Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

You guys. I cannot stop making this smoothie. How often do you have to crave/want/need something in your life to be considered an addict? Because I think I may be reaching the point of addiction here. 

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It’s peanut buttery without the added fat and calories, but packed–PACKED!–with protein thanks to this stuff.DSC06722

I first got Protein Plus Peanut Flour from iHerb about a year ago, but (stupidly) didn’t think to put it in a smoothie. I don’t know why, because it makes a mean peanut butter muffin, so the leap to putting it in, well, everything.

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What’s awesome about the Protein Plus is that just 2 tablespoons pack an additional 8g of protein into my smoothie with only 55 calories and 2g of fat. I’d rather get my healthy fats from olive oil or avocado than peanut butter, so this is a great alternative for me. 

Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

Serves 1-2

1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 T. Protein Plus Peanut Flour
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever milk you like)
1 big handful of spinach
1 frozen banana 
2 handfuls of ice
pinch of salt
splash of vanilla extract
pinch of xantham gum (optional, for thickening)

Add first 4 ingredients to blender and blend until spinach is completely broken down. Add banana and blend. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. It will be extra thick, especially if you use the xantham gum, so I pour mine into a bowl and eat it with a spoon.

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Kashi GoLean Crunch on top–optional.

The Protein Plus is a little pricey–$5.79 for 1 lb.–but if you’re only using 2 tablespoons at a time, it lasts a long time. iHerb.com has the best pricing that I’ve found, and you can use this code for a little discount: AWO351 ($5 off your first iHerb order and $10 off if your order is $40 or more).

I tend to get into food ruts where I eat the exact same thing for days–or weeks–on end. I used to be so good about cooking new things all the time, but lately, I’m all about this smoothie, mixed cereal bowls, and my favorite vegan taco salad. Lame, I know. 


Lentils: Take 2

Friends, I am in a serious funk. This whole late spring thing combined with a rough month at work is taking its toll. I generally try to stay positive, but my patience is thinning.

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Meh.

One of the things that often cheers me up when I’m a little blue is cooking or baking, so it’s an easy go-to solution for me. As cheesy as it may sound, I like the certainty of knowing that if I mix certain ingredients together in a certain way, they’re going to make cookies. Or bread. Or soup. I guess it’s comforting in a way.

Over the weekend, I figured I’d cheer myself up by making some soup. Know why? Soup requires chopping. Carrots. Celery. Onions. All the chopping is very therapeutic. Methodical, you know?

For whatever reason, I decided this soup was going to be of the lentil variety, which is somewhat counter-intuitive considering my first attempt at lentils was, well, kind of a disaster. But I really wanted to make them work. I mean, they’re super vegan, you know? Like, something vegans eat? A very vegan thing to eat? Right? Yes? No? No . . . ok.

Anyway.

I know lentils are really good for me. When other people (i.e., the proprietors of restaurants and grocery stores) make lentils, I like them. My experience with the red lentils, though–no bueno. But several people told me green or yellow or brown lentils were better. While I still don’t understand the differences among them, I figured any lentils had to be better than the mushy red ones.

My cousin had sent me a recipe for a lentil soup that sounded good, but I didn’t have all the ingredients. I decided to invent a recipe based on a hybrid of the one she sent along with a few other ideas I’d found online. What I came up with is pretty freaking fantastic, if I do say so myself (and I do).

Green Lentil Soup with Coconut & Spinach

2 cups green lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 cup sliced carrots
3 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
3 cups diced sweet potatoes
1 heaping T. grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1 T. tomato paste
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
1 t. garam masala
1 t. tumeric
2 t. salt
1 t. fresh black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cups frozen chopped spinach
1 can coconut milk

Mix everything but spinach and coconut milk in slow cooker. Set to low heat for 4 hours. Stir in spinach and coconut milk and allow to warm for 15 minutes.

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I didn’t grow up eating much Middle Eastern-inspired food, so maybe that’s why this soup tasted so unexpectedly good? The flavor profile is really complex. Smoky and spicy and a little sweet from the coconut milk, plus lots of different textures from the lentils, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Just really delicious.

If you’re like me and have a lentil disaster under your belt, I highly recommend you give this soup a try.

Any good lentil recipes out there?

I need to use up the rest of my lentils, and while I could make more soup, I’d love to try something else. Link it up below!

{vegan} Biscuits & Gravy

One of the things I miss most about being vegan is breakfast food. Well, if I’m being technical, I actually miss brunch food. The difference between breakfast and brunch is that during brunch you drink. #duh3b4a6dd0865011e1a9f71231382044a1_7.jpg

If you’re not aware, basically all brunch food contains eggs in some form. I like eggs. A lot. And it’s not like I couldn’t eat them, but I know if I do that I’m not going to feel good. At this point, it’s not really worth it.

Unless it’s vegan–which some places do offer–I’m typically limited to dry toast and hash browns for my brunch offerings. Don’t get me wrong–I love a tasteless piece of cardboard or a pile of greasy potatoes as much as the next guy, but it can be a bit limiting.

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Vegan brunch at Busboys and Poets. Scrambled eggs > scrambled tofu (although this is great vegan brunch)

The admittedly less than ideal solution to this is to make brunch at home. Less than ideal because I want to be waited on and have my Bloody Mary mixed by someone else and served to me, but it’ll do on occasion.

Given that this is the solution, I’ve been shocking all my meat-loving friends with how good this vegan biscuits and gravy recipe tastes. Last night, I made BFD (brunch for dinner) for my sister who’s visiting from Michigan, and she kept saying, “This is really good.” Like, over and over again. And given that she did sound somewhat incredulous each time she said, I’m confident she wasn’t just flattering me. I served her 2 biscuits covered in tempeh sausage gravy and there wasn’t a lick left on the plate. This from a girl who ate more than $5 worth of froyo just a couple hours earlier. I was so proud.

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{vegan} Tempeh Sausage Gravy

Makes 4 servings

Slightly adapted from this recipe.

8 oz. pkg. tempeh
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. fresh sage, finely chopped and divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. soy sauce
1T. + 1 t. olive oil
1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
~1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice

Crumble the tempeh into a medium saucepan. Add enough water to the pan just to cover. Heat over medium-high heat for about 12 minutes, simmering until most of the water has cooked off.

While the tempeh simmers, combine basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 T. sage, garlic, soy sauce, and 1 t. olive oil in a small dish. Set aside.

Puree the white beans with the other tablespoon of sage, one tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper (I used 1/2 t. sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper). I used my food processor, but if you don’t have one, a blender should work just fine. Stream in 1/4 cup water, and set aside.

The tempeh should be good to go by now, so drain off any excess water, and add the basil seasoning mix to the pan. Stir to coat, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Pour the white bean mixture into the pan and stir until everything is incorporated, adding about 1/4 cup of water to thin it out a bit. (You could probably add up to half a cup without changing the flavor if it’s too thick for you).

Serve over vegan sweet potato biscuits. Impress your meat-eating friends. ;)

photoTo differentiate BFD from regular breakfast for dinner, we did this:

7ba53e8e5c4511e28f8522000a1fb838_7Booze = brunch. FYI.

 

 

{vegan} Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

First thing’s first–today’s your last chance to enter my My Race Ragz t-shirt giveaway, so get on it if you haven’t yet!

Since I’ve started eating a plant-based diet, one of my favorite hobbies has fallen by the wayside: baking. On one hand, this is a good thing because I have zero self-control around baked goods. When you live alone, that is NOT a good thing. On the other hand, I miss baking. To me, it’s comforting and soothing. But without eggs or butter in my dietary repertoire, baking is a bit of a challenge. Sure, I’ve made a couple of attempts, but nothing that thrilled me.

Until now.

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Sunday evening I decided to try my hand at some vegan cookies. I am a huge coconut lover, so coconut oil in place of the butter was an easy swap, but the egg replacer is always the thing that vexes me. Flax doesn’t quite get the job done in my mind, and I am an adamant hater of chia seeds. But I decided to take a chance and do the whole chia egg thing.

No clue what I’m talking about? Basically, the deal is that when you mix chia seeds with water, they get thick and gel-like with a consistency that works as an egg substitute in baking. My main issue with chia seeds is that I don’t like to crunch down on them (I don’t even like seeds in jam), but if they get gel-like, that actually takes care of their “seedy-ness.”

You with me? Cool.

{vegan} Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from this recipe (not vegan, but also really really delicious)

3/4 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled

1.5 T. chia seeds

1/4 cup + 1/2 T. water

1/2 cup loosely packed Splenda brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. coconut extract

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups flour

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (I like the minis best :) )

Preheat oven to 325*

Melt the coconut oil in the microwave (~45 seconds) and allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl, mix the chia seeds and water and set aside to thicken.

Mix coconut oil with Splenda and sugar. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes so the coconut oil can get a little thick with the sugar. Then, add the chia mixture and vanilla and coconut extracts until fully incorporated. Add in the baking soda, salt, and 1/2 cup flour, mixing until absorbed. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips. The dough will be a little crumbly, but it’s ok!

Take 1.5 T. of dough, roll into balls, and place on a cookie sheet coated with parchment or a silpat. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool. photo 3

I brought these with me to my very non-vegan office with a note that said: Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies–Help Yourself!

They were gone by lunchtime. :)photo 1People were stopping by my office every 2 seconds to say, “Did you bake those cookies?! They’re really good!” 

Yep, vegan can be good! Try ’em and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Chana Masala with Spinach

First thing’s first: I loved reading all of your comments yesterday! Keep ’em comin!

Moving on to a special treat today–a recipe! I know it’s been forever, so let’s get to it, shall we?

In Trinidad, street food is really popular–and for good reason. Their street food? It’s really good. One of the most common and well-loved options is roti, a flatbread that’s usually wrapped around curried vegetables or meat burrito style. Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to try traditional Trini roti. But I did get to try their other famous fare, the Double. 

A Double is 2 pieces of a pillowy flatbread (like a naan/pita hybrid) wrapped around chana (chickpeas) with your choice of toppings like cucumber, mango, and hot sauce. Sounds a little different, but I assure you, it’s delicous.

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Me and my Double–love at first bite.

I got mine with chana, mango, and “slight pepper” which means just a touch of their famously fiery pepper sauce. It was, well, incredible. Cumin spiced chickpeas, a little sweet from the mango, doughy flatbread, and a little kick from the pepper sauce. O.M.G. So so good. 

Ever since, I’ve been thinking about that Double and wanting another one. While I wasn’t ambitious enough to attempt the full Double recipe (maybe sometime soon!), I did take a stab at making my own chana the other night, and I have to say, it was pretty darn tasty. 

Chana Masala with Spinach and Tomatoes
Serves 4

1/2 T. vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 T. ground coriander
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. tumeric
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garam masala 
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 cup water
2-15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
salt to taste
juice of one lemon to finish it off 
brown rice and/or pita for serving 

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in all the spices–coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, paprika, and masala. Cook onions and spices for a minute or so, then add tomatoes, spinach, and water, scraping bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the chickpeas, season with salt, and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the top and serve over brown rice or with pita bread–or both. ;) 

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Not a bad effort, if I do say so myself! 

Have you ever heard of a Double? 

Have you ever made Chana? 

Did you enter my giveaway yet??? :D 

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I am well aware that there are many of you out there who think this whole vegan experiment I’m doing is insane. Those who think you could never give up chicken or beef or cheese or eggs. Believe me, I thought the same thing, but one day, I just wanted to try it. I was sick of feeling sluggish because I wasn’t eating as well as I could be. Guess what? When you can only eat plant-based foods, you essentially have to eat healthy. I mean, you could eat an entire jar of cashews and a loaf of bread, but that would defeat the purpose. Instead, I’m eating a lot of kale, squash, mushrooms, quinoa, beans, and I even had my first foray into tofurkey. The verdict? Actually really good. Swear to God. 

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Anyway, the point is that I feel lighter and brighter. I have energy. I wake up feeling rested. And my cravings for sweets and heavier foods? Non-existent. In fact, I’m actually a little nervous to eat anything heavier because I’m not sure how it would make me feel. I could do without any stomach-related issues (which I haven’t had, btw) for the rest of my life. 

I’m doing this whole vegan thing for my health–because it makes me feel good, not because I want to lose weight. I feel like I need to say this one more time, just so everyone understands. I will probably go back to eating cheese and eggs and butter and meat at some point. But for now, I’m trying this. 

I’ve been having lots of fun concocting new recipes, and since it’s soup weather (well, not now–now, it’s 70* in December, but you know) I’ve been craving some comfort. This Cream of Mushroom Soup fits the bill. It’s creamy and delicious with almost 20g of protein per 2 cup serving. Plus, like everything else I cook, it’s easy peasy. 

(vegan) Cream of Mushroom Soup 

Makes 3 2-cup servings

2 T. Smart Balance light

1/2 cup onion, diced

2 T. flour

20 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp. thyme

2 cups vegetable stock

3 cups plain soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)

Heat Smart Balance over medium heat in a large stock pot until melted. Add onions and season with salt and pepper, cooking until softened, about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and stir, cooking about 8-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are softened and give off their juices. Sprinkle flour over mushrooms and stir until flour is absorbed. Season with more salt and pepper.

Whisk in vegetable stock and soy milk and bring the mixture to a bubble, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Puree in small batches in the blender, about 2 cups at a time, or if you prefer whole mushrooms, leave as is. I like mine to have some texture so I don’t puree it until it’s completely smooth. Make it however you like! 

Mushroom soup

What kind of soup is your favorite?

I love my dad’s homemade Pasta Fagioli and Trader Joe’s Roasted Butternut Squash.

(vegan) sweet potato biscuits

Let’s talk for a quick sec about this vegan experiment I’m doing. 

This is not something I’ve researched well or even thought through very much, so I am by no means an expert. But after a particularly gluttonous 3 days of Thanksgiving eating, I felt like crap and wanted to clean it up. On a whim, I thought, “I could be vegan for a few weeks!” I do eat mostly vegetarian as it is (not intentionally–I just tend to prefer veggies over meat), so I figured that eating vegan wasn’t that far of a leap. Mostly, for me, it’s eliminating eggs and cheese, which hasn’t been hard.

Here’s what I’m noticing since I started this 5 days ago:

  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Almost zero cravings for sugar/sweet things
  • Feeling full/satisfied all the time–I’m almost never hungry
  • Brighter skin/eyes (but this may be an effect of more sleep!)
  • Overall improved mood

So, I guess this could all be a fluke, but I feel good enough that I’m willing to keep it up and see if it makes any additional differences. To be clear–I am not doing this to lose weight. As I’ve said before, I don’t weigh myself, and honestly, I have no idea what my current weight is. But I do know that I was eating like Elvis during marathon training, and that didn’t feel great. I was tired all the time, not sleeping well, and constantly cranky. The difference I’m feeling now after just a few days is kind of remarkable, so I’m going to stick to it. 

Thus far, I’ve stuck to being completely vegan all the time, but if I decide that I want some cheese or an egg, I’m going to have it. That said, I’m not craving those foods at all. Or sweets, for that matter, which pretty much blows my mind given the historic power of my sweet tooth. 

Anyway, the vegan experiment means I’m spending a lot more time in the kitchen concocting things to fit with this lifestyle. One of the first experiments I had was with these sweet potato biscuits.

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They don’t look like much; I know.

But I promise you, they are so freaking good. And here’s where I say something that doesn’t sound like me at all. Instead, it sounds like some super foodie/restaurant reviewer type. The flavor profile in these is really complex. Yep, you heard me. We’ve got sweet potato, maple syrup, cinnamon, black pepper, and garlic. An odd combination for sure, but it comes together in a sweet, savory, spicy symphony <–really getting into that foodie speak now, aren’t we? 

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Also: this is easy. I don’t have a biscuit cutter or a mixer with a dough hook or any other fancy kitchen equipment. Nor do I have the patience to spend hours making dinner. Thankfully, these don’t require a lot of time or effort. 

(Vegan) Sweet Potato Biscuits

Makes about 6

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour 

1/2 cup white flour

1/2 T. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/2 t. black pepper

1/8 t. cinnamon

1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato (about 1/2 a medium potato; I cooked mine in the microwave)

1.5 T. pure maple syrup, divided

2 T. Smart Balance Light, melted and divided

1/2 cup warm water

1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. 
2. Mix sweet potato, 1 T. maple syrup, and 1 T. Smart Balance in a separate bowl and set aside. 
3. Add water and sweet potato mixture to dry ingredients. Mix in by hand until dough forms into a ball. (Add more flour if it’s sticky).
4. Press dough onto a floured surface into a rectangle with your fingers, and cut into biscuits. I don’t have a biscuit cutter, so I just used a glass. :)
5. Mix the remaining syrup and Smart Balance in a small bowl, and brush on top of biscuits. 
6. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 400* for 20 minutes.

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Even if you’re not vegan–or vegetarian, for that matter–give these a shot. 

Could you be vegan? Vegetarian? Or are you a meat-eater?