Friday, April 12, 2013

Single Serving Chocolate Cake (With Frosting!)



The recipe for this cake isn't one I personally came up with, but it's definitely one I wanted to share because I find myself using it so much. It's perfect for anytime I want something sweet, but don't want the temptation or clean up of making a whole cake or an entire batch of cookies or cupcakes. This recipe takes about 5 minutes to throw together, including cooking time, and requires very little clean up since the mixing and baking (and even eating, if you want!) only uses one ramekin (or coffee cup) per cake.

This recipe is also great because it leaves you with so many options! Depending on what's in my refrigerator at the time, sometimes I add blueberries or other fruit to this cake (cherries and blackberries are also especially delicious), or a dash of cayenne, which pairs amazingly with chocolate if you've never tried it. You could also add some chopped nuts, dark chocolate chips, almond or peanut butter...the options are really endless. Today, however, I was craving frosting. 

I've been on a quest lately to come up with a delicious frosting recipe that doesn't require sugar, oil, or margarine that I can feel great about eating any time, and not just on special occasions when I recognize that what I'm eating is a bit of a splurge. So far, however, my attempts have turned out more like a glaze than a thick, creamy frosting. Since I had half of an avocado hanging out in my refrigerator, I figured this was the perfect time to test my theory that it would be great for giving body and richness to frosting. This obviously wouldn't work with every flavor, but the chocolate does a wonderful job of masking the taste of the avocado, and the result is so creamy and delicious that you might just forget how healthy it is. 





The recipe for the chocolate cake belongs to one of my favorite dessert bloggers, Chocolate Covered Katie, and can be found here. (I opted to use unsweetened apple sauce in place of oil and stevia in place of the sugar to continue the theme of keeping this "everyday" chocolate cake as healthy as possible.)


Chocolate Avocado Frosting

Yield: Frosting for 2-4 mini cakes



Ingredients:

1/2 Avocado
2-3 Medjool Dates (optional)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tsp vanilla extract
Liquid Stevia
Pinch of sea salt


1. Remove skin from the dates and set aside to soak. (Tip: Have water ready tower your fingers as you go. Dates are sticky!) It is best if you can do this at least two hours before. You can also skip this step and just increase the stevia if you prefer, although I do like the slight caramel taste the dates give to the frosting. 

2. Scoop out the avocado flesh and put into a food processor. Remove the pits from the dates and add them as well, along with the salt, vanilla, and stevia (to taste). Blend!



Notes: I find that it is best to make this frosting when you are ready to eat it. I made mine the night before and noticed that when I ate it the next day, the avocado flavor was slightly more pronounced. Still good, but I did prefer it right after it was made!




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tropical Green Smoothie


I will admit, I do love smoothies, but I can't always get excited about them for breakfast. I'm usually an oatmeal or cereal kind of girl. This week, however, smoothies just sounded really good. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the weather is (supposed) to be getting warmer, and they feel like something you should be sipping by the pool.

This one is incredibly simple, just pineapple, banana, and spinach. Throwing the spinach in there is a great way to fit extra greens in your diet, and it's surprisingly mild tasting; the banana especially helps mask the "green" taste if that's something you're not sure about. I didn't have any coconut (either fresh or unsweetened shreds), but I think I will definitely be adding that next time I make this smoothie. Green piƱa coladas? Yes please!




Tropical Green Smoothie

Yield: 2 fairly large glasses



Ingredients:

1.5 cups frozen pineapple
2 bananas
1.5 cups spinach
Fresh or shredded coconut (optional)
Stevia to taste (optional)
Ice cold water


1. If you are working with fresh pineapple, cut and freeze the night before. You can also do the same with the bananas if you want. I like using frozen fruit instead of ice in smoothies because it doesn't water them down and provides a smoother texture.

2. Add ingredients to blender and blend using only as much water as necessary to facilitate blending. Feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients as you see fit. If you don't have a very powerful blender, you may want to add the ingredients in a little as a time and blend as you go. 


Notes: For stevia, NuNaturals is my favorite brand because it has zero aftertaste (both the powder and the drops are great). Other options for sweetener include: raw honey or a few medjool dates soaked overnight and blended in (beware, they do have pits!). Personally, I usually either leave out the sweetener (the pineapple and banana provide a lot of sweetness on their own), or add in just a few drops of stevia. 



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sweet Potato Lasagna


I'll be completely honest: I haven't made lasagna the entire time I've been vegan. I know! I love lasagna, so I have no idea what's up with that. I have had a fair few, however, and one thing I wanted to do different here was to make one without soy and without using anything processed (read: no vegan cheese, no tofu). Using both of those ingredients can make for a really delicious vegan lasagna (and one that is still way better for you than traditional lasagna), but, in general, I try to keep it as unprocessed as possible. Not to mention I was convinced it could be just as delicious without those things. I think I succeeded!

Enter: sweet potatoes. I'd seen a few sweet potato lasagna recipes floating around Pinterest, so I spent a little while Googling different recipes, and this one ended up being inspired by a mix of this recipe from Glow Kitchen and this one from Engine 2.

I actually still can't believe how good it turned out! Even Brocke (who loves cheese) gave it two thumbs up. 










Sweet Potato Lasagna

Yield: 12 servings


Ingredients:

4 sweet potatoes
4 zucchini
4 yellow squash
1 yellow onion
4 garlic cloves
Spinach
10-12 roma tomatoes
1 jar pasta sauce
1 box whole grain lasagna noodles (I used no-boil whole wheat)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Whole grain mustard
1/2 cup walnuts
Granulated or powdered garlic
Granulated or powdered onion
Dried basil
Dried oregano
Dried thyme
Dried rosemary
Pink Himalayan sea salt
Black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Poke several holes in the sweet potatoes with a knife or fork and microwave for 12-15 minutes.

3. Cut the ends off and use a mandolin (or knife) to evenly slice the zucchini and squash lengthwise. I used the larger of the two blades for my mandolin (about 3mm). If they are too thin, they won't hold up well to cooking. Set aside. 

4. Dice onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Heat a nonstick skillet and saute onions and garlic using water as necessary in place of oil. (I avoid it when possible, but if you do prefer to use oil, I would recommend coconut oil.) When the onions look like they're starting to turn translucent, add in the tomatoes. Season to taste with garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sea salt, and black pepper. I like to taste as I go, so I generally don't use measurements, but don't be afraid of seasoning!

5. Remove the skin from the sweet potatoes and put them in a small to medium sized bowl. Add in the nutritional yeast and mustard. For the mustard, I used about 1 teaspoon. Finally, add in garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper to taste.

6. Time to assemble! (I used an approximately 10.5" x 16" glass pan.) Start with a layer of sauce, followed by a layer of noodles, and then another layer of sauce (the sauce helps to cook the no-boil noodles).

7. On top of the sauce, add a layer of zucchini. (When adding each of the raw zucchini or squash, I sprinkled with seasoning after laying them down: sea salt, black pepper, basil, and oregano) Cover the zucchini with a layer of the sweet potato mixture and then follow with a layer of squash (don't forget to season!).

8. Add a layer of fresh spinach, and then top with a layer of the tomato/garlic/onion mixture. Top this with a layer of pasta, and then another layer of sauce.

9. Add another layer of zucchini, then sweet potato, then squash. (Don't forget to season after the zucchini and squash!)

10. Add another layer of spinach. Top this with sauce. Then add the final layer of pasta, and top with sauce to finish. 

11. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. While it's cooking, crush the 1/2 cup of walnuts (you can probably use a food processor if you'd like, but I just used the bottom of my measuring cup). When the 45 minutes is up, remove the foil, sprinkle with walnuts, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 


Notes: You may want to consider having two jars of sauce and two boxes of noodles on hand. I found that I didn't end up with quite as much sauce as I would have like for the top layer, and I was only able to put half the amount of noodles on the middle noodle layer. However, I feel like I could solve this by portioning the sauce a little better next time, and the lack of noodles in the middle didn't bother me, especially since with two boxes I would have had quite a bit left over, so just something to think about! I also had leftover zucchini and squash, but the ones I used were rather large. Same with the sweet potatoes; the amount I had was more than fine, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more. I might use 5 sweet potatoes next time if they were on the small side. 










Monday, April 8, 2013

My Top 3 Misconceptions About Being "Vegan"

Welcome to my new blog! I'm so excited. The hardest part was actually thinking of a name. (Isn't that always the case?? It is for me.) This one was actually inspired by something my boyfriend jokingly says to me all the time: "Time to feed the vegan!" What can I say, I like food. :)

I've been vegan for a few years now, and it seems so natural and easy to me at this point that I forget there was a time when I thought, "I might could go vegetarian, but definitely not vegan. There's NOTHING they can eat!" (SO not true!) And that's basically what this blog is about! So for my first post, I want to start by clearing up the three biggest misconceptions I feel like people have about being vegan according to my personal experience:



1. Where do you get your protein??

I felt it only appropriate to discuss this in my very first blog post, seeing as this is probably the number one misconception about vegans (and vegetarians). In fact, my recently vegetarian boyfriend (Brocke from here on out) was talking to a friend of his the other day--who happens to be a registered dietician, no less--and that was STILL the first thing out of her mouth. So, once and for all, I would like to clear this up:


All foods contain protein.


It's true. I don't know where along the way we started thinking of meat, eggs, and dairy as the "only" sources of protein, but it is shocking to me how many people believe this! You could actually eat nothing but potatoes and, as long as you weren't calorie deficient, you still wouldn't be protein deficient.




2. Being vegan isn't hard, and it doesn't have to be complicated. 

I feel like when most people think of going vegan (or even vegetarian), they get a picture in their head that looks a lot like this:

[Photo credit: The Kitchn]


Or this...
[Photo credit: fabfitfun]



And they imagine being consigned to a life of sad lettuce leafs, cardboard-like veggie burgers, and questionable meat "substitutes". Which brings me to my third point....


3. There are SO many options for things to eat as a vegan! 

It seems like people get so caught up with what they won't be able to eat as a vegan, that they forget about all of the things that they CAN. I can't tell you how many times people are shocked that I eat chocolate or bread or pasta. I like to think of being vegan as an exciting opportunity to try new foods and reinvent old favorites.












Just a few of my recent Instagram shots, to give you an idea. I'm getting hungry already. :)