The Ultimate Recovery Smoothie

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #KashiPlantPower #GOTOGETHER #CollectiveBias

The ultimate recovery smoothie is packed with ingredients to boost recovery after a hard workout, along with Kashi's new plant powered shake! 

Remember when I ran a half marathon earlier this year and was all like, "it's one and done! I just want to prove that I can do it!" Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, I've signed up for another half marathon this fall.

This time I'm running the Greenville Spinx Run Fest in October along with a group of girlfriends. My husband, who is the kinda guy who can just run 13.1 miles with no training whatsoever (ugh, I hate him) may or may not be joining. It's Halloween weekend so he really wants to dress as a T-Rex and have me dress as Laura Dern from Jurassic Park. I am all over this idea.

So my official training started this week and with that means paying a little bit more attention to how I'm feeding myself. That was one of the big lessons for me last time I trained. Even though I knew all about sports nutrition, experiencing for myself what running felt like after not fueling myself adequately drove the point home!

This time I'm training during these insanely hot South Carolina days, so I know ice cold smoothies are going to play a vital role! When I got the opportunity to partner with Kashi to highlight their new Kashi® GOLEAN™ Plant Powered Shakes, I knew I wanted to show you how to make my ultimate recovery smoothie.

So what makes this smoothie special?

Kashi GOLEAN Plant Powered Shake in Dark Cocoa // After a strenuous run, it's important to get a nice dose of protein to switch the catabolic hormones (break down muscle) to anabolic hormones (build muscle). Kashi's brand new shake contains 21 grams of plant powered protein from dried peas, sprouted beans, flax and hemp - all natural and good for you ingredients. It's gluten free, vegan and contains 1 billion CFU of probiotics to support gut health. Like Kashi Organic Breakfast Superblends (another one of their new products) both are convenient for an on-the-go lifestyle - both can be simply mixed with water or your choice of dairy to make an easy protein shake, or blend into your favorite smoothie recipe. It's available at Target.com.

I chose dark cocoa because not only does it taste like a chocolate milkshake, but chocolate also contains antioxidants that help reduce post workout soreness! Chocolate is also great for preworkout snacking as it contains antioxidants called epicatechins that improve blood flow to muscles, improving endurance. 

Tart Cherry Juice // The sour taste of tart cherry juice is an indication of high levels of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that helps reduce post workout pain and soreness. Look for pure tart cherry juice in the drink aisle along with the other juices bottled in glass jars.

Medjool Dates // With their sweet, caramel like taste, dates are one of my favorite ways to sweeten foods.Dates are mineral rich which helps replace what was lost in sweat. They also provide a concentrated source of natural sugars, which your body needs after a workout to restore glycogen stores.

Banana // Potassium!! A ton of it is lost in sweat when you're running outside. Bananas are a concentrated source of potassium, as well as natural sugars to boost glycogen stores.

Spirulina // I call spirulina nature's multi-vitamin. Spirulina is an algae that's commonly used as a supplement because of it's nutrient density. It contains more nutrients, and a wider variety of nutrients than just about any food out there. If you use a small amount, you won't taste it, so start with 1/4 of a teaspoon.

Coconut Water // Often called "nature's sports drink" because of the sodium and potassium it contains, I love the light and refreshing flavor it adds to this smoothie.

If you'd like to try Kashi's new GOLEAN Plant Powered Shake or their Organic Breakfast Superblends, enjoy $10 off using the discount code: TGTKASHI.

Connect with Kashi:

Ultimate Recovery Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana, cut into chunks

  • 1 scoop Kashi GOLEAN Plant Powered Shake in Chocolate Vinyasa

  • 2 dates, pitted

  • 2/3 cup coconut water

  • 1/3 cup tart cherry juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon spirulina

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients together in a blender and blend until pureed. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Hummus

Creamy sweet potato hummus is perfect for dipping raw veggies or with crunchy whole grain crackers! 

I love this summer.

If you've been following my adventures on instagram, then you know I just got back from a long weekend in Asheville. Before that, it was Tybee Island, Greenville and a week and a half in the northeast. Coming up, we've got Charleston, NYC, and Charlotte. With my practice, I've been running our first group of Joyful Eaters, working with a pretty full load of clients and wrapping up a few other big projects. Phew!

Even though the past few months have been packed to the brim with work and play, there's still been a leisurely feel to this season. After focusing on work and growing my practice, now that I'm finally settled and stable, I've really tried to prioritize rest, relaxation and self care...err, at least try to fit it in!

One of my favorite ways to do that is with reading. I'm pretty proud of myself for slowing chipping away at the pile of books by my bed! My latest read - My Fat Dad, which I'm participating in a blog tour for today.

My Fat Dad is part cookbook, part memoir. It hilarious and poignantly tells the story of Dawn Lerman's youth, growing up, hungry for pleasure and nourishment in a household with her yo-yo dieting father and a mother who couldn't care less about food or cooking. An incredibly successful marketing exec, her father was unable to replicate his work success in his attempts to lose weight. As he jumped from diet to diet, everything from Atkins to the grapefruit diet to a stay at an adult fat camp, she was essentially forced to live off his diet foods. She compassionately shares her dad's dieting stories, which was fascinating to read with an intuitive eating filter. With no family meals, eating was chaotic. It could have easily set the stage for developing eating issues of her own.

Thankfully, she had her grandmother, Beauty, who would spend hours with her, teaching her how to cook, instilling a love of real food and cooking, as well as an appreciation of her Jewish heritage and how food can connect you to it. This influence served as a protection against developing eating issues herself, and now Dawn is a nutritionist and columnist at The New York Times.

I usually don't do book reviews on the blog, simply because it's hard for me to commit to reading a book by a certain time. But I've been such a huge fan of Dawn Lerman's Fat Dad column at the Times, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate! Being half Jewish, growing up (partly) in New York, with a marketing exec father who yo-yo dieted himself (although not NEARLY on the scale as this book!), there was so much I related to. Although really, I think any food lover would relate to the story of falling in love with food and learning that it is so much more than fuel.

Reading Fat Dad got me thinking about all the things in my life that could have triggered eating issues. It gave me new appreciation for the love of food my family instilled, because I think that was my saving grace in becoming the intuitive eater I am today.

Also a cookbook, Fat Dad is peppered with recipes from her youth, everything from rich and decadent flourless peanut butter blondies to traditional Jewish dishes like kugel to recipes from her dad's diet adventures, like gazpacho and Pritkin-approved lentil stew. I chose to share her sweet potato hummus, since hummus was one of the first dishes I learned to make myself!

Connect with the author: Dawn Lerman, MA, C.H.H.C, LCAT, AADP

NY Times Column

DawnLerman.net

Facebook: Author Page

Twitter: @dawnlerman

Sweet Potato Hummus

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Reprinted from MY FAT DAD: A Memoir of Food, Love, Family, and Recipes By Dawn Lerman Berkley Books/2015

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Prick a sweet potato all over with the prongs of a fork. Wrap in a paper towel and microwave for 5-10 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Place chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and nutmeg in a food processor. Cut sweet potato in half and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Blend until pureed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with fresh vegetables and whole grain crackers.

Vegetarian Baked Sopes with Salsa Verde

These vegetarian baked sopes are a lighter take on a traditional Mexican dish of deep fried masa dough. Filled with black beans, avocado, feta cheese and drizzled with salsa verde! 

Finally getting off my Asian and grilled recipe kick, I present these adorable little Mexican appetizers, mini corn cakes called sopes!

Sidebar: Typing that last sentence made me wonder, if I could only eat Mexican food or any kind of Asian food for the rest of my life, which would it be? I'm torn! You?

Sopes are a traditional Mexican dish made from deep fried rounds of dough made from masa, a flour made from corn treated with lime (aka hominy). Masa is what's used to create tortillas. So basically, sopes are fried fresh tortillas cakes. How can you not be excited about that?

My recipe for sopes is baked rather than fried. No, not because frying is "bad" or "unhealthy." Actually, from a nutrition standpoint, frying is no where near as awful as it's made out to be. When the oil is a hot enough temperature, it instantly creates a super crisp crust rather than absorbing all the oil. I just don't deep fry because it makes a huge mess in the kitchen! While my husband and I have worked out a nice working relationship where I cook, he cleans, I didn't want to push it with oil splattered all over the place.

You can find masa harina flour at most well stocked grocery stores or order it online. I had some leftover from my recent (successful!) attempt at making my own tortillas to see if it would be easy for some of my food sensitivity clients. Since I've started doing MRT food sensitivity testing, one of the hardest things is finding substitutes for bread. Again, bread is not "bad" or "unhealthy", but when I do food sensitivity testing, an individualized healing diet based on foods that aren't reactive is a necessity for a short(ish) period of time to allow the gut to heal. It sucks, especially because I loathe restriction, but when someone is really sick and struggling with chronic health issues, it's definitely worth it to feel better. And at least homemade corn tortillas are a yummy option for those who aren't reactive to corn! If you're wondering, I used The Lean Green Beans recipe.

Now, back to sopes, which are even easier than tortillas! I filled these sopes with a vegetarian filling of black beans, avocado, a sprinkle of feta, and a drizzle of salsa verde. Once you've mastered making these mini sopes, you could fill them with lots of other fillings:

Vegetarian Baked Sopes with Salsa Verde

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons masa flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 avocado, thinly sliced and chopped into 1 inch slices
  • 1-2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salsa verde
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Mix masa, wheat flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in warm water and mix thoroughly with a spoon until well combined. Cover with a towel and let sit 15 minutes.
  2. When ready to make masa cakes, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin thoroughly with olive oil. Pinch off small golf ball sized balls of dough and press into the bottom of the mini-muffin tin wells. Press the center and even out the dough to make a "cup". Spray the tops evenly with olive oil, place in the hot oven and bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before removing sopes to a serving dish.
  3. Fill each cup with a spoonful of black beans, crumble over a bit of feta, top with a slice of avocado. Drizzle with salsa verde and garnish with fresh cilantro.

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Black Garlic Tofu and Mango Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

These vegan black garlic tofu and mango spring rolls are a unique spin on traditional flavors! Serve with a sweet and savory peanut dipping sauce. 

Before we went to Vietnam last year, I had dreams of learning to create authentic versions of all the delicious food we ate on our trip. Then after a street food tour of Hoi An where we learned just how much time and effort went into perfecting each dish, how street food vendors spend their lives cooking the same dish each and every day, passing their secrets down to their children, I realized authenticity was kind of a silly dream. Now when I'm craving Vietnamese, I go to a local Vietnamese run restaurant or if cooking at home, use the recipes as inspiration, not a rule. Kind of like I did with these black garlic tofu and mango spring rolls! Not authentic at all, but SO delicious and packed with summer flavor.

When we were in Vietnam, we sampled dozens of different spring rolls with different types of rice paper wrappers, fillings, and sauces. Also, using rice paper to make rolls out of shrimp pancakes or grilled pork skewers  with herbs at the table was really common. When I spotted these brown rice paper rolls at Earth Fare, on a whim I decided to whip up spring rolls with what I had on hand.

Impulse buy number 2 - black garlic from Trader Joes. It had been sitting in my vegetable basket at least a week or so while I tried to figure out what on earth to make with it. All the recipes I found were a little too chefy for me (black garlic ice cream....errr, no thanks). In the end, I simply blended it up with tamari to make a simple sauce for pan seared tofu.

If you've never tried black garlic before (I hadn't!), it's a typically Asian ingredient made by slowly caramelizing whole heads of garlic over the course of a few weeks. It tastes sweet and just barely garlicky, more like balsamic vinegar or a savory jam to me. If you can't find it, honestly you could just leave it out and swap flavored baked tofu or plain pan seared tofu. While you can taste the rich and savory flavor it lends behind the sweet mango, fresh herbs and peanut sauce, it's not super obvious, so feel free to let those flavors shine.

Rolling spring rolls can be a little tricky, but the good news is they don't have to be pretty, just edible. Rice paper gets soft with just a couple seconds in warm water, no boiling needed. Layer the ingredients in a line down the middle, fold the edges in, then roll. It's kinda like making a mini burrito!

Black Garlic Tofu and Mango Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes 16-20

Ingredients

Black Garlic Tofu:

  • 1 lb block firm tofu
  • 6 peeled black garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Spring Rolls: 

  • 8 ounce package brown rice paper rolls
  • 8 ounce bag cellophane noodles
  • 2 mangos, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups sprouts or microgreens

Dipping Sauce: 

  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil (or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Instructions

  1. Remove block of tofu from container. Wrap with paper towels or a kitchen towel and place on a plate topped with a heavy can to drain for 30 minutes.
  2. While tofu is draining, make the dipping sauce. Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor and puree until well combined. Taste and season with salt to taste. Pour out into bowl and clean out blender or food processor to use for making black garlic sauce.
  3. Blend together black garlic, soy sauce and water until pureed. Set aside. Cut the tofu in half through it's widest part, then cut into thin sticks. Heat sesame oil on medium high heat. Add tofu and sear. Flip every 3 minutes until most of the tofu is crispy and lightly browned. Pour in sauce, cook until thick and mostly of the liquid is evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside until ready to use.
  4. Cook rice vermicelli according to package directions. Using kitchen shears, cut into the noodles making 3-4 cuts so they aren't quite so long.
  5. Arrange the spring roll fillings (tofu, noodles, mango, cucumber, pepper, mint and sprouts for easy assembling.
  6. When ready to assemble, fill a shallow bowl with very warm water. Dip a rice paper roll into the water, pressing gently to submerge until pliable, about 10-20 seconds. Remove, shake off extra water and place on work space. Press 2 mint leaves down the center of the wrapper. Top with 2-3 sticks of tofu. Top with a small handful of rice vermicelli noodles, cucumber, red pepper, mango and sprouts. Be careful not to overstuff. Fold top and bottom edges over the edges of the filling. Carefully wrap one of the edges not covered in filling over the top of the filling, then roll into a roll, pressing in the edges and filling as needed to keep it compact. Set aside and repeat with remaining rice paper rolls and filling.
  7. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.

You might also like: 

Vegan Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Salad
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Curry Salmon Noodle Bowl with Soy-Lime Dressing
Kelp and Zucchini Noodle Salad with Mango and Peanut Sauce
Kelp and Zucchini Noodle Salad with Mango and Peanut Sauce

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bars

Packed with fiber and lightly sweetened, these vegan peanut butter and strawberry jam bars are perfect for snacking or dessert! 

Vegan Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bars

Hey guys! It's Recipe Redux time so you get a bonus recipe this week! Lucky you ;) And me because it gave me an excuse to try these peanut butter and strawberry jam bars I saw on my friend Alex's blog.

For this month's theme we're choosing a fellow recipe reduxer to celebrate by making a recipe from their blog.

One of the happiest surprises about starting a blog was just how many real friendships I've made through it. And Alex is one of those people! We "met" after following each others blogs for awhile, I emailed her for advice when I first started my private practice. Actually, I had also emailed Anne too, which makes me laugh because now because the two dietitians I looked up to professionally are my coworkers! Then I feel like a jerk cause I never seem to have enough time to write back all the young RDs and students who send me emails.

PB and J Bars

After emailing on occasion for about a year, we finally got to meet in real life on the California Almonds trip to Lodi, California. We actually came up with the idea for Joyful Eating on our first night over dinner and wine! Crazy to think that it's come to fruition!

I hope you check out Alex's blog, Delish Knowledge. She features the most beautifully photographed simple vegetarian recipes. This peanut butter and strawberry jam bar was a recent addition I just had to try. It's part breakfast bar, part cookie, which means you could enjoy it for breakfast or dessert!

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bars

Makes 12

Adapted from Delish Knowledge

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

  • 1 cup oats

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 cup almond milk

  • 2/3 cup all-fruit strawberry jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together peanut butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Mix in vanilla extract, then flour, oats, salt and baking soda. Stream in almond milk and blend until combined.

  3. Place jam in a microwave safe bowl and heat 30 seconds until warm.

  4. Spread 3/4 of the peanut butter oat mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking sheet and press down with the back of a spatula. Pour the jam over the top and spread evenly with the jam.

  5. Dollop scoops of the peanut butter dough over the jam to make a "crumble" topping. Place in the over and bake 18-20 minutes until set. Remove from heat, let cool, then slice into bars.

Peach Buttermilk Chai Smoothie

This peach buttermilk chai smoothie is packed with probiotics from buttermilk and antioxidants from chai tea! 

Yay for smoothie weather! Time to share my latest smoothie obsession - this peach smoothie spiked with chai tea!

While it feels like peach weather, it's not quite peach season, so we'll have to rely on frozen peaches to make this bad boy. I'm such a huge fan of frozen peaches. I absolutely adore fresh peaches, especially living in South Carolina, aka the real peach state. But I really think someone put a curse on me when it comes to peaches. I'll get the freshest, most beautiful peaches from the farmers market and they'll go from perfect to moldy, mushy mess in 24 hours at our house. Drives me absolutely nuts! I get a case of seasonal binge eating disorder every time I see peaches at the farmers market in my attempt to eat them all before they go bad!

The peach chai combination might sound a bit odd, but peaches have a similar flavor profile to mango, a fruit commonly used in Indian cuisine and a natural pairing with chai spices. This recipe was inspired by one from Root to Leaf, one of my favorite seasonal cookbooks.

Peach Buttermilk Chai Smoothie

Serves 1 

If you'd like to add some protein to your smoothie, I prefer Kura for grassfed whey protein or Vega for vegan protein.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 1 bag chai tea

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until pureed. Serve immediately.

More recipes for smoothie season:

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango
Turmeric Smoothie with Mango
Red Velvet Smoothie
Red Velvet Smoothie
Classic Green Smoothie
Classic Green Smoothie

Epic Vegetarian Nachos

These epic vegetarian nachos are topped with pantry friendly ingredients - frozen corn, canned black beans, extra sharp cheddar and shredded zucchini. 

Going along with last week's guest post by Anne on meal planning for people who hate to meal plan, I thought I'd share one of my favorite TST (throw s*** together) meals - nachos!

One thing I've learned in my years of cooking: everything tastes good on tortilla chips. Well, maybe not chocolate. Or But you get it.

I've made these nachos a bazillion times (okay five or six), and they truly are as easy as it comes. For veggies, I use either squash or zucchini, grated on the large holes of the cheese grater. I'm not sure why, but this is my favorite way of cutting squash. I swear it tastes better and different than chopped or half-mooned but maybe it's just me. Anyone else here?

Speaking of nachos, remember when fancy nachos were the thing? I think it was my high school/college years. Growing up in Atlanta, but there was one restaurant in Phipps Plaza (the fancy mall) called The Tavern and I used to LOVE to go there with friends and order fancy nachos. Salmon with tomatoes, dill and lobster cream veloute...thai chicken with peanut sauce and sprouts...yum! Plus, there was the feeling of being fancy because even though you're just eating nachos, its next to Neiman Marcus and sometimes you'd see rappers or Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Anyhoo, these aren't very fancy. Just black beans, corn, zucchini and (obviously) cheese. But they're still pretty epic. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Epic Vegetarian Nachos

Serves 6

Get a good block of extra sharp cheddar instead of pre-shredded cheese. It has a lot more flavor so you can get away with using a little less.

Ingredients

  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, grated on the large holes of a cheese grater
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 ounces tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • Guacamole, for serving
  • Salsa verde, for serving
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Hot sauce, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil on medium-high heat in a large sided skillet Add red onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add grated zucchini, season with salt and pepper and saute until zucchini is tender, about 5 more minutes.
  3. Place zucchini in a bowl, wipe skillet clean and add 1 teaspoon oil on medium-high heat. Add corn and saute until lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Spread tortilla chips evenly on a baking sheet. Top with zucchini, corn, black beans and shredded cheese. Place in the oven and bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and chips are crispy.
  5. Serve topped with dollops of guacamole, salsa, cilantro and hot sauce.

More ooey, gooey, melty cheese: 

Whole Grain Potato, Corn and Goat Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri
Whole Grain Potato, Corn and Goat Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri
Mexican Cauliflower Crust Pizza
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Polenta Vegetarian Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale
Polenta Vegetarian Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale

Balsamic Macerated Strawberry Yogurt Cups

Balsamic Macerated Strawberry Yogurt Cups

Balsamic macerated strawberry yogurt cups are an easy and elegant snack, dessert or breakfast! Top creamy full fat yogurt with juicy ripe strawberries macerated in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and honey, then sprinkle with crunchy toasted almonds! It’s a healthy way to fuel between meals!

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Savory Curry Coconut Granola with Chile Spiced Mango

Switch up your granola game with this savory curry coconut granola with chile spiced dried mango!

Happy Friday! As you're reading this, Scott and I are either in Atlanta or in transit for the wedding of two of our dearest friends. The bride is one of my best friends from college and the groom is one of Scott's best friends from middle school. They actually first met at our housewarming party and then more officially at our wedding. I'd share the full story, but it's much too embarrassing (for my brother, of all people, not them). Also I've told it about 3,347 times in real life because I've realized I'm one of those people who tells the same story over and over again, the result of an autosomal dominant gene on my paternal side.

Being on a road trip, you know we'll have plenty of travel snacks. I'm probably driving with fellow dietitian and one of my other best friends from college, Barb (of homemade yogurt fame). We've had many a road trip in our almost 15 years of friendship, but gone are the days of stopping at McDonalds. Now we do things like pack baggies of sprouted lentils, go to the drive thru for hot tea and lattes, and drive 30 minutes out of the way for artisan chocolate drinks. 

We are so old.

Granola is another one of my favorite travel snacks. It's filling, portable and tasty! But for snacks, I tend to prefer savory over sweet. I've had this idea for savory granola ever since last years trip with California Almonds. One of our activities was a snack contest featuring almonds and my group came up with a savory curry and chili spiced granola bar. While I think our bar tasted the best (purely speculative as I did not taste any of the other entries), it lost on based on the fact that we couldn't get it to stick together in bar form. Sigh...unrecognized genius.

Feel free to use any mix of nuts and grains you like. I really like using uncooked quinoa in granola for extra crunch. I had half a bag of puffed millet on hand leftover from making these marshmallow free crispy treats, but you could also use puffed brown rice or quinoa flakes. Or just keep it simple with all oats.

Don't make the same mistake I always make and add the dried fruit before baking. It makes it chewy and gives it a little bit of a burnt flavor. Stir it in after baking and cooling. You can find chili spiced mango, which is an addictive blend of sweet and spicy, at Trader Joes, or order it online. If you can find it, swap plain dried mango, dried pineapple or apricots and maybe add a teaspoon of chili powder with the curry.

Savory Curry Coconut Granola with Chile Mango

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup puffed millet
  • 1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chili spiced dried mango, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, puffed millet, nuts and seeds, and coconut. In another bowl, whisk together honey, coconut oil, curry powder and salt. Pour wet mixture over granola and stir to combine.
  3. Pour granola mixture onto baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake 40 minutes, stirring lightly halfway. Remove from oven, set aside to cool then store covered at room temperature.

More snack mixes for road trips:

Easy Asian Snack Mix
Easy Asian Snack Mix
Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
PB&J Granola
PB&J Granola

Good Mood Food: Frothy Coconut Chai Tea Latte

This frothy vegan coconut chai tea latte is packed with all sorts of brain nourishing ingredients, like turmeric, mushroom powder, coconut oil and of course, tea! 

Happy blogaversary to me!

This little blog turns three years old today. It's crazy watching my little internet baby grow up, seeing where it started and where it is today.

Since it's a blog and not an actual child, I can look back and laugh at how awkward and unattractive it was in that first year of life. If anyone has been hanging around here that long, you remember the hideous yellow header which morphed into a much less hideous, yet incredibly basic and boring black and white script.

And the pictures. Oh, the pictures! I had an intern shadowing me last week and she asked if I had always been a good photographer. I pulled up my first recipe post which spoke for itself. No, not at all.

I'd like to think the aspect of this blog that would win most improved is the writing and the message behind my writing. When I first started, I was really focused on clean eating. I always had a food loving approach to eating, but I think that message was really hidden by my very nutrition-centric blog posts. Now I find my most interesting, fun to write and most shared recipes are ones that explore our relationship with food. I still chat nutrition science, but I don't care as much about why whole foods help you lose weight, but rather why whole foods make you feel awesome. I truly believe feeling happy and vibrant and joyful is a much more powerful motivator than a number on the scale!

That's why I started my Good Mood Food column, where I explore the science of how food can impact brain health. I'm endlessly fascinated by the relationship between diet and mental health. But even outside of a mental health diagnosis, good food = good mood!

It's been a little while since I shared an 'official' Good Mood Food post, so hopefully this frothy coconut chai tea latte makes up for it. Of all things, it was inspired by the bulletproof coffee trend, which to be honest, I think is overhyped from a nutrition standpoint, but I was curious enough to try a homemade version with coconut oil and thought it was super tasty. I loved how the oil whips up into a creamy drink with a frothy top.

Since then, I've been creating all sorts of frothy hot drinks souped up with ingredients that have health promoting powers. This one is packed with ingredients know to nourish the brain - turmeric, tea, cinnamon, coconut and one secret ingredient I think you'll geek out over  - mushroom powder!

Yes, really! I'm sure I lost a few of y'all at the idea of mushrooms in a cup of hot tea, but stick with me on this one. I first learned about mushroom powder last year at FNCE at an incredible dinner with the Mushroom Council, cooked by celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan. I learned how they grow high vitamin D mushrooms by exposing them to sunlight. The resulting mushrooms are dehydrated and ground into a powder that's been shown to be just as good as supplements, if not better because it's from food!

Vitamin D plays a huge role in brain health. Most known for it's role in bone health, this fat soluble vitamin also helps control the expression of thousands of genes. We know it has many roles in brain function because there are receptors all over the central nervous system for the vitamin. It activates/deactivates enzymes in the brain, reduces inflammation, aids in neurotransmitter growth, and protects neurons. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, seasonal affective disorder, dementia and decreased cognitive function. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is quite common afflicting 40% the population and over 80% of blacks (because darker skin makes it harder to form from sunlight).

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, making it a tricky nutrient for most people to get enough of. It's particularly hard for those on a vegan diet, since the best natural food sources are fatty fish, eggs, cheese, and butter from pasture raised animals. Mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight are a nutritious plant based source of the vitamin. It's hard to find vitamin D mushrooms on the market (or at least I haven't seem them in Columbia!), so keep an eye out for mushroom powder, which you can find in health food stores or order online. It's so simple to sneak into smoothies or hot beverages, where you can't even taste it at all.

Frothy Coconut Chai Tea Latte

Makes 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk

  • 1 chai tea bag

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk or cream

  • 1-2 teaspoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon mushroom powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Pinch black pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring water and milk to a simmer in a small pot. Turn off heat, add chai tea bag and let steep 2-3 minutes.

  2. Carefully fish tea bag out and place tea in a blender with coconut oil, coconut milk/cream, honey, mushroom powder, turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper. Blend 2 minutes until frothy. Serve immediately.

More Good Mood Food: 

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango

Coconut Steel Cut Oats with Chocolate and Almonds

Coconut Steel Cut Oats with Chocolate and Almonds

Homemade Fermented Pickles

Homemade Fermented Pickles

Marshmallow Free Crispy Treats

Marshmallow free crispy treats are a fun snack or dessert reminiscent of rice crispy treats but made healthier with puffed millet and a mixture of almond butter and honey instead of marshmallows! 

Happy Tuesday everyone! Apologies for the lack of a new recipe post yesterday. I always want to start Monday out with my favorite recipe of the week, but I was traveling this weekend and woke up with bad cold Sunday morning. When I got back home, the last thing I wanted to do was anything that didn't involve laying in bed with a box of tissues and watching the debate.

Hopefully these marshmallow free crispy treats will make up for it!

Did you love rice crispy treats as a kid? I actually did not. There are very few foods in this world that I just do not like, but alright right at the top of the list are marshmallows. So weird. So gross. The only food that makes less sense to me is jello. Apparently I have a thing about jiggly foods.

So I won't say these taste exactly like rice crispy treats, but in my book, that's a good thing! Taking a cue from my friend Min, I used a mix of almond butter and honey. This helps the crispies stick together, sweetens and adds satiating fats. So the result is a bar that can double as dessert or a snack bar.

Also, these bars aren't actually made with puffed rice because for some reason, my grocery store was out of puffed rice cereal. Hrumpf. So I decided to experiment with puffed millet, which I loved, and it's fun to switch things up. Feel free to use puffed brown rice too if that's easier to find. And you probably can skip the toasting step if the brown rice is crispy enough.

To make these bars, I used a jar of acacia honey sent to me as a sample from Heavenly Organics. I was really excited to learn about their sustainability initiatives and work providing ethical job opportunities in India. Plus, when you're making something where honey is one of the main flavor profiles, it's nice to use something a few steps up in flavor from the honey bear :)

I also added a couple fun extras, because I can't help but bling out my recipes a bit. First, chopped almonds for extra crunch and satiating fat. Then I threw in a bag of Crunchies freeze-dried strawberries, another sample I was sent. It added a pretty color and hint of fruity flavor.

One thing not to forget - use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line the pan. I forgot this step when I made my second batch of these and it was pretty much schllacked on there!

Marshmallow Free Crispy Treats

Makes 12 squares

I used puffed millet from Arrowhead Mills.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups puffed millet

  • 1/3 cup honey

  • 1/3 cup almond butter

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped and toasted

  • 1 ounce bag freeze dried berries

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread millet evenly on a large baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn or brown. Taste and make sure they're nice and crispy. Remove and set aside until ready to use.

  2. Mix honey, almond butter, coconut oil and cinnamon in a large pot on medium heat. Whisk until fully combined. Stir in puffed millet, almonds, freeze dried fruit and chia seeds.

  3. Line a large casserole dish with aluminum foil, wax paper or parchment paper. Spread millet mixture evenly in the dish and flatten with a spatula. Place in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour before cutting into 12 squares.

More snackable sweet squares: 

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Homemade Fig Newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons

Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars

Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars

Grilled Vegetable Platter with Red Wine Tomato Jam and Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EntertainandPair #CollectiveBias The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.

Grilled Vegetable Platter with Red Wine Tomato Jam and Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip

This grilled vegetable platter served with a red wine tomato jam and caramelized onion buttermilk dip, both infused with Dreaming Tree Wine, is the red carpet version of your standard raw vegetable platter! 

Admit it. You've been that person who brings a raw vegetable platter to the party in an attempt to have a healthy option for everyone to enjoy.

Except, no one actually enjoys that raw vegetable plate. Some eat it because it's there, but who has ever left a party saying "Wow! That baby carrot dipped in ranch was amazing! I wish Susan would share her recipe!"

No one. Ever.

Grilled Vegetable Platter with Two Wine Infused Dips

This awards season, give your standard raw vegetable platter a red carpet makeover. My secret for a vegetable platter people will actually want to eat? Grill (or roast) the vegetables first, adding a caramelized, smoky flavor, and serve alongside a couple tasty, homemade dips.

Usually I do some type of hummus or avocado-based dip, but for this campaign, I decided to experiment cooking with Dreaming Tree wine...and I think I found two new favorites in the process! Both get a deep, rich, and luxurious flavor from a base of caramelized onions infused with Dreaming Tree wine. The jammy notes of Dreaming Tree Crush, a red wine blend, went perfectly in the tomato jam, adding a layer of fruitiness and complexity. For the buttermilk dressing, I went with Dreaming Tree chardonnay. Now, normally I'm not a chardonnay person. Actually, I rather despise chardonnay, which is why it was the only Dreaming Tree wine I hadn't tried. But I thought chardonnay's buttery flavor would go really well with the caramelized onions over the crisp, more acidic everyday white (which I love for sipping!). So glad I picked it up though, because I discovered I really like their chardonnay! Like, a lot! It's aged in both stainless steel and oak barrels, so it's not overly oaky and cloying like the other chardonnays I've tried.

Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip with Dreaming Tree Chardonnay
Red Wine Tomato Jam with Dreaming Tree Crush

As a long time fan of Dreaming Tree Wine, I was particularly excited about the project. As an even longer time fan of Dave Matthews (high school flashbacks!), who launched Dreaming Tree with winemaker Sean McKenzie, I picked up a bottle almost as soon as it launched and it's been a favorite ever since. Outside of the flavor (Crush is my favorite) and high quality for a reasonable price, I really appreciate their commitment to sustainability. It's a Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery and has the largest solar initiative in the wine industry. The wines are even packaged sustainably, using less glass and a recycled label.

Dreaming Tree Wine

Considering we're smack dab in the middle of awards season, I think you'll have plenty of opportunities to whip this up. Usually I'm not big into award season, but this year, we've kept up with most of the nominees and I definitely have my favorites...which I won't share, because after they win I like to say "I knew it! I totally called it!" ;) So, I'm thinking we may have people over to watch and put out this grilled vegetable platter along with a selection of cheeses and crusty bread. Although this might seem like more effort than a premade vegetable platter, leftovers can easily be stretched into meals during the week. Serve the leftover vegetables in a grain bowl. Leftover buttermilk dip is perfect in my collard green salad with cornbread croutons or your favorite simple side salad. The tomato jam would be so tasty served over roasted fish or a grilled steak, or even on a sandwich. And of course, the leftover wine is perfect for sipping and pretending to be fancy during your very own awards party! 

For more inspiration on how to #EntertainandPair, head to their website. Be sure to check out your local retailer for wine tasting demos! What are your favorite red carpet bites, and which Dreaming Tree Wine would you like to pair it with? 

Keep up with Dreaming Tree Wines:

Grilled Vegetable Platter

Use any fresh vegetables you like. I used cherry tomatoes (on a skewer), cauliflower florets, halved baby zucchini, mushrooms and green beans. If you prefer roasting, toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden and tender.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh vegetables, trimmed, and cut into 'serving' pieces
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Red wine tomato jam & caramelized onion buttermilk dip, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Set grill to medium high. Spray vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until lightly charred, but still crisp-tender. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning.

Red Wine Tomato Jam

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup Dreaming Tree Crush or other rich, fruity red wine
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a medium pot. Add red onion and garlic and saute until starting to get golden, about 7 minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt and continue to cook over medium heat until deeply caramelized, tender and almost jammy looking, about 40 minutes.
  2. Pour in wine, scraping up the bottom with a spatula. Add tomatoes, balsamic, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until very thick and jam-like, about 15 minutes total. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Dreaming Tree chardonnay or other richly flavored white wine
  • 1 cup buttermilk, low or full fat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a medium skillet. Add onion and garlic. Saute until starting to look golden, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking, stirring every so often, until onions are deeply caramelized and jammy in appearance, about 40 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up bottom of the pan with a spatula, and cook until wine is almost completely reduced and the onions are very jammy in appearance, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, scrape onions into a bowl, and set aside to cool slightly.

  2. When onions have cooled a bit, stir in buttermilk, olive oil, parsley, vinegar, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more if desired.

Potato, Corn and Goat Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri

Potato, Corn and Goat Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri

Celebrate potatoes with these vegetarian potato, corn and goat cheese empanadas with avocado chimichurri dipping sauce! These empanadas are made with a whole grain crust for extra fiber and a yummy flavor! And you'll be obsessed with the creamy avocado chimichurri, which you can make extras of to enjoy over all sorts of different foods. 

Read More

Triple Chocolate Banana Ice Cream with Vegan Shell Topping

Make this triple chocolate dairy free banana ice cream topped with an easy two ingredient vegan shell topping! 

I should probably go ahead and give you my address cause you're gonna want to send me flowers for this one.

Surely, at this point you've heard of (and hopefully have tried) one ingredient banana ice cream, or banana nice cream as it's so often called. No dairy. No sugar. No ice cream maker. Just a frozen banana a food processor. Whip it up until it forms a cool, creamy mass. Being the ice cream snob that I am, I held off on trying it for years - well after it made the rounds on pinterest. Until finally I tried it and life was never the same. Err ok, it was the same but with lots more banana ice cream.

Sometimes though, you want something just a little more decadent and that's where this triple chocolate banana ice cream comes in. Blended in with the ice cream is a scoop of chocolate peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter + Co), cocoa powder and a little coconut cream for extra yumminess. The kicker is this easy vegan chocolate magic shell, made with the magic of dark chocolate and coconut oil. I got the idea from my pal Alex at Delish Knowledge. You'll be seeing a lot more of her around these parts as we're working together along with Anne from fANNEtastic Food to launch an online wellness program.

Do y'all remember Magic Shell, the chocolate syrup that hardens when drizzled on ice cream to make a crunchy, chocolatey shell? Do they still make it? (<--- Just googled it. They do. Phew). It's pretty much the worlds greatest ice cream topping with crumbled up double stuff oreos in a distant second. When I was a kid, my favorite treat was a scoop of Breyer's vanilla ice cream (always Breyers. I was an ice cream snob even back then) in a glass of milk with a hefty drizzle of magic shell. You swirl it with a spoon right after pouring the magic shell in and it make these swirls of hardened chocolate. Pure heaven. The best was when you got a spoonful of melty ice cream with some of the chocolatey swirls that had settled on the bottom. Heaven.

...And now I'm dreaming of creating an epic version of it with macadamia nut milk, coconut ice cream and this homemade magic shell. Since my brain is going to be fixated on that, I should probably go ahead and sign off with the recipe, because how do you form words when that's on your mind?

Triple Chocolate Dairy Free Banana Ice Cream

1 large or 2 small servings

Regular peanut butter works too if you don't have chocolate on hand. This makes extra magic shell, which you can store in the fridge. You'll have to remelt before each use by heating it in the microwave about 60 seconds, stopping halfway to stir.

Ingredients

Ice Cream:

  • 1 frozen banana

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

  • 1 tablespoon chocolate peanut butter

  • 1 tablespoon coconut cream (taken from the top of a can of full fat coconut milk)

  • Coconut whipped cream, optional, for serving

  • Shredded coconut, optional for serving

  • Vegan magic shell, optional, for serving

Vegan Magic Shell:

  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Instructions

  1. First, make the shell topping. Microwave chocolate and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl about 30 seconds. Stir and put back in the microwave 20-30 seconds more. Stir until chocolate is melted and combined.

  2. Next, place banana, cocoa powder, peanut butter and coconut cream in a food processor. Blend, scraping down sides as needed, until a creamy mass of 'ice cream' forms.

  3. Scoop ice cream in a bowl or cup. Garnish with whipped cream, shredded coconut (if using) and magic shell.

More banana-chocolate love children:

One Ingredient Caramelized Banana Ice Cream

One Ingredient Caramelized Banana Ice Cream

Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Almond Granola

Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Almond Granola

Roasted Bananas with Salted Coconut Cream, Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

Roasted Bananas with Salted Coconut Cream, Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

Gluten Free Carrot-Pecan Muffins

Alternate title: Life Changing Muffins.

This is no exaggeration friends. These bad boys are made with a combination of whole grains and almond meal and naturally sweetened with only dates, banana and shredded carrots. Although they're not cakey like store bought muffins, they're hearty and dense - a stick to your rib type of muffin.

I adapted this recipe from Green Kitchen Stories, and since then, I've adapted it many more times. Just keep the basic dry and wet mixtures the same, then swap in different shredded fruit, vegetables and nuts. You could also swap apple sauce for mashed banana if you like, but add a few extra dates to compensate for the sweetness. Although these muffins are gluten free, you could also make them gluten full by swapping whole wheat flour or spelt flour.


Gluten Free Carrot-Pecan Muffins

Makes 12

To make these vegan, use plant yogurt and swap 3 tablespoons ground chia seed mixed with 9 tablespoons water.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 roughly chopped carrots, about 1 cup
  • 6 dates, pitted
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place oats in a food processor and blend until they form a flour. Pour out into a large bowl. Add almond meal, buckwheat flour, tapicoa starch, baking powder, baking soda, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and whisk to combine.
  3. Place carrots in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to dry mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Add dates to the flood processor and blend until roughly chopped. Add bananas, eggs, yogurt, coconut oil, and ginger and blend until pureed. Stir wet ingredients into dry until fully combined. Stir in pecans.
  5. Divide batter evenly between the wells of a lined 12 cup muffin tin. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Store covered at room temperature and transfer to the refrigerator after a couple days.

Chestnut Soup

Not sure what to do with all those chestnuts you roasted over an open fire? This rich and creamy chestnut soup makes a stunning and festive appetizer for Christmas or a seasonal weeknight main.

Chestnuuuuts simmering in an open pot...

^^^ See what I did there?? ???

This bowl of creamy chestnut soup will give you all the Christmas feels...and probably get that song stuck in your head for the next 72 hours. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Is there anything that evokes a sense of nostalgia more than food? And I could use a little extra holiday nostalgia this year. It really doesn't feel like Christmas, and not just because it's almost 80 degrees out. Since we left for Hawaii on Thanksgiving, we kinda missed the whole kickoff to the holiday season. Not that I'm complaining. If you can't have stuffing, the best sushi in Hawaii ain't a bad second place.

It hit me a few days ago that last year was probably my last 'normal' Christmas. You know, the kind where the entire family is together, you're in the house you grew up in, and even though you're in your thirties, you're still treated as the kid. The hubs and I both come from families where Christmas is a huge celebration and since our parents live too far apart to do both houses in one day, we switch off years. Two years ago, I thought it would be really hard spending my first Christmas away from my family, but after staying up late drinking wine together, wearing matching PJs (yes, really), it felt like home.

This year, we're just doing a small Christmas since everyone just got back from Hawaii and my sister-in-law's wedding, and sadly, we won't have the whole family together either. And next year, my parents are planning on moving, so I have no clue where we'll be celebrating it. Then of course, my siblings will probably start having kids and (prepare yourself for some serious brattiness), Christmas will start revolving around them. As we were decorating our sad looking tree because (more brattiness ahead), the hubs made me get one small tree instead of two big trees, we realized pretty soon, it might just be us for Christmas. Now we're trying to think of traditions for just the two of us. Help wanted! Please comment with any ideas!

Recognizing my need for some Christmas spirit, I've decided to fully commit my kitchen to only baking Christmas cookies until December 25th. Kidding! But I am whipping up all the seasonal fare, despite the t-shirt and shorts weather outside.

Chestnuts seem like such a Christmas-y food, even though I had only had them chopped up and tossed into Thanksgiving stuffing. That was, until I tried this incredible chestnut soup when I was in France last year. Thick and rich with a unique, nutty flavor, topped with a savory whipped cream, I seriously still have dreams about that soup!

Isn't it funny how nostalgic, comfort food can instantly transform your mood? Comfort food gets a bad rep, and certainly emotional eating on the regular is a problem, but sometimes food can provide you with you the comfort you need, whether you're struggling through, real or imaginary problems (like being a brat about Christmas). The smell of chestnut soup simmering in the kitchen definitely made me forget about the lack of snow anywhere on the east coast!

This soup would make an elegant appetizer for a holiday meal, or serve it as a main course, paired with whole grain bread and a small cheese board, or paired with a hearty salad. For this recipe, I used precooked chestnuts from Trader Joe's, but feel free to roast your own if you feel so inclined!

Chestnut Soup

Serves about 4 as a main, 8 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 13 ounces pre-roasted and peeled chestnuts
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • ¼ cup half and half or heavy cream
  • Grated fresh nutmeg, for serving
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley or chives, for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large soup pot. Add celery, onion, and carrot and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, bay leaf and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  2. Uncover and add chestnuts and red wine. Simmer 5 more minutes. Carefully remove bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in half and half or cream.
  3. Divide soup between bowls. Garnish with grated fresh nutmeg, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh parsley or chives.

Beet, Radish and Avocado Salad

This beet, radish and avocado salad is a simple and colorful side salad for entertaining! Add chickpeas or tuna in olive oil to make a main dish. 

Guys, I promise I'm not sharing this recipe the day after Thanksgiving because I think you need to have a salad. Seriously, go have some stuffing for breakfast! If I was home with a fridge full of leftovers, that's what I'd be doing before spending the day making turkey soup!

I made this salad last week for cookbook club and thought it was too easy and tasty not to share. Have you ever heard of a cookbook club? The premise is so fun, I don't know why the trend died back in the day.

A friend of mine decided to start a one after reading this article. The premise is simple - pick a cookbook, the host makes the main and the other attendees make the appetizers, cocktails and sides.

What's great is that for the time it takes to prepare one dish, you get to try as many dishes as there are attendees. Perfect for those cookbooks where you want to try everything in it. Plus, since it all comes from the same cookbook, everything pairs well together.

For our first cookbook club, we chose Clean Slate. Kind of a perfect choice the week before Thanksgiving. It's a cookbook I already own and cook from pretty regularly, so I was excited when all the dishes at the party were ones I hadn't tried before. Some of the highlights were spinach pie, a sweet potato, farro and dill salad, and chicken paillards with squash and spinach, and the yummiest chocolate bark.

 

Beet, Radish and Avocado Salad

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 medium beets
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 7 ounces arugula
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap beets loosely in aluminum foil and place in the hot oven. Roast 45-60 minutes until tender.
  2. Remove from oven and set aside to cool in the foil. Once cool enough to handle, rub the skin off the beets and discard. Thinly slice.
  3. Divide arugula evenly between salad plates. Top with beet slices, radish, avocado, and goat cheese. Whisk vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad.

More colorful salads for entertaining: 

Dark Cherry and Crispy Proscuitto Salad
Dark Cherry and Crispy Proscuitto Salad
Balsamic Roasted Peach and Fig Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Balsamic Roasted Peach and Fig Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Citrus and Arugula Salad with Fennel
Citrus and Arugula Salad with Fennel

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins with Coconut Date Butter

Pumpkin cornbread muffins with coconut date butter make a delicious breakfast, snack or hostess gift for the holiday season!

Hey guys! It's another bonus recipe this week, since this month's Recipe Redux falls on a Sunday. Good thing, cause these pumpkin cornbread muffins and coconut date butter are exactly what I want to wake up to Sunday morning. If I can hold off and not eat the last two today, maybe I will!

This month's theme is quick bread, perfect timing for holiday baking season. These pumpkin cornbread muffins would be a lovely little gift. Simply wrap them up in a dish towel or napkin in a pretty basket along with a mason jar filled with date butter.

Coming from someone whose favorite cornbread used to be Jiffy, I've become quite the cornbread snob. All cornmeal. No flour. A teaspoon of honey or sugar is nice, but any more and it's cake.

These pumpkin cornbread muffins break those rules, but technically they're muffins so it's allowed. You like how with a simple change of shape I'm like, "Go ahead cornbread. Do what you want." What can I say, I'm fickle.

These cornbread muffins very lightly sweetened, so they can go sweet, with date butter or jam, or savory, paired with chili. Vegan pumpkin chipotle chili maybe?? Another fun idea - use these muffins as a base for a breakfast sandwich. You could try crisp bacon (or tempeh bacon!), a fried egg, tomato and arugula or nut butter and banana slices.

Now, can we talk about this date butter? Only two ingredients and no added sugar AND it tastes like yummy caramel! Holy smokes y'all, if you do nothing, make this date butter. I store it in the fridge, but because it's make with coconut oil, it hardens up quite a bit. Just let it sit at room temp for a bit or microwave it for 15 seconds and it'll be all creamy and delicious again.

These muffins are easily freezable. Just pop one in the microwave 30 seconds or so before eating.


Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Makes: 9

Adapted from Top with Cinnamon. 

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons cashew butter
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, pumpkin, yogurt, honey, cashew butter, and almond milk, In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Whisk dry ingredients into wet. Divide batter evenly between 9 muffin tins. Place in the oven and bake 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Two Ingredient Coconut-Date Butter

Makes: 2/3 cup

Ingredients

  • 12 medjool dates, pitted
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Place dates and coconut oil in a food processor. Blend until pureed, scraping down sides as needed. Store in the fridge. Microwave 15 seconds before serving to soften.