The Recipe I’ve Been Waiting For

Earlier this week, Katie posted a recipe for German Chocolate Fudge Bites. No sugar, no flour and no butter? I was immediately intrigued, considering I’m eating only plant-based foods this week. I headed over to Whole Foods and picked up the ingredients to make the bites. Within about twelve hours they were all gone. They were delicious. At first I thought that they might taste like a Larabar (which I love, but wanted something richer) but they were definitely rich and full of cocoa. Nice work Katie!
Once I had a few I got to thinking about what they tasted like and finally it came to me – these bites have the same fudge taste as my all-time-favorite Chocolate Raspberry Luna Bar. I have been dying to figure out how to make these Luna Bars at home for awhile. With Katie’s recipe inspiration, I got to work and came up with a recipe that tastes pretty darn close to my beloved Luna Bars.
Chocolate Berry Squares
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
2 T unsweetened shredded coconut
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 cup berries (if frozen, thaw first) – I used a frozen assortment of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries
1/4 c pecans or walnuts
Mix all ingredients together in a Magic Bullet or food processor. I recommend a food processor because my Bullet just couldn’t handle all the hard chomping. Give everything a good mix once your done processing it. At this point, I shaped them into little squares, but you could do balls or bars, too.

Detox Smoothies

On Monday I started the Whole Living Action Plan. I’m posting more about it next week on DC Ladies, but I wanted to let you guys know a little bit about it, too. I wanted to do something to get myself back into shape and back into healthy eating habits. I was slowly making my way out of the hole over the past few weeks, but I knew it was time to commit myself to something that would promise results.
I’m on Day Three and I will be honest with you, it hasn’t been butterflies and sunshine. Monday was great. I was at work and I have an ample supply of the allowed snacks at my fingertips to help me get through the day (dates, avacados, nuts, etc.). I had yesterday, today and I have tomorrow off, and I knew that days at home might be a little more challenging. Luckily, I set myself up pretty well and stocked my fridge and pantry with food that I am allowed to eat. It hasn’t been too difficult eating and hunger-wise, but I feel a little awful. I’ve had a pounding headache for two days and am so tempted to grab a cup of coffee to whisk it away. But I won’t.
To learn about what foods are restricted, click here. To read more about my experience so far, be sure to check out my post next week on the DC Ladies website.
I will share with you some of the smoothies that have been my breakfast treat. I have always been a fan of smoothies but I also find it pretty difficult to gulp one down in the middle of winter. Luckily, the past three days haven’t been that bad. I think the key thing is giving myself time to drink it. I’m not rushing the meal like I normally rush breakfast.
So far I’ve made the:
Berry Grapefruit Smoothie
my own recipe
1/2 grapefruit, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces
2 cups frozen berries
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup carrot juice
The Antioxidant Smoothie was very tart, of course, but it was still pretty good. The Green Smoothie was chunky and tasted a lot like parsley but it was refreshing. It made my stomach a little upset, but you could tell in a good way. The smoothies are made with fresh, whole fruit and they are supposed to be making my digestive system work less and clean out all of those toxins. The smoothie I made this morning was really great. I love adding the carrot juice because it brings the sweetness and tartness level down.
Any smoothie recipes out there for me? I’d love to hear them!

How I Made Him Eat Squash

MJW is a fairly picky eater. He would never say he’s a picky eater but he makes a point to avoid: cooked onions, cooked tomatoes, any cooked vegetable for that matter, chocolate, sweets, pumpkin, couscous and of course, anything “vegan”…among other things. I make up for the confused pallet, that’s for sure.
I had an extra squash laying around today and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat the whole thing. Acorn squash, yes. Yellow squash, not so much. I also got my hands on some flaky dough so I was trying to piece together a game time appetizer using both items.
We might be taking baby steps, but I looked to the one ingredient no man in his right mind would ever turn down – bacon. I had some leftover. It’s not like I went out and bought it just for this recipe. This was all about getting rid of some leftovers. Two things would be accomplished – trick MJW and clean the fridge.
Within about 20 minutes the house smelled like bacon and both MJW and Reddick were wondering what was going on. With that, Squash Bacon Rolls were created!
Flaky dough (I found a recipe here, or you could use frozen puff pastry, pie crust or even Pilsbury’s Croissants)
1 yellow squash
4 strips of bacon
Olive oil
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper
1. Cut the squash into strips lengthwise. It’s easier to work with if you cut the squash in half first and then slice into 2-3 inch strips. (the point is to make it resemble the shape of the bacon)
2. Season the squash and saute in olive oil until soft.
3. Roll the dough into a rectangle. The dough should be fairly thin and you want the longer side of the triangle to be at least 12 inches. The shorter side is going to determine how many slices you get. Chill the dough for 5 minutes.
4. Lay the squash flat on the dough and cover the surface.
5. Lay the bacon diagonally across the squash from the top left corner to the bottom right.
6. Sprinkle with cheese.
7. From the bottom, start to roll (like you are making cinnamon rolls).
8. Once you have your roll, slice into 1/2 inch pieces/discs.
9. Lay flat on a baking sheet.
10. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. If you are using flaky dough, it will not really brown. As soon as it bakes and is no longer doughy, it’s done.
11. Serve while they are hot or they are even good after they have been sitting out for a bit.
They are almost gone. I think we have a vegetable sneak-in success!

Creativity in the Kitchen

Last week, some weird things ended up in my kitchen.

Purple is my favorite color, but purple peppers are not my favorite peppers. I’ve found them before at farmers markets back in NY, but never down here. I ended up picking these two up at Whole Foods the other day and had no idea what I was going to use them for. Tonight I got a little restless and started to chop one up in hopes that inspiration would come my way. I ended up taking a bite and was not happy. The purple peppers are pretty flavorless compared to other peppers. They are not sweet and have a slightly bitter, pale taste. I ended up putting them into an omelette with some provolone and my favorite, Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn Chili. (This is one of the best salsas you will ever have. I promise.)
I did have a little bit of random kitchen success last week. Earlier in the week we made cake rolls and ended up having a ton left over. I had been reading The Flavor Bible and was inspired to try something with the leftover cakes.
I took them home and dried them in a low heat oven for about 2 hours. Leaving them out to become stale would have yielded the same result. After they were dry and slightly hard, I processed them until they became a fine powder, or a flour…
I knew that the flour was a little too rough to become another cake or bread, so my first thought was to make cookies. I also thought that the flour was automatically going to be fluffy and spongy, like the original cake, but I was very wrong.
 I went with chocolate chip cookies and this is how they turned out…
They certainly aren’t the prettiest cookies you will ever see, but they tasted pretty damn good. You could definitely taste the raspberry from the cake roll and they were a little mushy from the “flour” itself. I still have some of my homemade flour, so I plan to try this again really soon and have a much better looking final product.

Blueberry Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Here is the story of the almost best vegan baked good I’ve ever made.

I was putting the ingredients together for this cake (adapted by the Recipe Hall of Fame Dessert Cookbook) and saw that I had the vegan substitutes in my fridge. I pulled out my almond milk and vegan butter sticks and went to work. This was going to be amazing.

It wasn’t until right as I was flipping the cake over that I realized the cake was not at all vegan, it had two eggs! Oops. So here is the recipe for another almost-vegan baked good.

Blueberry Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1 8 oz. can chopped pineapple
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup butter (or Smart Balance sticks)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I only had unsalted peanuts, so that’s what I used)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Melt 1/3 cup butter in an iron skillet.
2. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the nuts over the butter.
3. Lay pineapple chunks and blueberries over the sugar mixture.
4. Cream 1/2 cup butter and sugar together.
5. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
6. Add the flour and milk, a little at a time.
7. Add vanilla and baking powder.
8. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
9. Let cake stand for 10 minutes and flip on to serving platter.

The cake was amazing. It doesn’t surprise me with the amount of butter and sugar in it, but we can all splurge sometimes. Maybe next time I’ll try with an egg replacement to make it 100% vegan.

Learning to Love New Foods

A few weeks ago one of my friends asked for me to write a post about liking new foods. I am not a very picky eater at all. Growing up I was always ready (ok, forced) to try new things. I can’t thank my parents enough for forcing us to try different foods when we went on vacation. It was a great idea and something I highly recommend to avoid picky eaters in the future.
For those of you who are not open to eating everything you may be looking for a few ways to get some new flavors into your meals. But first, why do you not like these certain foods?
If you don’t like something is it because…
…you haven’t tried it?
…you tried it and didn’t like it?
…it made you sick?
…you just think it looks gross and looks like it tastes gross to?
If you haven’t tried it, try it! Seriously, what do you have to lose? If it’s a little scary for you, try it with something that you like already, but not one of your favorites. Sometimes if I mix a food with something that I love and it doesn’t turn out so great, it taints my favorite forever. I don’t want you to be adding more foods to your “do not eat” list, I want it to grow! Some simple things to try foods with are sauces: ketchup, ranch dressing, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, sour cream, plain yogurt etc. They have enough flavor that your new food won’t shock your taste buds but are simple enough to let enough flavor come through.
If you tried it, and didn’t like it, give it another shot. Was it too mushy? Was the flavor completely off? I think every food deserves at least two chances. If the food was baked before, try grilling it or (god forbid) frying it. If it doesn’t work the second time around, it is what it is.
If it made you sick, make your peace. For the longest time I couldn’t eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because one made me sick while taking medicine while I had the flu. It was awful. After a little practice, I slowly made peace with peanut butter and jelly because honestly, who wants to live without that? At this point, it’s mostly a mental thing. Is it weird to say to eat that food in a “happy place”? It makes sense to me. It really sucks when food makes us sick, but it’s usually a one time thing (if it’s food poisoning, allergies/intolerances are a different story) and we can go back to those foods.
If you think it looks gross…it might be, but that’s ok. In the office on Friday we bad a bag of melted chocolate toffee to share. Once broken up you can imagine what it might looked like…but it was still amazing. Some foods are just not pretty. Some consistencies suck (and so do their adjectives: mushy, moist, etc.). Polenta isn’t the most beautiful food in the world, and is usually a big yellow slab of mush, but it’s delicious. Throw some veggies and a good sauce on top and you won’t even know it’s down there. Cover up what you think is gross. Make it a sandwich or a wrap or even toss in some pasta or lettuce. The options are endless.
I hope you find these tips a little helpful. I completely understand though that there are some foods out there that are just not for you. For me it was olives, until I literally forced myself to like them and lemon jelly beans.
Challenge me! Tell me a food that you absolutely hate and see if I can come up with a solution. I need the practice! I have a success story to share with you on Monday!

Tips for Vegetarian-Friendly Dining

Is it just me or are most restaurants lacking vegetarian-friendly options?
I know that I am pretty late and probably not even “qualified” to make such a plea, but this is for the lifetime vegetarians, experimenting vegans and debating flexitarians…please restaurants, have some more vegetarian options.
Since making the decision to not eat meat in January, I’ve been out to eat plenty of times. Some restaurants were very catering to vegans/vegetarians (Ohana Cafe) and some weren’t. While eating out last month, I was given a menu that was enormous in size and had over one hundred things to choose from. How many dishes were deemed “vegetarian”? Just one.
Now, the menu did have mozzarella sticks, nachos and french bread, but that doesn’t really constitute a meal to me. The vegetarian dish was a sub and it looked pretty similar to Subway’s Veggie Delight sub. I was looking for a real meal, something with a little substance. I browsed through the sandwich list and found an Italian style sub with meats, cheese and homemade tomato sauce. When I ordered, I asked if I could substitute the meat for mushrooms and got a response with a “are you sure?” kind of attitude. “No meat at all?” Nope, I replied, just the mushrooms please.
I got the sub and it was very tasty and the waitress checked in a few times to make sure they got it right. It was obvious that they didn’t get vegetarian requests often.
In my eyes, it doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but then again, I haven’t worked in the food industry…yet. So if anyone out there ever gets their hands on creating a menu for a restaurant before I do, keep these things in mind:
  • Offering vegetarian options brings a healthy element to your menu. Marketing gold right there. Healthy living is huge right now.
  • Some people want to experiment with vegetarian dishes and aren’t really able to in their own kitchens. They might look to you to offer them something new that they might not buy for their own kitchen.
  • Substitutions are just as important. List veg-friendly substitutions for sandwiches, pasta dishes, etc.
  • People might be to cook tofu or other meat substitutes at home, but will give it a shot in a restaurant. It’s fairly inexpensive and super easy to offer as another protein source in your menu.
  • It’s all about the sides. Often times at restaurants if there aren’t a lot of vegetarian meals, I’ll just order a handful of sides. When I do this I’m looking for more than just mashed potatoes, french fries and macaroni and cheese. Keep fresh, seasonal veggies on hand or other healthy sides like sweet potatoes, brown rice or whole wheat pasta. I think vegetarians can get really creative and make an awesome meal out of side dishes.
What do you wish restaurants would do to be more vegetarian-friendly?

Baked Caprese Pie

Over the holidays I adapted Emily’s tomato pie and everyone fell in love. I loved her idea of using rice for a crust and filling the pie with cheese and tomatoes. Honestly, what is better than cheese and tomatoes? The first pie was such a hit, that my dad requested I make it again before I headed back to D.C. It was a great excuse to use the new rice cooker I bought him for Christmas! Since then, I’ve adapted my own version of the tomato pie and I tried it out this past weekend during our girls night. Be sure to check out  Emily’s recipe and try mine, better yet, make your own alternations to create your own tomato pie. The possibilities are endless!
Baked Caprese Pie 
2 cups prepared quinoa, cooled
2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
chopped basil and/or pesto
1/2 Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 large tomatoes, sliced and dried out
2 balls of mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup spinach leaves
olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, parsley, cheese and eggs. Spread like a pie crust in a pie pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
3. Once the crust is done, start layering the tomatoes, cheese, spinach and then sprinkle with the basil/pesto. Repeat layers until you’ve used all the slices and spinach. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper (if you desire) and baked for another 20-25 minutes.
It’s SO easy, and so delicious. There are a ton of different things you could do with this recipe like adding eggs to the pie, onions, black beans, etc.
Let me know if you try it! I’d love to know how it turns out.

Beauty and the Meat (Eater)

Here is a really easy recipe that I made Sunday night for dinner. When Megan and I went to dinner at Coal Fire last week I ordered the roasted veggies with penne and a balsamic sauce. It was delicious! Not only was it delicious to eat that night, but the leftovers were amazing (and I am usually not a huge fan of leftovers). I wanted to recreate this dish and make it as MJW-friendly as possible. I want to start a series of recipes that please both meat-eaters and vegetarians. It hasn’t been too difficult to please both of our pallets, but I definitely think the recipes could get a little more creative. Plus, we hit a huge milestone – MJW cleaned his plate and ate all of the vegetables. I cannot even remember a meal in the past where this has happened. I felt so accomplished!
Roasted Veggie Pasta with Balsamic Sauce
1 box penne pasta
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
10-15 roma cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
olive oil
Italian seasoning
1 carton of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons margarine (I used Smart Balance)
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2-4 Italian sausages
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Scatter the carrots, celery and tomatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle desired amount of seasoning. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
3. With about ten minutes left of roasting, add the sausages to the side of the pan to cook.
4. Boil water in a sauce pan and cook the pasta.
5. Preheat a large frying pan on medium heat.
6. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them sit and cool on the cookie sheet.
7. Put the walnuts in the frying pan and toast them gently for about 2 minutes.
8. Add the vegetables, mushrooms, white wine, garlic and butter. Mix everything around so all the veggies are coated. Cover and let cook while you drain the pasta.
9. Add the pasta first and then the parsley and balsamic vinegar. Toss the pasta until it’s coated with the balsamic and then serve. Don’t forget to add the sausages to the meat eater’s plate!

Almost Vegan Cookie Dough Pie

I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies.

The truth is, I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookie dough. If I get the idea in my head, I’m in the kitchen within minutes putting the Kitchen Aid to work.
Tonight was one of those nights that I was craving cookie dough, so I decided to whip up a cookie cake (but it ended up being more like a pie).
1/2 cup vegan margarine/butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 flax eggs (or regular eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup buttermilk (still working on a vegan replacement, any suggestions?)
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (or your other favorite liquor like irish creme, butterscotch schnapps, etc.)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla.
3. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to cream together.
4. Combine the buttermilk and liqueur. Alternate adding the buttermilk and flour on low speed.
5. Once combined, stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Pour into a greased pie pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Pretty easy, huh? I try to keep it simple for my immediate cookie dough needs.
I love the way the flax seeds look in batter for some (weird) reason.
This is the liqueur I used, leftover from Thanksgiving when our friend brought us a plethora of liquor that has gone un-touched.

That’s the only after picture you get folks. My camera died and I just couldn’t wait to find batteries and take more pictures. Trust me, it looked and tasted delicious.