Friday, May 4, 2012

From Iowa: The Vegan Monkey

gluten-free, date sweetened, Celiac friendly

I made it to Iowa alive! Apart from being run off the highway by an evil school bus, I have completed 2/3ds of my journey unscathed! I'm staying with Andrew here in Iowa until Sunday afternoon, then I'll complete my trip to Spring Green. But that's only a three hour drive, which is a piece of cake. For now, I'm just enjoying getting to spend time with the boy I love.

Oh - and my road trip snacks were very successful! They kept me full, awake, and satisfied - which is quite a feat! I even managed to save a few truffles for Andrew to try - that's true love  :)

So I'm here, in Iowa (the Amana area of Iowa is BEAUTIFUL btw), and Andrew is running props/house managing for On Golden Pond - which I'm seeing tomorrow - and I'm relaxing after 7 hours in the car - a little yoga for my stiff back and a cup of tea for my soul - and thought I'd take a little time while I still have the internets to do a little back blogging, and share a recipe I made the other night along with the Enchilada Casserole: Vegan Chunky Monkey Ice Cream!

Way back when, before I went vegan, I was absolutely in love with Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream. I could down a whole pint in about two seconds. This was also before I had fully grasped the concept of portion control :P However, now using Melissa's wonderful vegan date sweetened coconut milk ice cream base (which I introduced here), I can make my own version anytime I want and not feel an ounce of guilt. Which is kinda awesome.

The three things that make Chunky Monkey, well, Chunky Monkey, are bananas, walnuts and chocolate chips. This ice cream base recipe has become one of my favorites; there are so many flavor combos just waiting to be discovered, and I'm loving this new one. Also, I love how this recipe really isn't bad for you - coconut milk, dates, fruit, nuts, and a little bit of dairy/sugar-free chocolate - in the words of Ina Garten: "how bad can that be?"

The Vegan Monkey

  • 1 cup of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 Medjool Dates, pits removed
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (recipe follows)*
To Make the Ice Cream:
Put all ice cream ingredients into a blender. Blend the ingredients until only small flecks of the dates and banana remain. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, following the manufacturers directions.

Mix in the walnuts and chocolate chips when the ice cream is starting to firm up. Serve and enjoy!  

My ice cream tends to be on the soft-servy side - probably because I both like it that way and haven't the patience to wait for it to get super firm before I dive in....

*Chocolate Chips 

(again, courtesy Melissa C.)


  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cacao powder
  • 5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 5 tablespoons shredded coconut
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp almond flour or cashew butter (optional)
  • 1 tsp agave or maple syrup (I used 6 drops of stevia in mine, however I do like really dark chocolate- if you're not a fan, I'd recommend adding in the extra sweetener).

To Make Chocolate Chips: 
In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and coconut oil by hand until well-blended. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Smear a small dab of coconut oil onto some parchment or wax paper, then pour on the chocolate and spread into a thin layer. Refrigerate chocolate until set (very little time). Break into little pieces and add to ice cream, or store in an airtight container in the freezer. 

Melty chocolate on parchment paper.

My almond/coconut flaked chocolate chunks :D

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Road Tripping! 

gluten free, almost sugar free travel friendly snacks :)
Carrot Sticks, Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles, and Almond Saltine Crackers

I am preparing for a journey. Tomorrow I begin my drive up to Wisconsin to work for the amazing American Player's Theatre for the summer. It's quite a drive from Texas, and as I'm driving by myself, I'm breaking the trip up into a few days. I'm also stopping off in Iowa to spend some time with Andrew - my wonderful partner in life/human test subject - whom I miss very much :) Then I get to spend two months making beautiful art with some very lovely people! Good times.

I should also say that my blog posts may be a bit more sporadic for the next 7 weeks, as I will have fairly limited internet, and therfore blogging access. In a way, this is one of the things that I've come to love about summers at APT - no internet, no television - it's a lovely detox from the over-stimulation of modern life. So I'll try my best to keep you updated, especially since one of my housemates for the summer is a very adventurous new vegan (and awesome human being) who's just about as obsessed with food as I am :) We're gonna have fun!

So I thought I'd share my road trip snack selections with you. I don't know about you, but though I always start with the best of intentions - pretzels, trail mix, fruit, pb&j -after about 5 hours in the car, I start craving sugar, salt, and things that are fried - anything to keep me awake. This usually results in bad decisions, and regrets (damn you Oreos!). However, this time I am bound and determined to succeed! I've been feeling so much better, more awake, and lighter since I've started cutting down on gluten (i.e., wheat) and sugar, and I want to keep that going. So I made myself a few of my new favorite snack foods to take with me, and help keep me on track.

The snacks I've chosen are healthy, filling, and satisfy my sweet and salty/crunchy cravings.

First off, I made a batch of chocolate hazelnut truffles. Basically mini Lara Bars (man I love Lara Bars). They're dense, just sweet enough, and pack some protein thanks to the hazelnuts. I used The Wannabe Chef's recipe for raw/vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Cakes, but just used 1 TBS of maple syrup instead of the 1/4 cup called for and added 1 TBS water to help hold them together since I wasn't adding as much sweetener. Then I simply rolled them into balls - and they basically taste like little Nutella nuggets (ah Nutella, I was in love with it during my non-vegan days - since my first Nutella smeared crepe in Paris). I've also made the cakes, and they were both simple and gorgeous, though I wasn't a huge fan of the avocado icing.

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Then I made a batch of gluten-free crackers, from a recipe that my friend Melissa had introduced me to. It's a super simple recipe with lots of options for playing around with flavors. The recipe comes from a blog called The Comfy Belly, and is not vegan. However, it is very easily veganized by substituting the egg for a flax egg (1 TBS ground flax seeds + 3 TBS water). I also added 1 TBS of chia seeds (I'm a little obsessed with them at the moment, could you tell?), 2 TBS sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 2 TBS nutritional yeast. And the results are a nutty, filling, slightly salty and almost cheese-it tasting cracker. I also used un-bleached almond flour, which I think makes the cracker's more flavorful.

GF Almond Saltines
And I made some carrot sticks too :) I know, I know, they make those handy little bags of baby carrots, but they freak me out. Not sure why, but they do. So I make my own!

'Cause you totally needed to know what my carrot sticks looked like :P

And can I just say that I freaking love these re-usies! No more wasted plastic baggies :)

And it's super cute.
So now I am prepared for my journey! And after I cook dinner tonight, I'll also have some leftover chickpea patties for lunch on the road. Tomorrow morning, all I'll need to do is grab a bit of iced coffee! And maybe an apple or two :)

Enchilada Casserole!



I love casseroles. There, I said it. It's probably the little old lady in me. Anyway, this is a dish I came up with a few weeks ago - I wrote down a few of the basic ingredients I'd used, but that's about it - sloppy recipe creation, I know :P  So I decided to make it again - properly documented this time. Corn tortilla's layered with enchilada sauce, quinoa-broccoli-pinto bean filling, vegan queso, etc. I think it turned out rather well, and mom and dad agreed (though my dad is not a vegan, he does eat most of the vegan dishes I prepare - and I take it as a good measure for how these recipes might go over with other carnivores).

It's not too spicy - because I just don't handle spicy terribly well, - anything over mild tends to elicit lots of "oh my god, oh my god, my taste buds are dying" antics- but you can kick the heat up a bit by using spicy salsa in the queso, or a spicy enchilada sauce, or by throwing a diced jalapeno in with the veggies! For example, my fiance/man-friend/life partner - let's just call him Andrew - LOVES the spicy! He'd put sriracha and red pepper flakes on everything if I let him :P So when I made these the first time - I made two batches - one with the jalapenos and a few dashes of hot sauce, and the other mild as can be. So may you're mouth blissfully burn if you so choose :)

This dish also uses one of my favorite recipe's for vegan cheese sauce, which I first discovered on (which I've just tried to link to, but my computer seems to believe it's an "attack page" at the moment, so I'll link that a bit later....) - a great resource for vegan recipe sharing! Anyway, this recipe is Dragonfly's Bulk Un-cheese Mix, and I always keep a batch on hand in the fridge, and it comes in handy for a last minute supper of mac and trees :) My version of this mix differs slightly from Dragonfly's, in that I do not add corn starch to my mixture - I honestly don't think it's necessary - the cashew mixture thickens up quite nicely without it.

Also, though I've been meaning to try my hand at homemade enchilada sauce, last night that simply wasn't going to happen. Too hungry. So I used a store bought version. I found this nifty little pouch of enchilada sauce the last time I was at the store - Frontera's Red Chile Enchilada Sauce with Roasted Tomato and Garlic - and was delighted when I looked at the ingredient list to find that there were no strange chemicals, or unpronounceable additives. It's fairly low in sodium, contains no high fructose corn syrup or gluten - and while it does contain sugar, it's listed pretty far down on the ingredient list which is usually a good sign. I also confirmed with the company, that it is vegan friendly. However, buyer beware - apparently Frontera's Enchilada sauce that comes in a jar is not vegan/vegetarian friendly. So look for the pouch. Or make your own! I intend to make my own next time, so that I can hopefully eliminate the sugar all together.

My nifty supermarket find

Enchilada Casserole 

1 cup/pouch enchilada sauce, mild
9-10 small corn tortillas (I used Food For Life's sprouted corn tortillas)

1tsp grapeseed, olive, or coconut oil
1 head broccoli, finely chopped, about 2 1/2 cups
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBS cumin powder
½ TBS chili powder
½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
black pepper to taste
1 15oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lime
2 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup cashew cheese mix (recipe follows)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup mild salsa/picante sauce

1 lime cut into wedges to garnish

Pre-heat oven to 375.

In a medium sized sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent.  Add the broccoli and garlic, and continue to cook about 10 minutes more, until the broccoli is very tender, and the onions are lightly browned.  Add the remaining ingredients, plus the quinoa and 1/2 of cashew queso sauce, and mix to incorporate. Set aside. 


Yeah.... I forgot to add the pinto beans to mine.... oops!

Make the queso sauce: in a small sauce pan, whisk together the cashew cheese mix and water over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken and bubble - about 2 minutes. When it's as thick as you'd like, remove from the heat and add the salsa. Whisk together, then set aside.

Cashew cheese sauce before I poured in the salsa

In a 9x11 casserole dish, spread about 1/3 cup of your enchilada sauce to coat the bottom. Use 3 tortillas to cover the bottom of the pan – I like to cut each tortilla into 4 triangles, then play a bit of tortilla Tetris in the pan. Spread on 1/2 of  your quinoa veggie mix. Top with tortilla’s, and another 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce. Spread on the rest of your quinoa veggie mix, cover with another 3 tortillas, and end with the last of your enchilada sauce. Top everything off with the rest of your cashew queso, cover with tin foil, and place in the oven for 30 minutes, until the queso is bubbly. I like to remove the tin foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking, so that it can brown a bit on top. Serve with lime wedges.

Tortilla Tetris!
Second layer of tortilla's topped with enchilada sauce
I like how the enchilada sauce and the queso swirled together :)

Cashew Cheese Mix

(Original Recipe by Dragonfly)
I usually make about 4 cups of this at a time, but I've scaled it back here. This makes about 1 cup of dry cheese mix.
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 TBS onion powder
1/2 TBS garlic powder
1 tsp seasoning salt

In a food processor or blender, pulse all ingredients until finely ground. Store in an airtight container, and place in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. 

Dry cashew cheese mix

To make cheese sauce, add 1 part cashew cheese mix and 1 part water in a small saucepan, and whisk together over medium heat, until thick and bubbly. Pour over pasta, veggies, etc. Or mix with salsa, and enjoy with some baked tortilla chips :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Obsession Continues: Chocolate Cherry Pudding Overnight Oats with Roasted Almonds

  gluten-free, stevia sweetened

 So last night before I fell into bed (after a long day of searching for a car - let us not speak of it - an hour of sweaty power yoga and cleaning), I mixed up a few ingredients in a bowl, placed said bowl into the fridge, skyped my intended (who's currently working in Iowa), and passed out.

And what did I find in the fridge this morning? A big bowl of what tasted like chocolate pudding :)

I used OhSheGlows' recipe for Chocolate Cake Batter Overnight Oats as inspiration for my Chocolate Cherry Pudding Overnight Oats with Roasted Almonds - long enough title? I loved them, mom loved them - and the great thing about them is that they keep you full for so long! I'm usually scrounging around for a snack by 10am, but these kept me full till lunch, thanks to the chia seeds and the nuts.

Chocolate Cherry Pudding Overnight Oats with Roasted Almonds
Serves 2-3

  • 1 cup frozen unsweetened cherries (or fresh, chopped), defrosted and broken apart with a fork
  • 3/4 cup regular oats, or gluten-free oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk - or non-dairy milk of choice - coconut milk would probably be good!
  • 2 TBS chia seeds
  • 2 TBS cocoa powder
  • 6 drops liquid stevia, or 1TBS maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS roasted, unsalted almonds (or raw almonds, walnuts, etc.)
Directions: In a medium sized bowl, defrost the cherries in the microwave for 1 minute (or just set them out at room temperature for a few hours). Mash with a fork. Add the oats, cocoa powder, salt, and chia seeds - mix together. Whisk in the almond milk and stevia, until no lumps of cocoa powder remain, and the mixture is starting to thicken (due to the chia seeds, this should happen fairly quickly).  Cover the bowl and place in the fridge. Let set for two hours, or overnight.

In the morning, remove the covering, give them a stir - you can add more sweetener if you like - and top with roasted almonds. Savor, as you revel in the feeling of eating pudding for breakfast :)

I like a lotta nuts