-centric, action flicks and a case of beer.

This also meant I was on my own for dinner this evening. Any normal American would have probably just got Chinese take-out but I was excited by the thought of not having to worry about another person’s needs / preferences. Both polenta and chickpeas are two things Wyatt isn’t really that crazy about – and I totally disagree. I personally don’t think there could ever be anything wrong with a big bowl of corn creaminess that takes on the subtle flavor of whatever cheese you decide to melt into it. And as for chickpeas – give me them anyway you’d like: blended, roasted, sautéed, or panfried.

Needless to say, I’ve settled in for the night with this big polenta bowl and my boxer dog, Tuko. If you need us – we’ll be over here watching some girls relieve themselves in wedding dresses because of some bad Mexican food they ate (gross! Sorry, Bridesmaids reference?)

When pan frying the chickpeas, make sure you use just a big enough skillet so that they can lay evenly in one layer but not so big that you have to use half your bottle of oil. And as for the pesto, I’ve been into using kale (since it grows like wildflowers in my garden) but went with basil on this one since it’s finally basil season – feel free to use whatever leafy green you have on hand!

 

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Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas

  • 1 cup dried polenta
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ounces goat cheese (or more if you are like me)

 

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt / pepper

 

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from a can or from dried)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt / pepper
  • oil (I used olive but you could use vegetable as well)

In a food processor or very powerful blender, combine all the pesto ingredients and blend until a smooth paste forms. Add more olive oil if needed to reach your desired consistency. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta and lower heat to medium low. Whisk continuously until the polenta has become thick enough that it won’t stick to the bottom. After fifteen minutes of simmering, stir in the cheese and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium. Add chickpeas, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Sauté for ten to fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined tray. Let sit for a few minutes to crisp up.

Mix the polenta, chickpeas, and pesto all together and enjoy!

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11

VV Turns 2 /// Spicy Double Chocolate Cookies with Cappuccino Frosting

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Yay – today Vegetarian Ventures has officially been around (and active!) for two years! It seems both unreal and yet two years doesn’t seem that long. I can’t remember my life without this creative outlet and can’t imagine what I did with all my time before baking, cooking, photography, styling, and playing with food?

The world as I know it has changed drastically since 2011. Two years ago, this guy didn’t exist:

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And I didn’t live in our blue house with this guy:

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Two years ago I was going to school part time and working at a local co-op grocery store. The co-op had this wonderful shelf in the fridge called the ‘chump shelf’ and was filled with any sort of unsellable item that were up for grabs – day old baguettes (perfect for french toast), pints of berries with one moldy piece, two day old tabbouleh (everyone know it’s better after it’s aged a bit), blemished organic produce, bulk bags of grains that people bagged up and then decided against buying, etc. As a student trying to live cheapily and still obsessed with food, this was the most amazing shelf for me. I would come home beaming every night with bags full of free food and feed my entire house full of college roommates. The food I brought would often times be a weird mix of ingredients and that was what sparked searching through recipes and blogs and eventually starting VV to document my adventures.

Two years later and I do not still work at the co-op (but still live right down the street from it and shop their almost everyday), have graduated college, and don’t have a house full of roommates to feed. I do, however, still love blogging and spend most of my free time cooking for my boyfriend / boxer.

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9

Currently Crushing

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In an attempt to not completely fall off the grid during the ‘dog days of summer’, I thought I’d fill you in on a few things I’ve been up to aside from cooking. With my kitchen lacking air conditioning (UGH), I’ve been keeping the cooking to a minimum and mostly sticking to veggie centric salads, staple recipes that I know are quick, and grilling outside.

Anyhow,  I’ve been turning to other outlets of inspiration – mostly spending a large portion of my free time reading and thought I’d share a few recent favorites with you guys.

Top right: I found this back issue of Pure Green Magazine at a local bookstore and am totally in love. This particular issue is their ‘food’ issue and features articles ranging from the history of ancient grains to a step by step on how to make the best coffee. It has become a new indie magazine staple to add to my shelf alongside Chickpea Quarterly and Kinfolk.

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8

Grilled Maple Bourbon Glazed Panzanella Salad

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My idea for this was to make a savory bread salad without it turning into bread pudding or baked french toast (which was sightly harder than you might think). But adding tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil (peppers would be good too!) – it creates that sweet and savory sensation which is irresistible in this salad!

This time of year is all about cooking with fresh-from-the-garden produce. It’s that time where salads shine and raw is more. This makes me appreciate the method more than ever. No 30 steps involved in getting to that end casserole or sautéing followed by roasted following by rolling followed by baking. With fresh summer recipes, it’s about slightly cooking (if at all) to achieve a hint of flavor that accents the fresh flavors of your colorful produce.

I think this is the reason I love grilling so much. It’s simple and feels very natural to grill veggies over an open fire to bring out their flavors. Or to slightly caramelize fruit until it melts in your mouth. This salad is bursting with raw flavors while meshing perfectly with the smoky nuance of the bread and fruit.

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And yes, I burnt some of the bread (see picture above – maybe it was because I was grilling in high heel sandals?!). That is one of my favorite parts about cooking… even after years in the kitchen (or in this case…the back yard), I’m still making mistakes and learning. I’ve been camping most weekends for the last month so my delusions about knowing my way around the grill were at a record high. Wyatt usually takes charge of the grill and you can most certainly tell by the state of that piece on the way left.

Also, moving on from talking about this salad, I wanted to let you know that I know that I’ve been a little absent on here lately. It’s not my fault… well sort of my fault. Summer has brought house guests staying for days on end (and more coming!), random cross country adventures, and desires for new hobbies. But I do have to admit, even after having loads of fun with these out-of-the-ordinary adventures, I still always want to come back to cooking. Flying 10 hours across the country is really just an opportunity (in my mind) to gather new recipe inspiration from road side diners and produce stands by the ocean. Taking up sanding is just an excuse for me to build more shelving units for blog props. You get the picture…I miss being around here and am glad to be back. : ]

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Grilled Maple Bourbon Glazed Panzanella

Serves 2
  • 1 loaf of day old bread (I used a baguette), sliced in half
  • 1 large cucumber or 3 small cucumbers, sliced into bite size strips
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Combination of Stone fruit (I used 2 peaches and 2 plums), halved
  • Handful of basil, torn
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • dash of Salt / Pepper

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In a small saucepan, whisk together the glaze ingredient and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside to thicken (about five minutes).

Start the grill. Brush the bread and fruit with honey bourbon glaze. Stick on the grill (watching closely!) and brown on each side. Time will completely depend on how hot your coals are but mine took about a minute on each side for bread and 3 minutes for the fruit.

Dice the bread and fruit into bite size pieces and toss with cucumber, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, 2 Tablespoons leftover glaze, salt, and pepper. Serve warm.

 

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5

Pacific Coast Exploring – Part 2 (Oregon)

…And here is Part 2 of our coastal exploration (check out Part 1 here). These pictures are mostly all taken in Oregon and on the way to Portland. I wish wish wish wish wish I had an excuse to move to Portland – I would be so close to the ocean, mountains, Redwoods, waterfalls, rivers, drip coffee, blueberry bourbon basil donuts (Yup – that’s right. Thank you, Blue Star), and so many other things.

 

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10

Pacific Coast Exploring – Part 1

I apologize for the lack of ‘food’ posts this week but I have a good excuse. I’ve been 2,000 miles away from my kitchen on an epic road trip starting in San Francisco and trailing up through Portland. This last week has been a whirlwind; 12 hours of flying, 2 major cities, an epic ocean, 10 hours of driving, two picnics, one amazing friend, endless seasonal food, and dozens of mix CDs later…I come to you with a recap of my week in the form of photos.

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Let’s start with a little background to set  this photo story up. This is Ella – within the past five years, we’ve been friends, roommates, class mates, and now exploration partners. While I’ve been off having a day job and manning down this wonderful VV blog, she’s been busy living out of her car and traveling the country while working on organic farms and gaining wilderness training in dozens of national parks. Although I love my cushiony life in the Midwest, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of her adventures and made a promise to meet her in San Fran at the end of the summer. I flew from Indianapolis to Atlanta and then to San Francisco. She picked me up in her car-turned-home and we were off along the 101 for the next three days.

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And this is me. I probably didn’t need to introduce myself because you probably already know me – whether it’s through this blog, or in person, or from the gossip channels known as the internet (okay, let’s be real – you probably don’t know me because of that). But just in case, and for the sake of this picture story, this is me. The 20-something, sort-of-paranoid, adventure-lusting, food-lover.

 And this is the a photo tour of our journey through California (Part 1).

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2

Searchable Saturdays

Morning! By the time this is posted, I will be off exploring the Pacific Coast. I’m writing from an airplane (woohoo for wi-fi) where I am watching the Southwest desert pass us by and consuming obnoxious amounts of soda water (but am refusing to let myself have to pee on this trip). Anyhow, I hope to have some wonderful photos to share of my journey when I return, but for now…let’s chat about some photos from other people around the web…

 

       

 

 

1. CRAVING /// Broiled Apricot and Cherries with Fresh Ricotta and Thyme. WHAT?! I’m not even sure if I fully understand what all is going on here but I do understand that I want to eat it all.

2. DREAMING /// We’ve been thinking pretty seriously lately about getting another dog. I want one so badly…when I see all the dogs that need homes from the shelter and know that I could make their lives 100000x time better, it makes me so sad. Tuko is almost 2 and he still has crazy energy and pretty obviously longs for another dog companion. The problem, of course, lies with what would happen if we wanted to move and they wouldn’t accept two dogs…or if one of them had a large medical emergency that we couldn’t afford. Sigh. I just don’t know what to do!

3. CREATING /// I love kitchen projects and haven’t embarked on any major ones lately. I’ve actually never canned. Weird? Maybe but I don’t eat a lot of canned food so it doesn’t seem that irrational? BUT, on that note, I will can. Whether it be jam or pickles or corn relish or enchilada sauce. It will happen. I am now determined.

Also, another food project I am going to start when getting back from San Fran is trying to keep a sourdough starter. I’ve always been so intimidated by the thought of it but it’s really not that hard..right?!

4. LUSTING /// Gourmande in the Kitchen has been doing a Healthy Homemade Series and I am TOTALLY into it. I love the idea of being able to make your own homemade staples (whether it be food based or for your skin or your house, etc). The first post was a skin cream and the latest is a chocolate facial mask. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

16

Chickpea Cobb Salad Cups

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It has been hot hot HOT here in the Midwest. It’s hard to get motivated to eat copious amounts of food (let alone turn your oven on) in this heat. I’m not complaining… this is always the time of year that I start to master my salads. When  you start eating the things three times a day, you are bound to get creative with them. Corn relish, seasoned chickpeas, baked goat cheese, preserved lemons, stuffed tomatoes, polenta croutons…the options with salads are endless!

 

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When imagining these cups, think Americanized lettuce wraps (and not the kind you get at P F Changs). These little cups are filled with a vegetarian Cobb inspired salad. You can fill the cups with goodies before hand or put all the toppings in individual bowls and let people pick and choose how much of everything goes into their cup. Or you could even do it lettuce wrap style and mix the salad ingredients together in one bowl and then let your guests scoop the desired amount into little raddichio leaves.

If you’ve never had raddichio before, it’s a must try (especially for any salad lover). They look like mini red cabbages but have a flavor profile closer to the endive. Raddichio is slightly bitter and is part of the chicories family along with endives and escaroles. You can mellow out the slightly spicy / bitter taste by roasting the vegetable but I personally think it gives the perfect raw edge to this, otherwise pretty tame, Cobb salad.

 

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11

Fresh Squeezed Bloody Mary with Rosemary Infused Vodka & Goat Cheese Olives

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I’m all about playing around and inventing new cocktails (see: Loaded Hibiscus Arnold Palmer, Blueberry Basil Peach Fizz, etc) but sometimes you just need to go with a traditional cocktail. And NOTHING (I mean NOTHING) is better than a fresh squeezed Bloody mary during peak tomato season. It’s savory and spicy and elegant and just darn right delicious.

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There is this AWFUL local sports bar that we used to go to on Sundays because it was right next to our old house. And when I say awful..I mean awful. Big screen TVs so loud that you can’t hear the person next to you, bland bar foods that leaves the one vegetarian option of french fries, and snooty blonde waitresses that pay you no attention knowing they’ll get bigger tips from the table of men across the room. But despite the terrible service and atmosphere, I became addicted to their signature Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t even know I LIKED Bloody Mary’s before I had one here. It was like a meal in a glass…savory, peppery, and full of spice. This is what got me hooked.

This takes quite a few tomatoes to make a decent amount of juice so this is a recipe you’ll want to make at the peak of garden season. Plus, this cocktail will taste the best with in-season, right off the vine, tomatoes. None of the ‘recipes’ below are exact. Unlike baking, making cocktails is all about experimenting and working in your personal preference. Like it spicy? Add more sriracha. Like it strong? Up the vodka ratio.

Also, I recommend not wasting the leftover tomato skins – I just put mine in the freezer for the next time I make some vegetable broth but you could also use them to make tomato paste or even just chop up and throw in a salad.

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Rosemary Infused Vodka

  • 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 cup clear vodka

Combine vodka and rosemary in a clear glass jar and seal. Stick in the fridge and let infuse for several days (I did mine three days ahead of time). Shake once a day. Strain rosemary and use the infused vodka in all your favorite drinks.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Olives

  • 1 jar of green olives, drained and rinsed
  • 3 ounces of goat cheese (or chèvre)
  • Salt/Pepper

Mash the goat cheese with a little salt and pepper. Stuff the peppers with cheese. (Yup – that’s it).

Fresh Squeezed Bloody Marys

  • Assortment of Heirloom tomatoes (amount depends on size and desired servings. I used 4 large tomatoes per a serving), halved
  • 1 ounce of Rosemary infused vodka (see above) or any vodka you have on hand
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • dash worcestershire sauce (vegetarian version)
  • dash of Sriracha (you can even make your own over at Reclaiming Provincial)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Celery sticks, for garnish
  • Rosemary, for garnish

Squeeze the tomato insides into a blender and do a quick puree until smooth. Add in the vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, horseradish, worcestershire sauce, sriracha, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt / pepper / sriracha to your liking. Fill a glass with ice and pour cocktail into glass.

Garnish with celery, rosemary, and goat cheese olives.

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6

The Blue Bush

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I had so much fun reading Baker Bettie’s post on their new home that it inspired me to give you guys a little peak into our lives.

It’s been one year since I started the ‘post college’ stage of my life that I’m currently knee deep in. It’s been a year since I moved into The Blue Bush with Wyatt and our peanut butter loving dog, Tuko. The Blue Bush (as we like to call it since…well…the outside of the house is bright blue) is a cozy little Midwest home that was built in 1910. Yup, that’s what the records say…1910. So, as you can imagine, the place isn’t exactly in tip top shape. We’ve worked hard to transform it into a home that reflects us and it’s been fun to watch the process unfold. I’ve collected quite a few pictures of the last year so I was thinking this could be a good time to show you around.

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This also means it’s been one year since we owned a microwave or a dishwasher. Can you guess which one we miss the most? What my nails wouldn’t do to have a rest from being drenched in soapy dish water for just ONE night.

As for the microwave… I always just forget they even exist these days. I still remember the look on Wyatt’s face when I first purposed not having a microwave in our new home…the look of bewilderment followed by complete disbelief. But he agreed and it’s been wonderful. I’ve learned SO many new things since having to go back to cooking ingredients the way they are supposed to be cooked (i.e. using a double boiler, boiling water over the stove top, etc). My favorite part about not having a microwave is that you always have to work for your food around here. Sure, if you REALLY want to just eat a frozen dinner of (veggie) nuggets then that’s fine…but you’ll have to bake them for 20 minutes in the oven which means you could just whip up some polenta / sautéed veggies in that same amount of time. It really has helped me to not take short cuts and prepare real food in the kitchen.

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We’ve filled the house with lots of vintage furniture…

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…And vinyl records..

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..And have filled our sunroom with house plants (which is a perfect little hideout full of green in the middle of winter)

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This is the studio room…

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<— Wyatt’s desk and (can you tell who is the clean one in this relationship? ahem, definitely not me…) and my desk —>

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We spent a lot of our time in the backyard. I’ve managed to build two gardens…one with herbs and one with vegetables. The cucumbers and zucchini have been going crazy and it’s finally time for the tomatoes to start ripening (!!!).

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Well, I just wanted to take the opportunity to show you around a little. It’s crazy it’s taken a whole year to get around to telling you about my obsession with house plants, my love for vinyl records, and show you a peak of our little cozy home. Thanks for reading!

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17

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

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I don’t know about you but the term ‘enchilada sauce’ doesn’t exactly conjure up fresh and summery images. It mostly makes me think of that dark, musky aisle in the already dingy international grocery store where you have to brush the dust off the can before picking it up and throwing it into your cart. This off-putting imagery doesn’t happen with all Mexican food. In fact, tamales conjure up wonderful memories of watching my step-mother whipping up several dozen in our kitchen when I was little. And tacos make me think of fresh grilled pineapple and strong margaritas. But I don’t know – there’s something about that enchilada sauce…something about the old-fashioned design on the cans that make me think it’s been on the shelf since that art was in style in the 80s (maybe even 70s?).

That was until I decided to start making my own. And everything changed in the enchilada world for me. It doesn’t taste like the enchilada sauce from the can…it taste so much fresher. And though it’s not the flavor your tongue is expecting at first, you will glow with the realization that this is how enchilada sauce is supposed to taste. Fresh and spicy. A little tomatoey, peppery, and full of heat. Of course, the amount of heat you’d like to create is up to you. Different peppers will result in different spice levels so go ahead and get acquainted with what peppers work for you (okay, so maybe that link is a little over-kill but it’s sort of fun to realize that all these peppers exist..)

This recipe isn’t challenging but there are lots of little steps – mostly simple ways to remove the outer peels from the tomatoes and peppers to create a creamier sauce. Don’t feel discouraged by the wordy directions below – it won’t take long and you’ll have deliciously fresh enchilada sauce in no time!

PS – Oh…and it’s vegan!

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 fresh red chilis, sliced in half with the seeds removed
  • 1 1 /2 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade)
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut a large X in the bottom of both
  • 2 jalapeños (or 1 poblano pepper)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • salt/pepper, to taste

Add vegetable broth to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add chili peppers and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat but DON’T drain the broth. Set aside.

Chard the jalapeños by placing them directly over a gas burner flame until blackened on all sides (or broil in your oven). Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a plastic sandwich bag. Let steam in the bag for about 15 minutes and peel the skins right off. Cut in half and remove seeds. Set aside.

Bring another saucepan full of water to a boil and get a bowl full of ice water ready. Add tomatoes and blanch for a minute or two or until the skins peel right off. Remove from heat and transfer tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Peel tomatoes and then dice.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent (about 7 minutes). Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chillis with the vegetable broth liquid, jalapeño, oregano, and cumin. Let simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Once slightly cooled, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

Use right away or store in the fridge for up to four days.

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2

Cantaloupe Caprese

It’s July…just barely but still July. July means I’m entitled to consuming copious amounts of juicy, flavorful, plump tomatoes. And all the cravings that go along with it…cravings for say… salsa and tomato jam and  bruschetta and Caprese salad. Yup, Caprese salad. That is what I’ve been craving the most. An excuse to buy those irresistible bite-size fresh mozzarella balls that end up half gone before you can even put them on a stick. And basil so fresh that you can still smell the herb on your fingertips from the leaves being picked only a few minutes earlier.

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But…oh wait. There’s one problem. The tomatoes aren’t ready…they are plump and round but mockingly green. The green is a glaring reminder that they are so close…but not close enough. So what’s a girl to do when she impulsively bought a big tub of mozzarella thinking she’d come across heirloom tomatoes at the market? Eat them anyways, of course!

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This is a sweet twist on the caprese salad appetizer that you so often times see around the later summer months. It’s still a juicy excuse to splurge on fresh mozzarella and douse your food in balsamic. It’s just a bit of a sweeter excuse.

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PS – Yes, I did take the time to make these into shapes so it spelled out ‘Vegetarian ‘Ventures’. To be fair, it was a rainy Saturday and I didn’t have much else planned (besides sunbathing at the lake…which I repeat…it was rainy). So, you obviously can just cut these up into little squares or use a mellow scooper to make them circles. Or take the time to cut out cute shapes using cookie cutters you obtained from an antique shop. Whatever suits your fancy.

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Cantaloupe Caprese

makes about 2 dozen Caprese kabobs
  • 24 chunks of cantaloupe (from one small melon)
  • 24 fresh bocconcini (bite-size mozzarella) balls
  • 24 basil leaves

 

  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 12 kebob sticks (I broke mine in half for smaller kebobs)

 

Let kebob sticks soak in water for an hour before preparing.

Stick two of each cantaloupe piece, bocconicini, and basil leaf on a kebob stick in whatever order you’d prefer. Repeat with the rest of the pieces and sticks.

Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar before serving.

Doesn’t get much easier than that, huh?

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4

Searchable Saturdays

…And time for some inspiring links from around the web:

       

1. ADVENTURING // Headed to the west coast at the end of July to join a friend on her cross country road trip. I’ll be tagging along on the part from San Fran to Portland which means I’ve been going a little crazy with planning. We are definitely hitting up the Redwoods and ocean. Anyone have any recommendations for San Fran / Portland / anything in between?!

2. INSPIRING // Look at this salad from Gourmande in the Kitchen! Don’t all the wonderful colors, textures, and shapes make you want to eat this for every meal? Love Love Love feeling inspired by vegetables. Now, the only problem I need to get over is my dislike for beets…they are so beautiful…why can’t I just like them?!

3. CREATING // I’ve been familiarizing myself with dreamweaver and Issuu a lot lately in hopes to start making my own VV online magazine / zine. This has triggered hours and hours of flipping through magazines and online design books in the name of “research”.

4. CRAVING // Milkshake Strawberry Banana Cake?! Yes, please. This ‘milkshake turned baked goods’ trend has been popping up all over Pinterest but no one has done it quiet as beautifully as Hungry Rabbit.

 

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend planned! I’d like to do some adventuring to the lake but the forecast calls for storms all weekend. It might be a sign that I’m overdue for a day getting lost in the kitchen…

8

Baked Sweet Potato Poutine

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I totally get why eating healthy is so important. You feel great after, it gives you energy, makes your skin glow, wards of sickness, and keeps the extra pounds at bay. But sometimes, and just sometimes, you just want a big pile of french fries lathered in gravy. And no matter how much you try to convince your taste buds otherwise, they don’t listen. No matter how many salad ingredients you pull out of the fridge, your hand still reached for those big hunks of cheese you were ‘reserving’ for a special occasion.

This is what happened to me on Monday night. I had everything prepped and ready to go for a big ‘ol taco salad dinner. But the drooling happening in my mouth was demanding poutine. Demanding it so fiercely that I knew if I ignored my desires, I’d end up eating a pint of ice cream later because I’d be left unsatisfied. So, my mind and stomach battled it out for about 10 minutes before we settling on making BAKED Sweet Potato Poutine….not a salad but also not deep fried starch. A fair compromise, I told myself.

And, to be honest…it blew a salad out of the water. A big pile of baked fries lathered in peppered gravy and big hunks of gooey cheese was exactly what my Monday night needed. The only thing that made it even better was serving it with a Gin & Tonic and re-runs of the X-Files.

If you are new to Poutine, you need to try it! We are pretty used to eating Chinese and Middle Eastern food in America but how often do you try out some Canadian food? Traditional poutine consists of deep fried fries, gravy, and cheese curds. It’s traditionally made with meat gravy so unless you have a wonderful vegan restaurant that serves up a vegetarian version, (Thanks, Owlery!), you’ll want to take a stab at making your own.

 

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Baked Sweet Potato Poutine

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium russet potato (or another sweet potato), cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt/Pepper

Peppered Thyme Gravy:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups almond milk (or regular)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup cheese curds

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potato wedges in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on two baking sheets (don’t crowd them or they won’t cook evenly). Bake for fifteen minutes, flip fries, and make for an additional 15 minutes or until fries are crispy. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a large skillet, whisk the flour, nutritional yeast, and milk together. Once it is a smooth consistency, add all the spices. Place the skillet over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Next, add in the butter and reduce to medium low. Stir constantly until gravy thickens. Adjust to taste with salt/pepper.

Assemble by drizzling gravy over your huge mound of fries and topping with cheese curds.

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33

Homemade Raw Vegan Fudgsicles


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Anyone who is familiar with raw “cooking” will find the ingredients in this recipe as no surprise. But for those of you who aren’t, stay with me. I’m looking at people like you, Mother. The kind of people that scoff at green smoothies and kale salads (“Ew. You don’t actually drink those, do you?” my mother ALWAYS says when green smoothies are brought up.) The reason this recipe may seem weird is because the word ‘fudgsicle’ usually congers up images of pre-packed, ice cream laden, milky wonderfulness. But what if I told you that we could achieve that creaminess without the ice cream? Without even the milk. In this recipe, we use avocados as the “cream” base but still load it (of course) with chocolate and [natural] sugar (delicious delicious agave).

The cocoa does a wonderful job of taking over the flavor AND color so you don’t have to worry about trying to force feed your friends a weird greenish looking ice pop. In fact, they probably won’t even be able to taste the avocado at all if you don’t mention it!

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Oh… and did I mention that these little pops are HEALTHY?! Forget that post-dairy bloatedness that often comes with consuming a pint of ice cream. These little pops are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, and vitamin E (just to name a few wonderful things found in avocados). So instead of feeling guilty about reaching for that popsicle in the fridge after dinner, you can get excited about getting an extra punch of nutrients while eating your dessert!

I rolled my popsicles in coconut, chopped pistachios, and sprinkles but feel free to have fun with it. Use whatever nuts you have on hand or roll them in something you know your boyfriend will love (butterscotch chips? chopped hazelnut? dried blueberries? potato chips?).

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Raw Vegan Fudgsicles

Makes 4 large fudgsicles (this will vary depending on the size of your popsicle molds)
  • 2 large ripe avocados (3 if they are small)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (most are vegan but double check before purchasing)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • ~1/4 cup water

Topping suggestions: 

  • chopped pistachios
  • shredded coconut

Use a mixer to blend together the avocados, cocoa powder, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and water. Blend until light and fluffy – if stiff then add a little more water. Divide among popsicle molds and let set in the freezer for at least 5 hours (I let mine sit overnight… just to be safe).

Enjoy once frozen or roll slightly softened popsicle in nuts, coconut, or both.

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8

Coriander Hummus

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Did everyone have a fantastic Father’s day? What wonderful thing did you do for our Father? I drove eight hours to see Fleetwood Mac in Chicago with my Father on Friday (although…he paid for the ridiculously over-priced tickets so we are probably even). My father ALWAYS had a Fleetwood Mac album on in the car when I was little and it’s one of the rare moments I remember singing and dancing with him. It was awesome growing up on Fleetwood Mac, I’ve always wanted to see Stevie Nicks in person and she did not disappoint.

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Here’s a simple hummus recipe for you. I decided to put the ‘flavoring’ in the top and keep the hummus itself super basic (mmmm garlic garlic hummus). You don’t HAVE to peel the chickpeas but I read about doing it over at Smitten Kitchen a few months back and am totally hooked. I’ve ruined 2 blenders by overheating them when making hummus and this takes the majority of the work off the blender. Plus, it leaves your hummus so smooth that you’ll never need the store bought stuff again.

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Coriander Hummus

  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

 

  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds, toasted and crushed (instructions below)*
  • 3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

 

Peel the chickpeas by lightly pinching the bean and the outer shell should come right off in one big peel. Repeat with the rest of the chickpeas. Transfer the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, and olive oil in a blender (or food processor) and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt, pepper, or more lemon juice. Transfer hummus to a big bowl.

Place the coriander seeds in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constituently for about two minutes or until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a mortar and pestle to crush. Sprinkle crushed coriander seeds over the hummus followed by sprinkling the cilantro.

Serve with pita and fresh veggies.

 

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11

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

I grew up in a town where ‘world cuisine’ meant heading to a chinese buffet or picking up a deep dish pizza. It wasn’t until I moved to Bloomington that I discovered the wonderful world of Falafel and Coconut Curry and Samosas and Naan and Pad Thai. Fast forward five years later and I can’t imagine living my life without these foods. Ethnic foods bring a world (literally) of variety into a vegetarian diet. I couldn’t imagine wanting to whip up anything else besides a big bowl of Curry or Samosa Patties on a rainy day.

These baked sweet potato falafels are a fun twist on the traditional deep fried chickpea falafel. Full of protein and vitamin B6, these little patties will fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied with out all the grease. They also reheat wonderfully for a great left-over lunch.

Note that you can also bake or boil the sweet potatoes in the recipe below to reach a desired ‘mashed’ consistency. I chose steaming because it’s supposed to retain the most nutrients out of any of the cooking methods. ALSO, you can easily make this recipe vegan by omitting the feta topping and choosing a vegan sauce to put on the patties (how about this vegan avocado cilantro dressing?)

 

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Baked Sweet Potato Falafel with Cilantro Yogurt

  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper

 

Cilantro sauce:

  • 1/2 cup chobani plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt/pepper

 

Delicious additions:

  • Pita bread
  • cucumber, diced
  • tomato, diced
  • Feta, crumbled
  • shallot, chopped
  • lettuce
  • sriracha

To make the sauce: Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until combined. Let set in the fridge for at least a half an hour after mixing (this will help the flavors meld together).

For the patties: Place diced sweet potatoes in a steamer basket and transfer basket to a pot. Fill the pot with about an inch of water and cover with a lid. Let steam for 10-15 minutes (depending on how big you diced the potatoes). Remove the steamer and let cool slightly

Mash the sweet potatoes with the cumin, garlic, lemon, chickpea flour, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until the batter has firmed up (this will help form the patties better).

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet. Using floured hands, shape the batter into 2 inch circle patties that are about a 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with the rest of the batter and place all patties on the greased cooking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 30-45 minutes or until the tops begin to brown.

Serve warm inside warmed up pitas with cilantro yogurt sauce, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, shallots, and any other produce that sounds refreshing.

 

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