Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread – Veganized to Perfection!

It’s no secret that I enjoy taking shortcuts with my cooking from time to time.  Usually I’ll only do it if the shortcut way is just as good as, if not better, than its more labor-intensive counterpart.

For me personally, pumpkin bread falls into the shortcut category.  I’ve made it from scratch a bunch of times and it’s really good, but I have to say, Trader Joe’s boxed mix yields an equally-delicious result.  It’s one of my favorite fall treats!
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The box instructions tell you to combine the boxed mix with two eggs, 1/2 cup of oil, and 1 cup of water.  Fortunately, quick breads like this are ideal candidates for veganizing with egg substitutes, because their dense texture and full flavor easily mask the fact that substitutions have been used.
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I used to do this bread with two flax eggs (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water), but over the weekend I tried it with one flax egg and one mashed banana, and I have to say it was WAY better.  I’ll go as far as to say that it’s the best combo for veganizing this particular product (of course, if you have an even better way, I’d love to hear it in the comments!).

The banana flavor is undetectable but it gives a gooey, sweet consistency that is just sooooo appetizing and pleasing to the palate.
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Oh, and you’ll notice that I also added half a cup of chocolate chips, of course :)  I have my priorities straight.

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Has fall weather hit you yet?  It has certainly come to us.
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A few weeks ago I bought the most beautiful head of orange cauliflower at the farmer’s market and had one of those moments where I was so excited to eat it that I didn’t know where to start.

Of course, I was 25 weeks along at that point and the “experts” say that at 25 weeks a developing baby is roughly the size of cauliflower, so obviously the first thing to do was to take a belly comparison pic.
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Don’t mind the frumpy PJ’s…it’s getting harder and harder to find comfy clothing!

But after that there were actual choices to be made.  Finally, in the interest of simplicity and seasonally-appropriate fare, I settled on a hearty soup.
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This soup is rich and filling with a deep, savory flavor that will warm you from the inside out!

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4
Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (about 4-5 cups)
5 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 small (or 1 large) russet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 turmeric
4 cups vegetable broth (or reconstituted bouillon)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup nutritional yeast (optional but highly recommended!)
Couple dashes cayenne (optional)

1. The roasting: Preheat the oven to 425.  Place cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring or flipping at least once about halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and nicely browned.  Take out of the oven and let cool slightly, then remove the garlic cloves and set aside.  Also set aside about a cup of cauliflower.

2. Warm some oil (or a thin layer of water) in a stockpot over medium-high heat and saute onion until tender and beginning to turn translucent.

3. Add potatoes, cumin, and turmeric, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute.

4. Add broth and bay leaf, stir, and bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

6. Add cauliflower and garlic, stir to combine, and simmer another 5 minutes.

7. REMOVE THE BAY LEAF, then puree, either in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor.

8.  Stir in the reserved cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast and cayenne if using.  Taste and adjust spices as necessary.  Enjoy!

This soup doesn’t take long to pull together, but if you are really short on time, you could consider skipping the roasting step. The flavor will be a little less deep, but the soup will still come out delicious. For the unroasted version, peel and finely chop the garlic and saute it along with the onion in step 2.  In step 3, add the cauliflower along with the potato and simmer both in the vegetable broth (steps 4 and 5) until tender.  Once tender, use a strainer to remove some of the florets to set aside, if desired.  Then blend and season as indicated in steps 7 and 8.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

BOWLS! by Becky Striepe – Review and Recipe for Chai Spice Oatmeal

Hi there!

Today I am super-excited to share with you my thoughts on BOWLS!, a brand new cookbook by my friend Becky Striepe.

You may already be familiar with Becky’s amazing blog, Glue and Glitter, where she shares mouthwatering recipes, beautiful crafts, and lots of tips and tricks for living a simple, green, vegan lifestyle.  Becky is also the author of 40 Days of Green Smoothies.

In this new book, we are promised a collection of “mix-and-match recipes to fill your favorite vessel,” and BOWLS! certainly delivers!
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BOWLS! starts out with a genius, yet foolproof, formula for constructing the perfect meal: a bottom layer (consisting of potatoes, grain, pasta, or salad greens) + a middle layer (of raw or cooked veggies) + a top layer of protein, and then an optional “tippy-top” layer of add-ons and sauces.

From there, you get a chapter full of Breakfast and Brunch bowls (such as Chai Spice Oatmeal [get the recipe below!] and Cheesy Stovetop Grits).  Next are Lunch and Supper bowls (like the Roasted Veggie Bowl with Tahini-Miso Sauce and Peanut Butter Tofu Bowl), followed by Soups & Stews (including such gems as Creamy Curried Tomato Soup and Green Lentil & Potato Stew).

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Sort of Cheesy Broccoli Bowl (so scrumptious!)

After that, there is an entire section devoted to Sauces and another to various Layers.  The Layers section is particularly invaluable, because it not only contains recipes for toppings that can be used in multiple way (such as Vegan Bacon and Perfect Mashed Potatoes), but also instructions on Basic Grain Cooking and Cooking Dried Beans.

I love this, because not only does BOWLS! give you a bunch of great recipes as a starting point, but it also arms you with everything you need to be able to mix and match components to create your own bowl of vegan goodness at a moment’s notice.

Becky’s friendly, approachable style shines through in every page of BOWLS! This book is a treasure trove of quick, simple-to-prepare yet insanely tasty recipes and meal components that you can and will use over and over again.  The bold, colorful photos only add to its appeal.  I’ll also add that it displays absolutely gorgeously on a tablet.

Becky has generously offered to share a recipe from BOWLS! with you all today.  I’ve chosen the Chai Spice Oatmeal, a recipe I’ve made probably about a dozen times since receiving the book for review, because it is so incredibly delicious, without being too sweet, and perfect for fall of course!

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Chai Spice Oatmeal
reprinted with permission from BOWLS! by Becky Striepe, copyright 2014 by Cattington, Inc.

Ingredients for 1 serving
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water or almond milk
1 small handful dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

2. Alternate cooking instructions: Combine all of your ingredients in a very large bowl with high sides.  Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes, stir, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

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Dry ingredients, measured ahead to be microwaved at work–how’s that for convenient?

BOWLS! is available in print or as an ebook.  Details on how to order BOWLS! can be found at the bottom of this post.

Do yourself a favor and snag a copy today!

Carbs and Updates

Well hello there!

Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA the past week or so.  Between work, traveling around for the High Holidays, and baby stuff, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for cooking or blogging.

Rest assured I am still eating very well!  Today I did something that was LONG overdue and paired PB & Co.’s White Chocolate Wonderful with my mother-in-law’s homemade raspberry jam.
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Oh my God, this was heaven.
 photo WhiteChocWonderful015_zpsf0e4219b.jpgWhite Chocolate Wonderful is nothing new, but it’s not something I’ve bought all that frequently in the past due to the high potential for overindulgence.  Now that I am on a blessed (albeit temporary) break from calorie counting, however, I can embrace that it’s something that’s right up my alley, and just enjoy.

 photo WhiteChocWonderful013_zpscba2297d.jpgSpeaking of calories…I’ve also been eating a lot of bagels. Like, a lot. H and I stocked up on the world’s best bagels (from Bagel Station in Red Bank, in case you’re curious) when we were down in New Jersey for Rosh Hashanah two weekends ago and they have been my go-to ever since.

These bagels are outrageous.  They are giant and fluffy and doughy–no exaggeration, some of them are the size of your head.  Most of them don’t even have a hole because the dough bakes up so high.  Yum!!

With Daiya cream cheese and some sliced farmstand tomatoes (the classic):  photo WhiteChocWonderful001_zps0b7968f2.jpg

With Daiya cream cheese and sliced baby beets (new to me and SO SO GOOD–try this if you haven’t before!!):
 photo Nurseryand26weeks012_zps63efba90.jpgNow let’s just hope I pass my glucose test next Thursday after all this carbo-loading.

While I was in NJ, I also got to try these wonders of human creation for the first time, courtesy of my dear sister M:
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They are as good as I’d imagined.  I am still impatiently waiting for them to show up on shelves in Massachusetts.

Finally, today I officially start my third trimester!  I can’t believe how close we’re getting to meeting this bouncy/jabby/rolly future Pats fan.
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Simply Perfect Weeknight Dinner: Vegan Tacos!

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In many ways, tacos embody the concept of Simply Perfect.  They are cheap, extremely easy to prepare and assemble, a great vehicle for leftovers, and endlessly customizable.

In short, a taco dinner makes a perfect weeknight dinner!

The only *musts* are a filling and some shells.  After that, you can get creative with the rest of the fillings!  Vegan cheese shreds (if that’s your thing), fresh tomato, salsa, lettuce, guacamole or diced avocado…you name it.

Shells
Because I almost always set up a “taco bar” when we have parties, I am a frequent purchaser of those taco kits you can buy in the supermarket.  This means that H and I usually have leftover taco shells (both hard and soft) and seasoning packets in our kitchen.

If you are not a taco kit hoarder like me, though, you can buy individual boxes of taco shells at the store (I used these beautiful non-GMO Garden of Eatin’ shells in the tacos pictured below), or you can just use soft corn tortillas (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s).

Filling
I have two favorite go-to fillings, both of which are extremely easy and delicious.

The first one uses Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef crumbles (in either the original “Beefy” or the “Feisty” flavor…both work great in this).  To make this filling, I lightly saute some finely chopped red onion and red bell pepper.  Once they are softened, I add the frozen crumbles and cook everything together until warmed through.  Lastly, I stir in about 1/3 of a packet of taco seasoning.
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If you do not have pre-made taco seasoning, you can easily make your own by combining some salt, chili powder, cumin, and oregano (and anything else that tastes yummy to you!).  Have fun with it!

The second filling uses ultra-cheap and readily available black beans. I simply rinse a can of beans, then add it to a pan with a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce and some taco seasoning, and cook it until warm.
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I LOVE these taco beans and the leftovers never last long.

Once your filling is ready, you can stuff tacos and eat them neatly as shown above, or you can break up the shells and serve yourself a big ol’ taco mess like I did here:
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It isn’t pretty but man did it taste good.

Either way, they’re super-fun to eat!

DIY Frozen Banana Pops

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H and I recently caught up on the fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix, and ever since then I have been thinking about how easy it would be to make some Bluth Bananas right in my own home.

Then, as fate would have it, I stumbled onto this Simply Perfect recipe from MoFo blogger Vegan Eats and Treats for Frozen Banana Pops with a nod to the Make 12 Banana Pops product of yore.

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Mine didn’t turn out as smooth and pretty as hers, but they sure were tasty! I made some with chopped up roasted peanuts and some without. H and I both preferred the ones with nuts, but I will warn you that it’s a little hard to get them to stick since the warm chocolate seizes up so quickly on the frozen banana.

This is a super-simple dessert that feels decadent but is actually kinda good for you. Hell, I wouldn’t even feel that bad about having it for breakfast. Definitely give it a try!

Easy Homemade Frozen Fruit Bars

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Hi there! Hope everyone had a great weekend!

With just over a week left of Vegan MoFo, I’m not sure whether I’ll actually meet the 20-post goal–it’d require me to post every day from here on out!–but I’m certainly going to try, as I have a lot more Simply Perfect goodness to share before the month’s end.

Today I want to tell you about a super-simple dessert (or snack, or even breakfast) that’s a cinch to prepare and is actually good for you!  Instead of spending lots of money on commercial frozen treats (many of them with questionable additives), try stocking your freezer with Homemade Frozen Fruit Bars.

Basically, you make a smoothie and freeze it.  SO EASY, and the flavor combinations are endless, making it a great way to use up produce that is nearing the end of its shelf life.  Less waste = more money in your pocket.

For these, I blended a cup of Trader Joe’s Orange-Peach-Mango juice that we had left over from a party with some fresh peaches and frozen strawberries (probably about 3/4 cup of each), then I stirred in little chunks of fresh strawberries that needed to be used up for good measure.
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Water works fine in place of juice, and is actually what I would have used if I hadn’t just happened to have juice to use up.

I poured the mixture into these popsicle molds that I bought for like a buck at Target a few years ago and froze them overnight (and there was some leftover which I gladly ate with a spoon–yum!).
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If you don’t have a mold like this you could use a standard ice cube tray instead and make mini fruit bars.  Simply pour in the mixture, let it freeze for an hour, then insert toothpicks or mini-popsicle sticks and continue to freeze overnight.

For my next batch, I’m thinking of blending orange juice with strawberries and then mixing in some chocolate chips…mmm…

More yummy frozen fruit bars: Creamsicle Frozen Yogurt Pops (from last year’s Vegan MoFo!)