Veggie “Alfredo”

Yesterday, I ate avocado at every meal and I couldn’t be prouder. I also made a Whole Foods run and only spent $30. When I left the store I texted my friend to celebrate my self restraint and she, in proper best friend fashion, responded in awe of my accomplishment. It’s the little things, ya know?

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I think it’s so important to celebrate the little accomplishments in life, such as throwing together a creamy, dreamy, plant powered pasta sauce that takes a simple pasta dinner to the next level in about 5 minutes. This sauce is also great on toast or salads, but considering there are currently 17 boxes of pasta in my family’s pantry, there’s going to be lots of creamy vegan veggie pasta in my future (definitely not mad about it).

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If you’re wondering how/why there are 17 boxes of pasta in my house, believe me, I’m right there with you. For now, I think it’s best we don’t question it and just enjoy this creamy, saucy goodness all over our penne and spaghetti and rigatoni and maybe even our lasagna noodles (because for some reason 3 boxes of those). 

Veggie “Alfredo” Sauce

Ingredients:

  • ¼ avocado
  • ⅓ cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup frozen spinach (thawed)
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Combine avocado, almond milk, and spinach in food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. If sauce is too thick for your liking, slowly add more almond milk, blending between each addition.
  3. Season sauce and blend for a few more seconds.
  4. Serve over cozy (preferably carb-y) meal of your choice.

Healthy Hacks: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Does any one else have a habit of spending wayyyy too much money on fancy groceries? I often walk into Whole Foods intending to grab some veggies and almond milk and come out with veggies, almond milk, a handful of granola bars, a bottle of kombucha, and something totally random I saw on Instagram and just had to have.

I’m still in high school and living with my family, so I’m very lucky that I don’t have to buy all my own groceries yet. (If I did, I’d be broke in a month.) However, I am the only one that follows a primarily plant (haha) based lifestyle, so there are lots of foods, such as almond milk and tofu, that I have to buy for myself, and therefore I find budgeting very important.

Assuming I’m not the only one who struggles with overspending (if I am don’t tell me), today I’m sharing some of my tips for keeping the nutrition high and the prices low when grocery shopping.

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Top 5 tips for grocery shopping on a budget:

  • Focus on ingredients over brand name. I’m constantly tempted to buy the expensive products I see my favorite bloggers posting about on Instagram, from granola to face wash, but I try to keep in mind that there are alternatives of equal quality for a fraction of the price. Sometimes I will splurge and treat myself to something from a fancy brand, but most of the time I try to find something less expensive with a comparable ingredient list (i.e. few ingredients, real foods, words I’m familiar with).
  • Compare price per ounce. This is a shopping trick my mom taught me when I was still sitting in the baby seat of the shopping cart. Sure, a  $2 carton of almond milk might look like good deal, but if the $3 carton is significantly larger, the $3 milk may actually be the better purchase.
  • Go in with a specific list. This one is pretty simple. If you know what you need and have a clear plan for what you’re going to buy, you will be less likely to find yourself wandering through the store making unnecessary purchases.
  • Never grocery shop in a rush. While making a specific grocery list should speed up the shopping process, it’s also important to give yourself plenty of time to peruse, explore, and find the best deals.
  • Keep a tally of prices as you shop. I find this strategy especially useful when paying for my groceries in cash, as I’m terrified of getting up to the cash register and not having enough money on me to pay for my mountain of food. Even if you’re paying with credit, keeping a list of prices as you shop and adding it all up before you check out saves you from having to nod and smile and pretend you’re not dying inside when the cashier tells you how much money you owe.
  • Sales and coupons are your friends. I bought a pack of Justin’s peanut butter cups the other day that had a coupon inside, so I saved it and redeemed it for a squeeze pack of nut butter.

Using these strategies, I managed to snag all the goods pictured above for just over $30! I’m pretty proud of myself to tell the truth.  I had so much fun practicing mindful shopping, and I discovered some really great brands I’d never tried before. All these great brands, along with what I make with them, will be showing up on my Instagram throughout the week.

If you have any shopping hacks, I’d love to hear about them!

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Super Spinach Quinoa Bowl

When the weather gets chilly, I start craving all things warm, comforting, and hearty. I begin nearly every morning with oatmeal and chai tea, and often indulge in grilled cheese and hot chocolate. As I think it’s incredibly important to honor my cravings, I try to  make sure I never walk away from a meal feeling unsatisfied. (Like I would if I ate a cold salad when I was craving some hot cheesy carbs.)

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Therefore, having some healthy, comforting, and most of all easy dishes on standby is essential to my ability to eat well and feel my best. I whipped this bowl up the other night in less than 15 minutes using only simple ingredients I had on hand and it was AMAZING.

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The toasted quinoa provides the perfect comforting, filling base, the sautéed spinach is bursting with flavor (and just a touch of coconut-y sweetness), and I highly recommend finishing the bowl off with whatever protein you have on hand for an added nutrition boost.

Super Spinach Quinoa Bowl

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 6 big handfuls fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1/4 tbs coconut flakes
  • 2 tbs orange juice
  • Protein of choice (I used leftover shrimp)

Directions

  1. Add quinoa to medium saucepan and toast for a couple minutes, stirring often. When quinoa is slightly browned, add 1 cup of water and cook according to package directions.
  2. Sautée onion and coconut in coconut oil and orange juice on medium heat for about 2 minutes
  3. Add spinach to pan and stir until all spinach is coated in oil. Turn heat to low and cook for 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
  4. When quinoa is finished cooking, remove from heat divide evenly into two bowls. Top each with sautéed spinach mixture.
  5. If I’m eating this for a meal, as opposed to a side, I like to add some extra protein on top. My favorite is shrimp, but I can imagine it being great with chicken or tofu too.
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I love this picture- perfectly spooky for Halloween 🙂

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups

YOU GUYYSSS!!! I am so ridiculously obsessed with this recipe. I’ve been trying to wait until we got closer to Halloween to share these treats but I just can’t keep the deliciousness all to myself any longer.

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When I was younger, I adored Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. When my siblings and I traded our candy the day after Halloween (did anyone else do this?) I would trade 3 Butterfingers (another childhood favorite) for just one Peanut Butter cup. Pumpkin shaped PB cups were especially prized, though I was always disappointed they didn’t actually taste any different than normal peanut butter cups.

A few years ago I began learning about all the chemicals that go into most candy, and since then I’ve made an effort to eat less candy and satisfy my sweet tooth with more natural foods, such as dark chocolate and homemade baked goods.

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Boo!

I’d forgotten how much I love peanut butter cups until a couple weeks ago when I tried a Justin’s Peanut Butter cup for the first time. These delicious treats, made with natural ingredients, reignited my obsession and I immediately knew I had to try my hand at recreating them at home. While my Pumpkin Peanut Butter cups are a bit messier than Justin’s, the flavor and texture are incredible. I hope you love them as much as I do!

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (simply use vegan chocolate to make recipe vegan)
  • 6 tbs pumpkin purée (my recipe here)
  • 3 tbs peanut butter

Directions

  1. Place 6 paper liners in muffin tin.
  2. Melt chocolate in double boiler.
  3. Divide 1/2 the chocolate evenly among the 6 liners.
  4. Tap muffin tin lightly on counter until surface of chocolate becomes relatively flat.
  5. Press peanut butter into disks, 1/2 tbs each,  and place one on top of each peanut butter cup, pressing lightly into chocolate.
  6. Add 1 tbs of pumpkin purée to each peanut butter cup.
  7. Top peanut butter cups with remaining chocolate.
  8. Place in freezer for at least 1 hour.

 

Invigorating Latte Oatmeal

 

I think one of my greatest weaknesses in life may be my intolerance for coffee. I love the way it tastes, and there are definitely times when I would appreciate the caffeine buzz, but unfortunately coffee just makes me feel jittery and slightly nauseous.

Even though I know I don’t like how coffee makes me feel, I continue to order lattes or cold brew once in a while, always promising myself “this time will be different.”

The other day I went out for coffee with a friend before school and ordered a chai flavored cold brew. It was delicious and I felt very trendy, but before I even finished my drink I could feel the effects. For the entire class I had to fight the urge to laugh hysterically as I frantically googled whether coffee could kill me (yeaahhh I may be a bit of a hypochondriac). The jumpy feeling passed quickly, but the experience was uncomfortable enough to keep me away from coffee for a while.

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This recipe is the perfect middle ground in my love-hate relationship with coffee. The small quantity of coffee imparts all the flavor I love without the discomfort I experience from caffeine, and the heartiness of the oats cures my usual coffee-induced queasiness and packs a nutritional punch. Anyone else have a star-crossed coffee love story? What are your solutions?

Latte Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup quick cook oats
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tbs freshly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 tbs maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Cook oatmeal on the stovetop according to package instructions.
  2. While oatmeal cooks, pour milk into a glass jar and microwave for 45 seconds.
  3. Remove jar from microwave, screw on lid, and shake vigorously for  about 60 seconds. (If jar is too hot to hold, wrap in dish towel before shaking)
  4. Once milk becomes frothy, pour into oats (which should remain on the stove) , and stir gently.
  5. Stir freshly brewed coffee into oats and allow to cook for another minute before serving.
  6. Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy.

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Homemade Pumpkin Purée

There are so many awesome pumpkin treats I’m planning to share with you guys over the next few months, but there’s one recipe we absolutely MUST take care of before we get into any of that good stuff. That’s right, we are kicking off a month of pumpkin with homemade pumpkin puree. I know it may seem a little intimidating, but it’s actually so easy and the quality of the purée is SO worth the extra work.

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For such a long time I thought I hated pumpkin because I’d only ever had the canned stuff. Little did I know, homemade pumpkin purée is ridiculously fresh and delicious. As far as health benefits, as far as I can tell there’s not much difference between canned vs. homemade pumpkin puree, but in my opinion there’s definitely something to be said for knowing exactly where your food comes from and what goes into it. Homemade purée is also  a million times prettier. Like for reals do you see that color??

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Ingredients:

1 sugar pumpkin (or medium pumpkin of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 ºF.
  2. Cut in a circle around pumpkin stem, remove stem, then slice pumpkin in half lengthwise.
  3. Remove seeds and stringy pulp, but definitely don’t throw the seeds away (Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious and I’m hoping to post a recipe using them soon!).
  4. Roast pumpkin for 50 minutes.
  5. Once it’s done baking, allow pumpkin to cool for 10 minutes
  6. Using a large spoon or ice cream scooper, remove flesh of pumpkin and place it in food processor. Make sure no skin gets in the food processor.
  7. Blend for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth.
  8. This makes a lot of purée, so I store it in mason jars then freeze one and leave the other in my fridge.

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Lentil Pupusas

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Trying homemade, fresh out of the pan tortillas on vacation a few months ago completely changed my world. Or at least my food world. These were nothing like thin, bland tortillas my family purchased for taco night. They were melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicate, just the tiniest bit sweet, and tasted far more fresh and natural than store bought tortillas. Stuffed to bursting with beans and rice, enjoyed around a big table of good friends, the tortillas were a wonderful food and an amazing experience.

I couldn’t wait to share this tortilla enlightenment with my family. As soon as I got home, I searched up tortillas recipes, rushed to my neighborhood grocery store, and bought a massive bag of the primary ingredient, masa harina. The tortillas I made weren’t bad, but they came nowhere near the transformative tortillas I had enjoyed on vacation. That’s why this isn’t actually a tortilla recipe. This is a what-do-I-do-with-all-this-masa-harina recipe. (If you have any suggestions, definitely let me know.)

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Inspired by the huge bag of masa harina staring accusingly at me from my pantry, I decided to try my hand at pupusas. Now, I make absolutely no claims to authenticity here, as I simply attempted to replicate pupusas I have enjoyed in the past, but these “pupusas” are incredibly delicious. The spicy, salty, hearty lentil filling strikes the perfect balance with the soft, slightly earthy dough. The lentils are soft, but retain a bit of their chew, and the crust is crackly on the outside, soft on the inside perfection.

Ingredients:

Lentils

  • ¼ cup red lentils
  • Handful fresh  spinach
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup salsa

Dough

  • ¾ cup + 1 tbs masa harina
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt

 

Directions:

  1. Cook lentils according to package instructions.
  2. Halfway through cooking time, stir in salsa, coconut oil, and spices.
  3. Add spinach and and additional water if needed.
  4. While lentils finish cooking, begin pupusa dough.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine masa harina, warm water, salt, and olive oil.
  6. Mix, either with a spoon or with your hands, until a dough forms.
  7. If the dough feels sticky, add additional masa harina one tablespoon at a time until the consistency becomes drier and more crumbly.
  8. Separate the dough into four equal parts, roll each into balls, break each ball in half, then roll into spheres again.
  9. On a floured surface, using either your hands or a rolling pin, roll each sphere out until it is a circle ¼ of an inch thick.
  10. Divide the lentil mixture evenly among 4 of the circles, then top each with one of the remaining circles.
  11. Carefully pinch the edges of the pupusa until there are no gaps between the top shell and the bottom.
  12. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops become slightly cracked and the rims are golden brown.

Restorative Banana Muffins

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These muffins are restorative in so many ways. First of all, the whole wheat flour, natural sweetener, and immune boosting spices make them perfect for a physical health boost. Bananas also provide numerous health benefits, as detailed in this article from Well Being Secrets. More importantly, the comforting aroma, classic flavor, and relaxing baking process are SO emotionally restorative, especially after a long week.

For me, the past week was a hard one. I failed a math quiz I thought I’d done well on, I missed an important appointment, I double-booked myself by mistake, and I just felt off my game. But looking back it’s so amazing to see how many wonderful moments there are even in the hardest of times.

When my best friend heard my quivery voice over the phone after a particularly rough day, she was at my house (with snacks) within 15 minutes. A classmate I’ve been wanting to get to know better made me laugh with a silly pep talk when I was sad about my bad grade. My parents told me time after time that they love me and are proud of me, no matter how many “off weeks” I have. I need to remember it’s important to struggle sometimes, because that’s when you see how many people are there for you, and it’s when you can see how much you’ve grown.

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Honestly, the most grown up moment of my week was probably eating ice cream for dinner last night. The truth to that statement is both sad and wonderful, but I choose to celebrate it. Enjoying a drippy cone piled high with strawberry ice cream (the guy serving gave me an extra scoop- according to my dad he was flirting with me?? I’m completely clueless) on a warm fall evening is absolutely a decision to be proud of. Now I’m ready to take the weekend to rest, reset, study hard, and, of course, spend some quality time in the kitchen.

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Though it is the season for all things pumpkin, banana bread is one of my ultimate comfort foods. These muffins are simple, moist and delicious. Despite the healthy-ish twist, the classic flavors are all there, perfectly comforting and cozy. I’m not going to say you have to make the crumble topping, but you’d have to give me a reeeeally good reason not to. Turmeric and cinnamon are awesome additions due to their anti-inflammatory, immune boosting benefits, but if you don’t have them on hand you could absolutely substitute other spices.

Restorative Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

Muffins

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup (or use ½ cup if you prefer sweeter muffins)

Crumble

  • 1 tbs whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a muffin tin.
  2. Mash 1 banana in medium mixing bowl
  3. Cut second banana into coins, then cut each coin into fourths and add to bowl.
  4. Gently mix in wet ingredients (syrup, milk, eggs).
  5. Add in flours, baking soda, and baking powder, stirring continually.
  6. Once ingredients are thoroughly combined, scoop batter into muffin tin (I recommend using an ice cream scooper).
  7. Bake for 15 minutes.
  8. While muffins are baking, make crumble.
  9. Combine crumble ingredients in a small bowl and stir until clumps form.
  10. Pull muffins out of the oven, top with crumble, then return to oven for 30-45 minutes.

Hope you enjoy these as much as my family and I did.

Much love,

K