Recipe

Blackberry “cheesecake” smoothie

I’m not the biggest meat eater and I was a vegetarian for two years in high school, so I’m surprised it has taken me this long to really play around with tofu. I picked up tempeh for the first time this week and have instantly fallen in love– it is so, so good fried up with either ginger and a dash of curry or with smokier spices such as Cajun seasoning. Tempeh’s nutty flavor is delicious and it is an excellent protein source.

I’ve been putting sprouted tofu in my smoothies to great effect. It adds the creaminess I’ve been looking for! You can’t taste it at all but it lends a silken texture that enables one to keep the rest of the smoothie dairy free and relatively healthy. (I.e: you don’t have to rely on sweetened yogurt and can easily blend in lots of fruit and even spinach while maintaining the creaminess.)

The following smoothie is my new favorite: it tastes sort of like blackberry cheesecake in a drink.

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blackberry “cheesecake” smoothie

1/2 ripe banana
1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1/3 cup almond milk
1/4-1/3 cup water (depending on how thick you like your drink)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla stevia
1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1 teaspoon malt powder

Blend in a blender – let blend for a bit longer than usual to ensure it whips up well. Drink!

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“Trust me on this” cake {black bean avocado chocolate snacking cake}

It’s January, so perhaps I need to be
 posting more about juices and carrot cumin salads, and while I have been enjoying quite a few carrot cumin salads, I made this cake the 
other day on a whim and it really shocked me (and a few people that
 were around at the time). I pretty much view making healthy things 
as one part challenge, one part useful. Healthier desserts are
 useful because yes, they tend to be better for you, but I’m also
 not into the cult of total holier than thou health
food. And hey look, it’s still sugar, and it still
 should taste good. So, when it comes time to make something sweet
 healthier, especially CAKE, I’m thinking, COOL! This is
 an experiment! A challenge! Chemistry, if you
 will!

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chocolate (avocado) butter & friends in all places

 

Post-college life is strange. For many, the immediate downside is that you no longer have a concentrated area in which tons of your friends live. In fact, you no longer have tons of friends, period. Even in Minneapolis, just 40 minutes from my alma mater, many of us alums have wondered, “How does one meet other people out of the blue?”

The upside, however, is the friends that you do keep in touch with are pretty cool. There are no set rules for the types of people you keep in touch with following a significant phase in your life. They may have been your best friend, a casual friend, a friend crush – you find yourselves sending little updates and looking forward to what they have to say in a genuine way. You might send letters, or e-mails, or packages of brownies, and every time you get something or send something it will make you smile. It may be little, but it’s meaningful. You get to connect to the human experience and hear about others. Suddenly, you don’t feel so alone.

—————–

I think my avocados are part of a conspiracy theory: let me back up. This week, they remained hard, green outer shells for a few days, leading me to believe they were nowhere near ripe. One morning? Boom, over-ripe. Just like that. What are you waiiiiting for, they seemed to say. I’m mean, we’ve been ripe for like, foreverrrr. This led me to the pseudo-problem that is “I have too many ripe avocados!”, which, of course, everyone knows isn’t a problem at all.

I didn’t have the ingredients for guac, plus I was in the mood (as I always am) for something sweet. Vegans are fond of avocado frosting or avocado mousse because the texture is perfect for creamy desserts, but I wanted something a little more low-key. Chocolate avocado butter is the perfect in-between, a vegan equivalent of sweet cream, without the sugar rush of frosting. It feels just like soft butter after spending some time in a food processor. Add cocoa powder, a little stevia/maple syrup/honey/molasses, and it turns into a creamy, rich, melt-in-your mouth cocoa spread.

P.S. If you’re really in the mood to spread, the NYTimes has a collection of savory spreads for the holidays.

Cocoa avocado butter

1 1/3 cups mashed avocado

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar as desired (molasses, maple syrup, honey, etc)

1 tbsp vanilla

1 tsp coconut or canola oil

1 tsp salt

(optional: 1 tsp cinnamon)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until it is the texture of soft, whipped butter.

Spread on a thick slice of warm toast, sprinkle a lil’ sea salt, there ya go. Store in the fridge.

Edit: One week later and my avocado butter is still perfectly kept in the fridge. While I’m sure it’s not meant for a long shelf life, at least know you don’t have to eat it all in one sitting. Or maybe you will. I won’t tell.

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Holiday Shopping 2012

One thing I enjoy post-Thanksgiving: Christmas songs on the radio. Generally, I really like ’em. Except for that one dramatic tune “Christmas Shoes”. Have you heard that one? I hate it, sorry. The WORST holiday song, the bane of my family’s December, which I am guessing only Washington DC has to suffer through, is the song “Christmas Eve in Washington” by Maura Sullivan. Check it out if you dare.

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Thanksgiving success {+ recipes}

I am not a perfect cook. Really, most of it boils down to various kitchen character flaws that exhibit themselves so perfectly in cooking: impatience, messiness, and procrastination, to name a few. Even with recipes, I often scrunch my nose at the directions, not out of hubris, but because I am still slightly impatient and jittery and lack zen-like patience. With cooking and baking, sometimes you break the rules and try new things and it turns out totally awesome, other times it just seems like a quiet little failure. You made something adequate, decent, but it wasn’t memorable.

So the successes become etched in your brain – the time I made this bittersweet chocolate and pear cake, for example, which resulted in a perfection that I, miraculously, have since been able to replicate every time. Modern miracle. Or these milky espresso cookies that my dad loves. Wait, I’m listing baked goods. Anything with sweet potato, or yam, I swear I’ll nail it! You see, I’m still working on becoming a decent cook. This Thanksgiving, however, was different. I planned for about two weeks beforehand, switching recipes every day it seemed. Finally, I settled on a few things: one was a solid recipe that I followed every step of the way (except for proportions). One was an idea of a recipe that I played with and sort of completed on the fly. One was a thing conjured from the thin air of my anxiety, cold-riddled brain. All were…amazing.

the idea: Roasted Squash with Blueberry Balsamic
(pictured above)
4 small delicata or acorn squash
1 cup slivered almonds, bought pre-toasted or toasted in a pan
seeds of 1 pomegranate 
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
1/3 cup goat cheese or feta (something crumbly)
olive oil
sea salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Add balsamic vinegar and blueberries to a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir every once in a while and cook until the vinegar has reduced and feels thick and syrupy, about 25 minutes.
Cut the delicata squash down the middle, length-wise. Scoop out the seeds and slice into slivers, about 1.5 inches thick. If working with acorn, cut in half across the “equator” of the squash. Scoop out the seeds and slice into chunks. Place on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and drizzle with generous amounts of olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt & pepper, an amount of your choosing, and roast for about 15-20 minutes, until the squash is soft but not crumbly, and the skin is slightly golden & crisp.
Remove squash from oven and arrange on a long platter. Drizzle with the balsamic syrup, sprinkle with goat cheese, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.
(above, right)
I cannot say enough good things about this “salad” of Brussels sprouts, pear, & lentils with a tangy dressing. It was a big hit at the table, even among people who don’t normally like Brussels sprouts (I think the fact that they are shaved and roasted adds to the appeal versus just cooking the sprouts whole) and it was flavorful, but filling. Bacon will probably make this even better, but I did not add bacon – don’t worry, vegetarians, the flavor does not suffer. And you still have protein-lovin’ lentils!

the thing from my brain: Chocolate, Coconut, & Banana Tarts
A chocolate-banana tart shell, with chocolate ganache & coconut cream, topped with a banana slice & coconut flakes
(above, left)

Shell: Blend 12 honey graham crackers, 1/3 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1.5 – 2 bananas in a food processor. Mixture should resemble dough – if it is too wet, add white or wheat flour with your hands. If it is too dry, add more coconut oil or bananas. Press into greased cupcake tins to create little tart shells and cook for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Ganache: Heat 1 cup heavy whipping cream on medium-high heat in a small saucepan. You don’t want to burn the cream, but it should reach boiling point or near-boiling. Remove from heat and stir in 8 oz. of a bitter or semi-sweet chocolate. Keep stirring until the mixture turns into a shiny chocolate liquid. Scoop into your tart shells and let cool completely.

Coconut Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy whipping cream & 1/2 cup full fat coconut cream (no coconut liquid) in a mixer on high for about 6-8 minutes. Watch carefully — if you mix it too much, it will turn into butter. It will turn into a dreamy coconut whipped cream, which you can top the cooled chocolate tarts with. Make sure to store this dish in the fridge before serving.
Top with a slice of banana, a sprinkle of coconut flakes, and a pinch of cocoa powder.
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Twenty-something Thanksgiving: guest tips & ideas

Living 1,100 miles away from home is nothing new – after all, I’ve done it for the past four years. And yet, I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2010. It makes me sad sometimes, yes, but the other wonderful thing is that I have been fortunate enough to experience Thanksgiving in a variety of traditions.

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* And by prepared, I mean pre-prepared. TWO pre’s.

Food

Commandments of Trader Joe’s

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