Potato Salad with Fennel, Lemon, and Dill

This square meal is a game-changer!  When I first developed my potato salad formula, I knew it was good, but it wasn’t until I whipped up today’s version that I really fell in love.  Something about the combination of raw fennel, lemon, and dill just says summer.

That taste/feeling of summer is fresh, with bright, light flavors.  In a dish like potato salad that is dense and creamy, this balance is so important, especially when you’re lugging a heavy bowl of the stuff to a hot backyard barbecue.  In addition, if you’ve tried making my potato salad before, you know that unlike its mayo-based distant relatives, mine won’t get all funky after sitting in an outdoor buffet for a couple hours.  Woo!

What’s more, when it comes to my food, the approval of my family and friends means a lot.  I don’t need it per se, but it certainly reaffirms why I take the time try new recipes and write about what I’m eating:  I really have an opportunity to educate others about healthy eating…and share with the world that despite what you may have heard, vegan food is ABSOLUTELY delicious and satisfying.

I write all of this because my brother-in-law, who may as well have started fan club for mayo lovers, put his stamp of approval on today’s recipe.  This is HUGE!

The star in today’s potato salad is fresh fennel.  I love to eat the bulb—the most commonly consumed part of fennel—in a number of ways, but this recipe utilizes only the stalks and fronds (you could use the bulb instead/as well).  I keep it simple with thin slices and mix right in.  Fennel—which looks like a standard vegetable but is actually an herb—is loaded with fiber and potassium, but is notable primarily for its digestive benefits.  Fennel can relieve bloating and gas, as well as stimulate appetite and digestion.  I once visited a vegan restaurant where fennel seeds were served after our meal for this very purpose.

fennel

The last item I want to mention is that I don’t use processed, mock mayonnaise products to substitute for the real deal (I also don’t used processed “cheeses” and “meats” either); I find plant-based whole foods that can be transformed without preservatives, chemical additives, or excess salt to satisfy the craving for animal-based counterparts.  This requires more time in the kitchen, but it is often less expensive, and more importantly, I like to know what I’m eating.  🙂

You.  Will.  Love.  This.  Recipe.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: POTATO SALAD

Serves 4-6

  • 2 pounds potatoes –> I’m using russets.
  • 2 cups diced raw vegetables –> I’m using the stalks and fronds of one medium-sized bulb of fennel and approximately ¼ cup of sliced green onion.
  • A double batch of my creamy salad dressing (see below)
  • ¼ cup crunch (raw seeds, nuts, etc.) (optional) –> I’m not using any since the raw fennel is quite crunch itself.

For the dressing (NOTE: Formula already doubled below.):

  • ½ cup seed or nut butter –> I’m using cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight and blend with just enough water to form a thick cream).
  • 5 tbsps acid (citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, or a combination) –> I’m 1 ½ tbsps of whole grain mustard, plus the zest and juice of 1 lemon.
  • Thinning liquid as needed (ideas:homemade veggie stock, water, or more acid) –> I’m not using any.
  • Up to 4 tbsps raw garlic and/or fresh/dried herbs and/or spices (optional) –> I’m using ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, and 1 tsp dried dill.
  • 1-2 tsps sweetener (optional) –> I’m not using any.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using ½ tsp salt and several turns of freshly ground black pepper.

Thoroughly wash your potatoes so that you can keep the skin on. Chop into bite size pieces and steam, boil, or roast (I’m roasting). While your potatoes are cooking, make your dressing. Cover and place in the fridge for the flavors to come together.

When your potatoes are done cooking, drain (if necessary) and place in a glass bowl to chill in the fridge, at least to room temperature. While the potatoes are cooling, chop your veggies and crunch element, if using.  After the potatoes have cooled sufficiently, pour your dressing on top and stir gently to combine. Enjoy for several days (if you have any leftovers!).

potato salad

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Cookie Dough Truffles, Take Two

It’s been a while since my three-year-old ate beans other than in tofu. It’s also been a while since I whipped up a batch of my cookie dough truffles. Thankfully, I can solve both problems with one delicious and nutritious treat!

The first time I made these truffles, I used peanut butter and garbanzo beans as the base. This time, I’m using sunflower butter (which has also made appearances in my power balls and bars) and great northern beans. Like many beans, great northerns are jam-packed with fiber, protein, iron, and folate. Beans are a true super food and incredibly versatile. They’d have to be if I’m using them in dessert, right?!

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Please excuse the mushed appearance of these beans, which came from a can. Remember, always try to buy dry beans and soak and sprout/cook them yourself. I am working on finding a system that works for me, but for whatever reason, I have a terrible time digesting beans that I’ve prepared. They are the only item I buy canned, ideally organic and/or with no salt added whenever possible.

Anywho, today’s PSA aside, we are ready to roll, literally! These truffles make for an easy snack for humans big and small…

…or, dip them in melted dark chocolate, let harden, and bring to a party. I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they can’t get enough of my food and then I tell them it’s vegan. Since when is vegan food supposed to be repulsive?! 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: COOKIE DOUGH TRUFFLES

Yields 16-20 balls

  • 1 ½ cups cooked or sprouted white beans (e.g. garbanzo, great northern, cannellini, etc.) –> I’m using great northern.
  • ½ cup seed or nut butter (nuts/seeds ONLY) –> I’m using sunflower.
  • 1/8 cup+ liquid sweetener (e.g. agave syrup, maple syrup, etc.) –> I’m using pure maple syrup.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using homemade vanilla.
  • Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt (optional) –> I’m opting out.
  • ½ cup chips (e.g. chocolate, dried fruit, chopped nuts, etc.) –> I’m using a heaping ¼ cup of mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan). This time around, my dough was a tad too sticky to roll, so I also added ¼ cup ground flaxseed and unsweetened desiccated coconut (I keep both on hand in my pantry at all times).

Combine all ingredients—except the chips—in a food processor and run until smooth.

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Transfer dough into a bowl and stir in chips. Using a melon baller or teaspoon, form into balls and roll in your hands until smooth.Ready to eat immediately! Store leftovers in the fridge.

 

 

Back-to-School Power Balls

Truthfully, these are anytime super food snacks, but I made them specifically to send Nolan off to summer camp at his new school, so alas, the title of this post.  If you’ve already tried making them, you know that my power balls are filling enough that two or three make for a solid snack, and sweet enough (but not too sweet) that they could practically pass for healthy truffles.  They are the ultimate school snack and one that I’m sure Nolan’s friends will have their eyes on.

There’s nothing unusual or new to report with this version, as these power balls include all ingredients you’ve seen in my previous posts.  The star today is sunflower butter—which made its first appearance in my dark chocolate sea salt power bars—since it is nut-allergy friendly.  Many schools have strict rules about peanuts on campus, making sunflower seeds an excellent alternative.

Using a melon baller, I made these power balls extra small so that they are bite-size for Nolan and easy to snack on between activities.  I’ll admit, whipping these up takes a lot more time than picking up a box of fruit snacks at the grocery store, but it’s well worth providing my kids the best nutrition possible to get through their busy days.

Looking for a different shape and slightly different formula?  Check out my power bars!

FORMULA BASE:  POWER BALLS

Makes 12-14 small balls (or 20-ish mini-balls)

For the dough:

  • 1 cup nut or seed butter (nuts/seeds only) –>  I’m using sunflower.
  • 1 cup uncooked whole grains –>  I’m using rolled oats.
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit (without added oil) –>  I’m using 6 small pitted medjool dates.
  • 2 tbsps natural liquid sweetener –>  I’m using 1 tbsp agave syrup.*
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Garnish ideas (approximately 4 tbsps):

  • Raw seeds -> I’m using 2 tbsps of ground flaxseed.
  • Raw finely chopped nuts
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes -> I’m using 2 tbsps of unsweetened, desiccated coconut.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Finely chopped unsweetened dried fruit bits (without added oil)
  • Melted dark chocolate (which will re-solidify after dipping)

*I cut 1 tbsp of sweetener because the sun butter I happen to be using was pre-sweetened.  I never buy nut or seed butters that contain added salt, oil, or sugar, but the lady that used to watch my kids had an excess of sun butter that she was concerned would go to waste.  I’m not going to pass up free plant-based butters (which can be quite expensive), so I needed to adjust my formula today.  🙂

Turn your whole grains into flour using your food processor or blender. You could also use rolled oats as is. The texture of the balls will be different, but rolled oats are one of few grains soft enough to be palatable without becoming flour.

Combine the flour and your remaining ingredients in a food processor. Run until a thick, pliable dough forms. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula at least once.

Shape the dough into 1-1 ½ inch balls and roll in garnish.

garnish

Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge.

power balls

Sweet Cherry Nice Cream

My little family and I returned from a trip to Michigan a few weeks ago and the boys developed colds just a few days later.  I know from growing up in The Mitten that the weather patterns can be unpredictable, but I truly didn’t expect snow in the middle of May.  🙂

Nolan, like many little ones, I assume, is not one for much eating when he isn’t feeling well, especially if he’s complaining of a sore throat.  I didn’t have to think too long about a special treat that I knew would cheer him up and provide him essential nutrients:  nice cream!

My nice cream formula is easy to make if you have some frozen bananas on hand, which I typically always do.  In a recent Bountiful Basket, we ordered thirty-eight pounds of bananas, most of which we peeled, chunked, and froze.  I’m ready to whip up nice cream at a moment’s notice!

I decided to make this batch using cherries, for a few reasons.  First of all, cherries are in season now.  I wish I could have brought some back from Michigan—the United States capital of cherries, if you didn’t already know—but my family spoiled my boys with nearly more gifts than I could transport back to Arizona, so I bought some here instead.  🙂  Secondly, cherries are loaded with antioxidants and known to aid with sleep, which the boys tend to get less of when they aren’t feeling well.  This nice cream was bound to be a win-win before the fruit hit the blender.  Lastly, I missed cherries!  Haven’t done much with them since my first-ever pie from scratch.  We were overdue for more cherry deliciousness.

I topped Nolan’s nice cream with vegan whipped cream—made from coconut milk—but you could opt out to save on the sugar.  The splurge—which also included a melted dark chocolate bar drizzle and mini-chocolate chips—was totally worth it to see my sick babe smile.

FORMULA BASE:  NICE CREAM

Serves 3-4

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ¾-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using 1 cup of pitted sweet cherries.
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m not using any.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with just a splash) –> I’m using a touch of almond.
  • ¼ cup extras for mixing in by hand (optional) – think nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc. –> I’m topping my nice cream with mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan).

If you plan to make whipped cream to accompany your nice cream, place a mixing bowl in the fridge to chill while you prepare the other components.  Start by pitting your cherries.  This device saves some time, but your hands will do just fine.

cherry pitter

Combine all ingredients (except the extras) in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Scoop the mixture into a bowl and fold in any extras you are using by hand. Cover and place in the freezer while you prepare your toppings (if any).

Whipped coconut cream:

  • 1 can coconut cream or full fat coconut milk
  • Powdered sweetener to taste (start with ¼ cup) –> I’m using a heaping ¼ cup of powdered turbinado. You can easily make powdered sugar out of higher quality vegan sugars by using the dry blade on your Vitamix or other high powered blender.  (Remember, white, refined sugar lacks nutrients and flavor and tumbles with bone char to achieve its color.  Definitely not vegan.)
  • ¼-½ tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity) (optional) –> I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.
  • 1 pinch-¼ tsp spices (optional) –> I’m not using any.

Chill your can of coconut cream/milk in the fridge overnight. After your nice cream is tucked away in the freezer, prepare your powdered sugar and remove your chilled mixing bowl from the fridge.

Empty the can into the bowl and whip with a hand or stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about a minute. Add sweetener (and extract and spices, if using) and continue whipping until smooth and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. This whipped cream will not quite achieve the height and stiffness of dairy whipped cream, but it will become a bit fluffy nonetheless. Store any extras in the fridge.

Assemble your nice cream sundae and absolutely, enjoy!

sundae

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo

When I first developed my creamy vegetable sauce formula, I had only tried it out with eggplant and wasn’t sure it how it would work with other veggies.  Since then, every vegetable I’ve used—butternut squash, pumpkin, and now cauliflower—has been a success.  Today’s version with one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables redefines alfredo sauce.

In addition to looking the part of a traditional alfredo, cauliflower makes for a super creamy puree when doctored up with some of my favorite flavors.  On another note, you learned about the health benefits of romanesco—brother to cauliflower—in my wonton post, so you already know that including this family of vegetables in your diet is a must.

Cauliflower

Make a batch of this sauce to throw over pasta or my ridiculously easy zucchini noodles, or get adventurous and trying serving cold as a veggie dip (maybe toss with some fresh dill?  I’ll have to try it out…).  Top with fresh veggies or herbs and serve.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Yields sauce for one box of pasta

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped raw vegetables –> I’m using cauliflower.
  • ½ cup cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight, drain, and blend with just enough water to form a thick cream)
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp acid (i.e. vinegar, mustard, citrus juice, etc.) –> I’m using white whole grain mustard.
  • ¼-1 tsp seasoning (i.e. fresh/dried herbs, spices, etc.) –> I’m using ¼ tsp ground nutmeg.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste –> I’m using approximately ½ tsp salt and several turns of pepper.

Peel (if necessary) and chop your vegetables. Steam, roast, or boil (I’m steaming) to cook.

While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare your pasta of choice. When the vegetables are finished, combine with all other ingredients (except the pasta, of course!) in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

Pour atop your pasta (or use in another application) and enjoy immediately for most desirable consistency. It will keep just fine in the fridge, but will dry out a bit.

Pasta

I’m Back!

It’s been a while since I provided you an update on my postpartum progress…or since I posted anything.  Let me explain…

Since we last checked in, I am happy to report that many of the issues I had been facing since giving birth to baby Oliver have been resolved.  I got back into working out, shed another few pounds, and was starting to feel better about myself…

…until I started to have pain in my right foot.  X-rays revealed inflammation around the two small bones in the ball of my foot.  After a number of treatments and finally, a minor surgical procedure, my foot is now back to normal.  My podiatrist said that the problems were a result of being on my feet too much.  A mom with two young boys on her feet too much?!  🙂

In addition to this setback, I have been suffering from a bit of postpartum depression.  Despite being physically on the mend, I have many moments of feeling alone, lost, and disappointed in myself when I fail to balance everything in my life with a smile.  Over the last few months in particular, this feeling had been intensifying, so in addition to regularly communicating with my doctor, I knew I needed to think more about my body in order to put my mind at ease…literally.

Working out helps to improve my mood immensely.  Prior to my foot complications, I was getting up nearly every single morning, no matter how early or how tired, and getting moving before the rest of my family awoke.  Thankfully, my podiatrist cleared me to start back up again!  Sometimes I go for a jog, other times I complete a circuit on an app that I love, SWORKIT.  I heard about SWORKIT on an episode of Shark Tank.  It’s free, customizable, and contains a variety of workouts in different categories (Strength, Cardio, etc.).  I choose how long I have to work out and can easily achieve a good sweat in just fifteen to twenty minutes.

Sworkit

As you know, working out is only part of the equation.  I have found that following a plant-based diet and incorporating exercise into daily life (i.e. walking to the store instead of driving, etc.), I don’t have to work out for long or with an expensive program or gym membership to see results.  I also don’t need to count calories or worry about food portions.

You also know that I am a big proponent of consuming a diet composed of primarily raw plants.  I am truly happier and more energetic when I chow down a fruit salad or drink a green a smoothie.  I’ve noticed that on the mornings I work out after having a heavy cooked dinner the night before, my routine is more difficult and I have to stop for breaks more often.

With that said, increased physical activity comes with a need for more calories, at least for me!  So, I’ve been adding a healthy, dense, cooked protein to many of my raw salads or as a side to something else I’m eating:  I am currently obsessed with shelled edamame.

Yea, I know, word on the street is you’re not supposed to have too much soy.  Remember, my sister lives in Japan, where I’ve seen more tofu, soy sauce, miso, and tempeh in one place than I could ever eat in my lifetime and the Japanese are living long healthy lives, so I’m not going to obsess over it.  In Japan, cancer rates are lower and life expectancy is greater…something is clearly going very well over there!  Lately, I’ve been consuming roughly a half cup of shelled edamame a day, a few days a week.  I’m certain I am ok.  🙂  (Just a reminder that I am not a health care professional.  If you’re unsure about consuming soy—or any food, for that matter—ask your doctor.)

Why is this an amazing plant-based snack or meal add-on?  For one, edamame is truly a heart-healthy super food.  It is loaded with protein, fiber, manganese, copper, and vitamin K.  In addition, it is neutral in flavor, so it is adaptable in endless applications.  I throw it into salads and wraps containing both fruits and vegetables all the time.  It fills me up and provides me with the extra energy I need for increased working out as I continue to tone up my post-baby bod.  When I add it to raw plant foods, it’s just what I need to feel a little fuller with more calories to pound through my workout.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past few months:  healing, focusing on being happy, working out more, and eating edamame!  Oh, and raising those two crazy little boys I have, too.  🙂  Check out these adorable jars of plant-based goodness for Baby Oliver!

Baby Food

Recipe/formula posts (for non-babies!) to return this week!

Meaty Black Bean Burgers with Simple Avocado Sauce

If you’re a former meat eater or simply trying to consume less meat, you may find that transitioning into a vegan or vegetarian can be difficult when you’re missing comforting flavors and textures. Over four years into following a plant-based lifestyle, I now very rarely miss meat, but there are moments that the thought of something I used to eat gets my mouth watering.

I never ate much red meat in the past, but like many Americans, I did enjoy the occasional juicy hamburger. In Michigan, where I grew up, other than out at restaurants, we didn’t really eat burgers unless the weather was warm enough to grill outside. Thus, hamburgers were generally a spring/summer treat and one that I looked forward to in attending backyard barbeques.

Today’s recipe is an adaptation of my veggie burger formula that is the closest I have come so far to the taste of an all-beef patty. The combination of black beans, kaniwa, and mushrooms not only creates a beef-like appearance (you could eliminate the corn for an even more authentic look), but their marriage of flavors turned out rich and meaty, too. I made one patty to cook on the stovetop in a hot pan with a drizzle of oil and turned the rest of the burger mixture into mini-patties that I baked. Both were dense, yet easily pliable. The char I achieved on the stovetop version yielded the more meat-like flavor, if that’s what you’re going for.

Travis whipped up a simple avocado dipping sauce—which could also serve as a condiment for large patties or even a salad dressing for a side dish you’re making—for the mini-patties that really completed the dish. We were certainly satiated and had leftovers, too. For the record, after making these burgers, I didn’t miss the beef variety for a second. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  VEGGIE BURGERS

Yields 6 patties (or a varying number of bites)

  • 2 cups finely chopped or shredded raw vegetables  –>  I’m using ¼ of a large white onion, ½ cup corn, and 1 cup button mushrooms.*
  • 1 cup cooked whole grains  –>  I’m using kaniwa, cooked in water.
  • 2 cups** cooked beans or lentils  –>  I’m using canned, sodium-free black beans.  (Remember, cooking dried beans is ALWAYS healthier, but for some reason, those do not agree with my system.)
  • ¼ cup+ liquid for pureeing beans/lentils (i.e. homemade veggie stock, citrus juice, water, unsweetened and unflavored plant milk, oil, etc.)  –>  I’m using grapefruit juice. (‘Tis the season in Arizona!)
  • 1 “egg” (1 tbsp chia or flax seeds + 3 tbsps hot water)  –>  I’m using flax.
  • 2-4 cloves raw garlic  –>  I’m using 2.
  • 2 tsps herbs and spices –>  I’m using 1 tsp nutritional yeast and 1 tsp chili powder.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste  –>  I’m using ¼ tsp salt.

*Save your mushroom stems for a richer homemade veggie stock.

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**Today, I was a tad short on beans, so I added some breadcrumbs to ensure that the burgers would be hearty enough and hold together. The beauty of the Fresh Formula concept is that my formulas are super adaptable. 🙂

If you need to, cook your grains, beans, and/or lentils first.  Once they are finished, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Puree the cooked beans/lentils with the garlic until smooth.  Finely chop or shred your vegetables (peel first if necessary). I don’t typically precook the veggies, but I knew that the mushrooms would change in size and texture dramatically and didn’t think baking alone would achieve a meaty consistency. So, I sautéed them in a pan before combining with the other ingredients.

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Use a wooden spoon to combine all ingredients except the egg. Massage the egg in with your hands.  A thick dough will form.  It should be sticky enough that all ingredients remain together, but not so sticky that your hands are pulling it apart in trying to form shapes. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with a silicone pad and assemble patties and/or bites.

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Cook times will vary depending on shape and thickness.  It took these 40 minutes to cook through without flipping (I have found that I don’t need to flip when I use a silicone baking pad).  Set a timer for twenty minutes to start, check back often, and flip as necessary until your burgers or bites are of a cooked and palatable consistency.

These burgers are so dense and filling that I eat them bun-less, but you can certainly serve them with your bread of choice. If you’re serving bites, consider this flavorful dipper:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 tbsps citrus juice -> I would typically use lime, but have tons of grapefruits on hand from our winter harvest.
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (Would make for an awesome fresh veggie, dip, too!)

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Wontons to the Rescue!

If you’re a fruit and vegetable junkie like me, and/or you subscribe to a service like Bountiful Baskets where you are surprised with a random assortment of produce at each pickup, your fridge is likely stocked with a variety of items that may not seem to go together. I am typically pretty creative when it comes to combining unlikely pairs (check out my bean salad, for instance), but when I stared into my fridge last night faced with romanesco, green bell pepper, baby carrots, and red onion, I wanted to push myself to try something new.

A few weeks back in our BB, we ordered wonton wrappers (vegan – no egg) in bulk and have been putting off doing something with them simply because prep and assembly of these adorable appetizers can be a bit laborious. I decided to take the chance and somehow incorporate my random assortment of veggies into a yummy filling that would finally use up the wrappers.

Before I get to the process, you may be unfamiliar with romanesco. Its unusual appearance resembles that of cauliflower and broccoli combined, although to me, it tastes just like cauliflower in both flavor and texture. It is similar to cauliflower in its vitamin and mineral content and is notably a low-calorie source of potassium. I generally prefer bananas myself, but romanesco/cauliflower is another healthy and delicious potassium option.

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Ok, back to the wontons. First of all, how do you flavor them? You could keep it simple with a little soy sauce or inject some deeper flavors with another sauce or marinade. I’m using the same sauce that I use in my lettuce wraps. The concept of flavorful, finely chopped veggies is the same in both applications; it’s simply the vessel that is different.

Secondly, should the filling be cooked or raw? This is a matter of personal preference. Since I aim for a solid 70%+ raw plant foods daily and happen to prefer the crunch and freshness of raw vegetables, I am leaving my veggies raw. I found that even after cooking the whole wontons, the veggies inside remained raw and crunchy since the cook time was so short. If you’d prefer your vegetables on the softer side, you can sauté your filling prior to assembling the wontons.

Thirdly, how do you cook them? Your healthiest option is to steam the wontons. Your least healthy option is to deep fry them. I love the texture of a crunchy-bottom wonton (often referred to as a pot sticker), so I’m going to lightly sauté and then steam. Keep in mind that if you deep fry and have leftovers that they aren’t likely to be as crispy the next day. Should you opt for a bubbling wonton oil bath, I would recommend peanut oil.

Lastly, how do you serve them? I see wontons typically served as an appetizer, but when you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, the traditional expectations for what constitutes a first course, main course, or side dish seem to go out the window. What is a meat-eater’s side dish, for instance, might be my main event. With that said, I make a MEAL out of these wontons, dipping them in leftover marinade.

Once covered in my lettuce wrap sauce, the seemingly atypical combination of pepper, romanesco, carrot, and onion tasted like those veggies were meant to be together, making for a delicious evening meal. If you want to get fancy in sealing up your wontons, these would certainly make for a pretty party dish, too. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: WONTONS

Yields approximately 10-12 large wontons or 16-18 small

  • 10-12 large vegan wonton wrappers or 16-18 small* –> I’m using large.
  • 3 cups of finely chopped raw vegetables –> I’m using 1 small head of romanesco, 1 green bell pepper, ¼ of a red onion, and 10 baby carrots.
  • 1 ½ cups sauce or marinade of choice –> I’m using my lettuce wrap marinade.
  • Oil as needed for frying/sautéing –> I’m using peanut.

*Read the ingredient label on your wonton wrappers. Some doughs are made with egg.

Prepare your sauce/marinade.

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Finely chop your vegetables.

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Mix together and sauté lightly (if you wish) or leave raw. Pour approximately half of your sauce/marinade over the veggies and stir to coat. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for roughly 30 minutes.

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While you’re waiting for the flavors of your filling to develop, decide on a cooking method. If you are steaming, prepare a double boiler. If you are deep-frying, assemble your deep fryer according to manufacturer’s instructions. I will be executing a sauté-then-steam method, with directions provided below.

Have a skillet with a lid ready on the stovetop with your oil of choice sitting beside it. Lay out your wonton wrappers, open, ready to receive filling. Have a small dish with water (for sealing the wrappers) nearby. After the 30-minute marinade period as passed, begin spooning filling into each wonton wrapper. I am using large wrappers, which can hold roughly two heaping tablespoons worth of filling apiece. Make sure there is a large enough border around the filling that the wonton can eventually be closed.

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Closing the wonton wrapper can be as fancy—or not—as you’d like. I often see them in a sack/purse shape like this.

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Simply grab the corners of the wonton wrapper, bring them into the middle, and twist them shut. You may or may not need to lightly glaze different sections with water in order for the wrapper to remain sealed. No matter the closure technique or style, the wonton should be completely sealed so that filling does not leak out.

Put approximately 2 tbsps of oil in your skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, place your wontons in for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottoms are browned. Then, turn the heat down to medium low and add a few tablespoons of water. Cover the skillet with a lid and allow the wontons to steam for 2-3 minutes. Most—if not all—of the water should be absorbed. **BE CAREFUL OF ANY SPUTTERING THAT MIGHT OCCUR WHEN ADDING THE WATER INTO THE HOT OIL.**

Remove the cooked wontons and continue the cooking process for as many batches as you need or want. Serve with remaining sauce/marinade as a dip, or simply with soy sauce. Travis said that the wontons were actually tastier the next day, which I did not at all expect! 🙂

One-Ingredient Zucchini Pasta

Way back when, I thought that my salsa formula was my simplest at just a handful of ingredients, but with only one ingredient required in today’s recipe, I’ve outdone myself!

By now, you’ve probably seen home cooks and bloggers getting creative with alternatives to traditional, flour-based pasta. Sometimes, I’ve just gotta have a big, warm bowl of old school pasta drowning in my marinara or cream sauce. Lately, however, I’ve been making an effort to get back into working out and toning my post-baby body, so I’m not gorging on Italy’s favorite as much as I normally would.

Zucchini, when run through a spiralizer to resemble the shape of spaghetti, makes for a filling and nutritious “pasta” that can hold up to sauces and toppings just as well. Zucchini is a rich source of vitamin C, manganese for healthy bone tissue development, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote healthy eyesight. Why not eat more of it, right?!

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I personally love zucchini raw, in which case this pasta dish can serve as a slaw. Travis prefers it cooked, so we compromised with al dente zucchini noodles, topped with sauteed onions, garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and the “sundried” tomatoes I made in my food dehydrator (check out my pizza bread!).

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Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: VEGETABLE NOODLES

Serves 2 as a light meal

2 medium to large zucchinis or yellow squashes –> I’m using zucchini.

Wash zucchini/squash and cut off the ends. Using a spiralizer or mandolin, cut zucchini/squash into noodles. Dress and consume raw if you wish, or bring a pot of water to boil.

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Place noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and eat, or top with the sauce, toppings, or condiments of your choice.

Nolan’s Birthday Cupcakes

Yesterday, my first-born son turned three years old! I cannot believe how fast the time has flown.

 

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Two days ago, I posted a picture of the cupcakes I made him in the cooling process and received many inquiries for the recipe, so here it is!

These cupcakes are just sweet enough and super fluffy. They are delicious on their own or topped with your frosting or icing of choice. My cake formula is also easily adaptable, should the recipient have special dietary needs or preferences, as was the case at Nolan’s daycare (one little one couldn’t have peanuts). Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CAKE

Makes 12 cupcakes or one 8 x 8 square or round cake

  • 1 cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1-1 ½ cups (depending on the flour) unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using 1 cup cashew.
  • ¾ cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup oil –> I’m using melted coconut.
  • 1 vegan “egg” substitute (i.e. mashed banana, applesauce, etc.) –> I’m using 1 small banana.
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (a binding agent, if using gluten-free flour) –> I’m not using it.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • ¼ tsp salt –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, citrus juice/zest, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using nearly ½ cup chopped raw walnuts and ½ tsp ground cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your “egg,” whether that involves scooping, mashing, combining, etc. in a large mixing bowl.   Mix together all of your wet ingredients in the same bowl. Separately mix all dry ingredients. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly incorporate the dry into the wet until a smooth, pourable batter forms. Stir in any specialty ingredients, if using.

Pour the cake batter into a greased square 8 x 8 baking dish or round baking dish, or evenly into 12 lined muffin cups. Place the cake/cupcakes in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom always told me that it’s better to over bake a cake (and under bake a brownie); nothing worse than goopy batter in the middle!

 

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Set your cake on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Speed the process by placing it uncovered in the fridge. When your cake (or cupcakes) is cool, frost and decorate (if you want), and dig in!

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