Coconut Chia pudding (vegan)

Chia pudding with granola and berries

Time for breakfast

It’s been a wild ride these last 2 months, which I am thankful for because it made the darkest days of winter go by quickly!

The boys both finished up their sports this last week and it’s been a bit emotional to start to feel the end of a life phase. Avery ended his high school hockey career with an impressive 50 point season. We’re now waiting for the scouting/recruiting/tryout process for junior hockey to know where he’ll end up next year.

Avery @ Hockey senior day

I missed senior day for Avery while in Iowa for Alec’s swim championships. It was an exciting weekend for the Lake Forest women to defeat perennial powerhouse Grinnell. Alec swam great, including winning the mile in a school record time and NCAA D3 cut. It’s joyful to watch his hard work payoff!

Alec mile conference champ!

During the hockey season breakfast is often the only meal we eat together and I have found joy in getting up early to prep it, knowing it’s only a few more months of Avery at home and our nest is empty!

While I usually prep “regular” breakfast for him, I have simplified my breakfast routine by using one of the daily featured menu items from our recent Baja wellness vacation. Coconut Chia pudding with granola and fruit is ready ahead and provides enough whole grains and fiber to keep me sated. And yes, while this is a breakfast item, it is great later in the day too!

I kind of think of eating the same healthy breakfast every day like one of the Jedi efficiency hacks people like Mark Zuckerberg tout (he wears the same thing every day).

The one decision that removes 100.

The logic is to not spend brain energy on “easy” decisions so that you can focus on the more challenging ones. It’s also the same approach as the one decision that eliminates 100 decisions. Ie, Opting out of social media means hundreds of notifications eliminated daily.

I mention these efficiency hacks because life is truly a whirlwind right now between family and work, as the new business is getting its legs. I have had to make some choices about where to spend my time. My creative energies have been invested in work vs blogging, and I am ok with that for now even though I miss it and interacting with all of you 😊

Coconut Chia pudding with granola and berries (vegan)

Chef Efrain’s recipe from Prana del Mar.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 500 ml of coconut milk
  • 500 ml of rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chopped dry dates (prefer Medjool)
  • 50 ml of coconut cream (the solid part on the top of a coconut milk can)
  • 1/4 cup of dry coconut
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds

Directions:

– Soak chia seeds in soy and rice milk, stir gently.

– Add vanilla, cinnamon, coconut cream, and dry dates. Cover and store in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight to thicken.

– Make sure your pudding looks thick and the chia seeds have gelled. Sprinkle with dry coconut and pumpkin seeds, granola and berries.

Travelogue: Cabo San Lucas, MX

Oh the fantastic warmth of the sand and crashing sounds of the mighty Pacific! We have spent a week in pure bliss at a yoga wellness retreat center, Prana del Mar, just outside of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Neither Matt nor I have ever done an extended wellness vacation like this, so going into it we were probably “apprehensive” at best. Wow. Serious eye opener and an absolute week of bliss.

I have never felt so spoiled! Redefines luxury not to the ideals of material luxury, but soul luxury. Every detail was considered to make our lives easier. Chef Efrain prepared special vegan meals just for me! I am so grateful to have had time to care and recover in such a beautiful environment. (Rooftop view out to the Pacific).

Our daily routine was:

  • Pre-breakfast smoothie/fruit/nuts/coffee
  • Yoga
  • Real breakfast
  • Laps in the pool or activities (whale watching on the Sea of Cortez, surfing, cooking class)
  • Lunch
  • Chill
  • Meditation
  • Dinner
  • Bed

Eating vegan is already healthy, but I also learned how dependent on carbs/pasta I am. We ate very little rice and no pasta or bread. Both of us noticed a significant difference in our digestive health including more “even” energy levels.

I will post some recipes, but the most significant learnings were:

  • Avocado cartels. I didn’t realize that the global demand for avocados has become as serious as the drug trade in Mexico. I understand now why the cost is significantly different at the coop, which uses responsible sourcing. Avocado toast and guacamole mean something different now.
  • Nut soups. Walnut and pistachio soup?! Yum. And easy. The base for all soups is the same, with finishing touches creating flavor differences.
  • Oils. EVOO should not be heated. What?! Avocado oil is better, and regular olive oil should be used when richer flavor is needed. Adding olive oil to both guacamole and cold soups (watermelon, apple, cucumber) adds richness and depth.
  • Chia pudding for breakfast. I am a HUGE fan now, plus understand the additional nutrients from the seeds. Super easy to make ahead+granola+fruit.
  • Watermelon and beet sashimi. ‘Nuff said.
  • …More to come with recipes!

  • Potatoes dauphinoise (vegan)

    There are some recipes that are simply classic. This potato dish is from Julia Child and comes out of one of my favorite cookbooks, Julia and Jacques Cook At Home.

    I greatly admire Julia’s no-nonsense style both in her cooking and her on camera personality. I wonder what she would say about her classic being made without butter or cream! No doubt an honest assessment. 😇

    One of the reasons this recipe rocks is because it has so few ingredients. Other than peeling and slicing the potatoes, it’s a piece of cake. You can pretty much use whatever plant dairy you have on hand whether it’s a creamer or just milk. You also don’t have to measure but simply pour until it covers the potatoes.

    I was skeptical plant butter would give it the browning on top that makes for the original recipe’s just slightly crunchy texture, but it was perfect! It was just the warmup for our first snowstorm (6-9″ on Thanksgiving Eve, 😆).

    Potatoes dauphinoise (vegan)

    • 3 lbs Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced using either a food processor or mandolin. Do not rinse the sliced potatoes! It adds to the creamy texture.
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 2 tsp+ salt
    • Nondairy creamer/milk (about 3 cups)
    • 3 tbsp nondairy butter

    Butter the casserole dish. Place the smashed garlic in the bottom of the dish, season with salt. Place the potatoes in, and pour in enough creamer to cover. Chunk up the butter and place on top.

    Put the casserole dish on the stove and bring liquid to a simmer. (Now’s a good time to carefully check seasoning. You may want to add salt. )

    Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. Check for doneness by using a knife to poke the middle. It should be soft.

    Original recipe from Julia:

    Ambrosia tropical fruit salad (vegan)

    It snowed this week. The battle begins.

    I saw a whole coconut at the coop and got curious about how to use it. That seemed like a good distraction that would remind me of warmer days.

    The recipe selection was easy–I love ambrosia salad with the mixture of bright citrus and tropical flavors. Pineapple, mango, valencia oranges, red grapefruit, pomegranate and the coconut. Perfect. Easy.

    Well, it was easy. Except for the coconut. I now understand how it would feel to be trapped on a desert island surrounded by the things knowing full well they’re full of deliciousness and yet become fixated on getting the stupid shells cracked.

    It started with using a skewer to puncture the soft spot to drain the water. It was delicious! Flavor wise this was definitely the highlight. A cup gets used in the recipe itself, but the remainder can be used as a post workout recovery aid.

    If I didn’t want to mess with a fresh coconut in the future, I would at least buy the water, it made a huge difference and meant I didn’t need to use any sweetener (agave).

    After draining, the whole coconut gets baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or so. This is supposed to dry out the interior flesh.

    This is where the fun began! Trying to crack the thing. I tried a chef’s knife first. No go. Then a rolling pin. Comical. Finally, I called in the muscle (Matt) to use a hammer. The blunt side didn’t work. The claw side was sharp enough to crack it and then get it split in half.

    I admit being disappointed both by the amount of flesh inside, and that it was still moist. I pivoted and scraped the stuff out, which roughly had the texture of oysters, and chopped it up for the salad. Next time I will break it open first, then bake, to dry out the flesh (duh). All in all a worthwhile exploration with something new.

    We also did a nondairy yogurt taste test to go with it. I concluded cashewgurt or coconutmilk are my favorites. It’s a texture thing.

    This was a nice diversion and I am pleased that we’ll have fresh fruit ready to eat all week. The next time I am really frustrated a $5 coconut will come in handy too! 😉

    Ambrosia salad (vegan)

    • One pineapple, chopped
    • 2 cups diced mango
    • 1 red grapefruit, cut into segments then chopped
    • 2 valencia oranges, cut into segments then chopped
    • Flesh of one fresh coconut
    • 1 cup fresh coconut water
    • Seeds from one pomegranate

    Mix all together and allow to marinate overnight. Serve with yogurt and granola.

    Roasted tomato sauce

    Fresh tomatoes are one of summer’s best gifts. I just want to bottle it up and save it for January to remember warmth will eventually return! Now’s a great time to stock up at the Farmer’s Market.

    Both boys have started asking for cooking lessons and before Alec left, we were focused on some of the basics that everyone should master. Obviously pasta is one of them!

    It sounds easy enough, but there are a few techniques and tools that make for great pasta:

    A spider for scooping pasta out of well-salted water. I prefer sea salt, and you should actually taste your water (before boiling 😉) to make sure it tastes like seawater. It takes more salt than you might think, but it results in more flavorful pasta. Remove pasta 2 minutes before “done” and finish cooking in the sauce that you’ve already started heating in a separate pan. This technique works even with store bought sauce.

    This is the second tool you’ll need, a grabber to stir the pasta. Add 1 cup of the pasta water to finish the cooking and bind the sauce to the noodles. You can add as you go, more or less water until the texture is right. This works well with any non-cream based sauce.

    This is the finished roasted tomato sauce, which is a beautiful color depending on the mix of tomatoes you use. There’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of noodles with homemade sauce!

    Roasted tomato sauce (vegan)

      4 lbs fresh tomatoes, quartered
      6 cloves garlic
      6 tbsp olive oil
      Salt and pepper

    Toss cut tomatoes and garlic cloves in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast at 200 degrees for 6 hours. Purée in food processor or using hand blender.

    4 bean salad (vegan)

    It seems about right that I am making one of our favorite summer salads in September. I am not quite sure where it went! But both boys are back to school, with Alec at college for almost a month now and Avery having started his senior year of high school this past week. One more year until empty nest!! 😆

    His last first day pic.

    We are getting back into the groove of quick weeknight meals between hockey and other school activities. My weekends are spent preparing things ahead so anyone can grab and eat whenever.

    Honestly this 4 bean salad fits that criteria which is why it’s a church picnic staple in Minnesota. You can throw in any beans you have on hand–I happened to use kidney and great northern. Most of the time it’s all canned beans too.

    But this week at the Farmer’s Market the yellow wax beans and green beans were just fantastic! That’s actually what inspired me to make this salad, along with grabbing about 5 pounds of tomatoes to turn into roasted tomato pasta sauce. (I wish I would have snapped a pic of the golden raspberries I bought too–but they were eaten within hours along with a pint of red ones. Still Avery’s favorite!)

    Also on tap this week is beef stew for Matt’s birthday with mashed potatoes and an apple tart….chili and coconut tomato soup and a cauliflower curry….maybe fall isn’t so bad. But I still hate winter. One more.

    4 bean salad (vegan)

      1 cup each yellow wax beans and green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
      1/4 small red onion, diced
      1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
      1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
      1/2c vegetable oil
      1/4c red wine vinegar
      2 tsp agave
      1/4c chopped fresh herbs–parsley and oregano
      2 stalks celery, diced

    Steam green and yellow beans until tender about 5 minutes. Cool quickly in ice water.

    Drain and rinse canned beans. Combine all beans together.

    Soak red onion for about 10 minutes in cool water (takes away some of the bite). Dice.

    Dice celery.

    Mix the oil and vinegar and add herbs, salt and pepper and agave (sugar is fine if that’s what you’ve got).

    Combine all ingredients together and let sit for an hour to marinate.

    Roasted Shishito peppers (vegan)

    We first had these little gems–Shishito peppers–in Phoenix. Wow. Who knew I could eat an entire bowl of peppers!

    That answers your first question: No, they’re not spicy. Well they say 1 in 10 is actually spicy and that’s consistent with my experience too. But not jalapeño spicy even. Just enough to keep eating for the random wildcard surprise.

    They’re super easy to prepare and make a great app or side to anything from southwest cuisine to burgers. The long stems are ideal for snack ready eating–many places serve them with dips, but honestly I find that unnecessary.

    The skins are very thin so it’s not even like a red pepper, you barely notice it, which is also a win for a roasted/blackened technique so you don’t end up with that giant mess of exterior to cleanup.

    They can be difficult to find so if you run across them as I recently did in the coop or your farmer’s market, by all means buy them!!!

    Roasted Shishito peppers (vegan)

    • Shishito peppers (8 oz is a good amount)
    • Olive oil
    • Juice of a lime
    • Salt

    Toss in olive oil, cook on a vegetable grate on the grill over medium heat, about 5 minutes until slightly blackened. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice over and sprinkle generously in salt.

    Bunny battle royale & 2 vegan summer salads

    While traveling this week, the bunnies got into my garden. They ate the zinnias out of the front pots, two new arbor vines and–most annoyingly–my herbs. They destroyed the cilantro, did quite a number on the dill and parsley.

    People: This is war.

    My mom graciously enclosed what’s left and let’s hope they bounce back. Avery has been assigned to “shoot” hockey pucks. Not my fault if bunnies are in the way.

    Read below for the draft post I had started while on the road. The irony!

    ………

    Which herb is my favorite? Tough choice. Why limit life to just one?

    I am thrilled with my expanded herb garden, which is going gang busters with all of the rain we’ve had–except the basil, which is craving for the sun and heat.

    Fresh tarragon, dill and mint are growing well right now and I am sprucing everything up with a few herbs. I vary those 3 on my avocado toasts for breakfast. I have an avocado toast “problem”/addiction. I love it! I substitute tomatoes for the salmon now, but that recipe remains the best base.

    A long-standing favorite summer salad is chicken tarragon with grapes. So when I came across this vegan version on the Charming Chickpea, I couldn’t resist. Super easy and super awesome! I added tarragon, red grapes and red onions and threw it in a wrap.

    We also tried a new recipe from Bon Appetite: Asian melon salad. Super bright with mixing textures of the soft honeydew and crisp cucumber. The ginger dressing with the serrano is fantastic. We skipped the avocado (not ripe yet plus I use it in my toast) and peanuts (oops forgot those at the store!) but made up for it with plenty of fresh mint! It’s a weed. And I am thankful because that means I can’t kill it.

    Unless the bunnies figure it out, I should be good.

    Coconut tomato soup (vegan)

    It snowed another foot this week. Which is why I am still making soup practically every week. (Well technically this one is so easy Matt made it!) I seriously considered buying a blow torch to melt the lawn. <<Sigh>>

    Back to the soup… it’s creamy” without being creamy and just different enough from the typical tomato soup recipe to pique interest.

    I keep the fresh pastes in a tube–ginger and lemongrass in this recipe–in the fridge because they make it fast and easy to bump up flavors in Asian dishes like stir fry or ramen noodle bowls. They last a long time too!

    This soup comes together quickly, so very doable for weeknight meals or make ahead to put into school lunches.

    Sidenote: Avery’s lunchbox is a bit different than his classmates’. Apparently salads, vegs/hummus and coconut tomato soup are “low trade value” to 17 year old boys. 😉

    I am planning the summer herb garden and look forward to just a few weeks from now when I get to plant them…just popping out to the back deck to get a few sprigs of whatever to brighten our meals seems like such a small luxury. Think Spring!!

    Coconut Tomato soup (vegan)

    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 tsp fresh ginger paste
    • 1 tsp fresh lemongrass paste
    • 28oz whole tomatoes
    • 13.5oz can coconut milk
    • 4cups vegetable broth
    • Salt, pepper and sweetener to taste

    Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and lemongrass, stir briefly before adding tomatoes and broth. Break tomatoes apart, simmer 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and seasonings. Purée with hand blender.

    Harissa roasted cauliflower (vegan)

    As a child, I frequently set off the smoke detector when making toast. No, this is not a reflection of my early cooking failures. It’s about how much I love burnt toast. Burnt anything really.

    It goes along with loving deep tannins in red wine like a Cabernet, or dark dark chocolate. It’s that back of mouth pucker.

    So combined with a spicy hot pepper harissa paste, I am quite pleased. I love this spread mixed in for a punchy vegan mayo over a bean burger or with other veggies like roasted sweet potatoes and carrots in a Buddha bowl. Easy.

    Deep fried or hot oil roasted cauliflower are becoming more common on restaurant menus. While I love the attempt at getting a vegetarian item on the apps list (usually served with cheese or a ranch type dipping sauce), it’s not healthy. All the nooks and crannies of cauliflower really soaks up the oil. It can be really greasy.

    This recipe uses just enough to distribute the harissa, and obviously you don’t have to roast it until burnt like I prefer. Yes, I ate an entire head of cauliflower! And yes, the smoke detector goes off at least once a week in our house. 😊

    Harissa roasted cauliflower

    • 1 head cauliflower, broken into medium size chunks
    • 1/4cup harissa paste
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • Salt and pepper

    Mix harissa and oil until combined. Toss cauliflower until coated. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or desired degree of not burnt.