Pear Crumble Pie Bars (Vegan, GF, DF)

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I made a conventional version of these a couple years ago and really wanted to make a gluten free vegan version. After following the AIP and now a gluten free vegan diet, it's so weird to look back at my old recipes and see ingredients like all purpose flour and butter. Did I really used to cook with that stuff? It's so funny how much your outlook can change in a short period of time. I guess I've really changed how I eat and cook. 

Feel free to change up the fruit on these. Personally, I love pear desserts but pears usually never make it into baked goods around here because they're so good on their own. If they had been ripe when I bought them, they definitely would not have made it into bar form. Apples or peaches would be great stand ins. If you do change anything - please leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

These are really easy to make. I use a fork for all the mashing and mixing and then switch to my hands. Easy stuff. 

I've made this with both Trader Joe's gluten free baking flour and Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 baking flour. Either one will do or your own preferred gf flour. 

Makes one 8 x 8 inch pan. 

Pear Pie Bars

1 very ripe banana, well mashed

1/2 cup unsweetened non dairy milk (I used boxed coconut milk beverage)

1/2 cup coconut oil, in liquid state

1/3 cup maple syrup

juice and zest of one lemon

3 cups gluten free flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

2 pears, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

Heat oven to 375 degrees, Paper or grease an 8 x 8 baking dish and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine mashed banana, milk, oil, syrup, lemon zest and juice. Stir until well combined. In another bowl, whisk flour with baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir or work with hands until flour is hydrated. Evenly press 2/3 of dough into prepared pan. 

In another bowl, toss pear slices in cornstarch, nutmeg and ginger powder. Arrange pear slices in an even layer on top of pressed crust. Sprinkle little pinched off pieces of remainign dough over pear layer but don't completely cover the pear. You want it to look crumbly. Dust your hands in flour and lightly press down on surface. 

Bake 40 minute. Top should be golden brown. Let cool. 

Vegetable Tempura (Vegan, GF, DF)

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Tempura time! My mom brought a bunch of delicata squashes from her garden on her last visit and I wanted to do something besides roasting. So, deep frying. Naturally. 

This recipe makes a lot of tempura. When I was coming up with what i wanted to batch cook for the week I decided on my favorite Japanese take out go to's like miso soup, tempura, green salad with carrot ginger dressing and steamed broccoli. I had a great, envy inducing lunches. If you plant to do this, note that summer squash and any other 'wet' vegetables will not store well. The green beans and squash tempura are great for leftovers but the summer squash is much better eaten straight away. 

The batter is super simple - Just gf flour and club soda. It's a light and crisp batter and best mixed right before you are ready to dip the vegetables in and fry. I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour and sparkled tap water with our Soda Stream. Besides the Chemex, it's definitely my favorite kitchen gadget/appliance. Who doesn't want club soda and bitters whenever they like? 

The amount of frying oil will depend on the size of your pan. I used about a quart of oil in a 3 qt sauce pan which was cheap and easy to clean up but took forever to fry. More oil and a larger pan is probably more desirable but as long as you have at least 2" of oil you'll be good. 

Serves 6.

Vegan Vegetable Tempura

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1 delicata squash, halved, seeded, 1/4" thin slices

1 large fistful green beans, trimmed

1 sumer squash, 1/4" slices

1.5 cup gluten free flour 

1.5 cup club soda

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons mirin

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

In a deep pan, start heating oil to 375 degrees - use a thermometer. While it's coming to temperature, make an assembly line of batter bowl (don't mix yet), cut vegetables and a large baking tray lined with several layers of paper towels. Get your tongs ready. When oil comes to temp, stir in club soda into the flour. Batter should be lumpy with all flour hydrated. 

Dip vegetable slices one by one into the batter and then into the hot oil. Fry as many pieces as you can at a time without the pieces touching - we don't want them sticking together. Fry about 1 minutes on each side. As they are done, remove from oil and place on paper towel lined tray to drain. Repeat until all vegetables are tempurafied. 

In a small bowl, whisk together ginger, soy sauce, water, miring and vinegar. Use as dining sauce of tempura. 

Buon Weekend

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Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? I'm getting over a cold - which I never get so I'm a pretty big baby when I do. We're looking forward to a low key Brooklyn weekend - Im hoping to do a little cooking (maybe a little slow cooker something?) and work on a painting. 

Here are some fun internet things to look at: 

This mini series of Hidden Brain podcasts for you but version 2.0 

This skincare brand I've been wanting to try is offering free samples. 

Supporting this relief fund. 

Loving this delicate piece. 

Saying YUM to this breakfast recipe. 

Started reading this incredible book about gut health. 

Anyone seeing this movie? (It was shot with film!)

Cranberry Coconut Healthy Cookies (Vegan, GF, DF)

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As you can probably tell from my posts, I don't eat many sweets or sugar anymore. I try to limit my sugar intake to only fruit which means not a lot of baked sweets happening around here. I prefer to 'save' my sugar indulgences for things like coconut ice cream or a piece of vegan layer cake. Treating it as a rare, special occasion thing has helped changed my sweet tooth to a healthy tooth. You'll notice most of my dessert recipes are sugar free, use natural sugars like maple syrup or are sweetened with a fruit. 

These cookies are made without sugar and sweetened only with a banana and the dried cranberries. 

Cranberry Coconut Healthy Cookies

1 mashed ripe banana

1/2 cup quick GF oats

2 tablespoons dried cranberries 

2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

dash cinnamon and nutmeg

pinch salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a small baking tray with a silpat or parchment paper. Set aside. 

In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients. Use a tablespoon to portion 8 cookies onto prepared baking tray. Cookies will not flatten or expand during baking so flatten them into round cookie shapes. Bake 15 minutes. Remove. Cool. 

Buon Weekend!

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It's Friday! What are you up to this weekend? After a few fun filled weekends we decided to stay local and chill. I'm looking forward to a little much needed gym time, as well as working on a few fall recipes and starting some projects.  (I know, I know - I'm too exciting.) 

I'll be back with a post on monday but until then, here are a few links: 

I really enjoyed this goop article. 

Working my way through this long one. 

It seems this restaurant was made for instagram.  

This marriage article made me think. 

Tried this skincare line? I keep hearing good things.  

I want to make gluten free versions of all of these

Detox Vegetable Soup (Vegan, GF, DF, Paleo)

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So, summer is juuuuuuuust about over, isn't it? Instead of quietly crying into my pillow, I though I'd make a bright tomato based, vegetable heavy soup. I wanted something that was healthy but filling which this soup is thanks to all of the veggies. Vibrant, fresh produce always reminds me of warm summer farmer's markets, long sunny days and great meals. 

Serves 8. 

Vegetable Soup

splash olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 14oz tin diced tomatoes

2 quarts vegetable stock

4 cups shredded green cabbage

1.5 cup chopped green beans

2 cups chopped broccoli

2 cups chopped zucchini

s + p 

squeeze of lemon juice

In a large pot over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and garlic, cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add carrots, celery, fennel, thyme, basil tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes. Add cabbage, green beans, broccoli and zucchini. Simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. 

Clean Beauty Favorites

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I've been working on swapping out my regular skincare and beauty products for clean ones. Eco friendly products work just as well as their chemical filled counterparts. It's important to me to find products that are cruelty free. It can be a challenge but I've found a few good ones. 

Before I purchase, I read reviews and double check ingredients on the ewg website. Here are my favorite items so far:

Schmidt's Deodorant for Sensitive skin  is the best natural deodorant I've found so far. It smells great and works as an anti perspirant. There is also an unscented if fragrance isn't your thing. 

Simply Sooney Tooth Powder is weird stuff but I love it. It's a tooth powder so you just dip your wet toothbrush in the cup and start brushing. I love this company. It's very difficult to find truly non toxic, safe tooth pastes that are made without carrageenan, glycerin, sulfates and fluoride but this powder doesn't have any of those things. (I really can't believe all the toxic stuff that's put into even 'natural' toothpastes.) This one is made in small batches and has a short, sweet ingredient list. My teeth feel great - super clean with happy gums. I have the cinnamon clove flavor but peppermint might be a good training wheels flavor if you're new to tooth powder. 

I also just realized that the toothpaste in the photo, which is out back up toothpaste, sadly has so many lame ingredients in it. Glycerin, SLS and carrageenan. Ugh. I just looked it up as I realized the ingredients are not listed on the tube. It photographs better than the Sooney Powder. Just an FYI. 

Mascara is a terrifying product to research. First, find a company that does not test on animals, that is vegan, doesn't use a long list of chemical based ingredients and actually stays on your lashes the entire day. Pacifica Stellar Gaze Mascara fits the bill, strengthens lashes and costs less than almost every mascara at sephora. 

If Biossance sent me a t shirt, I would wear it. I've been using the Biossance Eye Gel for about a month and my fine eye wrinkles have started to disappear. Mostly I like it because it feels moisturizing and refreshing when I put it on so I'll consider the above a bonus. The big ingredient is plant derived squalene which is naturally high in antioxidants and promotes cell regrowth. 

In the colder months, I like to use Radha Rose Hip Oil instead of a night cream. It smells great and smoothed out my skin. I like that it's organic and can also be used in my homemade DIY beauty recipes. If you want something in a spray bottle, Nourish Organic Rose Hip Oil Mist is for you. I use it in place of body lotion or a tiny bit on the ends of my hair after straightening to smooth it out and fight frizz. 

I love dry brushing. I bought this inexpensive natural dry brush when I was having some unhappy lymph node issues and they cleared right up after a week of dry brushing. Right before I shower, I brush from my feet to my chest then from my fingers to my heart with small, circular strokes. It's a rush, like an electrical current or fire all over your body. So damn invigorating. 

I never thought this stuff would be as good as it is natural but it is. Cameron and I both use Dr. Bronner's Shaving Soap. It's a thin liquid that lathers up like crazy and gives a close, smooth shave. I like the lavender scent but there is also peppermint and unscented. 

I run a quarter sized amount John Masters Organics Rose Hair Milk through clean wet hair to moisturize and protect it from heat styling. It's smoothing and has a light smell. 

I tried a sample of Mineral Fusion Foundation over the summer and will be purchasing a full size when my current one runs out. It has a similar texture to Mac Studio Fix Liquid but without the icky chemicals. The foundation is part of an entire line so you can also find primer, blush, brushes, everything for your whole beautiful face. Packaging could be updated but that's my only complaint. I have the powder compact and it's great. 

I'll post again as I find and try other clean products but in the mean time - How about you? Any clean, green, eco friendly, cruelty free, vegan products you're smitten with? 

Buon Weekend!

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Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? My parents are Brooklyn bound so I know there's going to some crazy good meals and lots of laughter heading my way very soon. If you feel like a bit of internetting, here's a few interesting things: 

Can't wait to read this. Who doesn't love a good biography? 

Just started this crime podcast. 

If I was in a jacket wearing mood, I'd go for this one. 

The sound of art. 

Have some time to volunteer? Orientations starting soon!

This is a great list of salads perfect for lunch. 

Cooking for One Small Dog

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We still have one meat eater in the house. Her name is Chibi and she's our tiny, charming Chihuahua Pomeranian. We cook for her. I don't specifically make her breakfast every morning but about once every two weeks, we make a big batch of her 'wet' food in the slow cooker. What she will eat in the next few days goes into the fridge and the rest we freeze in small containers. 

Some people think it's crazy but this is what we do. I like knowing what goes into her food, its healthy and she loves it. As a 7 year old pup, it's important to keep her at a healthy weight which will help her live longer, be less likely to develop diseases and make sure her aging joints are not burdened. Who wouldn't want that for their little friend? 

Cut food into pieces that are appropriately sized for your dog. Chibs is very small so I have to painstakingly cut up chicken thighs into one million tiny pieces. I find this maddening and will probably start grinding her chicken instead. 

Chibi's Dog Food

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 sweet potato

1 small apple, peeled, stemmed, seeded

1/3 cup peas, frozen or fresh

1/3 cup chopped green beans, fresh or frozen

1 carrot

Chop vegetables and meat to desired sizes - smaller is better. Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high for about 3 hours. Chicken should be cooked through and vegetables will be soft. 

Let cool completely, portion into 8 oz containers. Chill one in fridge and store the remaining in the freezer. 

Ramen Soup Jars (Vegan, GF, DF)

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Aka your new favorite lunch. Who doesn't love a cute little jar lunch. It's so portable and easy to eat anywhere. All you need is hot water. You can definitely change customize these to your liking. Want spice? Add a bit of chile paste or hot chile oil. Want carbs? Add a ton of noodles. 

I'm calling these ramen jars but you can definitely make them with out noodles for a lighter, grain free meal. You can't see them in the photos, but we used these aip friendly Shirataki noodles. They are a dried noodle, made from tapioca starch, konica powder, calcium and citric acid. They taste just like a glass noodle. I found these at whole foods but they are also available online.  Feel free to use any noodle you like but precook them if they will need more than a few minutes in hot water to cook. 

Just remember when you're prepping the vegetables that everything in the jar is cooked by pouring boiling water into the jar, sealing and letting it sit for a few minutes. This means that everything should be sliced small and thin. 

Here's grocery list what you will need to make 8 jars:

4 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

2" knob fresh ginger, grated

4 cups thinly sliced green beans (about 1#)

4 cups chopped broccoli, in bite sized pieces

1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup shelled edamame, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup miso paste

1/2 cup tamari soy sauce

1/3 cup sesame oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

noodles, amount is up to you, I used 8 shirataki dried noodle nests.

Here's the recipe for ONE jar:

Vegan Ramen + Vegetable Jar

1 tablespoon miso paste

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 scant tablespoon thinly sliced scallions

1/2 cup carrots, cut into thin matchsticks

1/2 cup thinly sliced green beans

1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli

1 tablespoon corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 tablespoon shelled edamame, fresh or frozen

1 serving of noodles (cooked or uncooked - see note above)

Line up 8 clean glass jars with lids. Fill each jar with the above ingredients. Seal and store in fridge. When ready to serve, fill jar with hot water. Stir, to loosen miso paste. Replace lid and shake lightly to mix ingredients. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove lid and enjoy. 

Buon Weekend

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After my last week's post Cameron and I realized we have been speaking different languages to each other. He says 'bon' in French and I say 'buon' in Italian.  I had no idea we were so trilingual. 

What's everyone up to this weekend? We are heading off to Minneapolis for a family get together. I'm looking forward to seeing Cam's mom, dad and sister, meeting more of his (our!) family and exploring a new city. Hilarious antics to follow. 

Here's some fun internet things:

Zara is killing it this season. This, this, this and this are all on my wishlist. Gah! This too. 

This is the holy grail of lotions.  

I found this podcast so helpful

Why we should all be kind to each other. (Old article but I love it anyway.)  

How to Support DACA Program here and here.

DIY Makeup Remover

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I really don't have a good nighttime skincare routine. I'm really more of a morning person. My new thing is once I know I'm home for the night - which is usually when I get home from work and any additional errands - I wash my face. It goes like this: I walk in, take off my shoes, kiss Cam and Chibi and go wash my face. If I don't do it then, it just won't happen. Yes, I'm that lazy. Look, what can I say? You get to a point in life where you know how you are and have to work around it. 

Most makeup removers bother my eyes so I decided to make one myself. This DIY version whips up in about 2 minutes. You'll spend more time digging through the pantry for rosewater than actually making this. It takes make up right off, is chemical free and smells great. 

This is an oil based remover so it will leave an oily residue that will either need to be followed with a warm washcloth or a cleanser. Your skin will feel nice and moisturizer afterward. 

I made my own reusable cotton rounds which was super easy and very satisfying. Any time I get out the sewing machine, locate the foot pedal that I store in a different area of the apartment and re learn how to thread the bobbin always leaves me with a probably not completely deserved, very good feeling of accomplishment. You can make your own, purchase them on Etsy or Amazon, or use disposable cotton rounds. 

Makeup Remover

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons tap water

1 tablespoon witch hazel

1 teaspoon rose water

14 reusable cotton rounds

To Make: Warm oil to liquid state. Blend all ingredients. Transfer to clean jar. Add stack of cotton pads. Press pads firmly into make up remover. Flip and press again to make sure all have absorbed some of the makeup remover. 

To Use: swipe pad all over dry skin, massage into skin with pad. Follow with cleanser of choice. Gently pat dry and follow with toner, serum and/or face cream. 

DIY Reusable Cotton Rounds

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I hate creating waste. As you might recall from posts Kitchen Detox and Reusable Replacements, it's important to me to be mindful of what goes into the garbage bin. This is why we use cloth kitchen towels and napkins, totes instead of plastic shopping bags and now these cute little cotton rounds instead of cotton balls or cosmetic rounds. I made 14 so I won't run out. (I can't go longer than 14 days without doing laundry - I'll run out of the socks I like.) I would've made more but I ran out of the thread colors I wanted to use. Make as many or as few as you like. The instructions work for any amount of rounds.  

Supplies:

Cotton fabric

thread

pins

scissors

rotary cutter

cutting mat

paper

pencil

sewing machine

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Instructions:

Wash, dry and iron fabric. Find something circular that is just over 3 inches across. I used a drinking glass from Ikea. Trace the form onto a piece of paper and cut out with scissors. Make two or three of these - you may end up needing them. Lay fabric out flat on your cutting mat. Place the paper pattern you just made on a corner of the fabric. Hold in place while you use your rotary cutter to cut out the pattern.

Continue until you have two circles cut out for every cotton round you wish to make. I made 14 rounds so I had to cut out 28 fabric circles. If you accidentally maim your pattern - use one of the backups. When al the needed circles are cut out, take a moment to clean them up. They do not need to be prefect but try to get rid of any jagged edges. 

Line up one circle on top of another, with wrong sides facing each other on the inside. Right sides will be facing out. Secure with a pin. 

If you have a serger, serge the edges together. I do not have a serger, just a regular sewing machine so I did a little faux serge by selecting the zigzag stitch and sewing off the edge. Use a piece of scrap fabric to try the technique first. Once you get the hang of it, move on to the prepared pieces. 

Line up your pinned round so the edge is in line with the middle opening of the presser foot. Sew a few sitches, back stitch a few stitches and go around twice with the zigzag stitch. You want one side of the zigzag to land on the edge of the fabric and one side of the zigzag to land off the edge. Once you've made it around twice, back stitch a few stitches and cut. Repeat until you've gone through all the prepped rounds. 

Trim any loose threads. 

Buon Weekend

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Happy Friday! What's everyone up to this long weekend? Cameron and I are heading up to Cold Springs, NY for a kayaking trip. I can't wait. Here are a few fun things to click on:

This is my new favorite podcast. 

Read a great review of this movie. 

I love this brand's story. Ordering myself a bottle!

Now is the time to join this organization. 

This toast guide is genius. Not to mention delicious. 

Somehow, these are the most flattering things ever. 

Kimchi Soup (vegan, paleo, GF, DF)

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I think I have a soup addiction. I made this earlier in the week after returning to Brooklyn from a weekend in Ithaca to a house with almost no food. I keep meaning to freeze a pint or two of each soup I make so that I'm not caught with nothing to eat but I never remember. 

Luckily, my mom sent us back here with a bunch of veggies from her garden and the local farmer's market. The haul also included a new jar of kimchi. Cameron had mentioned an idea for a kimchi soup earlier in the week and after a quick fridge inventory, I realized we had everything we needed for a healthy, late summer vegetable kimchi soup. (Thanks, mom!)

This is a great fridge clean out recipe since it will work with most stocks and vegetables. I happened to have corn, carrots, zucchini, kale and green beans but most other vegetable would work too.

Kimchi Soup

small splash oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

small 1" knob ginger, peeled and grated

2 garlic clove, grated

1 quart vegetable stock

1 1/2 cup kimchi with liquid (I chopped mine first) 

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1 cup chopped zucchini

1 cup chopped green beans

1 cup chopped carrots

3/4 cup corn kernels 

1 cup chopped kale

s + p, to taste

Warm oil in a pot, over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until soft, stirring frequently. Add stock, kimchi, tamari zucchini, green beans, carrots and corn. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Time will depend on how thin vegetables are, these took about 8 minutes. Stir in kale. Season to taste. 

Buon Weekend

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'Buon Weekend!' is something that Cameron and I say to each other every Friday afternoon when the work is over and the weekend antics can begin. It's an exclamation and a sigh of 'ah'. I hope everyone has some fun things planned.

We're taking a spur of the moment trip up to Ithaca, NY to see family, eat tasty CalMex food at Viva Taqueria, swim in Cayuga Lake and pick/eat as many blueberries as we can.

Now that we all have a bit of time to sit back and shamelessly internet out little hearts out - here's a little list of things I've found interesting across the internet: 

If you're feeling nerdy read this.

I've been listening to this newsy podcast daily.

Wearing these while I still can. 

This recipe has to happen soon. Because chocolate. 

This group is Fighting Hate and Teaching Tolerance. Let's show them some support!

Run 10k, feed 10 people.  

Irish Vegetable Stew (Vegan, GF)

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As much as I like the plant based diet, it left a void in the slow cooked braised, stewed soup department - which is a big department! We made a slow cooked roast, beef stew type thing about twice a month. Even though it's summer, I wanted a plant based version of my favorite comfort food. 

I have two words for you: tomato paste and gluten free stout beer. More than 2 words but you get the idea. These things are magical together. Browning the tomato paste and deglazing with the stout create a beautiful base for the stew. Vegetarian or not, you will not even miss the meat in this thick, gluten free stew. 

I can't wait to make it again. It's good on it's own but also over cooked spaghetti squash. 

Get a gluten free stout like Murphy's. If gluten isn't a concern you can use any stout just keep n mind that if you use a chocolate stout or coffee stout, that flavor will be incorporated into the stew. 

Serves 6-8.

Irish Vegetable Stew

splash olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup tomato paste

4 ribs celery, chopped

4 carrots, peeled, chopped

10 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped

2 plantains, peeled, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon sage

1 bottle gluten free stout

1 quart vegetable stock

2 1/2 cups green beans, chopped

s + p, to taste

splash apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, to taste

In a 6 qt stock pot, over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add onions and brown, stirring as needed, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and brown. Stir as needed, about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, mushrooms, plantains, bay, thyme and sage. 

Add stout. It will bubble, scrap up any bits from bottom of pot if you can. Add stock. Bring to boil. reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vegetables are soft, about 40 minutes. Add greens beans and cook, 5 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and about 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. 

Black Bean + Kale Tacos with Pepita Cilantro Salsa (Vegan, GF)

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Here's a healthy option to get your taco fix. Garlicky kale and cumin scented black beans in a soft corn tortilla. Cameron and I had these for lunch a few times last week and they were so good. I love it when I eat lunch and get a nice kick of energy. These will give you that. 

The salsa almost didn't make it to the tacos because I ended up eating about half of it with some tortillas that I had over crisped to the point of making chips. If you eat it all or skip it altogether, feel free to substitute any jarred salsa. I'd recommend a bright tomatillo one.

Serves 8.

Black Bean + Kale Tacos

olive oil, as needed

2 14oz tins black beans, rinsed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

s + p, to taste

10 cups of chopped kale, about 2 bunches

6-8 cloves garlic, minced

juice of one lemon

corn tortillas, about 16

Pepita Cilantro Salsa

1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) 

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of one lime, about 3 tablespoons

pinch ground cumin

pinch salt

In a medium sauce pan, warm oil over medium heat. Stir in cumin, oregano and chile powder. Add black beans and two tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 15 minutes. 

In a 12" saute pan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add kale, cover and cook 2 minutes. Strain. Return to stove over medium heat. Push steamed kale to on side of the pan. On the empty side, heat a splash of olive oil. Cook garlic in oil, stirring frequently. Do not brown, just cook to soften, about 1-2 minutes should do. Stir in the kale. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper

To make the salsa: combine pepitas, cilantro, water, oil, lime juice, cumin and salt. Blend until smooth. 

To assemble: spoon beans, kale and salsa onto toasted tortillas. 

To store: keep beans, kale and tortillas separate, building as needed. When packing lunch, I scoop 1/3 cup beans and 1/2 cup kale into a container and top with salsa and pack 3 tortillas separately. At lunch time, I assemble the tacos just before eating so they don't get soggy. 

 

Plant Based Life and Diet

I'm vegan now? I am and so is Cameron. Chibi is staying an omnivore. 

I know there's been a bit of radio silence around here for the past two weeks. Let me fill you in on this new change. I was vegetarian for years - mostly because I didn't like the taste or texture of most meats. My only previous experience eating vegan was for about a week in eighth grade. I was hoping to lose weight that I definitely did not have nor need to lose. This pretty much had the opposite effect as I just ate bread for the entire week. Thirteen year old me was not my most logical self. 

As an avid Paleo/AIP person and lover of meat, a vegan diet never even on the table. It never crossed my mind and I did not consider it something I would ever elect to do. 

But then I watched What the Health, a food documentary about the impact animal based diets have on our health. The film points to research stating that eating meat, dairy and eggs directly contribute to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I've seen food documentaries and read books on the related subjects but this one was riveting. I'm not going to go into but just watch it. No matter what your eating habits are, it will get youl thinking seriously about what your own diet is doing for you.  

There have been many changes since I started living the plant based life. First, I've lost weight. Not a lot, more of a de-puffing, especially in my legs, stomach and hips. My skin is looking better. Both my energy and mood are great. I feel good. 

Still following my own version of AIP: no gluten, eggs, refined sugar, processed food, very little nightshades, only the occasional grain and now no meat and fish. For me, it wasn't too difficult or a switch since I usually only eat meat once a day, don't like eggs and already avoid dairy. I think the best way to start eating a plant based diet is to just do it. You can always try it for a month and see how you feel. We are trying it for the next indefinite long while and will see how it goes. Even though this is what feels right for me now, it may not be next year. Trying new things - even what makes us uncomfortable - and being open to new ideas is what helps us grow.

Strangely, it has not been difficult. I've learned I really like vegetables. A plate of crudités and guacamole or a big salad are my new favorite lunches. When I'm hungry and imagine a meal it's a big pile of veggies cooked however sounds good. Maybe a stir fry or grilled veg tacos.

After I eat, I feel energized and ready for whatever is next. This is the way I want food to make me feel. Fueled. You can roll your eyes at this one but my healthy plates of food are beautiful with their bright, vivid colors. I love opening up my lunch container and seeing these crazy pinks, oranges, greens and so on. Simple joys, you know? 

If you asked me a month ago about how switching to a vegan diet would go for me I would have told you I'd really miss meat. The strange this is that I don't. Sometimes I get a feeling for a slice of pizza or nachos (because don't we all) but I want a vegan version. Isn't pizza with only crust, tomato sauce and a pile of veggie toppings just as satisfying and delicious as one that has cheese? Cameron is silent when I asked him this question but I think I'm right. It's mentioned in What The Health that meat and dairy are addictive substances. Once you eat it, you just want more. I feel this is true. Since stopping, I don't want it which is truly, surprising as I'm very food minded.

We're still prepping our meals and batch cooking. Eat week, we shop for and prep:

Breakfast: Something like a fruit bowl, smoothie, gf avocado toast. I've also been on a homemade unsweetened coconut yogurt making kick and have been eating that with pomegranate seeds for breakfast all week.

Lunch: It's usually a salad for me and a grain bowl for Cameron. This week we made black bean and kale tacos with a cilantro pepita salsa. Recipe coming soon!

Dinner: Probably a soup. Sometimes a stir fry, curry or something fun like steamed artichokes and veggie fritters.

Yum! Who's getting hungry? 

Thinking about trying out a plant based diet? To get started do a kitchen clean out, start a vegan recipes Pinterest board, pick up a new cookbook or two and make yourself a long list of vegan things you might want to cook for yourself. This is what I did and it was very helpful. 

What does this mean for Meats and Sweets? Well, I'm keeping the name. And as far as recipes go, I'm looking forward to sharing new, healthy, gluten free, plant based recipes that are still Paleo and AIP friendly. 

In the meantime, here are some favorite vegan recipes: 

Mac + 'Cheese' 

Mac + 'Cheese' 

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Brownies

Brownies

Veggie Soup

Veggie Soup

Golden Cauliflower

Golden Cauliflower

Pesto Portobello Salad

Pesto Portobello Salad

3 days in Raleigh Durham - a City Guide

Cameron, Chibi and I took a little trip down to visit family in Raleigh, North Carolina a bit ago. We had a great time and I thought I'd share our itinerary.

We took a long weekend and had three glorious days of eating, drinking, exploring and relaxing. This trip is particularly focused on food. 

First, some tips:

1. Rent a car. Raleigh is spread out and doesn't have much of a public transportation service. There are busses but I can't imagine using them to get around. There is uber if you don't want to rent.

2. Be mindful of where you are. Durham especially has some unsafe neighborhoods so be aware of your surroundings when you're parking and waking around. (The areas in this guide are all very safe.) 

3. Be nice. People are very friendly and well mannered.  

4. Prepare for hot, humid weather if traveling in the late summer. In the late spring and fall, the weather is very sneaky. It can be a cool 60 but hike to 90 by 2pm but back to 60 by 9pm so pack some layers.

5. Sundays. As a non religious person, I forgot to consider what affect being in the Bible Belt can have on businesses and blue laws. In Raleigh/Durham, there is no booze on sundays before noon and many businesses are either closed completely or open after 12. Bars close at 2am. 

6. Events. Lots of events in Raleigh. Check websites for any parks, malls, breweries, anywhere you'll be going as there seem to be events (many free) all the time. 

7. Dog friendly. You love your dog and so does Raleigh. We saw many dogs with water bowls on outdoor cafes and many bars and breweries that welcome leashed dogs. We took Chibi with us and had no trouble bringing her into shops and beer gardens. 

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Day One

Get yourself downtown for a little lunch followed by exploring and shopping in Raleigh's Moore Square or Capitol Square neighborhoods. Start with lunch at Centro, pictured above, a fun mexican restaurant with beautiful folk art decor and a festive playlist. The signature margarita was strong and balanced with fresh lime juice and a reposado tequila. 

Caffeinate at Morning Times, the coffee bar adjacent to Raleigh Times - a neighborhood classic serving lunch, dinner and late night drinks in an old newspaper office.  

During our trip, Artsplosure was going of downtown. It's a live music and art fair. We got to meet many talented local artists. I picked up a beautiful etching from John Furches and am deeply regretting not taking home a mug from the very talented Gretchen Quinn. My mom bought a beautiful 14k gold love knot ring from a local jeweler.

One thing I noticed about Raleigh was how friendly its residents are. The artists at Artsplosure were so open and talkative. Everything we saw was so affordable, too. There's a huge importance placed on the local and handmade in Raleigh and it's very accessible.

Be sure to check out favorite local shops Moon by Moon Apothecary, The Holy Rose and Deco Raleigh while you're downtown. 

The Norh Carolina State Capital Building is open to the public and is free to tour. It's right across from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The museum is also free and has a living butterfly conservatory, indoor 2 story waterfall and dinosaur skeletons.

Walk over to Moore Square, an original park from the original 1790s city planning. It's small but beautiful. Admire the oak trees.

At the bottom of the Park, on Martin Street, is the beginning of Blake Street. Walk down Blake to Davies Street and find Artspace. It's an artists' studio that's open to the public. Wander in and take a look around. You can see artists working and chat with them about their processes.

For dinner, you want to go to Bida Manda. Make a reservation or enjoy drink at the bar while you wait for a table. Bida Manda is a Laoation restaurant and it's incredible. Everything was superb. Baskets of puffy white chips are served to each table. They are made from shrimp and tapioca flour and taste like a mild fish cake and rice cake. Loved these! Other favorites were to Manda Chicken Curry, Crispy Rice Lettuce Wraps, Pork Belly Noodle Soup and Cucumber Cooler.

After dinner, pop next door to the Brewery Bhavana whose beautiful, soft, airy space is a taproom, flower shop and dumpling restaurant in one.

If you're in the mood for live music instead, Pour House is also next door with shows generally starting at 9pm. 

Finish the night at Fox Liquor Lounge, an unmarked underground speakeasy bar with sophisticated cocktails and lively atmosphere.

Day Two

Get yourself down to Boulted Bread for the best baguette you will ever have. Boulted makes all their bread and pastries from local, organic grains. Grab a cold brew, a bag of counter culture beans, a baguette and a pastry. Sit outside on their side patio. Wander through the space next door, a shop I didn't catch the name of but that has many beautiful things from local craftsmen like leather goods, jewelry, ceramics and clothing.

Now that you're caffeinated. Head over to the State Farmers Market. Start on the garden side. Smell the teddy bear magnolias, find the Japanese maples and pick up some air plants to smuggle back home. Walk down the produce stalls and sample anything you can that's in season. We were lucky to arrive for peak strawberry and peach season. The tent on the end of the market has baked goods and flowers. If the pretzel people are there, get a cheese pretzel. I mean it. 

It's probably time to cool off with a beer and revitalize yourselves with a snack.  Do this at Raleigh Beer Garden. It holds the Guinness World Record for most beers on tap. Three separate bars hold all the different taps. Sit outside or on the roof. There's not a printed beer list but you can bring it up on your smart phone.

Head over to the warehouse district. Take a tour of Videri Chocolate Factory where you can learn about the chocolate making process from harvest to eating while sampling delicious locally made chocolate. If you go - please be sure to bring me a sea salt dark chocolate bar.

Across the street is Boxcar, an arcade bar. It's fun, loud and has everything from skeeball to duck hunt. There's an outdoor patio with a ring toss and giant connect four.

When you've worked up an appetite, head next door to The Pit where Ed Mitchell's whole hog BBQ waits to pull you into a lovely, deep food coma. The pulled pork and brisket entrees were the favorites of the table.

Roll yourself across the street to Crank Arm Brewery. If it's nice out, they'll have the doors open to the street so you can take in the warm Raleigh night air. Their Motivator stout tastes like a coffee filled Milky Way chocolate bar.

Day Three

Durham day! Start your day off right with the brunch buffet at Greer Street Garden. It's a surprisingly beautiful bar in an old auto service station with outdoor beer garden style seating out back. On Sundays they put out an incredible brunch buffet with coffee, bacon, sausage, grits, quiche, biscuits, fruit... everything you want a brunch buffet to have. Walk in and see the bartender to pay for your buffet and order a Bloody Mary. There's a self service Bloody Mary garnish bar with olives, bacon, pickles, celery...all the things you want a garnish bar to have. Then fill your plate and find a table.

Head down the block to Full Steam Brewery for a tour and tasting. When you're done, grab one of the many unique coffees to go from Cocoa Cinnamon across the street.

Sarah P. Duke Botanical Garden is a magical place. Stop in the visitor center for a map and a water bottle refill. Take your time strolling through the rose and asiatic gardens. We saw koi fish, turtles, herons, a hummingbird, chickens and doves. It's 55 acres so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Dogs are allowed before 10am and after 5pm.

I imagine it's time for a sweet treat. Parlour serves locally made ice cream in delightful flavors like sea salt caramel, prickly pear or strawberry cheesecake.

As I mentioned, this is an eating and drinking trip so what's one more bakery? Since you're there, head over to Scratch bakery for a little bite of carb heaven. Their crackers are great.

Down the street to the Durham Hotel for a drink on their rooftop bar. Admire the view of Durham while enjoying sips of your hand crafted cocktail.

Take a little time to walk around the American Tobacco Campus, just a few blocks away.

Its probably around dinner time, isn't it? If you want to stay in Durham, there are a bunch of great restaurants and bars on or just off Main Street: 

Viceroy - english pub with indian cuisine

Mateo Bar de Tapas - southern inspired tapas

Pizzaria Toro - pizza! 

Dames Chicken & Waffles - comfort food

If you're up for a quick drive, no visit to Raleigh is complete without a meal at Beasleys. It's back near the site of your first meal at Centro in downtown Raleigh. Beasley's is a casual fried chicken place with clever cocktails, seasonal menu items and amazing comfort food. Highlights were to mac and cheese, spicy fried chicken sandwich and pork shoulder meatloaf.

Work off dinner with a few rounds of tabletop shuffleboard at Bare Bones

That's it!  There are is so much great food and fun things to do in Raleigh and Durham - I don't think we even scratched the surface. Looking forward to my next visit. Leave a comment if there's something I missed!