Butternut Squash and Black Bean Soup

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This soup is modeled after the soups from one of my favorite restaurants—great vegetables and lots of curry powder. When autumn rolls around, the only type of soup I want has butternut squash in it. A trip to the farmers market and a cupboard cleaning later, this amazing bowl of soup was born:

 

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Soup

Makes a TON of soup! Probably serves six.

2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 cup red lentils

1 can black beans

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 1/2 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 375°F and prepare the butternut squash. The smaller you cube the squash, the quicker it will cook. Put the squash on a greased baking pan and put in the oven for about 45 minutes.

In a small pot, cook the lentils in two cups of water. Once done, set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat and prepare your vegetables. Add the garlic, cook for one minute. Then add the red pepper and the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the lentils, squash, black beans, and broth and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup to your preferred consistency. I like mine to be pretty smooth, but still maintain some texture. Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer on the stove for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with some toasted french bread and a glass of apple cider. Enjoy!

xoxo Abigail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boil ‘Em, Mash ‘Em, Stick ‘Em in a Stew

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Okay, so I didn’t really end up boiling, mashing, or sticking anything in a stew, but there were potatoes involved. Naturally, Samwise Gamgee and his love of potatoes and cooking came to mind. The name of the game today was roasting.

Beets, golden potatoes, butternut squash, and mushroom were the gorgeous components in this feast. That along with some brown rice and cheesy basil sauce.

Here are some (a lot) of photographs that I took of the food:

Beets

Golden Potatoes

Beets, Mushrooms, Butternut Sqaush, Golden Potatoes

Roasted vegetables, brown rice, and a drizzle of cheesy basil sauce

Roasted vegetables, brown rice, and a drizzle of cheesy basil sauce

Cheesy Basil Sauce

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour

2 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Pinch salt

Few dashes pepper

Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Heat the broth in a pot over medium high heat, then add the dry ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add the vinegar and stir until the sauce thickens.

 

xoxo Abigail

I Get My Protein From a Magic Protein Fairy

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Like most vegans, I’m pretty tired of getting asked where I get my protein. I usually just reply, “beans” in a tone that indicates I don’t care to elaborate. With everyone else worrying about my protein intake, sometimes I forget to worry about it myself. Relying on store-bought hummus and a bowl of oatmeal isn’t exactly a responsible approach to eating protein.

With my annual physical drawing near, I knew I better get on track lest I have a crowd of people I know yelling, “I told you so!” in a triumphant chorus at me.  It would happen.

Beans and rice will provide a decent amount of protein, but the combination of beans and quinoa is a total protein win. Add in some veggies, currants, fresh herbs, and a dollop of hummus and you have yourself a power meal. I would have added sliced almonds if I had had them on hand for even more protein. This recipe is a variation on the Quinoa Tabbouleh from Clean.

Super-Protein Quinoa Salad

Serves 2 to 3 (It depends on how hungry you are).

1 cup quinoa, uncooked

1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup carrots, diced

1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, diced

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/4 cup fresh mint, minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking (and probably a little while after, too), prep the veggies and herbs. Throw everything in a bowl, serve however you want (wrapped in lettuce with some hummus was delicious), and enjoy!

 

On another protein-awesome note, I’ve just now become completely obsessed with Larabars. The next step…making my own!

xoxo Abigail

A Little Clean, A Little Not-So-Clean

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This past Sunday was my last day of the Clean cleanse. You basically have a liquid (smoothie, juice, or soup) meal for breakfast, a solid meal for lunch, and then another liquid meal for dinner. It’s also about eliminating all possible allergens and inflammatory foods. So dairy, eggs, red meat, refined sugar, peanuts, gluten, alcohol, anything packaged or processed, and a variety of vegetables were out.

The elimination wasn’t difficult. Gluten and refined sugar were a bit tricky, but nothing I haven’t done before. So maybe that’s why I didn’t feel the amazing changes that some reviews boasted.

That being said, I learned a lot about how I was eating. It’s amazing how little food I actually needed to get by. I got a handle on my snacking and learned how nice it is to give your body a break from working hard to digest by having two liquid meals before and after sleep.

Although I love my morning oatmeal as much as the next person—who loves his or her morning oatmeal a lot—smoothies are my new morning love affair. It’s not as committed a relationship as the one I have with oatmeal, but smoothies are better for occasional flings anyway.

And breakfast monogamy is boring. Polyamory is the way to go!

Personally, I like a little sexiness in the morning. It’s a time when I feel the least sexy—tired, slightly disheveled, and not exactly yearning for human contact.

My solution: Berries and chocolate. Nothing says sexy like the subtly sweet tang of berries combined with the indulgent taste of chocolate.

Sexy Chocolate Berry Smoothie—Serves 1

1.5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 to 1/2 cup frozen raspberries

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup

Blend those sultry ingredients until they’re as smooth as your pick-up lines. Pour, sip, indulge in your sexiness, and dish out smoldering glances to anyone you deem worthy. Just don’t give the mailman the wrong impression unless you want a little more than your mail in the morning.

Another thing that Clean taught me was that big, super satisfying lunches are the way to go. I’d always tried for very small, lean lunches to try to keep the calorie count down, but now I realize that I was consequently consuming way more calories in snacks later in the afternoon.

In celebration of this lesson learned and in rebellion of some of the Clean restrictions, I made a big lunch with half a homemade bagel (chock full of gluten) and Toffuti Cream Cheese (on the holy-shit-that’s-so-processed side of the food spectrum).

Surprisingly, tomatoes were also off limits, a devastating rule to live by during the summer. When I saw heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store, I immediately sensed the intervention of fate. Or maybe it was just my rumbling stomach—the two are so easy to confuse.

To assemble:

Step One: The artful shmear of cream cheese.

Step Two: The sprinkle of shredded nori.

Step Three: The plop of a gorgeous tomato slice.

Step Four: The final touch of sliced red onion and a sprinkle of capers.

 

 

 

 

 

For the complete lunch package: The decked-out bagel half; sliced tomatoes on a bed of greens, dressed with small dabs of pesto, balsamic vinaigrette, and freshly-ground black pepper; and a few slices of apple.

Mmmmmmmmm…four hours later, I’m still totally full.

xoxo Abigail

Soba and Vegetable Bowl

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Fast forward a few months from my last post and…poof! I’m transformed from student to intern! It’s my last week here at this company and I’m getting back into gear for another year of college and, of course, blogging!

Today for lunch (well, actually yesterday for lunch; today=leftovers), I whipped up a simple, Asian-inspired noodle bowl that was satisfying and tasted great. It tasted good warm when I made it yesterday and even better after chilling in the fridge for a day.

I steam my broccoli and kale to take the edge off the vegetables’ bitterness, but feel free to blanch, saute, boil them or just keep them  raw! A little ginger might have taken this dish to a whole other level of deliciousness. Next time…

I recommend starting to boil the water right before you begin prepping the vegetables, that way the noodles have a little time to cool down.

Soba Noodle and Vegetable Bowl

Serves 2

 

1/2 package buckwheat soba noodles

1 carrot, grated

1 small head broccoli, chopped into florets and steamed

1/2 bunch kale, chopped and steamed

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons shoyu

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 sheet nori, shredded

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Prep the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about five minutes (if you’re using the broccoli stems, those go in for an extra two minutes) and steam the kale for seven to eight minutes. Toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!

I am currently obsessed with the idea of making mini calzones. Yes, you could also call them Pizza Hot Pockets, but let’s try to pretend they would be super fancypants. This dream must soon become a reality! Anyone ever tried this before?
Until then,

xoxo Abigail

Sometimes You Just Need Pancakes

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The Sunday before finals week is definitely prime pancake time.  It’s been too long since I’ve made pancakes and a sunny, warm spring Sunday presented me with the perfect opportunity.

Now, being that these were my first pancakes in months, I had to go all out.  I made blueberry pancakes topped with apple butter, sliced banana, and maple syrup.  I based my recipe off of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe from Vegan Brunch. I found that the oil the recipe called for wasn’t really necessary. It may have made the pancakes slightly fluffier, but I kind of like mine a little on the denser side, and hey, who can resist something that’s delicious and fat free?

You don’t have to use blueberries.  You can add any sort of fruit or, if you’re feeling indulgent (which you should with how hard you work!), try some chocolate chips!

Blueberry Pancakes

Serves 2

1-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c water
1 to 1-1/4 c plain rice or soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Preheat a greased skillet over medium heat.  Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add wet ingredients and mix until just combined; some lumps are fine.  Ladle a few spoonfuls of the batter onto the pan according to how big you want your pancakes.  Sprinkle blueberries on top of the pancakes before the batter sets very much (within the first 30 to 45 seconds or so).  Wait until you see bubbles on top, flip, and cook until the other side browns, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve with whatever you’d like!  I piled on sliced banana and apple butter with a drizzle of maple syrup (okay, so ‘drizzle’ may be an understatement), but get creative! Make a blueberry or strawberry sauce or a cashew cream!  The pancake is your breakfast canvas!

xoxo Abigail

Sandwiches, Cinnamon Rolls, and Cakes

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Wow, those three foods are a little odd together.  They were all cooked separately, but now I’m imagining a cinnamon roll cake sandwich.  Hmmm…

It nearing the end of the semester here at college—last week of classes! Woo!—and things are getting crazy.  With four final papers, one that’s a 100 page screenplay, and a final exam to worry about (plus rather limited food-purchasing funds), cooking and baking have not been at the top of my to-do list.  Lately, it’s been a whole lot easier to just go to the dining hall and eat raw veggies, rice, and beans rather than cook a delicious masterpiece.

I did a lot of cooking for the launch celebration for the Spring 2011 issue of my school’s literary magazine—of which I am now officially the Editor-in-Chief. Scary, I know.  I can’t believe this happened, but I completely forgot to take pictures of any of the food that I prepared.  Sometimes my stupidity manages to astound even me.  I tried to include a broad range of foods for different tastes.  Here’s the menu:

-Avocado and cucumber sushi rolls

-Mini baked falafel (from Appetite For Reduction)

-Veggies and hummus

-Bruschetta over toasted baguette slices

-Tapenade and sliced tomato over pita chips

-Chai-spiced cupcakes

-Cookies n’ Cream cupcakes

-Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting

-Chocolate chip cupcakes

The bruschetta was, unfortunately, store-bought—it turns out basil isn’t exactly abundant this time of year.  The tapenade, which was my first experience with this delicious spread, was a recipe from Party Vegan, an amazing book for entertaining.

The cupcakes were all Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which is easily my favorite cookbook.  The chai-spiced cupcakes were actually a little different than the chai latte cupcake recipe from the book—no soy yogurt on hand.  I heated up the soy milk and steeped it in a crap load of black tea, then added the chai spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves).

After a little break from the cooking mania, I discovered an amazing new grocery store in a neighboring town.  I was giddy as I walked through the aisles, a joyful smile plastered on my face.  A trip to that store inspired the following sandwich: marinated kale, hummus, baked tofu, and shredded carrot on freshly baked multi-grain bread.

I had bought a ton of kale and wasn’t too crazy about marinating it, probably because I’m not too skilled at it.  I began to steam it and realized how AWESOME steamed kale is.  I then wrapped steamed kale, tempeh, shredded carrot, and hummus in a nori sheet and discovered bliss.  It’s awesome how something so simple and healthy can rock your taste buds.

Next up, it was time to bake for my screenwriting class.  I don’t have an obligation to do this, but it’s a good opportunity to test out recipes for breakfast goodies that I’ve been dying to try.  Last Friday, it was time to make the cinnamon rolls from Vegan Brunch.

Cinnamon rolls were always a treat at my house.  My dad would bring a huge one home from the store every once in a while and everyone ate their fair share (or more if they could sneak it!)  While I would avoid them anyway for the sake of a healthy diet, the one tiny bite that I indulged in sent me back in time to chowing down on a cinnamon roll in the kitchen with my family.

I prepared the dough the night before and set the rolls in a baking pan to rise in the refrigerator overnight so that all I had to do in the morning was pop them in the oven and then drizzle them with a sugary glaze.  They were super easy and I’d be interested in figuring out a low-fat, sugar-free alternative to making them.  Cinnamon rolls are just too delicious to live without!

Yesterday, the literary magazine had its last meeting of the year and we were saying our farewells to both our faculty adviser, Pedro, and our graduating staff.  I offered to prepare some food and was promptly commissioned to make two cakes, one chocolate and one vanilla.

Thank goodness I have Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World on hand.  Each recipe for a dozen cupcakes makes enough cake for one pan, so I ended up doubling each cupcake recipe and making two double-layered cakes.

They turned out great and I, of course, got the usual “How on earth is this vegan?” questions.  Someone actually asked me to tell her the entire recipe.  I answered these questions with patience, understanding that I would probably ask similar questions were I an uninformed omni.  As long as they enjoy the food, I feel like I’m promoting veganism in a friendly, non-threatening way that lets people know that eating vegan isn’t about sacrificing, it’s about going the extra mile to use and eat alternatives.

xoxo Abigail

Getting Sconed

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It’s only been a week and a half back at school from vacation and it feels like it has been ages. Between classes and production for the literary magazine I edit for, it seems like I haven’t had a moment!

This week, midterms were finally over and I found a free moment yesterday that I used to make the baked good  I have been itching to make since I bought Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz this fall: scones.

While my heart still belongs to muffins, there’s something so fun about scones. They’re dainty—like tea party dainty—but also scrappy and free-formed.

What I’m trying to say is that I can relate to scones.

I decided to try out two variations of scones because one just wasn’t enough for my first awesome scone adventure. I made the blueberry ginger variation and the raisin & spice variation.

They both turned out amazing! Raisin & spice is a favorite combination of mine, but I had never had blueberry ginger before and had my doubts about how good it would taste (I was imagining gingerbread with blueberries tossed in). But in Isa I have faith. The result was a lovely surprise. The ginger was not overwhelming and actually paired quite nicely with the blueberries.

Before I mixed the raisins into the dough, I soaked them for a half hour in some cinnamon spice tea. It really makes a difference when the raisins are plump and have that extra little kick of flavor in them. Even with that, I could have added more spice to the scones, even a teaspoon more of cinnamon.

My boyfriend and I keep planning to make an awesomely delicious dinner, but both of us are super crunched for time right now. Hopefully, we’ll do it soon. I need an epic dinner.

Until then, baking will be my therapy.

xoxo

Abigail

Veganism Comes to Palm Beach!

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Okay, so I probably wasn’t the only vegan in Palm Beach, Florida, but the place wasn’t exactly brimming with restaurants that offered me a lot. Some relatives took me and my mom out to lunch and I ordered a “field of greens” salad, thinking it would be like a garden salad. It was literally just a plate of greens and the serving size was meager at best. I couldn’t believe they would actually offer a plate of mustard greens as a menu item! I endured the hunger and held out until we got home, where I made myself a real salad, complete with spinach, tomato, avocado, cucumber, chickpeas, and sugar snap peas!

We ended up cooking in most nights since the restaurants in that area are a bit pricey, but that was fine with me! We made spaghetti the first night, with a sauce that had SmartGround in it. I’m not sure how I feel about SmartGround. It’s a good ground beef replacement, but needs to be seasoned to death. Other than being a bit processed, I think it’s a fine product.

I made a great dish that was SO simple! It was the result of rushing through a crowded grocery store and quickly grabbing items that I hoped I could somehow shape into a meal.

Quinoa Sauté Over Baked Sweet Potato

Serves 2

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup red quinoa

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

2 bell peppers, diced

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon Italian Blend of herbs

4 teaspoons ground cumin

Set oven to 400°F, cut a slit in each sweet potato, put them in the oven on top of some tinfoil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, poking with a fork to test if they’re tender.

Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Once the quinoa is done, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high. Add garlic, let it cook for a minute, then add onion. Let the onion cook for about five minutes or until translucent, then add peppers, quinoa, black beans, herbs, and 2 teaspoons of cumin.  Mix and let cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn the heat to low  and cover the pan.

Once the sweet potatoes are tender, pull them out of the oven and split each lengthwise. Scoop out the potato from the skins and mash them in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of cumin (I probably would have thrown in some ground coriander as well if we had it). Spoon the mashed sweet potato back into the skins. Serve the sauté mix right on top of the sweet potatoes, garnish with some sliced avocado, and enjoy!

Next up was a curry! Well, it was a curry in the loosest sense of the word. Since I was limited in my cooking tools and ingredients, out came the sauté pan again! This time it was minced garlic, minced ginger, onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and chickpeas sautéed in a curry powder and served over toasted whole wheat pita bread and garnished (again) with sliced avocado. I wouldn’t call it authentic at all, but it was tasty!

For lunch I made my mom a great simple sandwich. I know she really likes something when she’ll eat it a second time with enthusiasm. The first time, I served it in pita bread, but we ran out so the pictured image has the sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread. It had spinach, tomato, avocado and hummus in it. Definitely a great warm weather sandwich!

Now for the eating out!

When I walked into a little deli called Too Jays, my expectations for vegan fare were not high. It was one of those old fashioned delis, basing their menu on mostly meat and cheese. Luckily, they had a fantastic vegan option: a “Mediterranean Vegetable Wrap” that contained hummus, tabouli, greens, and veggies. It was delicious!

 

 

 

 

It just so happens that it was last year on St. Patrick’s Day that I went vegan. I had to celebrate my vegan birthday in style, so my mom and I went out to a swanky Japanese restaurant called Echo. It was amazing! I got a tasty, simple salad to start, some cucumber rolls for the main course, and delicious coconut lime sorbet for dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom and the waiter had a little misunderstanding about her order of avocado, cucumber, and carrot rolls. She thought she order five individual rolls while the waiter thought she had ordered five orders of the rolls, totaling her roll count at 40 rolls. We laughed so hard; she had to put the plate, or should I say platter, between us because she was so embarrassed. The waiter later came back and asked if there had been a mistake. Luckily, we didn’t get charged for all five orders!

The Tropical Fruit Store in Palm Beach had the freshest, most delicious fruit I’ve tasted in months. The oranges there were the real deal Florida oranges and boy, were they amazing! They also make smoothies there, which are obviously amazing as well! The smoothie I got, “The Palm Beacher,” contained oranges, bananas, strawberries, and papaya. So good, I was devastated when I sucked the last bit from the bottom of the cup.

I’ll certainly miss the warm weather! But it definitely heartened me to get some serious sun and relaxation. I am ready for summer!

Abigail

Gluten-Free Success!

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Finally, finally, it’s SPRING BREAK! Man, it could not have come soon enough.

Today also marks my last day of eating gluten-free. I have to admit that it was not a revolutionary change in how I feel, though I do feel that my digestion and, er, plumbing felt a little better. I didn’t find it to be too difficult except when I went out to dinner. Eating vegan and gluten-free at a restaurant in the North Country is no easy task and definitely not something that results in a delicious meal.

What will I do now?

I’m not going to scarf gluten-filled foods now. I definitely enjoy experimenting GF baking and I still have a lot of GF flours, so I will totally continue to bake gluten-free. I also have access to brown rice noodles (and I cook my own brown rice all the time) so eating gluten-free won’t be difficult. When I need my bread, though, I’ll have my bread.

Speaking of gluten-free baking, I made some amazing cinnamon raisin bagels (basic recipe courtesy of Manifest Vegan) yesterday morning so I could travel with a couple today.

And, boy, did I need some bagel comfort today! My travels were a bit nightmarish today. Buses running late and flight cancellations and crowds of Amish folk in my way…it was a mess. Now I’m in a hotel for the night, but no worries, I had a lovely bagel and the Food Network to comfort me.

Sorry about the blurriness; I was in a hurry to continue the bliss.

When these bagels were just out of the oven last night, I immediately sliced one open (pictured right) and took a big bite that you can actually see in the photo. Then I remembered to take a picture. After a few more bites, I remembered I had CREAM CHEESE (the vegan sort, of course). I smeared a little dollop on, ate a bite, and achieved a higher plane of existence. I missed bagels and cream cheese.

 

 

 

Hopefully, I’ll have better traveling luck tomorrow.

Six days until my vegan birthday! (I told my boyfriend that and he said I sounded like a born-again).

Abigail