Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WAIW: Cookin' Up a Storm

I've loved being back home in Florida after our week long trip to Texas. I've been able to spend time with friends, see my co-workers, rest, and try out some new recipes. Unfortunately, jet lag hit Brett and I pretty hard yesterday night. He couldn't fall asleep and I couldn't STAY asleep. I woke up at 3:30 AM and was too awake to attempt sleeping any longer. So I just got up. I felt okay for most of the morning and was even able to get a quick 3.5 mile run in before work. But as the day continued, the tiredness started to kick in hard. Like, twitchy eyes, non-stop yawning hard. I even skipped my night class because I knew I would just be miserable and not retain anything our instructor said. Last night wasn't much better either. Hopefully as the week goes on I'll get back on track with sleeping through the night.

Even though sleep hasn't been great, it really has been so fun to be back in the kitchen. So far since Sunday I've made lentil and white bean "meatballs" (they weren't quite post worthy, but I did learn what not to do), chocolate mug cake, date paste for baking, gingerbread cookie oatmeal, acorn squash stuffed with apple-cranberry quinoa, black bean hummus Have I really made that many different recipes since Sunday?! Guess so.

It's been a little crazy since I've gotten back home so I won't be sharing an entire day of eats. That will be next week for sure. For today though I'll just share some of my favorite recipe experiments since I've been home. Thanks Jenn for hosting "What I Ate Wednesday"!

Spooky Snacks and Healthy Halloween Treats


Gingerbread Cookie Oatmeal

Gingerbread Cookie Oatmeal
(Makes 1 serving)


· 1 cup water
· 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
· 1/2 banana, thinly sliced
· 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
· 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
· 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
· 2 teaspoons molasses
· Pinch of salt
· Splash of vanilla extract
· Optional: extra molasses and/or non-dairy milk

1.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
2. Add the oatmeal, banana and flaxseed and reduce the heat to medium. With a whisk, vigorously stir the mixture until the banana is whipped into the oats. Let cook for about 3 minutes.
3. Add in the cinnamon, ginger, molasses, salt and vanilla and whisk a little more.
4. Let cook a couple more minutes until it’s reached your desired consistency.
5. Top with a little more molasses and some milk and dig in!

Snacks and Sweets:

Spicy Black Bean Hummus
Black beans pureed with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and spices.
This stuff is awesome with veggies or spread on a wrap.

Chocolate Mug Cake
I had this as an afternoon snack the other day.
So delicious.

Date Paste
I made this as a natural sweetener for my morning oats and smoothies.
And today I used it to make...

Cookie Dough Hummus
I ate some with an apple today.
Still can't believe the main ingredient is beans!
I'll post my adaption to this recipe soon.

Looks like I've had a bit of a sweet tooth lately...

Happy Wednesday!

Eat Consciously,

Date Paste: A Natural Sweetener

I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this vegan thing. Lunches are more quickly prepared from leftovers or fresh produce we have available and I'm starting to take steps away from the basics and experiment a little more with dinners and baked goods. 

Lately I've been trying to find ways to sweeten dishes without using sugar. I want to use natural sweeteners as much as possible and I've learned that dates are a great source of natural sugar. Sometimes I'll chop one or two up and cook them in my morning, stove-top oats or I'll add them to smoothies. However, I've found that when I cook them whole I sometimes run into a hard piece of the outer coating. Not bad, but not my favorite. 

I recently heard of date paste (great name, right?) and finally got around to making some. It's made simply by throwing soaked dates and a little water into a food processor and blending it all up until smooth. Now I can just mix in a teaspoon or so into my morning oats or add a dollop to smoothies. I'm even going to make some caramel sauce with it to drizzle on apples and popcorn so stay tuned!

Date Paste
(Makes 1 heaping cup)


· 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
· Warm water

1.  Place all the dates in a bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak in the refrigerator for 8 hours until soft and naturally falling apart.
2. Remove the dates from the water after they have soaked and place in a food processor.
3. Add a couple tablespoons of the soaked date water and process on high. You will have to stop the processor and push down the dates a couple of times.
4. Continue to process until smooth, adding water a spoonful at a time if needed.
5. Store in an air tight container for up to a week or freeze for up to three months.

how to:

Cover the dates with warm water and let them soak for eight hours or more in the fridge.


Place the dates in a food processor with two tablespoons of the date water and process on high.

Stop occasionally to push down the sides of the processor so that all of the dates can get processed.

Continue to process the dates until a smooth paste forms. If need be, add a tablespoon of water at a time until a smooth consistency is reached.

Store in an air tight container for up to a week or freeze for up to three months. 
You could even freeze it in teaspoon or tablespoon sized-portions so you can easily thaw
out the amount you need.

Eat Consciously,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chocolate Mug Cake + A Small Dose of Iron

Changing your diet drastically is a big deal. Your body can be affected in many different ways: mentally and physically. I knew that going vegan was not something I could take lightly, but would need to do a good amount of nutritional research so I could insure I was getting enough protein and nutrients without eating meat or dairy. What are the best ways to get protein with a vegan diet? What nutrients are vegans most likely to be deficient in? Answers to these questions and more are what I researched early on in my new diet. 

Over all the switch to eating a vegan diet has been great. I haven't had stomach problems and I eat a wider variety of foods. I've even noticed that I recover more quickly from long runs than I used to before I went vegan. Just this past Friday I went on a nine mile run and I was barely sore the next day. Bonus.

One thing I do need to keep an eye on is my iron intake. As a girl in her mid-twenties I need 18 mg/day of iron. Some of the best sources of iron are soybeans, blackstrap molasses, cooked lentils, spinach and chickpeas. I did a little research on molasses and while blackstrap molasses is rich in iron and is formed when molasses goes through a third boiling which crystallizes the sucrose in the molasses making it less sweet. It would ruin baked goods if you tried to use it as a sweetener. 

I looked up some recipes that were high in iron and I came across this mug cake recipe.  While it doesn't use blackstrap molasses, and therefore isn't as rich in iron as I though, it does call for regular molasses and two tablespoons of ground flaxseed so it's fiber-licious. It's so easy to make and tastes amazing. If I left off the chocolate chips and added some berries on top, I would even consider it healthy enough to have for breakfast. Seriously. Try this out!

Chocolate Mug Cake
(Makes 1 serving)


· 3 tablespoons oat flour
· 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
· 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
· 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
· Pinch of salt
· 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
· 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
· 2 teaspoons molasses
· Splash of vanilla
· Optional: Coconut oil or baking spray
· Optional: Chopped fruit, berries, chocolate chips, agave nectar or maple syrup

1. Mix all of the dry ingredients (from the oat flour to salt) together in a bowl with a fork so that there are no clumps.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients until combined, from applesauce to vanilla.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
4. Use oil or spray to grease the inside of a mug if you want to transfer the cake to a different dish after cooking. If you are going to eat it straight from the mug no oil or spray is needed.
5. Pour the batter into the mug and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.
6. Transfer to a plate a top with desired toppings.
7. Dig in and enjoy your dose of iron!

 Notes: Adapted from With An Open Mind.


Eat Consciously,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spicy Black Bean Hummus (Oil-Free)

I got home late last night after being in Texas for the past week. It was a great trip, but I'm so glad to be home. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do - which is good, because it's a major part of my job - but some things get old after a while.

For example: I love getting to sleep in huge, comfy hotel beds, but there's nothing that compares to sleeping in your own bed. I love getting to spend time in climates other than Florida's hot and humid air, but it's hard to pack well for colder temperatures. I love getting to try out different restaurants and eat a wide variety of ethnic foods, but after a while I just want to cook my own food. And that's all I've been doing my first day home it seems! I feel like a little girl who just opened an American Girl Doll for Christmas. I'm that excited to start whipping up some new concoctions. Just today I made some date paste for baking, spicy black bean hummus and an iron rich chocolate mug cake. I'll share all these recipes soon, but for now I'll start with Spicy Black Bean Hummus.

Spicy Black Bean Hummus


· 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
· 2 tablespoons tahini
· 2 tablespoons lemon juice
· 1 large garlic clove, minced
· 1 teaspoon cumin
· 1/2 teaspoon paprika
· 1/4 teaspoon (or less) red chili powder
· 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
· 1 tablespoon water


1. Place all of the ingredients in a food process and process on high until smooth.
2. Serve with chopped veggies, tortilla chips or use as a spread in a veggie wrap!

Eat Consciously,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mocha Chia Oatmeal

Brett and I finished up our work in College Station on Thursday morning and made the three hour drive to Dallas that afternoon. It was a great day full of delicious food and new friends. We even ate dinner at vegan restaurant. I had a barbecue sandwich with grilled seitan for dinner and followed it up with a warm cookie sundae, a.k.a. my first taste of ice-cream since I starting eating vegan in July! It was so satisfying and a great way to fuel up before my long training run in the morning. 

This picture was taken with my iPhone which doesn't do this deliciousness justice.
But Spiral Diner & Bakery's vegan cookie with ice cream and whipped cream sundae was fantastic.
I savored every bit. 

Speaking of my long training run, this morning's nine-miler went so smoothly. I might even venture to say it was the best run I've ever had due to a few factors: the weather was perfect, I wore exactly the right amount of clothes, I got to run around a beautiful lake and I felt great the entire time. It literally felt like I only ran for thirty minutes, when I actually ran for 75 minutes. And let me say, I am not a fast running. No matter how good I feel when I'm running, I always end up running just under a 9-minute mile average pace. Putzing as we call it. However, this morning I ran at an average pace of 8.22 miles/minute! It was so encouraging. 

Tonight Brett and I and four of his guy friends are heading to Oklahoma for two nights of camping. The forecast says that there is a 40% change of rain tomorrow. I, being a cold-wimp, hope that it stays dry. It's amazing how cold I've been during our week in Texas. I thought this big, dusty state stayed hot all year round. Apparently not. 

And this cold weather is really making me miss my morning oatmeal. So I figured I'd share one of my new favorite combinations with you: Mocha Chia Oatmeal. Enjoy!

Mocha Chia Oatmeal
(Makes 1 serving)


· 2/3 cups brewed coffee
· 1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
· 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
· 1/2 banana, thinly sliced
· 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional, but so worth it)
· 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
· Splash of Vanilla
· Pinch of sea salt
· Optional: chopped nuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips, more non-dairy milk


1. Bring the coffee and milk to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the oats, sliced banana and chia seeds and whisk vigorously until there are no large banana chunks to be seen. Let cook for about 3 minutes.
2. Add in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt and mix until well incorporated. Let cook about 2 more minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency.
3. Pour oats into a bowl and top with optional nuts and almond milk.
4. Enjoy your cup a joe and oats in one beautiful bowl!

Eat Consciously,

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Eating a Vegan Diet with a Meat-Loving Family and {WIAW}: On the Road

Welp. Brett and I are yet again...on the road. In Texas that is. This past weekend we visited with Brett's family in Houston. During the week we'll be in College Station for work and this upcoming weekend we'll be camping with friends in Dallas. I've never been to Texas before, so it's fun that I'll be able to see three different cities during our time in this large state.

On a side note, who knew you could find massive statues of president's heads in Texas?
Good thing Brett wasn't jealous.

Aside from seeing random statues, this past weekend with family was so good. We got to hangout with our two identical twin nephews and our four year old niece and spend time with Brett's immediate family. We took the kids to the zoo, checked out a little craft market in the neighborhood, and played corn hole and farkle after the kids went to bed. I got to get in a few morning runs too. But it's amazing how tiring just two days with three little chillun' can be! I'm in awe of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and their energy and patience with those precious kids. Amazing parents right there.

Eating a Vegan Diet with a Meat-Loving Family:
I wasn't sure how eating vegan would go while staying with Brett's meat loving family. The last time we were together - before I went vegan - we ate uh-mazing barbecue ribs, brats, steak and Asian lettuce wraps with pork. My in-laws are spectacular cooks and I always look forward to the meals they'll prepare for our family gatherings. But this trip was the first time we'd be spending time together since I've "gone vegan". And not only that, Brett's dad was doing a special diet and the kids are pretty specific in the foods they'll eat.  My sister-in-law had her work cut out for her planning meals for such a high-maintenance-eating-family!

But, it turned out great. They were so accommodating and every meal was well thought through so that everyone could eat together. They bought me black bean burgers for our grill-out night and made a separate pot of soup without meat for me the second night. My sister-in-law even had dairy-free desserts ready for us the night we arrived.

I was so encouraged to know that it is possible to eat vegan while with family. And not just eat, but eat WELL. It just takes a little bit of planning and communication about what is or is not vegan. We'll see how thanksgiving with my family goes next month!

So if you're a new vegan out there and aren't sure how eating in a group or family environment will go, know that it's possible...and worth it. I felt great all weekend!

Peas and Crayons

What I Ate Wednesday: On the Road
One thing I don't like about traveling is that I can't cook my own meals or experiment with new ideas. If you've read my blog at all recently, you'll know that I'm on an intense oatmeal kick and have been experimenting with all kinds of combinations and flavors recently. Since we left for Texas I've even had random recipe ideas pop into my head for my morning oats and it's killing me that I can try them out.

The good news is that my inability to eat oatmeal this week lead to me having yogurt for the first time since I went vegan: 3 months! All the groceries stores by my house in Florida don't sell non-dairy yogurt - or if they do it's $3 a serving.  We found a store by our hotel here in Texas that sells non-dairy yogurt that's affordable, and since we're on Perdiem for the week, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Here's some iPhone pics of my eats for a random day "on the road". (Check out Jenn's blog for other people's Wednesday eats!)

I tried out So Delicious Chocolate yogurt with sliced banana, raspberries and blueberry flax granola. 
Yes, I'm eating out of a Styrofoam to-go container. Being a traveling vegan, I've learned to improvise.
It was an awesome way to eat yogurt for the first time in so long!

When Brett and I are traveling we love to go to Starbucks first thing in the morning to read and get work done. My drink of choice is a decaf Americano. Lovely. 

My sister-in-law got me this snack to try out: 180 Snack: Blueberry Pomegranate Trail Mix Crunch.
It was delicious and a great snack to hold me over until lunch.

Afternoon drink: Cappuccino with soy milk at a popular college coffee shop in college station.

Lunch: (no pic)
A veggie burrito at Freebirds World Burrito with mixed greens, salsa, tomatoes, roasted veggies, cilantro, black beans and guacamole. Yummmm.

Snacks in the hotel room.
Papaya slices, a pink lady apple and a Clif bar.
Sometimes when I'm traveling I get sick of eating out 2-3 times a day... even if it means I'm stuck with a Clif bar for dinner. Anybody else?

And that's it! While I sometimes have to combine random snack foods to make a "meal" on days that I'm traveling, I'm always able to find something vegan and delicious.

What are you favorite "on the road" snacks?

Eat Consciously,

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sweet Potato and Apple Oatmeal

I woke up at 5 A.M. this morning so I could eat, digest, stretch and go for an 8-mile run. Now that my runs are getting longer, I've decided to prep a little more instead of waking up, heading straight out the door and having to deal with sleepy legs. I left around 6:30 while it was still dark. I actually think the darkness made me a bit dizzy because it kept me from having good depth perception. As the morning wore on though, I started to feel better and picked up my pace even. It was a great run overall and I was definitely in need of a good second breakfast afterwards to keep me full the rest of the morning.

This oatmeal was just what I needed. It's sweet, subtly savory and oh-so-filling. And, might I add, delicious.

I had bought a couple of sweet potatoes and a big bag of apples a few days before leaving town with high hopes that my husband and I would eat them all before leaving. Wrong. It was the day before we were supposed to leave and it looked like we hadn't made a dent in the bag of apples and I still had one sweet potato left. So I started looking up recipes that I could use both in and found a recipe for these oats. I tweaked a few things and was very pleased with the result. The sweet potato gives these oats a beautiful fall color too. I hope you try this combination!

Sweet Potato and Apple Oatmeal
(Makes 1 serving)


· 1 cup water
· 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
· 1/2 small apple, chopped small
· 1 small sweet potato, cooked and mashed*
· 1 teaspoon brown sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
· Splash of vanilla extract
· Optional: ground flaxseed, chopped nuts, almond milk

*I usually clean my sweet potato, poke holes in it with a fork and cook it in the microwave for four minutes. Then I cut it in half, scoop out the flesh and mash it.

1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the oats, chopped apple and, if using, ground flaxseed. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir well and let cook for about 3 minutes.
2. Add in the mashed sweet potato, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract and mix until the sweet potato is well incorporated. Let cook about 2 more minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency.
3. Pour oats into a bowl and top with nuts and almond milk.
4. Eat your fill!

Eat Consciously,