Chocolate Protein Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Chocolate SmoothieYes, I’ve fallen into the “pumpkin everything” trap. I told myself I wouldn’t succumb to those sneaky marketing ploys from the big chains and ignore the fact that it’s already September, and we’re supposed to be falling in line (no pun intended) with the fall-themed script: pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin. I wasn’t going to do it. Wasn’t ready. Wasn’t feeling the pumpkin everything vibe.

But then, you know, this funny thing called pregnancy got the best of me. I saw a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie somewhere and suddenly my mind could not stop thinking about making one. Maybe all the stealthy marketing campaigns got to me. But suddenly, my mind was all pumpkin, and there was no stopping me until I had my fix.

But still another thing happened this week to lead to the creation of this smoothie — another thing that I can definitively blame on my pregnancy. I got my results back for my 1-hour glucose screening test — something I thought I would pass with flying colors, given my pre-pregnancy history of actually having low glucose levels on all my blood tests — and the results were not as I planned. My glucose levels were high. Now, I realize that a lot of women actually have this happen and they do end up passing their 3-hour test when all is said and done, without a diagnosis of gestational diabetes (I take my follow-up test next week, just to be sure). But the initial realization that my glucose was fairly high, along with even the possibility of having gestational diabetes looming in my mind, had me really re-thinking my diet and trying to re-imagine a diet plan if a gestational diabetes diagnosis were in my future.

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Single-Serving Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

Single-Serving Carrot Cake Overnight Oats | Delectably FreeI’ve been doing overnight oats for breakfast for awhile, not putting too much thought into it because I figured the internet had that area of oatmeal-making pretty well covered. But then I witnessed a recent surge of carrot cake oat recipes on some of my favorite vegan blogs, and suddenly became fixated on the idea of combining a popular Pinterest-era phenomenon — overnight oats — with the flavors of carrot cake.

Aside from green or berry smoothies, overnight oats are one of my favorite breakfast options for so many reasons. First of all, overnight oats are just that: they literally soften overnight, leaving you with thick, ready-to-eat no-cook oatmeal in the morning. I also love having a base recipe that I can make again and again, while still being able to customize that base to my particular tastes and preferences on a given day (or, more likely, based on what I happen to have in my fridge).

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Chocolate-Hemp Granola

chocolate hemp granolaGranola seems to be one of those things people loathe as a child and love as an adult. At least, that’s been the case with me. Then again, granola may have gotten a lot better taste-wise over the years, as we’re now lucky enough to live in an age when healthy eating has become more than just a fad reserved for those uninterested in eating tasty food. In fact, these days “healthy” and “granola” are not necessarily even synonymous. Often, granola is loaded with butter and/or sugar. It can also be quite high in fat, as well. And while not always a bad thing, fat is something to avoid eating in excess. So for all those people characterizing super healthy vegan fare as “granola” – you might want to re-think your descriptors.

This granola, though, can still be considered “granola” granola, if you know what I mean. But that’s not to say it’s not tasty. This version is crunchy, sweet and so addicting with a little banana and almond milk. Subtly infused with chocolate, when eaten with milk (non-dairy, of course), you’ll find the added benefit of a nice little bit of chocolatey milk to slurp when your granola is gone. But high in fat, oil or sugar it is not. And that was the goal here — so that I don’t feel quite so guilty loading up my bowl to keep full between breakfast and lunch.

I added hemp seeds to this for some added Omega-3 fats and protein. You can sprinkle some more on top, as shown in the picture, if you’d like. I love to add sliced banana to my bowl, but you can also add fresh berries, sliced pear, or whatever fruit is in season.

And, to borrow a line from one of my favorite movie characters from my favorite movie of all time: that’s all I have to say about that. Not because I couldn’t think of more things to say about this granola. I could, sadly, expound further upon granola and many foods for that matter. But I have made a promise to myself to not push myself too hard to write so much here when I’m busy with other things. It’s part of my ongoing effort to keep my life and priorities in balance. On that note, I hope you enjoy this healthy, oil-free treat as much as I did. More on how well that effort is working out for me in another post.

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Vegan Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Gluten-Free, Vegan Double Chocolate Chip PancakesI learned many things in college. As is the case with many a college grad, the biggest lessons were learned outside of the classroom (though not to fear, Mom and Dad, your tuition money was well-spent).

I learned that pulling all-nighters will not make you do better on a test or write a better paper. A little sleep, when it’s needed most, can go a long way. I learned how important it was to eat breakfast, and especially to eat breakfast before downing a triple espresso latte to compensate for those aforementioned all-nighters. And finally, in one of the most jarring revelations of my time in college, I learned that not everyone calls the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Paczki day (pronounced POONCH-KEY), nor do they eat Paczkis on this day or even know what a Paczki is. With that revelation,  my little metro Detroit bubble had burst, and I realized I was no longer in Kansas Grosse Pointe anymore.

vegan, gluten-free double chocolate chip pancakesAt first, people thought I was making this weird jelly doughnut holiday up, or that it was a family tradition that I had somehow deluded myself into thinking was a national holiday. It was before the days of the iPhone, so I went home to Google the holiday only to discover that it was, in fact, a holiday confined to the Midwest. And since most of my friends were from the East or West Coasts, I suddenly felt so small in this great big world that had never unitarily celebrated a day with Paczkis.

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Single-Serving Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding

banana-omega-chia puddingI am approaching this first post of the new year with a bit of trepidation, as this would normally be the obligatory resolutions and reflections post, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2013 went by so fast. Resolutions? I’m not there yet. I’m still wondering where all the time went. This has me thinking. By the time I’ve figured out my resolutions for this year, it will probably be 2015.

Time passes quickly. I learn that more and more each year. As my dad says, it’s because the older we become, each year is a smaller proportion of our lives thus far.

What I have learned is that, the older I become, the more keenly aware I am of the importance of caring for my body. I marvel at the things I seemingly got away with doing to my body while in college. All-nighters cramming for tests or writing papers, diet sodas, beer at tailgates and 2 a.m. pizza delivery were not uncommon occurrences in my college days. And judging from the number of people still in the school computer lab at 4 a.m. or by the crowds at tailgates and bars over the weekends (and sometimes during the week), I am pretty sure I was not alone.

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Gingerbread Peach Muffins

peachy gingerbread muffins (gluten free, vegan)

I’ve never really been able to say with any amount of conviction that I have a favorite fruit. My preferences seem to go something like this: In the fall, I really love crisp apples and fresh plums. During the spring, I get excited for the beginning of fresh strawberry season. When fresh citrus is being grown down in Florida during the winter, I love juicy oranges and grapefruit. Throughout the summer, I can’t get enough blueberries, raspberries and cherries. And later in the summer, my kitchen counter is overloaded with fresh peaches and nectarines.

Fruit can be an amazing and perplexing thing. I’ve marveled at how much better an apple can taste when in season — crisp and sweet, versus mealy and flavorless in the off-season. Blueberries can be plump and flavorful during their peak, while most of the year they are small and sour. And then there are peaches. You rarely notice them year-round, as they tend to be an overpriced luxury that is not quite worth the expense. They never have that distinct, sweet and juicy peach flavor….until late summer, when they certainly do.

I’ve been obsessing a bit over peaches and nectarines lately. With prices low and abundance high, I can’t help but stock up on amounts that are probably excessive given that there are only two people (and one dog who does not like peaches — one of the few fruits he eschews!) living in our house. Nevertheless, I somehow seem to manage our haul by enjoying peaches and nectarines in every capacity — on oatmeal, in smoothies, as a snack, and in baked goods.

gingerbread peach muffins (gluten free, vegan)

I’m not sure what gave me the idea to combine the sweetness of peaches with the spiciness of gingerbread. Perhaps because I know that ginger and peaches tend to work well together, I thought, why not add some more spices into the equation? I also find that, while delicious, peaches also tend to have a more mild flavor that can balance nicely with something spicier on the palate.

With these muffins, I find that the peach keeps these muffins moist and flavorful, while balancing the spiciness of the gingerbread base. They make a great breakfast muffin or even dessert option and can be kept at room temperature, covered, for a few days. I imagine they would also freeze fairly well, and then can be re-heated to eat. I tested this recipe on Gennaro and my parents and these muffins were met with all-positive reviews. My mom actually claimed that these were “one of the best muffins I’ve ever had!” though I would take this endorsement for what it’s worth — my mom says the same thing about pretty much everything she really likes. At any rate, I hope you enjoy these as much as my family and I did!

Final note: while I did use oil in this recipe — even though I have drastically cut back on oil in my cooking and baking — the entire recipe calls for only two tablespoons. This adds up to about 1/2 teaspoon oil per muffin, or about 20 added fat calories per muffin from oil — making these a relatively low-fat option.

Gingerbread-Peach Muffins:

Yield: 12 Muffins

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups oat flour, loosely packed*
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup raw coconut crystals (or coconut palm sugar)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk*
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing muffin tins

Plus: 1 heaping cup diced fresh peaches (about 1 large peach)

*Note: I used Arrowhead Mills Oat Flour. However, this brand is not certified gluten-free. If you’re highly sensitive, have Celiac disease, or are worried about cross-contamination with gluten, please look for certified gluten-free oat flour, such as this one from Bob’s Red Mill

**I tagged these as soy-free and nut-free, but obviously the use of soy or nut milk will negate either of these tags. That said, I used unsweetened soy milk, though almost any dairy-free milk could work, including coconut, almond or hemp milk. Play around and see which you like best. 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either gently grease 12 muffin tins with olive oil, using your hands or a paper towel,  or line each muffin tin with baking cups.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add wet ingredients to a separate bowl and whisk. Slowly add to dry ingredients and whisk together until combined.

4. Fold in peaches until well-distributed.

5. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into each pre-greased/lined muffin tin. Place on the middle rack of your pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until muffins are browned on top and bounce back when pressed.

6. Let cool for about 10-15 mintues before gently removing each muffin. I like to use a butter knife to go around the edges and make sure nothing is sticking to the sides, then I’ll gently loosen the bottom and  lift the muffin from the top. Let cool on a wire rack until ready to eat.

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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

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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.

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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)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

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Low-Fat Granola

I’ve been making this granola a lot lately. It’s great in the morning over soy yogurt and with fruit, or as a snack. I’ve done it with both quick-cooking oats and regular rolled oats and both are good, but the rolled oats lend a bit of a chewier texture that’s better for snacking, while quick-cooking oats make a nice cereal substitute.

As far as fruit goes, I’m sort of picky with dried fruit, so I went with tart dried cherries and dried pineapple, which are two of my favorites lately. You can be liberal with the dried fruit, and add any combination of fruits and even nuts as you please. So, that’s about all there is to it!

Serves: 4

Low-Fat Granola:

2 cups quick cooking certified gluten-free oats

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 packet stevia

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon coconut oil, liquified

¼ cup coconut nectar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

dried fruits or nuts of choice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Mix together all ingredients except for dried fruit. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Let cool.

3. Add dried fruit to cooled granola.

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Tofu Scramble

My mom and I have been brainstorming our Easter Day menu and decided on a brunch theme. When I started this new “diet,” brunch was one of those things that was out of the question. Now, it’s one of my favorite menus to experiment with. I love a challenge. The latest brunch challenge that’s eluded me of late is a crustless vegan quiche recipe. I’m working on perfecting it before next weekend. In the meantime, I’m posting this tofu scramble recipe I’ve had in my archives, for those who might be looking into planning their own Easter menus in advance. I am well aware that tofu scramble is far from the most innovative of vegan recipes, but it’s hearty and healthy and it’s always a welcome accompaniment to roasted potatoes and vegetable in my home.

The truth is, I’ve never make this recipe the same twice. The one posted here is the only one I took the time to write down, but really, it’s pretty amenable to change. For a more Southwestern theme, you can reduce or even omit the turmeric and add some chili powder, melt some vegan Daiya shreds on top and finish with salsa and diced avocado. For this particular recipe, I also went a bit lighter on the spices than I’m used to, but figured my readers are all quite capable of — and likely inclined toward — making their own adjustments. Although it’s not pictured, I usually saute some portabello mushrooms with the onion and red pepper. Portobellos are my absolute favorite addition to tofu scrambles.

Tofu Scramble:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 lb./15 oz. extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Directions:

1. In a large saute pan or skillet, over medium-high heat, add oil, onion and pepper. Saute until onions begin to brown and soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add spices and toss with vegetables.

2. Add tofu and toss with spices and vegetables until coated and colored. Add salt and white pepper and toss. Saute for about 3 minutes, or until water is evaporated and tofu is slightly browned. You can add more turmeric for color or cumin to taste, plus more salt to taste. Serve immediately.

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