Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No Bake Sticky Coco-Peach Jam Bars

Have you ever really stopped to think about what you sincerely want out of life?  Besides, no bake coco-peach jam bars, that is?  (ha!) Well, when you really, really, try to answer that honestly, you realize its a hard question to answer!  We live in a society where what we truly want for happiness is not what we're told is important.  We are told success, money, looking fabulous, and being popular are the most important things.  But is that really what any of us truly want?

I am a non-stop, go until I fall asleep kind of lady and it often results in the things most important to me being neglected.  As I've mentioned, I have a wonderful husband and a feisty, yet super sweet, 2 year old son.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in my work, business goals, and making no bake jam bars (hey!) that my goals to love, cherish, and enjoy them are often overlooked.  Wow, as I type that it makes me feel crappy.  But hey, honest self reflection is the only real way to recognize discomfort and make lasting positive change, right?  Right!  

So I started thinking really hard about what was the most important to me...truly important, that is.  I started to visualize myself being blissfully happy, and took careful note of how that looked.  Turns out, I'm not giving myself the room and permission to be in that happy life (bummer!).  I saw myself relaxing in a clean (eek!) house, playing with my son and being totally in the moment with him, talking with my husband and not arguing over stupid things (say whaaaaa???), and finally, not working every moment of everyday!!  

I am constantly striving to be a better mother, wife, and person...but along the way, my type-A goals and ambitions get in my way.  I mean, really, in the long run does it matter that I stayed an extra hour at the office?  Will it make me "happy" in the end?  Truthfully, not really.  I meet my goals of being a professional, hard working, ethical employee before I pour in the extra hours!  My work is done, and done well.  I come in on time, I'm respectful, I usually iron my shirt...I am successful!  As a woman, I get so caught up in climbing the ladder, breaking through glass ceilings, and making a "name" for myself, that I forget I would prefer to be called "a caring and loving wife, mother, friend, daughter, and overall person".   None of that is accomplished by putting the TV on so I can distract my son and get some work done.  None of that is accomplished by bringing my work frustrations home and taking them out on my family.  The list goes on and on. 

So, in that vein, I am promising myself I will take notice of my actions, take responsibility of them, and do my best to put what is truly important to me first.  Which today, is sticky no bake coco-peach jam bars!  (My kiddo helped...don't worry, I'm not already faltering!)

I am NOT promising that I won't eat an entire pan of these jam bars.   They are healthy, not overly sweet, and the perfect breakfast, snack, or desert.  Peaches are everywhere in my house right now!  A last ditch effort to hold onto summer, maybe?  Naw, it's eleventy billion degrees outside (Arizona), we'll have "summer" well into September...but at least these don't require me to turn on the oven!!  

These tasty bars are tart, yet subtly sweet, and packed with super foods and super nutrition!  I am mildly obsessed with cacao nibs these days, but they can be a little bitter if you aren't expecting them.  Feel free to substitute your fav vegan chocolate chips for them in this recipe! 

Now, after such a heavy post, who doesn't need a little sugah!  These bars are best right out of the fridge.  They start to soften after 10-15 minutes, and can fall apart/crumble.  If that's your jam, its a-ok.  Serve them with some banana soft serve and make a crumble-blizzard-esque desert.    Enjoy!

No Bake Sticky Coco-Peach Jam Bars
*Makes 9 bars, depending on how you cut them.  Best right out of the fridge! These are delicate...definitely a good addition to any soft serve if you want a homemade blizzard!


For the crust:
15 medjool dates, soaked in water for 1-2 hours if hard, pitted
3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 tbsp almond butter
1/8 cup cacao nibs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut + 2-3 tbsp for sprinkling (optional)

For the sticky jam:
4 large, ripe peaches, pitted and roughly chopped
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 cup coconut cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp organic cane sugar (or coconut sugar for a milder, less sweet flavor)
pinch of salt

1. Prepare the jam.  In a medium sauce pan, combine the peaches, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and is bubbly.  Slowly add in the coconut cream, cooking for 1 additional minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

2. Prepare the crust.  In a food processor, combine the dates, cashews, almond butter, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs.  Pulse and process until a sticky, crumbly mixture forms.  If your mixture is dry, add a little more almond butter or a water, 1 tbsp at a time.  Add in the shredded coconut, and pulse briefly until just mixed in.  You just want to incorporate the coconut, not process it. 

3.  Press the crust mixture into an 8x8 glass or ceramic baking dish lined with parchment paper.   Press down well to ensure the mixture really sticks together.  Pour the cooled jam over the crust and spread to even with the back of a spoon. 

4.  Sprinkle the top with a few pinches of shredded coconut if desired.  Place in the freezer for 30-45 minutes to set. 

5.  Cut with a sharp knife.  Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Plum Drunk Love + Feeling Grapeful (Juices)

Juicy fresh (and on sale) red plums!

Ok, ok, so I know I haven't been around lately but I've had an absolutely crazy week.  A looming dark cloud of "lay-offs" was hovering over my office at work.  As a result, I sincerely felt that entire bottles of red wine and stress baking were more appropriate ways to cope than blogging about juice.  =)  The good news is I kept my job (yayy!), so no use crying over spilt juice now is there?  So let's get to it!

Stress baking...aka kitchen takeover. 

While I was away from the blog-o-sphere over the past week, I was documenting my faboosh morning cocktails that got me through the day, so I could share them with you when I decided to be a sane person again.  To make up for lost time, today, I offer you TWO new juice recipes.  Yes, that's right: two.

Neon plum-drunk creation!  Mwuahaha!

A dear friend of mine recently suggested I add in some solid food recipes to shake up all the juicing recipe posts, and I agree.  I should also show the world the wonderful vegan plant-based goodness that I consume and create at dinner time on the regular...but the lighting in my kitchen really sucks by 6pm!  It really discourages me from sharing.  In any event, I will soon start sharing more foodie type delights...but for now...juice!  (And get yo' self some gin...its been one of those weeks!)

Awww, the plums 'er cuddlin'!

Last week, red plums were on sale at Whole Foods.  I had no idea what they tasted like or if they would juice well...I was slightly apprehensive as the sticker said both "red plum" and "prune"...yuck.  But, as any cheap thrifty shopper knows, when it's on sale, sometimes you just gotta try it.  Into the cart they went, and thank heavens because they are freaking delicious.   This juice ended up giving me a rainbow of love (see pic above) in a glass, which was just what I needed to make me feel better.

Note: I used baby spinach is this recipe...if you find your juicer is protesting the light and leafy greens, feel free to use romaine or kale...just note kale has a more intense leafy green flavor. Romaine is pretty legit though.  I now have "Too Legit" stuck in my head...I may or may not be doing the hand motions...moving on! 

Plum Drunk Love Juice
*Makes one big-ass glass of gorgeous juice.  Drink responsibly. 

2 ripe red plums, pitted
2 cups baby spinach
4 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 apple
1 orange, peeled
1/2 cup coconut water

To Make:  Run all ingredients through your juicer, except the coconut water.  Run your pulp back through the juicer to get some extra juice, if so desired.  With the juicer still running, run the coconut water through the juicer and into your glass.  Serve over ice and smile. =)

Another one of my favorite recipes from this week was ironically created the day I found out I was not getting axed at work.  (Always a good thing)  It happens to have grapes in in an attempt to be punny, I offer you a grapeful treat! ha!  Ahh, that one never gets old for me.  I do love a good pun...and so often in speech they are made in vain...thank goodness for blogs about juice...and grapes.  Enjoy!

Feeling Grapeful Sweet Green Juice
*Makes just over one 16oz glass of juice.  Sip and feel grapeful (ha!  See what I did there??) for the blessings in your life.  Namaste, lemons into lemonade, and all that jazz, etc.

1 cup red seedless grapes, removed from stems
4 large kale leaves
1 orange, peeled
1 red apple
2 cucumbers
1/4 cup coconut water

To Make: Run all ingredients through your juicer, except coconut water.  Run pulp back through juicer to get every last bit of goodness if you so desire.  With the juicer still running, pour the coconut water through your juicer and into your glass.  Sip, smile, relax, and feel goooooood!

Have a wonderful week kiddos, I'm off to do some power flow yoga...hopefully all this pent-up stress doesn't manifest into yoga rage again.  On the other hand, could be fun.  Juice up and enjoy!  Holla!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Seitan Stuffed and Roasted Bell Peppers

My life's mission over the past few years has been to make an edible the perfect bell pepper...the perfect stuffed bell pepper to be more specific.   I am proud to say...I have done it!  Well, it's not perfect but it's dern tasty!  And vegan to boot!  Holla!

You will see, this dish calls for brown rice, but quinoa would be an equally delicious substitute (hello complete protein!).

Ok, ok, so in the name of honesty, I must admit, before this recipe, I had never made an edible batch of stuffed bell peppers.  I know, its tragic.  The first time I made bell peppers, I had just moved in with my husband and I was still learning the most basic concepts of cooking...let's just say we ate a lot of cold cuts back then!

One particular evening, I tried my hand at stuffed peppers.  A good friend of mine always made these beautiful,  stuffed green and red bell peppers that wowed the dinner crowd at pot lucks.  I was determined to wow my husband and make a culinary creation I was actually proud to put on the table.  I whipped them up and they were gorgeous...well, gorgeous looking.  Brightly colored and overflowing with juicy filling.

We cut into them and took a bite...and nothing.  I've had bad food in my day, but rarely have I had something that litterally tastes like nothing.  I take that back.  They were reminiscent of cardboard.  Stale and extremely lackluster.  So sad.  After about 10 tablespoons of salt, my husband choked one down and asked for another to make me feel better.  I waved my internal white flag and did not attempt stuffed peppers again until about a year ago...and they were a mild improvement.  We avoided sandwiches..but only because I didn't have bread.  Therefore, I can't even say the decision to eat them was voluntary.  Seriously, the bell pepper has plagued me.

But no more!  No sir.  Not up in here!!! I have finally devised a recipe that even my bell pepper fearing husband and my serious scary bell pepper complex couldn't touch.  Ha!  Take that bell pepper curse!  These are delish...nanny-nanny-boo-boo!!

In addition to being tasty, these are super easy to make and freeze wonderfully! Make a batch of them on Sunday, cover them in the fridge and bake em up on a moment's notice during the week for an easy, quick dinner.  If you've had a stuffed bell pepper complex or fear, these bad boys are for you!!

Alrighty then, let's chat ingredients shall we?  If you haven't noticed from the title, these bad boys have seitan in them!  (I am still not entirely sure how to pronounce this vegan husband calls it "satan" to be funny...I'm going to assume that is not how it's supposed to be pronounced).  Basically, seitan is wheat gluten.  It's a great meat substitute if you aren't crazy about soy...but be warned, this is wheat gluten.  If you have gluten allergies, you might want to substitute something else in seitan's place.

See?  Not so scary, now is it!  And c'mon, who doesn't love foods with a mustache man on the cover?

In this recipe, I used san marzano tomato sauce...holy cannoli.  I know this sauce is pricey, but it's so tasty if you aren't going to make the sauce yourself.  Yummy yummy yummy!

Ok, ok, get to cookin'!

Seitan Stuffed and Roasted Bell Peppers
*Makes four stuffed bell pepper halves. I love using red peppers for this dish.  Sweet and satisfying! Serve with a simple green salad topped with a sweet salsa, like mango (pictured above).  The sweet/spicy really compliments the peppers!

2 red bell peppers, cut in half, seeds and membranes removed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/8 cup diced bell pepper (I used red bells - this is a very full 1/8 cup)
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package crumbled seitan, I used Upton's Naturals
3 green onions, diced
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp agave
salt and pepper to taste
Daiya cheese, mozzarella shreds

To Make:
1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut bell peppers in half and remove seeds and membranes, leaving them hollow.

2.  Heat the coconut oil over medium heat.  Add onion and red bell pepper.  Saute 2 minutes, or until onion is soft and starts to look translucent.  Add garlic, saute for additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring so the garlic doesn't burn.

3.  Add in the crumbled seitan and green onions.  Saute for 1-2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add in the brown rice, marinara sauce, basil, oregano, and agave.  Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes allowing the flavors to develop a bit.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  I used nearly 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, so feel free to season liberally to taste.  How much you use will greatly depend on the marinara you choose.

4.  Remove from the heat.  Place the 4 hollowed out bell peppers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Fill each with 1/4 of the filling, and top with Daiya cheese shreds.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly shriveled and soft.  *Note: Daiya cheese does get a melty stretchy texture just like regular dairy cheese but you can't really tell by looking at it.  Careful not to burn your peppers waiting for the "melt"!

6.  Serve with a big 'ole salad and enjoy =)

Did you know that green bell peppers are not-quite-ripe red and yellow bell peppers? Me neither!  A little lesson I learned from Kris Carr.  That woman is fantastic.  Just sayin'!

Do you have a stuffed pepper horror story?  Tell me!  I'd love to hear someone else struggled to master these tricky beasts!!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Watermelon Mint Chiller Juice (2 Ways) + The Great Outdoors

Holy cannoli, it's hot this summer!  I find myself doing more yoga and less running because it's just too darn hot to be outside.  This weekend, to escape the heat, we got out of the city and relaxed in the great outdoors.  We went camping! (i.e. we rented a cabin and played outside all's really the only way to camp with a two year old!)

We had an absolute blast.  I had the best intentions to take pictures of all the vegan deliciousness I was eating over the weekend, but real life proved more important than photos of food.

 Notice the little hand, stealing my pre-breakfast snack!! Sneaky little booger! =)

I got a picture of my quick, early morning pre-hike snack, a fresh fruit medley I brought for snacking, and my fire-side delight...Octoberfest!  That's right people, Fall is almost always know its close when the fall craft beers start making their grocery store debut!

In addition to hiking, my toddler learned to "feesh" and enjoyed dancing and running around outside to his little heart's content!  I do love the great outdoors!  I can't wait until he's old enough to go tent camping.  I just wasn't quite brave enough to try it just yet!  Maybe next summer =)

As I started my week back in 100+ degree weather, I was missing the cool, crisp weather of northern Arizona.  I had a hankerin' for a cool summer treat, but I also had to get my daily juice fix in.  Enter, the Watermelon Mint Chiller Juice.  I made this green, crisp delight two ways.  One with a subtle mint flavor and one with a strong, seriously mojito-reminiscent mint bite.  Either way, this juice will leave you hydrated and refreshed...just what you need in the heat of the summah!

Watermelon Mint Chiller Juice (mellow mint version)
*Makes two to three 16oz glasses of juice, depending on your juicer.

3 cucumbers, peeled
1/5 pineapple, cut into chunks or strips
1/4 small, seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks
3 large kale leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint (*See recipe for stronger flavor below)
1/4 cup coconut water

To Make:
1. Place all ingredients except the coconut water through the juicer.  *Note, if you have a high speed juicer, you will want to make the stronger mint version below, as the mint can clog up the juicer.  Running the mint through in this recipe is recommended for slower motion, masticating, or auger juicers.

2. After all your fruits and veggies are run through your juicer, pour the coconut water through the juicer, while the juicer is still running, and into your glass/pitcher.   Garnish with a sprig of mint, and enjoy! =)

Now, this recipe isn't quite fresh enough for true mint lovers (husband..*cough cough*).  If that is the case, follow this version below for a real summer treat!
*Note, this version tastes yummy with a splash of rum...think super healthy mojito...just sayin'!

Watermelon Mint Chiller Juice (mega mint version)
*Makes two to three 16oz glasses of juice, depending on your juicer

Same as above, but reduce fresh mint to 1/4 cup

To Make:
1. In your juice container or individual glasses, muddle the mint with 1 tbsp of the coconut water until smashed but not pulverized.  You just want to crush it a bit to release the flavor.  If you don't have a muddler, the handle end of any kitchen utensil will work in a pinch (just make sure you aren't holding the blade of a knife to use the handle, etc!)

2. Push the cukes, pineapple, watermelon, celery and kale through the juicer.  Break celery and kale into smaller chunks if you have a slow motion juicer to avoid tangles and backups.

3. Once all your veggies have gone through the juicer, with the juicer still running, pour the coconut water through the juicer and into your glass!

4.  If you had your muddled mint on the bottom of your juice catching container, mix with a large spoon to blend the mint flavor.  If you put the mint in individual glasses, pour the juice over the mint and mix with a spoon to disperse the mint flavor.

Note:  This juice is best enjoyed fresh!  Mint tends to bruise and blacken over time once it's muddled.

We hope you had a fantastic weekend!  Stay cool and hydrated this summer =)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Peach-berry Silk Greenie (Smoothie)

There is a reason I am not a hand judging!

The weekend is almost here!  The weekend is almost here!   And that means a couple things: 1. My brain is a bit fried and this post won't take long (hold your applause and questions until the end of the post please hehe) 2. I need to start my day off right today so I don't start the weekend early by visiting Chipotle for a veggie salad instead of eating my pre-packed healthy lunch and 3. We're going camping in just a few short hours!  Woo!!

In the theme of all things green, peaceful and outdoorsy, I whipped up a faboosh start to my day that is sweet, packed with serious veggies, and oh so silky smooth!  I give you the Peach-berry Silk Greenie.  Ain't she cute??? =)

This smoothie is packed with amazing ingredients to replenish, rehydrate, and restore (this might be a good follow up concoction to a weekend long running/drinking event in NOLA that a good friend of mine may, or may not, be participating in...*cough cough*)

Let's talk ingredients follks.  I tell ya, the more and more I look into food production and ingredients, I get more and more terrified and angry everyday.  It's amazing what goes into things we are told are "safe" or "healthy".  Many of our fav fruits and veggies are covered in food-grade wax, most almond, coconut, and soy milks have a thickening agent called Carageenan in them that has been linked to a host of health problems and cancer (eek! For more info, OhSheGlows wrote a great post about carageenan here), and don't even get me started on factory farming.  Now, that's some seriously sad stuff.  *Ok, soap-box rant over.  Thank you! hehe*

Over time, I have found my favorite products that are better for me and my family, many of which avoid pesky sneaky ingredients that can be harmful.  For my smoothies, I really love the Whole Foods 365 Brand Almond Milks.  No Carageenan!  I also make almond milk myself in my juicer.  I am terrible at using nut milk bags (hehe) so the blender method isn't my fav.  I'll post a tutorial on nut milks with a masticating juicer soon...when I get the  motivation to make some more!

As for produce, the Environmental Working Group has compiled a fantastic list of fruits and veggies that are the most and least pesticide sprayed to help you choose when to buy organic, if you so desire.   It's called the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen...sounds fantastic and racy huh?? =)  I put this list in a note file on my cell phone so I can easily access it at the grocery store.  Basically, my method is I buy organic when I can afford it for the Dirty Dozen, and buy regular ole produce for the Clean Fifteen almost all the time.  Either way, I always wash my produce and peel most waxy veggies.

Clean Fifteen                                                              Dirty Dozen
Onions                                                                         Peaches
Avocados                                                                    Apples
Sweet Corn                                                                 Bell Peppers
Pineapple                                                                    Celery
Mangos                                                                       Nectarines
Asparagus                                                                   Strawberries
Sweet Peas                                                                  Cherries
Kiwi                                                                            Kale
Cabbage                                                                      Lettuce
Eggplant                                                                      Grapes
Papayas                                                                       Carrots
Watermelon                                                                 Pears
Sweet Potatoes

Buying organic can get pricey.  Buying organic, non-GMO frozen fruits and veggies are a great way to save money.  You can use what you need (they are pre-frozen for smoothies) and keep the rest safe and fresh in the freezer until you need them next.  Less waste, more nutrition!  Yea baby!

Ok, ok, I promise the health lesson is almost over!

Today's smoothie is a miracle.  It's smooth and creamy but loaded with tons of tasty and nutritious stuff!  I added hemp protein powder to mine, but feel free to leave it out if you aren't a huge fan of protein powders.  Hemp protein does have a different texture to it than most protein powders.  Maybe stir or whisk some into a small amount of your smoothie to see if you enjoy it before adding it to the entire blender full!

Peach-berry Silk Greenie (smoothie)
*Makes two 16 oz smoothies, and enough left over for my toddler's cup =)

1/4 cup frozen raspberries
3/4 cup frozen peaches (about 1 peach)
1 ripe banana, frozen
1/2 avocado
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup kale, torn into pieces
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup coconut water
2 tbsp hemp protein powder, or protein powder of choice
1 tbsp agave syrup or pure maple syrup

To make: Pour almond milk and coconut water into your blender first (always!  This keeps the fruit from freezing into a big hard block that can't be blended!).  Add all other ingredients raspberries, peaches, banana, avocado, spinach, kale, hemp protein and agave, into the blender.  Mix on medium speed until everything starts to combine, then blend on high for 1-2 minutes or until smooth and creamy.  Pour and enjoy!

If you prefer a sweeter smoothie, feel free to up the agave to 2 tbsp.

We make smoothies a family affair!  Smoothies for everayboday!

Have a wonderful weekend!  Pics of how I stayed vegan in the great outdoors next week! =)