Vegan Peanut Nutter Butter Crispie Bars

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Despite being MIA the past few weeks, I have no doubt been cooking and eating up a storm. I recently visited one of my favorite cities, Madison, WI, where I enjoyed testing out new eateries such as The Spot, Alchemy, and Marigold Cafe. All were pretty good, but the latter two were especially great.

Last night I whipped up a batch of these awesome bars. Yet, I must warn you, these are far from healthy and are quite addicting. With that in mind, these are great for gatherings and are a total hit with non-veg folk. It is reminiscent of a scotcheroo or special-k bar. Definitely worth trying!

Ingredients
- 1 package (16oz) Nutter Butter cookies
- 4 1/2 c puffed brown rice/rice crispies
- 1 c corn/brown rice syrup
- 1 stick butter (Earth Balance)
- 1 c lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 c unsalted peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla

1. In a food processor, chop the cookies into a crumble
2. Add Nutter Butter cookie crumble with the puffed rice and set aside
3. In a small pan, melt the butter and then add the corn syrup and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add peanut butter and vanilla
4. Once all of the sauce ingredients have blended together, add to the cookie/rice mixture
5. Transfer into a greased 9×14 pan and chill in the freezer. After the bars set you can add the optional topping
6. Topping: Melt 1/2 bag of chocolate chips on the stove. Spread on top of the bars. Let cool and harden before cutting

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Siete de Mayo!

So, first of all, my detox too a detour. Apologies to those who were following. A three day detox is a noble one though! It definitely helped realign my focus and drive to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. So that’s a plus.

Secondly, I totally missed out on Cinco de Mayo. I usually like posting fun, festive foods, and here it is, just a few days late. I made a version of Vegan Richa’s pulled butternut squash tacos. Below is my spin on the recipe. I will definitely make these again. They turned out awesome.

Ingredients

- 1-2lbs butternut squash, shredded
- oil
- garlic powder
- salt
- packet of organic Southwest Taco mix
- 1/4 c bbq sauce
- 1/4 c Drew’s Smoked Tomato Sauce

1. Sauté squash in a little oil, garlic powder and salt
2. Mix taco seasoning, bbq sauce and Drew’s Smoked Tomato sauce in a separate bowl. Use about 1/4 c of the spiced paste and add it to the skilled
3. If necessary, add 2-3 Tbls water
4. Simmer until squash is tender
5. Serve on corn tortillas with your favorite taco fixings!

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Raw Cleanse: Day 3

Day 3 has also been tough, however, I have been busy with interviews and running around, so I haven’t had much time to notice. I mixed things up this morning by making a banana smoothie (1 frozen banana, ground flax, peanut butter and coconut water).

For lunch, I had these awesome ‘Better Than Walking Tacos’

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The recipe is very simple. Pulse together 1 c raw walnuts, 1 c mushroom of choice (I used shiitake), 1 Tbls bragg’s aminos, and spices of your choosing. I used chili, cumin and cayenne. Once your mixture is crumbled, spoon into mini-peppers. Top with cilantro and dip in whipped avo or fresh salsa!

Dinner will be these wonderful zucchini lasagna creations

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Prior to making these, I encourage that you invest in a mandolin. This piece of equipment will help you uniformly slice the zukes. As you can see, I do not have said equipment and my knife skills are shoddy, but improving, slowly.

I decided to peel the second batch of ‘lasagna’ layers, totally up to you. The skin brings nice color and obviously has added nutrients.

Here is what you need for the filling…

Cashew Cheese
- 2/3 c raw cashews
- 3 Tbls nutritional yeast
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 clove of garlic
- salt to taste
- water

1. Puree ingredients in a processor until you reach a desired consistency

Sun-Dried Tomato and Broccoli Pesto
- 1/2 head broccoli
- 4 slices of oil-packed sun-dried tomato
- 1 tsp oil from jar
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 c shiitake mushrooms (optional)
- salt to taste

1. Pulse until everything is combined

Alternate layers with cheese/pesto spreads. Feel free to add other veggies in along the way. Enjoy!

Raw Cleanse: Day 2

Day 2, infamous Day 2. Today, I struggled. I had a pear and banana salad for breakfast. Mid-day I sipped on a carrot/orange/apple/lemon/ginger juice. By the afternoon I was ravenous. Oops. Major mistake: going too long without eating. For lunch I had a simple garden salad (lettuce/carrots/cucumber/green onion) along with some leftover pasta from last night. You know what would’ve helped? These:

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This image isn’t exact to the bites that I made today…but…pretty close. Again, carrying nuts, dried fruit and veggies along really helps.

The Simple Veganista has a ton of great recipes, some of which are raw. Hoorah! I played around with her almond vanilla bites and below is what I came up with. These are great to have on hand when you’re feeling an “OMG, I need to eat something, NOW” moment.

Another note, for future cleanse success, it is crucial to have a plan to follow. I’m hoping you can draw from these meal plans for ideas, inspiration and encouragement!

Almond Vanilla Chocolate Chip Energy Bites
- 1 c raw almonds
- 1/2 c oats
- 2 Tbls almond butter
- 1 Tbls peanut butter
- 3 Tbls maple syrup (or raw honey to be technical)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 c dates, soaked
- 2 Tbls water
- dash of salt
- 1/4 c carob chips

1. Place all ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until everything is well combined. Roll into bite-sized pieces and place in the freezer. Enjoy when needed!

Raw Cleanse: Day 1

Before you dive into a raw cleanse, or any cleanse for that matter, let me ask why are you doing this? Oftentimes people attempt cleanses and quickly become discouraged. Others will complete the cleanse then revert to old habits. And some are completely ok with doing this. For example, before social gatherings or hitting the beach, people want to feel detoxified and healthy. My encouragement is to take what you’ve learned during that time and continue on with it.

For me, this particular raw cleanse is a reminder of how great I felt this summer (when I was mostly raw) and how much I love to be challenged in creating food in new ways. I know after this week, I’ll go back to my veg lifestyle, however it’s my goal to work towards a half raw, half cooked.

The morning started off with a fresh juice full of kale, cilantro, cucumber, lime, celery and pineapple. Quite possibly one of my favorite juices ever. At work, I sampled a few of our fresh cold-pressed juices and ate these wonderful sweet potato noodles with a miso-peanut sauce.

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Dinner consisted of a creamy zucchini pasta with red peppers

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And for dessert, I loaded up on my paleo bites!

Sweet Potato Noodles with Miso-Peanut Sauce

Ingredients
- 1 sweet potato, spiralized
- 2-3 Tbls peanut butter
- 1-2 tsp raw honey
- 1 tsp miso
- 1 tsp tamari
- small piece of fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- water to thin to desired consistency
- spring onion and nuts for garnish

1. Blend ingredients in a food processor, pour over noodles. Enjoy!

Creamy Zucchini Pasta with Red Peppers

Ingredients
- 2 zucchini
- 3 mini red peppers, chopped
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled
- juice 1 lemon
- lemon infused olive oil, about 1 tsp
- handful of cilantro
- water to thin to desired consistency
- salt/pepper to taste

1. Spiralize the zucchini and add peppers, set aside
2. Blend the remaining ingredients, pour over pasta.

Raw Kale Caesar Salad

I had the privilege in teaching a cooking class a few weeks ago and one of the meals I prepped was a Raw Kale Caesar Salad. The recipe I made tonight is slightly different than the one I made for the class. It turned out really well. The key is a strong amount of cracked black pepper.
If you aren’t keen on raw kale, feel free to steam or sauté for a few minutes. However, you may be surprised at how well a little salt, oil and elbow grease can tenderize the kale pieces. Either way, this is a great recipe to try out!

Ingredients
- 1 bunch of lacinato kale
- 1 avocado
- juice of 1 meyer lemon
- 1 tsp vegan Worschestire sauce (Annie’s is a great brand)
- 1-2 Tbls nutritional yeast
- 3/4 c water
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- a lot of cracked black pepper (I just did an add to taste, but I used quite a bit)
- green onion for garnish

1. De-stem the kale and tear into bite size pieces. In a large bowl, add a little oil and salt to the kale pieces. Massage generously for 5-10 minutes until the kale is tender. Rinse the oiled kale, drain and return to a clean bowl
2. In a food processor/blender, puree all of the dressing ingredients. Pour dressing amount over kale until all of the pieces are coated (*If you like a well dressed salad, use all of the dressing, otherwise use about half and test it out)
3. Top with chickpeas or any other desired protein to make this a complete meal

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Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Round two for Easter desserts included these healthy and delicious banana cupcakes which I found courtesy of one of my favorite blogs. And rather than using the frosting, I opted for a glossy ganache. The downside was my ganache didn’t have the consistency and gloss I was going for. However, using the garnishes helped with this!

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Ingredients
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 c flour
- 1/4 c canola oil
- 1 c white sugar
- 1 c almond milk
- 1 Tbls baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp apple cider

1. In one bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the oil, milk, vanilla and apple cider
2. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and sugar
3. Add the sugary mashed bananas to the oil mixture, use the hand mixer to get everything extra smooth
4. And in a third bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Yields about 18 cupcakes

Chocolate Ganache
- 1/3 c almond milk
- 1/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 Tbls maple syrup

1. Bring almond milk to a boil, add the chips and syrup, stir until smooth
2. Remove from heat and let sit for several minutes, until thick and glossy
3. Dip the cupcakes into the ganache, top with desired treats. I used dried bananas and walnuts

Easter Banana Cake

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I was invited to join my friend and her family this Easter and I offered to provide the dessert. I had two recipes in mind, one being this two-layer banana cake with penuche frosting. I modified it slightly to incorporate my friend’s maple syrup, which we spent hours cooking down the previous day.

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The toughest part with this cake was waiting several hours before tasting it. I typically prefer testing recipes before sharing them with a large group of people, but I rolled the baking dice and odds were in my favor. It was a hit!

Ingredients

- 1 c sugar
- 1/2 c maple syrup
- 1/2 c butter, room temperature
- 2 eggs, separated
- 2 bananas, mashed
- 1/2 c buttermilk
- 1 2/3 c white flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- chopped walnuts and dehydrated banana for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350F
2. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Next, add the following ingredients one at a time until they’re incorporated: maple syrup, egg yolks, bananas, and buttermilk
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients. Add to the wet mixture
4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, and fold into the batter
5. Spray an 8″ or 9″ cake pan with cooking spray. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean

Penuche Frosting

- 1/2 c butter
- 1/4 c milk
- 1 c light brown sugar
- 2 c powdered sugar

1. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a pan for 2 minutes, stir continuously
2. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Continue stirring. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm
3. In a mixer, slowly add powdered sugar to the butter/sugar mixture
4. This batch of frosting just covered the cake. Using garnish helped for spots that weren’t as thick as I’d have liked

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Cocoa Cinnamon Almonds and Spicy Maple Glazed Almonds

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I swear I must have been a squirrel in my former life. I am absolutely in love with nuts! They are a great way to acquire a protein fix, get a boost of energy, or dress up meals like salads and smoothies.

Today I went for a rich and dark cocoa dusted almond with notes of cinnamon and a sweet and spicy almond with sweetness from local maple syrup. While I enjoyed the rich cocoa dusted almonds, the spicy maple glazed were my favored batch. Definitely give these recipes a try!

Cocoa Cinnamon Almonds

- 1 c raw almonds
- 2 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 Tbls cocoa
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt

1. Roast almonds in oven at 350F for about 10 minutes
2. Transfer to a small pan, add honey and vanilla until coated
3. In a ziplock back, add cocoa, cinnamon and salt, shake until they’re well combined. Next, add the almonds. Shake, again, and let cool on a sheet pan

Spicy Maple Glazed Almonds
- 2 1/2 c raw almonds
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp maple extract
- 1 Tbls maple syrup
- 1/4 c sugar
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1/2-1 tsp sea salt

1. Roast almonds on a sheet pan at 350F for 10 minutes
2. In a pot, add oil, extract and syrup. Add almonds, stir until coated
3. Combine sugar, cayenne and salt into a tupperware/pyrex container or something with a lid
3. Transfer almonds into sugar mixture, shake until all almonds are coated. Let cool on a sheet pan

A Night in the Life of a Caterer

I’ve been working at a local natural foods store in town and we often cater events such as conferences and weddings. Last weekend we catered a dinner for a Wellness Retreat at the nearby hotel. The menu consisted of a spring salad
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sous vide chicken (sorry, not veg)
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and chocolate avocado mousse
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I was in charge of the latter, the dessert. I have attended many conferences and weddings in my day, and I knew the staff behind the scenes put forth a lot of work, but I never realized just how much work went into preparing and executing such an event takes.
In the end, it was truly a remarkable experience. I worked a 60 hour work week and tested over 10 varieties of mousse before settling on this one. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Ingredients
- 1 can coconut milk
- 10 cardamom pods, crushed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 avocadoes
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 c cocoa powder
- 1-2 tsp grand marnier
- juice and zest from 1 blood orange
- 4 Tbls agave
- 1 Tbls maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt

1. Simmer coconut milk with cardamom and cinnamon for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain spices, reserve 1/3 c
2. Blend 1/3 c coconut spiced milk mixture with remaning ingredients. Chill overnight. Garnish with mint and candied blood orange