Flavored Water is So Simple

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I know lots of folks find plain water boring.  Unfortunately, chronic dehydration is a huge problem in the U.S., and an aversion to water certainly won’t help alleviate this problem.

I actually do enjoy plain water, but I also like to shake things up every now and then by adding a little pop of fresh flavor to plain H2O.  At those times, I could pay out my nose for Hint water, OR I could just make my own concoctions at home with the greatest of ease!

Obviously there’s the standard lemon or lime slices.  But you can do even better!

All you need to do is simply add fruit and/or fresh herbs to any glass or bottle of water.  I find that the flavor comes through pretty quickly, but if you want to really infuse the water, let it steep in the refrigerator for a few minutes to overnight.

My absolute favorite combination is Strawberry-Mint Water.
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To make this, I add frozen strawberry slices and fresh mint leaves to a pitcher, pour in filtered water, and let it sit for an hour or so.  The flavor is sweet yet subtle, and you’ve gotta love that pink hue!  Hint: for stronger mint flavor, roll/lightly crush the leaves between your fingers before adding to the water.

After all the water is drained from the pitcher, you will be left with soggy strawberries and mint.
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Not terribly appetizing, but you don’t have to waste them–throw them into a smoothie!

Another fantastic and ultra-refreshing combination is cucumber and mint (or just plain cucumber). The leftovers from this are also great in a smoothie.

For citrus fruits (like grapefruit), I like to use the peels. They contain tons of flavorful oils but are obviously inedible on their own, so this gives you the flavor without wasting the fruit. (See? I’m all about the conservation here!)

H has gotten really on board with flavored water lately, and loves to put peeled clementine slices in his water.  A bonus with a juicy fruit like this is that it doesn’t get soggy and gross so you can eat the fruit after you’ve finished the water.

Here’s hoping you’ll never be dehydrated again :)

Banana Mocha Milkshake Smoothie

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Okay I’m going to backtrack a little bit today into Simply Perfect breakfasts because I just HAVE to share my newest concoction with you all…the Banana Mocha Milkshake Smoothie.
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As you already know, smoothies are always a simply perfect breakfast because they require little more effort than placing things in a jar and hitting a button. That’s my kind of breakfast!

This weekend I baby H wanted something a little decadent, which is how this wondrous beast was born.  It’s sweet, thick, and creamy like a milkshake, but much healthier!

Ingredients
1/2 cup brewed coffee (I used cold decaf)
1/2 cup chocolate non-dairy milk OR 1/2 cup non-dairy milk + 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 frozen bananas
1 tbsp peanut butter (optional but so worth it)
More non-dairy milk to thin, if necessary

Directions
1) Blend until smooth. It comes out pretty thick so if you want, add a couple extra splashes of non-dairy milk to thin it.
2) If there are other people around and you’re concerned about looking like a weirdo, try to limit the amount of times you say “mmm” out loud while drinking.
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Drink up and enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts Chips: A Simply Perfect Snack

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You guys, I’m obsessed. I found this recipe for Brussels Sprouts Chips by Maria Marlowe and had to wonder how in the hell I had never tried this before.

I now find myself cutting my sprouts a little more roughly than I ever did in the past, just so I can have more leaves fall off and make more of these incredible, crispy, salty snackables.
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Make some this weekend!

Simply Perfect Sides: The Best Steamed Kale

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We all know kale is super-duper healthy for you, making it a staple in most vegan kitchens and the star of many a vegan recipe. As much as I’ve wanted to like it, though, it took me some time and a lot of trial and error to find the best way to enjoy kale.
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Raw (i.e., kale salad) is yummy but you need a really good dressing (like this one–my all-time fave) to effectively soften those tough leaves and cut the bitter flavor, and I just don’t always have the energy to both make the dressing and then clean my food processor. I do like raw kale in smoothies, but I’m not someone who can have a smoothie at dinner and feel that I’ve eaten the evening meal, know what I mean?

Sauteed with garlic and olive oil, which is my go-to for spinach and softer greens, seems to result in kale that is slightly dry and unevenly cooked. I have also had limited success with kale chips, finding that it’s far too easy for them to become dried-out or slightly (or even majorly!) burnt.

BUT I think I have finally nailed it. Trust me, this super-quick steamed side dish is your perfect kale. Even my husband, who is no big lover of leafy greens, will eat it without complaint, and dare I say, with some enjoyment? (Though I’ll let him weigh in on that one himself.)
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To make:

  • Wash and chop kale.
  • Bring a tiny bit of salted water (maybe 1/4″ of water) to a boil in a medium saucepan. The water will not take long to boil so be ready!
  • Add kale, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until bright green and slightly wilted.
  • Drain and add salt (or garlic salt!), pepper (or lemon pepper!), and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Toss to make sure it’s evenly coated.

That’s it–you’re done! You can also apply this exact method for collards or any other hardy, thick-stemmed greens.

Not counting the time it takes to wash and chop the kale (which is like, what, 2 minutes?), this side dish is ready in less than 5 minutes. Huge win in my book. I love being able to add a big nutritional boost to my dinner with minimal prep or cleanup.

Oh yeah, and it tastes delicious–seriously!
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Chili Lime Corn on the Cob: A Simply Perfect Snack or Side

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I’m not sure why, but up until last year I had never cooked my own corn on the cob. I guess maybe I thought it was hard or took a long time, but boy was I wrong.

Bottom line: if you can boil water, you can cook corn on the cob.
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Here are the steps:

  • Bring a large pot of UNSALTED water to a boil.
  • De-husk the corn cobs and place them in the water.
  • Leave them there until the water starts to boil again (this takes maybe 2 minutes tops). [Note: if you want it a little softer and less al dente, give it an additional minute in the boiling water.]
  • As soon as the water is boiling again, remove the corn with tongs.
  • Season to taste and eat, typewriter-style.

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[Source]

That’s it!

My absolute favorite flavor right now is Chili Lime Corn on the Cob. To make, just spread a pat of Earth Balance over the still-warm corn, then add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a generous couple of dashes of mild chili powder (or for an incredible kick, try a spice mixture like Slap Ya Mama). Toss to coat evenly, and enjoy. My mouth is watering just thinking about it…
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This is so quick and fail-proof that I’ve recently taken to eating a piece of corn as a snack when I get home from work. It also makes a fantastic side to pretty much any dinner entree. Right now is the time to enjoy sweet end-of-summer corn, so don’t delay!

I’m also sharing this delicious corn dish in this week’s Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck–check it out!
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Simply Perfect Snacks: Veggie Dipping Delight with 2-Ingredient “Honey” Mustard

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This week for Vegan MoFo I will be sharing some of my favorite easy, fool-proof vegan snacks and sides!

Let’s start off with the greatest (and simplest) snack of them all–duh, raw vegetables!
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With texture, flavor, and nutritional benefits galore, vegetables are the perfect food. But even for vegans, plain raw vegetables can get boring after a while.

This is where a solid dip will save you!

Nothing makes eating veggies more fun than having something to dip them in. You can get crazy with your food processor to whip up some jazzy hummus (like this one or this one) or an Asian-inspired peanut sauce (this one is my all-time favorite), or you could embrace the simple perfection of a super-quick, 2 ingredient “Honey” Mustard sauce.
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To make: Add 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard to a small dish, and stir in 1-2 teaspoons of agave nectar until well-combined.  (You can also stir in a dash of fresh ground black or cayenne pepper if you’d like, and add more agave if you like it a bit sweeter.)

That’s it! Simple, zesty, sweet perfection!
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P.S. – It also tastes awesome with chips, for those rare occasions when raw vegetables aren’t satisfying your snack craving ;)
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Pictured: Kettle Brand Maple Bacon chips–yes, they’re vegan!!

Essential Components of a Simply Perfect Breakfast

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For my final breakfast-related post this MoFo, I want to give you sort of a best-of overview of what, in my view, makes a breakfast Simply Perfect.

1) It’s portable.
This is a must for me. I typically do not like to eat breakfast when I first wake up (unless it’s Avocado Toast!), or even in the first hour or two after waking, so I usually prepare it at home and bring it with me to work.
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2) It’s quick and ridiculously simple to prepare.
See above.  I do not have time in between waking up and getting out the door for work to do anything more than maybe wash some fruit and toast some bread.  It’s gotta be quick.

3) It’s light, filling, and reasonably healthy.
This is pretty self-explanatory. I’d much rather start my day with some naturally sweet fruit and whole wheat toast with PB than with an “energy” bar that doesn’t taste all that great, is loaded with added and artificial sweeteners, and will leave me hungry an hour later.
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4) There’s some versatility to the ingredients.
My breakfast staples (i.e., things I always always always have in my house) are commonly available items that are extremely versatile. These include: bananas, peanut butter, jelly/jam/preserves, rolled oats, some other kind of fresh fruit (right now I have clementines, apples, watermelon, and red grapes), a variety of frozen fruit (right now I’ve got bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and watermelon), and some kind of bread product (I *always* have whole wheat bread and whole wheat English muffins, and sometimes I mix in lavash or gluten-free options like corn tortillas or GF frozen waffles).

All of these things can be used in multiple ways to avoid too much repetition. Not to keep pushing the PB&J&B, but look at how many uses I have for it: burrito, quesadilla, and roll-up, not to mention a good old fashioned sandwich between two pieces of bread (duh) or simply stirred into cooked oatmeal. These are all similar but *just* different enough that I don’t get bored.
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5) It’s cost-effective.
Let’s face it, between grocery shopping, work lunches, and getting takeout or going out to dinner (even if only occasionally), most of us spend A LOT of money on food each week. I know some people love a big, hearty breakfast and will go out to eat or get takeout at breakfast time, but I’m not one of them.   To me, breakfast should be the cheapest, simplest meal of the day.

The breakfast ideas I’ve shared with you this week are all things that can be made mostly with inexpensive pantry staples. Aside from avocados (which I only buy when they’re on sale for $1 or less*) and non-dairy yogurt (which I only buy when it’s $3.99 or less* for the large container), everything else (bananas and other fruit [both fresh and frozen], nut butter, bread) is something I always have and only need to replenish once every 7-14 days for our household of 2. This proves to be very cost-effective over time.
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So there you have it: a winning formula for a Simply Perfect breakfast!

I hope you all enjoy your weekend! I’ll see you Monday to kick off a week of Simply Perfect snacks!

*Keep in mind when I refer to food prices that I live in the greater Boston area, where the cost of living is quite high.