Tomato Avocado Salad

Denver has had record-breaking heat lately... and I have had zero interest in cooking whatsoever. The good news is I haven't heated up the house at all. The bad news is (well, there's quite a bit of bad)... 1) ever-expanding waistline from eating out; 2) less money because restaurants cost more; and 3) no blog posts! Obviously something needed to give. This salad addressed all of my issues:

1) It requires absolutely no cooking
2) It's a delicious and healthy salad
3) The ingredients are all seasonal and on sale
4) Blog post ahoy!

My mom used to actually make this when I was a kid. I would eat all the avocado out of the bowl and she would get mad, so I started eating the other ingredients, too (but I still pile a little extra avocado on my plate). It's kind of like a riff on caprese salad.... kind of. Obviously, it's better. (And better for you!) This could easily be served as a cute appetizer on toothpicks, but I usually just chop everything up in a bowl and serve it as a side dish.

You can use any balsamic vinegar, but I suggest investing in a really good bottle of it. The more syrupy, the better. That watery cooking stuff just doesn't cut it sometimes.

Nectarine Fizz

I have yet to create a drink recipe on my page! For shame... I have so many great drink ideas, too! This one was inspired because Phil bought a bunch of nectarines early last week and they needed to be eaten ASAP otherwise we would have had to throw them out. Also, we ran what seemed like never-ending errands today and I had ZERO water, so I came home feeling like I was going to absolutely die of dehydration. I was hot, sweaty, grumpy, and in need of something refreshing. We broke out our juicer and juiced our super ripe nectarines. It actually turned it more into a syrup than a liquid, which was fine. We drizzled 1 tablespoon of the nectarine syrup into a champagne flute, 1 teaspoon of honey, then added enough Pellegrino to fill champagne flute to the top. Stir in 2 ice cubes and serve with a nectarine slice on the rim. Phil and I sat out on the balcony and went through about 6 flutes, drinking silently and enjoying the evening until we felt like our batteries were recharged.

You could do this without the honey, but we found it wasn't *quite* sweet enough and the honey added a really nice flavor. This would also be delicious with a couple frozen raspberries dropped in.

If you don't have a juicer, puree your nectarines with enough water to turn it into a thick liquid.

Sauteed Portobello with Balsamic Reduction

The way to Phil's heart is two ways (both food related).

1) Pie
2) A balsamic reduction

If you haven't tasted or made a balsamic reduction, rest assured that it is both delicious and easy to make. Much easier than baking a pie. This is another good recipe to make for your carnivorous friends who think that all vegans eat are salads. A savory, sugary syrup over a flavor-packed, tender portobello? Yes, please! The other good thing (yes, there's more!) about this recipe is that it takes about 15-20 minutes to make. You know me-- quick and easy is the way to go. Also, anything that will heat the house as minimally as possible will make me happy. Denver is insanely hot this week!

Serve with a tomato salad and rosemary roasted potatoes to make your belly even happier.

Pibil Jackfruit and Throwing a Dinner Party for Non-Vegans

Before Phil and I became vegan, we were quite social creatures. We would often throw dinner parties, go out to eat with friends, and generally not be scared about either feeding ourselves or feeding others. When June arrived, I realized we were half way through the year and hadn't invited a single person over or accepted any invitations from others. Le Horrible! We had become shut-ins!

My biggest fear of throwing a vegan dinner party for non-vegans was that they would hate the food, leave feeling upset for having accepted our invitation, and never want to eat with us again. I know this seems irrational. It would seem even more irrational if you knew my friends-- they're textbook wonderful! I think even on their worst day they are gracious and kind. Phil and I finally decided to get over our vegan fears and invite two of our friends over for dinner. The funny thing about inviting this couple over for dinner is "B" hates fruits and vegetables. It's not that he doesn't like the idea of them-- it's something about the taste or texture that triggers his gag reflex and he can't keep them down. He told us the story of gagging after eating sushi with a little bit of cucumber in it. Once he took the cucumber out he was fine. Weird, right? And... terrifying, considering fruits and veggies are the bulk of what we eat!

We decided to make jackfruit because it has the texture, appearance, and (sort of) taste of meat. It was our hope to deceive B into not throwing up all over the dinner table. When you go into an evening with your main goal as not having someone puke what you fed them, you have nowhere to go but up-- right?

Fortunately, they loved dinner. Mission accomplished! To keep with our tropical theme, we served banana coconut cream parfaits for dessert and it was a hit, too. Whew! And... Hooray! We no longer have to be shut-ins!

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Have you ever had one of those days where you do one thing and a whole chain of unfortunate events unfold? For example, you pick up a book that fell off a shelf. You put the book back on the shelf. The entire shelf comes crashing down. Onto something breakable.

Sigh.

It's days like these that I need something that won't fail, but also something tasty enough that it nourishes the soul. There's a funny picture somewhere (I'll have to look for it) that has a picture of a piece of broccoli that it says, "This nourishes the body." Next to it is a picture of a chocolate chip cookie that says, "This nourishes the soul." The idea is you need both to have a balanced diet/life. I like to think this quinoa salad nourishes both body and soul. It's not chocolate, but it's truly delicious. People underestimate the tastiness of fresh vegetables!

There's no fancy dressing for this. The juice from the tomato and a sprinkling of lime juice is all you need. It tastes so fresh, you'll instantly feel uplifted.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Even though the weather is getting warmer, something about a warm and creamy tomato soup sounded amazing to me. I wasn't raised on tomato soup, but it still rings true as one of the top American comfort foods (and apparently it's a big comfort food in Poland, too!). Also, because the herbs in our garden are growing like crazy, this was the perfect opportunity to use up some thyme and basil. Unfortunately, my tomatoes aren't quite ready yet, so I use canned tomatoes for ease of preparation. Did you know that canned tomatoes are more highly concentrated and actually contain higher amounts of vitamin E than fresh tomatoes? They also have a little stronger taste. They worked out quite well in the recipe. I used tomatoes that had been canned with basil for an added herbiness. Mmmm. I can't get enough basil!

They say that when you crave a food, it means your body is actually craving some vitamin or mineral that you can get from that food. When it comes to tomatoes, that could be a whole range of things. Just one cup of raw tomatoes offer nearly 40% of Vitamin C, 30% of Vitamin A, 20% Vitamin K, 12% potassium and molybdenum, 11% manganese, as well as fiber, Vitamins B6 & B3, copper, magnesium, Vitamin E, phosphorus, protein, choline, and iron. When you add basil, thyme, onions, and cashew cream, you're adding a wider range of vitamins and minerals to an already healthy soup.

All in all, this soup takes about 80 minutes to make, but it's mostly downtime. Make it on a Sunday night and slurp on it for the week. The flavors get better the longer it sits!

Staying Healthy While Traveling

I find myself traveling more and more. In fact, I just got back last night from a conference in Atlanta. You'd think it would be difficult to stay vegan when you have no kitchen or control over where you're eating, but surprisingly, with a little bit of forethought those waters are easy to navigate and can often yield some amazing surprises. For example, when I went to Richmond, Virginia in January I found the most amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurant that served a delicious, vegan entree. I loved it so much that I came home and recreated it. Keep yourself open to adventure, be flexible if you can't find a local vegan joint, and prepare before you go.

Here are my 5 tips that should help you the next time you have to leave the comfort of your kitchen for the world of the unknown:

Quick and Easy Garlic Naan

Most naan recipes that I've come across require yogurt. I get it... it makes it creamy and soft, but I don't often eat yogurt, never have it in my fridge, and don't want to go buy some just to make a quick batch of naan to have with dinner. I do, however, always have a couple of packets of active dry yeast, flour, and garlic. Shouldn't a girl be able to make some delicious naan?!?! Yes! Here's how. You're really going to love how easy this is.

I make this on my stove top with a heavy cast-iron skillet. Things DO get a little smokey, so prepare by opening your windows and turning on your vent/fans. I haven't found a way around this. We haven't set the smoke detector off yet, so it's not THAT bad, but things will get hazy. The other thing to note is you want to have your melted Earth Balance and cumin seeds ready beside the skillet for quick application. Each piece of naan will cook only for about 20-30 seconds per side, so efficiency is key. Lastly, after each piece comes off the stove, put it on a plate and then put a clean dish towel over the naan to keep everything warm and moist.

Alright!! Here we go. This makes 8 naan. Be sure to roll them out a little thicker than you think is necessary. Thick naan is chewy and delicious; thin naan burns and gets crunchy. Serve it with some Spring Veggies with Coconut Tamarind Sauce or Tempeh and Potato Rogan Josh.

Tempeh and Potato Rogan Josh

Phil and I found the coolest dishes at World Market this weekend and snapped up an entire set of them. To break them in, we decided to try our hand at our once favorite Indian dish-- rogan josh. Traditional rogan josh is made with boneless chunks of lamb meat and stewed in yogurt with a ton of spices. Obviously not vegan.

It was, however, easy to get an authentic taste by substituting a few ingredients. I'm not usually a fan of using tempeh in my dishes, but figured this would be an excellent stand in. Although I liked the dish, I will tell you that you would be fine just to use the potato if you're adverse to tempeh. This recipe doesn't necessarily fall under "cincho de Mayo" (because it takes more than an hour to prepare), but rest assured that a lot of it is down time.

Phil was happy to help make this because it allowed him to break out one of our wedding gifts--- a mortar and pestle from his sister. He loves it. Heck, I love it, but I rarely get to use it since he bogarts it any time smashing is involved. I should take pictures next time. It's pretty darn adorable. Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning a mortar and pestle is because I recommend using whole spices instead of pre-ground spices and either smashing or grinding them yourself. They are SO much better for Indian cuisine-- you get a richer color, a deeper flavor, and a more aromatic smell. When you freshly grind a whole spice, oils are released and you get true flavor. A lot of ground spices aren't as pungent or fresh. Trust me: whole is the way to go! Just be careful when you toast them-- they will POP right out of the skillet like a kernel of popcorn.

Apple Walnut Scones


Good morning, everyone! And Happy Memorial Day. I thought it would be nice to start featuring a guest blogger on the site once a month. My vision of a guest blogger wasn't necessarily to create a new recipe (although that's amazing if they do), but to share their experience either switching to a plant-based diet, discuss some of the increasing research around the health benefits of veganism, review a book... whatever! I suggested this to Phil and he ran with it in the best way possible. What's the best way possible, you ask? Maddie gets breakfast in bed. He tried his recipe four different mornings before perfecting it. I am the luckiest girl in the world. So, without further ado--- here's Phil!

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