Tempeh Hash

tempeh hash (oil-free, vegan, gluten-free)

Since it’s cooled off just a bit (around where I live, at least), and it’s the weekend, I thought I would share a great, hearty breakfast or brunch dish. While I usually go with a green smoothie and something else light for breakfast, I like to branch out on weekends and go the brunch route from time-to-time. I made this tempeh hash last Saturday and it was delicious. It kept me full to get all of my errands and workouts in before my next meal.

I’m a huge “hash” fan. No, not that kind of hash (though I did go to college in Ann Arbor, where there’s a “hash bash” every April of the other variety… that’s a whole different story). I’m the kind of hash fan, rather, that gets giddy over a skillet filled with a vegan something-or-other and potatoes. There was a time when my brunch days included some type of meat with those potatoes — but who needs meat when there’s such a thing as tempeh?

As I’ve mentioned before, I was never a huge fan of tempeh until I learned to cook it properly. Now, it’s a regular in our rotation, as it provides high amounts of protein and is naturally fermented and much less processed than traditional tofu. I learned through Veganomicon that an easy way to steam tempeh — steaming removes much of its bitterness — is to do it in a covered skillet with flavorful things such as veggie broth and tamari, which is the way I prepared it here.

Once again, I am going oil-free in most of my cooking, and this recipe is another example of how unnecessary oil is with the right preparation and flavoring. The steamed tempeh cooks well in the skillet with some additional veggie broth. A non-stick or cast-iron skillet will keep things from clinging to the bottom of the pan without oil.

As a serving suggestion, I would recommend topping this hash with some salsa or avocado, and wrapping in corn tortillas for an amazing, savory breakfast or brunch option.

tempeh hash with corn tortilla, salsa and avocado

Tempeh Hash:

Yield: 3-4 servings


1 8-oz. pkg. tempeh, cut into cubes

3/4 cup plus 3-4 tablespoons low sodium vegetable broth

1 tablespoon low sodium tamari

1/2 large onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 heaping cup boiled new or fingerling potatoes, diced (I used Trader Joe’s “teeny tiny potatoes”)

2 large handfuls kale

salt to taste

salsa and/or avocado for topping (optional, but good)


1. Add tempeh, tamari and 3/4 cup vegetable broth to a medium-sized skillet. Cover and and heat over medium-high heat until simmering. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 7-10 minutes.

2. Uncover and break up tempeh with back of spoon. Add another 2 tablespoons veggie broth, onion, pepper and spices and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring, until onion and pepper are soft. Add potatoes and kale and cook again until kale is wilted. You may add 1-2 tablespoons more of veggie broth, as needed, if dry. Add salt to taste. Serve warm with desired toppings.


Summer Squash and Lentil Salad

summer lentil salad (low-fat, oil-free, grain-free)I’m not going to talk about the hot and humid weather. I am not going to talk about the hot and humid weather. I am not going to talk about the hot and humid weather. 

Ok, where were we? Oh, yes. Here’s a refreshing summer lentil salad that only requires minimal stovetop cooking and nothing in the oven. Why would you want to make something like that? Oh, I don’t know…maybe you’re not feeling like doing a lot of cooking one night due to situations out of your control (ahem, “outside conditions”). Maybe you’re feeling like something lite — not hot. I don’t know why you would be, but maybe you are.

Or, in all seriousness, maybe you’ve just braved the heat (oops, I did it) and walked to your local farmer’s market, where there was likely some lovely spinach and probably some colorful summer squash. And maybe you’ve had that squash sitting in your fridge and you’re wondering what to do with it.

summer squash and lentil salad (low-fat, oil-free, grain-free)

Or, maybe you’re in the mood for a salad. Not your typical, boring lettuce salad with only a few tomatoes and some dressing. But a substantial, satisfying, healthy, high-protein, all-in-one salad that incorporates lots of veggies. Simple. Unprocessed. No added oils or fats. Just refreshing, colorful, flavorful summer fare.

In my constant quest to come up with recipes that can double as lunches I can take to work, this is certainly going to become a regular in that rotation. I love bringing healthful fare that I don’t have to reheat, dress or otherwise prepare at the office. For me, coupled with some simple grains on the side, this is the perfect, light meal. Plus, it’s simple and not fussy — most of these ingredients are pantry staples or can be easily found at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.

This recipe can keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Summer Squash and Lentil Salad: 

Serves: 3-4


1 cup dry brown lentils

2 1/2 cups water

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 packet stevia*

1 yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and then cut into thin slices

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, sliced

1 large handful baby spinach


1. Place lentils and water in a medium to large pot and bring water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through yet retain their shape.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together apple cider vinegar, garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and stevia in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Add squash, bell pepper and scallions to a large salad bowl. Once lentils have cooked, add warm lentils to bowl with dressing and spinach and toss until everything is coated. Serve immediately at room temerature, or chilled in the refrigerator prior to serving.

I used Sweetleaf brand stevia. The package indicates that 1 packet is equal in sweetness to two teaspoons of regular granulated sugar, just to give a frame of reference for those looking to substitute who don’t have stevia on hand. If using a different brand of stevia, add slowly, to taste, as brands vary significantly in sweetness. 


Fat-Free Berry Oat Crisp

berry oat crisp (fat free)

As I mentioned, I am trying to significantly cut down oil in my diet. I thought it would be really difficult, but I’m surprised at how little it’s missed. Who knew that sweating onions in veggie broth or white wine would yield the same delicious base as fatty olive-oil does for soups? Who knew that you can make a delicious stir-fry with just some simple tamari and/or white wine? Makes me wonder why I was adding unnecessary fat and calories for so many years…

I went a step further with this delicious berry crisp and made it completely fat-free. It’s a healthy summer option that is both light and comforting. I brought this as a dessert to share at a party over the weekend, where there were multiple chocolate cakes, brownies and pies of the non-vegan, gluten-filled variety. I expected this crisp to perhaps get lost in the shuffle — or underwhelm in light of so many sugar-heavy, non-vegan, fat-filled sweet treats. Instead, I got compliments from those who knew I had brought it — and the ultimate compliment from someone who didn’t, as I overheard her telling everyone at her table that “the berry cobbler is out of this world”. Of course, I ran back to the dessert table to double-check that there were no other berry cobblers there. Thankfully, there weren’t, giving me the confidence I needed to share this recipe with all of you.

This recipe is truly simple to make. In fact, if I have some berries on hand, I might throw together a modified single-serving version to satisfy any lingering sweet tooth I may have after dinner. The lemon juice makes the filling slightly tart, so if you have an especially strong sweet tooth you may want to replace it with orange juice or water.

fresh berries

Fat-Free Berry Oat Crisp:

Yield: about 8- 10 servings

2 pints blueberries

1 pint raspberries

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 packets stevia

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

2 cups gluten-free oats

1/2 cup coconut nectar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add berries, lemon juice, stevia and arrowroot to a 7×11″ baking dish (or 2 qt. baking dish of any diameter). Stir gently until berries are coated.

3. In a separate bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour evenly over berries and spread gently with back of a spoon.

4. Bake crisp in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and top is golden-brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Oil-Free Protein-Packed Kale Salad

oil free protein kale salad

As you are all probably aware from my previous post, I had a blast at the Vegetarian Summerfest this year. And I learned SO MUCH about health and nutrition, even though I was already eating what I considered to be a very health vegan diet. One thing that really struck me on my trip was how many of the speakers we heard advised against using oil. Not only does oil have no nutritional value — making it completely empty in calories — but many presenters discussed its artery-clogging effects, links to cancer when cooked due to oxidation, and associations with vascular insufficiency and blood-clotting. But the thing that really made sense to me is that, when you think about it, oil is a pretty unnecessary food. It really provides no health benefits that can’t be obtained through whole, plant-based sources. This is why it’s best to get fats from nuts, seeds and avocados rather than from oil, which is a processed, stripped down version of real food.

When I came home, I wanted to start incorporating more oil-free meals into my life and in this blog (I am always a student and learning new and amazing things about nutrition — this blog is certainly a reflection of that). Unfortunately, I realized that many of my dishes in the past have contained oil — probably even in cases where it may not be entirely necessary. I will certainly try to limit its use in dishes where it is not needed from now on. I did create a tag for my oil free recipes, and I hope those will increase in volume as time goes on.

It’s pretty clear by now that I am quite the fan of kale. That certainly did not change on my trip. This dish was created to provide a nutritionally-dense, high-protein salad. Gratuitous oil use is perhaps most common in salad dishes — especially in those that soak up a lot of liquids like quinoa. I tried to find other ways to add intrigue to the salad and dressing — and flavor throughout. This salad makes a great, intriguing side dish, or can be eaten in larger portions for a one-bowl lunch or dinner. I find that the flavors work best when warm, but it can certainly be served as a cold salad as well.

The following are a few of my favorite books providing additional information as to why processed oils should be avoided or eliminated from one’s diet:

oil-free protein-packed kale salad

Oil-Free Protein-Packed Kale Salad:

Serves: 4-6


4 cups finely chopped curly kale (about 1/2 bunch)

1 cup uncooked quinoa, well rinsed (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 white)

2 cups sweet potato, peeled, diced and steamed or boiled until soft (about 10 minutes)

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), roughly chopped (more may be added to taste)

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup water

1 can organic chickpeas, drained and well rinsed

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

sea salt to taste


1. Add quinoa to a small pot with 1 cup of the vegetable broth and 1 cup water. Cook according to package directions, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

2. Meanwhile, cook or steam sweet potatoes if you haven’t already.

3. Whisk together dressing ingredients: remaining vegetable broth, cider vinegar, cumin and coriander.

4. Add kale, sun-dried tomato, sweet potato and chickpeas to a large salad bowl. Once quinoa is cooked, add warm quinoa and dressing to bowl and toss. Add salt to taste. Serve warm, room-temperature or chilled.


NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest 2013

My cousin, a pro tennis player, was in town for a tennis tournament and got to stop by the Summerfest to sit in on a Q&A session on fitness and join us for dinner.

My cousin, a pro tennis player, was in town for a tennis tournament and got to stop by the Summerfest to sit in on a Q&A session on fitness and join us for dinner (don’t worry, NAVS employees, we paid for him to join us!).

Wow. It’s all I can really say after recently coming home from a truly inspirational, fun-filled, educational and life-changing event… But since I am writing a post on my trip, I guess I will have to say more than just “wow”. So I will.

As some of you may remember, a few years ago I posted after my parents came home from the 2011 NAVS Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. They had learned so much, and shared with me their enthusiasm upon returning home. At the time, I was busy studying for my second state bar exam in two years (New York and Michigan do not have reciprocity, which means I needed to take the entire thing over — even the multi-state portion of the exam) and did not have the time to take even a small vacation. But I was super jealous of my parents and decided to go the next year.

One of my favorite meals: raw ginger-carrot soup, raw lettuce cups with garlic, tomato and pine nuts, and fajita vegetable with rice, olive tapenade, red pepper hummus and lots of greens. Oh, and a big salad.

One of my favorite meals: raw ginger-carrot soup, raw lettuce cups with garlic, tomato and pine nuts, and fajita vegetables with rice, olive tapenade, red pepper hummus and lots of greens. Oh, and a big salad.

But the next year came and I had recently moved into a new home and was juggling intensive Lyme disease treatment with increased responsibilities at work and, again, decided not to attend. So when my parents came home from their trip perhaps even more enthusiastic and inspired than they had been the year prior, I knew I couldn’t go on forever putting the experience off. 2013 would be my year.

So, now I am two days removed from the trip and have had some time to reflect on my first Summerfest experience. I still feel renewed, energized, inspired and truly grateful to have attended. What is the Summerfest? Well, it’s a 5-day retreat of sorts in Johnstown, PA, which features lectures, speakers, fitness and eating centered around a plant-based lifestyle and animal activism. One need not be vegan or vegetarian to attend, and there were certainly attendees who were neither. Moreover, as I alluded to, the messages range from health-related to environmental to animal rights, so there are a variety of topics covered at the conference of interest to people on all parts of the vegan spectrum.

One of the savory breakfasts plates I made on the trip: scrambled tofu, sweet potatoes, quinoa with carrots and a side salad with tahini dressing and grape tomatoes. All oil-free.

One of the savory breakfasts plates I made on the trip: scrambled tofu, sweet potatoes, quinoa with carrots and a side salad with tahini dressing and grape tomatoes. All oil-free.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip, for me, was having the opportunity to hear Rich Roll speak in what was certainly a moving, motivational and inspirational address. I will admit, I had never heard of him prior to the conference, though he has gained quite a following and certainly made a name for himself as an endurance athlete who not only completed two Ultraman races, but reached the unprecedented feat of completing 5 Iron Mans in 5 days a few years ago. And on top of everything, he is a plant-based athlete — dispelling the myth that veganism is an unsustainable, unhealthy fad (but where does he get his protein? Check out the cover of his book and you probably won’t be worrying about his protein intake anymore).  His speech proved to all of us what the human mind, body and spirit are capable of  — as he had overcome an alcoholic and sedentary, unhealthy past to reach these milestones well into his 40s, reminding many of us that when have not yet reached out potential in our own lives. His speech reminded me personally of the familiar yogi principle that we are never “finished” — everything in life is a work in progress and a product of our continuous growth and belief in ourselves. Talk about an inspiring message! Needless to say, I bought his book, Finding Ultra, so that I can continue to be inspired by this message.

Rich Roll doing an impromptu book signing after a fitness Q&A he participated in. I am horrible at asking people to pose in pictures with me, so I instead shot this not-so conspicuous photo of him while he was signing someone else' book.

Rich Roll doing an impromptu book signing after a fitness Q&A he participated in. I am horrible at asking people to pose in pictures with me, so I instead shot this not-so conspicuous photo of him while he was signing someone else’s book.

Other trip highlights include getting a chance to listen to Dr. Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts; listening to the latest research from Brenda Davis, RD, who also dispelled many myths about the Paleo diet; learning about fecal matter in retail chicken (hint: it’s in pretty much all of it); understanding how we humans measure animal intelligence (and why doing so is silly) with the help of the amazing Rae Sikora; and participating in the amazing Zumba and yoga classes that were offered. Seriously, I am not sure I have ever had a more challenging yet amazing yoga experience — and Zumba was so fun. I even found a clip of our Zumba instructor on Youtube and have been contemplating just doing that segment over and over until I can go back next year and take her class again.

For anyone looking for a fun-filled yet educational experience — and above all, something that will be sure to inspire passion and change — I highly recommend this trip.  Not to mention the food was outstanding! As you can see, there were so many amazing, plant-based options I had a little trouble with “moderation” on this trip – perhaps the only drawback of the entire experience.



My Favorite Cheap Workouts


Back in my Metamorphosis days (still living with my parents). Sweaty and gross, but at least my arms were toned!

Dear Readers, I’ve debated for a long time doing a non recipe or food-related post. After four years of blogging about food, I felt like it was time to share some of my thoughts on some other things that go hand-in-hand with healthy eating, including fun workouts! I hope this slight departure is a welcome one for all of you.  Since it’s 4th of July week, I’m sure there will be lots of eating — but also potentially lots of swimming and sun-bathing. I am a big believer in balance. So have fun this week and keep this post in your back-burner for later. xoxo Beth

There’s nothing like growing up to teach you certain lessons, and one that’s been particularly clear to me in the last few years is this: life is expensive. Because I chose to go to law school and my parents were generous enough to pay for it, my realization of this painful fact was delayed a few years behind my peers who entered the workforce — and were therefore usually cut off from their parents’ support — after college. But ironically, it’s now  that I’m working and earning an income that I’m most aware of just how painfully expensive the act of living can be. Add to the usual bills (electric, car payments, etc.) Lyme disease treatments and monthly expenses get even more expensive. Which is why I decided that of the expenses I was definitely going to have to live without, gym membership and yoga classes were among them.

Luckily, I learned several years ago that I was able to achieve a much better workout and faster results through at-home workout DVDs. For years I had been a gym rat, and like many, suffered the oft-repeated mistake of spending about an hour on some sort of machine –elliptical, perhaps — and then lifting a few weights or doing some sit-ups and calling it a day. Sure, I broke a minor sweat. And sure, I got to watch re-runs of Oprah while doing it. But in reality, I was not really pushing myself or seeing much of a change in the process. It was as if some switch in my brain was on autopilot, destining me to achieve a status quo filled with countless hours on the elliptical or treadmill.

I actually stopped going to a gym when I moved to New York City and realized that most memberships were outside my price range (or the price range of any person living within even moderate means, for that matter). After a few years of living in New York and maintaining my weight through long walks through the city with Woodley,  I discovered Jillian Michaels, who whipped my butt into shape during the course of my bar exam studying and got me into shape for my wedding (which may have been negated by the amount of baking I was doing in the weeks leading up to my wedding, but whatever).

Recently, I also gave up paying for expensive Bikram yoga packages. Though I really do love all the sweating of hot yoga, which is totally a love-hate thing for people, I did NOT love the results it had in my bank account. So I gave it up and have been doing a lot more yoga DVDs at home as well.

woodley and me

My favorite all-time workout: walking Woodley!

The key to keep me motivated is for a workout to be NOT boring. I really am not patient enough to wait out a lot of instruction, and definitely not coordinated enough to keep up with a step class or something too structured (though I do love Zumba — which to me is much more “dance” than step).

The following workouts include free or $10 or less workouts (with only one exception), and some that are wayyyy cheaper than even a one-month membership at the gym. I thought I’d share my favorites for all of you who, like me,  are looking for some cheaper alternatives to gym membership or yoga classes but with even better results. And for those who hate to be bored.

My Top Five: 

5. Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis: This is the most expensive of my favorite cheap workouts, but it’s designed to be several strength training sessions over time, so it should last you several months. Plus, the cardio is very fun. If you’re uncoordinated like me, it may take you a few times before you get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s a lot of fun and very challenging. The strength sessions, however, are extremely challenging, but you’ll see results. It’s also probably the most boring of my “favorites”, but again, you’ll see results. It takes a long time to complete the cardio and strength together. But you’ll see results. Basically, this is the workout I would recommend if you’re preparing for some type of event, such as a wedding or, I don’t know, photo shoot or something?

4. Bethenny’s Skinnygirl Workout: Bethenny Frankel has two workout DVDs to my knowledge, but this one is probably my favorite of the two. It’s 3 yoga sessions that can be broken up if you’re short on time, or done consecutively. Many of the poses are different from your typical yoga workout. Yes, there’s downward dog and the familiar poses,  but this workout mixes it up and even mixes in some cardio. It’s a fun, different yoga workout that will definitely leave you sore the next day, but it’s not too difficult or challenging to the point that you’ll want to give up. It’s less than $14 on Amazon for a 1-hour workout that can be done over and over, so it’s a great deal.

3. Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown: This is a more challenging yoga workout than Bethenny’s, but it’s shorter and more compact. I love Jillian’s workouts because many are designed to get results in a short amount of time. This DVD is divided into two separate 30 minute yoga sessions that will leave you sweating afterward and sore the next day. And it’s less than $8.

2. Jillian Michaels’ Banish Fat Boost Metabolism: I love a lot of Jillian Michaels’ workouts, but this is probably my all-time favorite. It’s one-stop shopping for working out your entire body. No weights or equipment needed. You’ll sweat. You’ll have fun. You may need to stop for a breather or two. But you probably won’t be bored. Best part, it’s less than $8 on Amazon.

1. Walking Woodley: This is the workout with the built-in motivator: a dog that will definitely let you know if he hasn’t gotten a good walk that day. It’s also my favorite workout, and one that does not need to be intensive or crazy hard to be beneficial in many ways. Walking has so many health benefits, from cardiovascular to mental. I can listen to my favorite podcasts, or just take in the city sounds and, as cliche as it sounds, process my thoughts! Walking is an easy and non-taxing way to stay in shape, and it’s always more fun with a canine companion! And while dogs are certainly not free (or cheap!), the walking is.

Honorable Mentions: 

  • Any other Jillian Michaels DVD. Seriously, this woman is awesome and gets results! And, again, I am never, ever bored while doing her workouts, which is always great. Makes the time go bye so much quicker!
  • Youtube. If I’m short on time, sometimes I’ll just do a search such as “Tracy Anderson arms” and several 5-minute or less workouts pop up. If you search “quick workout” you will find several results for 5-10 minute workouts that can be watched for free at home.
  • Running: OK, I actually hate running, so I rarely do this one. But every so often, a miracle occurs, and I am motivated to go on a run. Sometimes I take Woodley, sometimes I go to my local high school track and run on my own. The track is nice because it gives you a built-in gauge of how much you’ve run. It seems obvious, but running is that age-old workout that never really fails to get people results. Now if only I actually enjoyed it!

Caribbean Kale Salad

carribean kale saladI mentioned a few posts back that I recently had the opportunity to go to Chicago for a long weekend for a wedding. While I was unable to hit up every single spot on my list due to time constraints and wedding activities, I did manage to eat at my top 3 “must-try” places: Karyn’s, The Chicago Diner and Native Foods Cafe. While Chicago Diner may have been my overall favorite — the Soul Bowl was out of this world (right, Liz? Unlike the stir-fry which was “not coming out well”) — I think Native Foods cafe was a close second and more closely represents how I eat on a regular basis (fresh, whole plant foods). Karyn’s was also very good, but we went for brunch so had somewhat more limited menu options. Though I have to say, I had a tofu scramble with roasted potatoes and polished off my entire plate.

Because Native Foods had the most menu items that were friendly to my diet (i.e. also gluten-free and many whole plant foods), I really, really wanted  to get the chance to go back a second time while I was there. Unfortunately, I never made it back, which was a true shame because I had already picked out the next item I was going to order — the Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad.

The Native Foods original version of this salad is topped with blackened jerk tempeh, and appears from the menu description to have some sort of a creamy dressing. I desperately wanted to try it, so I decided to try to make something similar at home. In an effort to simplify this dish, I made this recipe without the tempeh, though tempeh or tofu with jerk seasoning and some baked sweet potato fries would certainly complete the dish and make an excellent meal (I should know because I made it with these additions recently and posted it to my Instagram feed, @bversical).

Carribean kale salad top view

This salad is a little sweet with just a hint of spice from the cumin. It’s definitely a nice change from my usual kale salad, though I am not sure I will ever tire of that one.

So, native Chicago folk, did I miss any go-to vegan spots? Let me know what your favorite Chicago vegan restaurants are, so I can be sure to try them out then next time I’m in town (if I can pry myself away from Chicago Diner, that is).

Caribbean Kale Salad: 

1 large bunch curly kale, washed and chopped

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for massaging kale

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted until golden brown*

2/3 cup diced fresh mango

1/2 large avocado, diced

1/4 cup red onion, minced

1/3 cup diced red pepper (optional – I omitted it from mine because I didn’t have any)


1. Place kale in a bowl. Add teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and massage kale between hands until it begins to break down.

2. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients: remaining olive oil, salt, lime juice, cider vinegar and cumin.

3. Top massaged kale with remaining ingredients and add dressing slowly until reaching desired amount (may vary depending on amount of kale). Toss and serve.

I toast mine in a non-stick skillet. Add dry coconut and heat over medium-high for about 4-5 minutes or until coconut just begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat. 




Blueberry-Mango-Carrot Smoothies

blueberry mango carrot smoothie

As many of you know by now from either following me on Instagram or reading this blog, my main go-to morning smoothie is a detoxifying green smoothie, made using greens, fruits, lemon and water. I may add chlorella or flax seed from time to time, but generally try to keep these smoothies to whole plant foods. However, I occasionally try to vary my morning smoothie from time-to-time, and when I do, I like to opt for a creamier option — usually with dairy-free milk and berries, and many times with avocado for added creaminess. Gennaro likes to refer to these as the “fun smoothies” (can you guess which he prefers?)

But as much as I love a “fun smoothie”, meals sometimes seem like a waste to me if I’m not making sure it’s providing ample health benefits as well. I designed this recipe to provide loads of vitamins, antioxidants and “healthy fats” in the form of avocado, while still tasting “fun” and fruity. Here’s a breakdown of the health benefits of the various ingredients (sourced from a number of web resources):

  • Blueberry: Many people know about blueberries as a high antioxidant berry (I’ve seen sources rank them as the highest antioxidant fruit). They also contain fiber and Vitamin C.
  • Mango: Mangoes also contain antioxidants and have high levels of vitamin C. They help balance pH in the body, and of course, contain fiber.
  • Carrots: Most people know that carrots contain high amounts of Vitamin A and are also a great source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant. They can also purify the blood and aid in liver detoxification.
  • Avocado: This sneaky ingredient not only adds creaminess to your smoothie, but are also high in healthy fats which can lower bad cholesterol and nourish the skin. They are also high in fiber, making this smoothie one that should help to keep you full throughout the morning. Avocado also contains other vitamins to help maintain optimum health.

I think the advent of the Vitamix made smoothie aficionados of all of us, myself most definitely included. While I certainly made smoothies in the past, the Vitamix made it an everyday thing. Unfortunately, as far as kitchen equipment goes, it is not cheap. And I would most certainly not have been able to afford one had I not gotten married and had very generous in-laws gift us with one. However, if you’re using a regular blender, I have a few suggestions for this recipe: increase the amount of liquid slightly and decrease the amount of frozen fruits. I am not sure how well the carrot pulverizes in a blender, but you could try adding it in slowly and see what happens. While I love and am completely devoted to my Vitamix, I am certainly not living under some Gwyneth Paltrow-esque rock, thinking everyone can afford a luxury like this (heck, I’m an attorney and I couldn’t even afford one if it hadn’t been gifted to me. I guess that’s a downfall of going into an area of the law where you’re “helping people”, rewarding as it may be). I made many a smoothie using my regular ol’ Cuisinart blender during my law school days without much of a problem — just a bit more coaxing with an old fashioned spoon.

Yield: 2 large or 3 smaller smoothies (halve portions if making a single-serving)


3 cups cold, unsweetened dairy-free milk (I alternate between soy and almond; use non-soy dairy-free milk for soy-free option)

1 heaping cup frozen blueberries

1 cup frozen mango chunks

1/2 cup carrot, roughly chopped

1/2 large or one small avocado, skin and pit removed

1-2 packets stevia, or sweetener to taste


1. Add dairy-free milk, blueberries, mango chunks and carrot to a high-powered blender such as Vitamix. Blend until smooth.

2. Add 1/2 avocado and blend. For more creaminess, add remaining avocado. Add sweetener to taste. Blend until smooth.


Happy 4th Birthday to Delectably Free!

collage DF birthday

Clockwise from top left: Creamy, Vegan Mac and Cheese; Tempeh Sloppy Joes; Coconut-Almond Rice Crispy Treats; Avocado-Lime Tart

Today’s our 4th birthday here at Delectably Free, and it’s been a long but certainly enjoyable journey getting here. There were hiatuses and speed bumps along the way, but it was always my goal to try to provide my readers with nutritious and healthy recipes that could be eaten on a modified diet. I hope I’ve at least done that!

Many of my fellow food bloggers probably know how much work can go into keeping a recipe blog alive and active. Not only have there been countless hours of recipe testing in the kitchen, but photographing and writing everything down can add to the time commitment. I will be honest and say that there are many times that I have really thought about giving up completely. I make no money blogging, and put a lot of time and money into it. Once I graduated law school and started working full-time as an attorney, it became even more challenging to keep up this site. But I’d missed it so much in the year that I took off that I knew I couldn’t give Delectably Free up completely. I also received feedback from people I’d never even imagined were reading my site. It made me want to continue to share my recipes and stories with all of you. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep sharing for years to come.

I thought I would take a look back at Delectably Free, starting with my favorite all-time recipes. It’s difficult for me to play favorites, especially since I know that some of my simple but perhaps less intriguing overall recipes have certainly been lost in the shuffle over the years. But the following recipes all either have a special place in my heart, or have received the most positive feedback from friends, family and readers. Here’s a look:

Top Ten Countdown: 

10. Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna: This was the first recipe I created that I was truly stunned could turn out so amazing without any gluten, dairy or egg products. I was not vegan at the time of making it, so I think my surprise was heightened by the fact that it was one of my first forrays into gluten-free, vegan cooking. I didn’t know how delicious, rich and decadent a gluten free, vegan lasagna could be!

9. Crushed Lentil Soup: This is one of the recipes I probably receive the most feedback on. It’s very easy and inexpensive to make, so I think that adds to its popularity. It’s a great side dish, but I’ve also gotten into the habit of adding even more veggies, diced tomatoes and perhaps some canned artichoke for a heartier stew.

8. Fudgy Black Bean Brownies: I’ve seen recipes for black bean brownies on several blogs, and didn’t want to create more of the same. I tried to up the chocolate flavor of these and hide the black beans as best as possible. These are certainly fudgey and chocolate-y — and a favorite among family and friends.

7. Tempeh Sloppy Joes: I am including these Sloppy Joes in my top 10 list because they have been complimented by the biggest meat aficionado in my life (which is relative, considering half my family are now vegans): my brother. When he tried these, he barely realized they were vegan and asked for second helpings. It will surprise you how much these mimic the flavor of “real” sloppy joes, without all of the animal fat. I added lots of veggies to up the health benefits of this recipe. It’s vegan comfort food that you don’t have to feel bad about eating.

6. Coconut-Almond Rice Crispy Treats: These are so easy — no baking involved. I’ve been known to add additions to the coconut such as dried cherries or even a chocolate drizzle on top (made from coconut oil, cocoa and coconut nectar). These are one of my mom’s favorites, and kids love them too.

5. Creamy, Vegan Mac and Cheese: This recipe is the essence of vegan decadence. Contrary to most people’s misguided notions about veganism, vegan food can be indulgent and even a tad bit sinful, as this recipe will show. But it’s so darn good — and easy, too! All you have to do is throw everything in a crock pot and stir a couple times. Easy, right?

4. Hot Spinach Dip: I always get compliments on this dip from non-vegans who never suspect it’s made with vegan cheese. Another sinful yet delicious dish that will impress your guests.

3. German Chocolate Cake: This cake is amazing. I am especially proud of it because it came out perfect my first time testing the recipe (which was especially necessary considering I was making it for a charity auction and had little room for error). Fellow food bloggers will understand how rare such an occurence is, especially in the unpredictable world of baking. Yes, it does take some time to make. But if you really want to make a chocolate-lover in your life happy, make this for them!

2. Focaccia: I am proud of this focaccia for the exact opposite reason I’m proud of my German Chocolate Cake (above) — it took me several tries to perfect this recipe, and I was determined not to give up until I had it right. Finally, when I did perfect it, it became an instant hit with my family and gluten-free friends. It can also be used as the base for several other gluten-free recipes. I’ve used it to make gluten-free Thanksgiving dressing and this focaccia pizza with “cream cheese” and veggies.

1. Avocado-Lime Tart: I think this may be one of my personal favorite desserts on my blog, and mostly because I was a HUGE key lime pie lover back in the day. I love the tartness of the filling with the sweet crust. If you’re a key lime pie lover like me but want a gluten-free, vegan and healthier version of the classic, try this recipe. The presentation will also impress your guests.

family photo

my favorite taste-testers and me


My first post was June 11, 2009. Here’s a look through each June 11 or June 12 post since:

4 years ago:

June 11th, 2009: Gluten-free Carrot Orange Cupcakes

3 years ago:

June 12th, 2010: Crushed Lentil Soup (still one of my most popular recipes today)

2 years ago:

July 11, 2011: Roasted Tomato-Basil Pasta Toss

1 year ago:

Treating for Lyme. Boo hoo.

Thanks for reading! I appreciate all of the feedback and support over the years!



Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

chocolate chunk banana bread top viewI consider chef Chloe Coscarelli to be a culinary genius. I’ve posted before about my love of her first cookbook (all vegan!), Chloe’s Kitchen, which is quickly becoming one of those beloved cookbooks of mine — joining the ranks of the other tattered, torn and food-splattered but frequently used books in my collection. I love her recipes because she has a knack for not only making things taste amazing, but making them super simple and un-daunting, which is a daunting task in itself! And while many (but certainly not all) of her recipes call for gluten-containing ingredients, they can easily be adapted to be gluten-free. In fact, she has a section in the front of her book all about gluten-free substitutions. Personally, I’ve made many of her recipes substituting gluten-free ingredients, including her baked macaroni (which I made with quinoa and corn mini shell noodles and brown rice flour for the roux), with stellar results.

But Chloe is perhaps most famous for her dessert recipes (she won Cupcake Wars on Food Network, and was the first all-vegan chef to do so), many of which I have sadly not had the chance to make because of the sugar factor (she indicates in her book that many of her dessert recipes can be made with gluten-free flours). I’ve found that it’s one thing to substitute gluten-free flours, but things get really tricky when you start messing with the sugar.

As many of you may know if you’ve been following this site for awhile, I avoid refined sugars due to a history of candida albicans and health problems which can be exacerbated by sugar intake. In fact, I believe that consuming refined sugars, while probably OK in moderation, can wreak havoc on anyone’s health when done to excess. With candida, I must be even more careful, especially after being on antibiotics for over a year. I went through a period of not eating any fruit or sugar, then slowly adding back non-refined, low glycemic sweeteners on occasion. Otherwise, I use stevia if I need a sweetener. I have also been advised to avoid fructose due to Lyme, which is why you will notice that agave nectar, while a staple of my baking in the past, is no longer used in my recipes. I tend to have the same attitude toward agave as I do toward regular sugar — fine in moderation, but problematic in excess, or even if consumed daily. However, these sweeteners can be especially problematic for people with health issues such as candida or Lyme, and should therefore be avoided.

For these reasons, Chloe’s desserts have both tempted and haunted me since I’ve had her book. Not to mention the fact that she has a new dessert book out, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, which I have purposely not bought knowing it will just taunt me to no end.

chocolate chunk banana bread side view

Don’t worry – no one took a bite out of that second piece. I just made the age-old mistake of cutting too soon and that piece crumbled off as a result.

This weekend, I finally succumbed to my temptations and decided to tackle and modify a Chloe dessert recipe using a gluten-free flour and a sugar substitute. While I don’t even bake with unrefined sugar substitutes much anymore, I figured if I was going to bake something, it might as well be very, very good. In the end, I went with her Chocolate Chip Banana Cake recipe, which is on her website. Now, if any of you are also vegan, gluten-free and trying to avoid refined sugars, you’ll know that finding chocolate chips that meet your dietary requirements is completely impossible. They just don’t exist. So I usually try to avoid recipes calling for them, or use something else such as nuts or dried fruit — which sometimes (OK, probably most of the time) just doesn’t hit the spot in the way gooey chocolate does.

The reason I decided to go with a recipe calling for chocolate chips, however, is that I recently discovered what I imagine is a somewhat new product from the brand Coconut Secret, their Peruvian Crunch chocolate bar. It is simply dark chocolate, coconut and organic coconut crystals (dried coconut nectar). And it is TO. DIE. FOR. I almost felt like it was a waste of such an amazing chocolate bar to chop it up and mix it with other things. In fact, few recipes would actually justify such an act. But I felt that chocolate chunk banana bread had to be one of those recipes. And it was totally worth it.

photo (4)

Originally posted to my Instagram feed, @bversical

I made some other changes to Chloe’s original recipe in addition to my flour and sugar substitutions. Many of the changes were based on what I had on hand. I used olive oil instead of canola oil (I don’t ever have the latter on hand) and unsweetened almond milk in place of canned coconut milk (same thing — I always have almond milk on hand, almost never canned coconut milk). I also decreased the amount of chocolate chunks because I wanted to keep it to only one bar — otherwise, it could start getting ridiculously pricey just to make banana bread. I also omitted the salt, just to experiment for those trying to watch their salt intake whether it would make a difference. It was still amazingly tasty and flavorful. Though it would be interesting if someone did a taste-test to compare the salted and non-salted versions side-by-side. Finally, I had run out of ground ginger so omitted that from the recipe, and it was still extremely flavorful and well-spiced. I could also easily see this recipe being good with shredded coconut (it’s already in the chocolate bar, so it adds a nice flavor punch), chopped walnuts, or even some orange zest if you’re feeling super adventurous.

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread:
Adapted from the amazing Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Cake at Chefchloe.com

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 cup coconut crystals/coconut palm sugar

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)

1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond or coconut milk to be soy-free, soy or rice milk will make it nut-free)

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for greasing pan

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, I had just run out)

1 chocolate bar such as Coconut Secret Peruvian Crunch, chopped (yields about 1/2 cup)


1. Lightly grease a 5×10″ loaf pan with olive oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, xanthan gum, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda and spices.

3. In a separate bowl, gently whisk together mashed banana, oil, milk, vinegar and vanilla extract. Slowly add to dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

4. Fold in chocolate chunks. Pour batter into pre-greased load pan and bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (no wet batter). Remove from oven an let sit for about 1/2 hour. Then remove from loaf pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.