Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna

Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna | Delectably FreeWhile I own a growing collection of vegan cookbooks — a collection that my tiny kitchen is increasingly struggling to contain — I admit that I rarely make recipes directly from any cookbooks. That’s because I usually find myself trying to think of new recipes rather than make someone else’s. I collect cookbooks because they give me inspiration and help me with the thinking part more than anything else.

That said, there are a few cookbook recipes that fall under my all-time favorites — ones that I will gladly make and share with others, with no shame in that it wasn’t my idea to begin with, because it’s just that good. Ok, maybe there’s a touch of shame that I couldn’t think of the idea myself. But I love these recipes so much, they’re among the rare meals I make without trying to change a thing.

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Beyond Chicken Vegan Jambalaya

Beyond Chicken Vegan Jambalaya | Delectably FreeBefore we get to our regularly-scheduled programming, I have a few housekeeping — er, should I say site-keeping — notes to share. First of all, you may notice that Delectably Free has a new look. My previous header and design was created by my lovely and talented friend Aubrey, but I needed an update to go with some of my other site changes, and wanted to once and for all clarify that we are not entirely “sugar” free, but rather refined sugar-free, lest anyone get too confused. With that, we now have a new header reflecting that clarification. You might also notice the new photo on the sidebar, courtesy of my other lovely and talented friends at Riggs Photography, who took long-awaited photos for this site, which can also be found on my About Me page and in my Coaching Program pages. A few weeks ago, I also added Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram links to my sidebar, for those interested in following my happenings on any of those sites as well. Finally — and this one came with great trepidation — I added mobile compatibility so that my site is easier to navigate via phone. This was was with trepidation because the character and feel of this site is largely lost through the mobile setup, but I felt I had to do it to make everything easier and more seamless. Please, please, please let me know what you think! I am always open to suggestions for improvement.

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Tropical Green Hemp Energy Smoothie

Tropical Green Hemp Energy Smoothie | Delectably FreeI am writing this post on the eve of my 29th birthday. It’s true that, the older you get, birthdays begin to lose some of their luster and lore . But I’m still fond of birthdays, perhaps mostly because I find that they implore reflection and introspection in a way that probably no other day of the year can. Lately, I am all about reflection. I am all about life giving me excuses to try even harder, to be even better, to learn from the past.

My 28th year was marked by personal growth (and really, what year isn’t?). As new homeowners and young adults trying to navigate financial independence, the past year threw us some curveballs and roadblocks, for sure. But I’ve at least learned to be better about one thing: not worrying so much. It’s a struggle, sometimes, to relinquish control and trust that the universe has a plan that is largely beyond my ability to manipulate. All we can do is be the best person we can be…and I’m working on that every day.

Now that I’m entering the last year of my twenties, I’ve had some time to reflect on how I’ve changed over the decade. I think those who know me well will say my personality and essence has remained the same. But I guess no one knows me as well as I know myself, and I can truly say that I have changed in immeasurable ways, and in ways I can’t quite concisely or articulately explain here. If I were to come up with a concise, one-line answer, it would be this:

I’ve become more selfish, and less selfish at the same time.

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Spicy, Creamy Vegan Chickpea Curry

Spicy, Creamy Vegan Chickpea Curry | Delectably FreeIt’s pretty clear to me by now that cashew cream is my newest kitchen trick that I can’t get enough of. At one time, I used to think it was daunting and time-consuming to make cream sauce from cashews. Little did I know that with the help of my Vitamix, making cashew cream is only slightly more daunting or time-consuming than opening a jar of cream sauce. I mean, opening certain jars can be a daunting task in itself…

But one need not have a fancy or high-powered blender to make cream sauce in minutes. Creamy, smooth and luscious sauce is attainable simply by soaking your cashews ahead of time, then draining and rinsing them before blending. This softens the cashews and puts them just minutes from being turned into a silky smooth sauce.

This curry was born out of a recent craving for the Thai-style restaurant cream sauces that I’ve been deprived of ever since going vegan. I think I might miss Thai curries more than anything — in fact, it might be the only thing I can truly say with much certainty that I actually miss from my former life. But I take solace in knowing that I don’t miss the headaches and stomach pains I used to get after ingesting such high salt, dairy and fat-ladden meals.

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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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Vegan Skillet Fajita Hash

skillet fajita hashI’m in love with the fajita recipe from The Vegan Table. It’s probably been one of my favorite vegan cookbook recipes, and it’s a super easy go-to for entertaining vegans and non-vegans alike. The problem is, while the recipe is easy, it’s requires a bit of advance preparation, which means that it’s not always the best option for weeknight meals when I’m hungry and cranky and will probably eat the entire contents of my pantry if I have to wait for something to marinate and then roast in the oven before eating.

Last week, I had a craving for fajitas and happened to have enough ingredients on-hand to make them happen. But the problem was, I was so hungry by the time I got home from walking Woodley after work that there was no way I was going to be able to wait long enough to make them. That’s where the idea for this fajita hash was born.

I wanted to stray a bit from the fajitas I’d been making from The Vegan Table. This recipe is oil-free and low-fat. Making it on the skillet makes it much easier to pull off the no-oil thing, as everything is sauteed rather than roasted, which usually requires oil. To make it a meal in itself, I added potatoes, which provide some additional caloric bulk. Oh, and did I mention I love potatoes? Cause I do. So, there’s that. Finally, the black beans round this out by adding protein — again, this could be a meal in itself.

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Soft & Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

double chocolate chip cookiesIt’s been a little over a year since I’ve been “back” and blogging. In the year prior, I had spent my time resting a tired and weary body, one which was riddled with Tick-borne infection and needed a level of care that I wasn’t able to give without giving something up. Sadly, that something was maintaining this website. There were definite moments when I thought of giving it up entirely. In fact, during my year off, I operated with the assumption that my blogging days were over. I was too tired — too exhausted, really — to even think about getting back to a place where I could fathom putting in the work required to create recipes, take photos and write up posts.

But something compelled me to come back. The realist in me thinks it was just that I was feeling better and needed an outlet for my new-found — albeit sporadic and fleeting — bursts of energy. But the spiritualist in me knows that there was more to it than that. I missed what this blog meant for me on a deeper level. I missed having a voice that I believed resonated with those seeking a healthier, more fulfilled and compassionate existence through their food choices. At the time, I didn’t really know if what I was sharing resonated with anyone, or whether my voice was missed. But I did know that if what I believed and was compelled to share, through food, resonated in my own heart, it was bound to reach someone else as well. 

What I’ve never mentioned, or admitted, is that this blog has also become a personal tool for my spiritual growth. Selfishly, I know that no matter what, by sharing my words here, I am doing something important for me — which is, simply, “putting myself out there”. When I first had the idea to start a blog, I quickly brushed it off as a ridiculous notion. Who would really want to see what had to share, or what I had to say? Who was I, really? There are thousands of food bloggers on the planet, many with more beautiful photos or fancier web designs than my own. The idea of throwing myself into the pool, with the strong risk of facing rejection (read: no one giving a crap) scared the bejeebers out of me.

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Chocolate-Avocado Mousse

chocolate-avocado mousseI don’t know what got into me. Well, I do know. It was Chef Fran’s amazing book Vegan Chocolate that started this recent whirlwind of cooking and baking with chocolate (though in this case, there is neither cooking nor baking required). From chocolate granola to chocolate-covered strawberries to chocolate chip pancakes to the double chocolate chip cookies I’ve been teasing but haven’t posted yet, it’s been a big ‘ol chocolate party at my house recently, all thanks (or no thanks) to Chef Fran. My apologies to any of you out there who are not chocolate lovers (including my husband) or to those who have chocolate allergies (my cousin Weylin comes to mind..and I always keep him in mind when I’m developing recipes for family gatherings).

That said, I’m sorry I’m not sorry for loving chocolate and wanting to share all things chocolate with the world. This recipe is the ultimate dichotomy: rich and creamy, yet raw, vegan and healthy. And when I say rich, I mean it. The richness of this mousse is like built-in portion control. You can eat a little bit and feel filled and satisfied.

Yes, there are plenty of avocado mousse recipes to be found on the internet these days. A recent Facebook meme with a similar recipe comes to mind. So there are tweaks and variations galore for those looking to play with this recipe. But what I love about this one, in particular, is that dates — not any sugar substitutes — are used for sweetness, making this an entirely whole-foods and raw (if using raw cocoa powder) recipe.

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Baked Tofu Teriyaki Skewers

tofu teriyaki skewersIt took me a long time to understand the purpose of skewering food if you weren’t going to end up eating it on the skewer. I mean, what’s the point? Eating food on the stick always seemed to be preferable to me to just cooking it on the stick, then taking it off to eat. It was a wonder to me that people would go through the trouble of putting a kebab together if they were not going to follow through with the whole stick thing when it came time to eating.

The kid in me still thinks it’s fun to eat things on sticks. Even more fun to me these days, though, is cooking things on sticks, which allows the flavors to meld together perfectly. Add a sweet and salty marinade, which is easily brushed on as a coating, and you have a whole lot of deliciousness married together. Cooked to perfection. On one stick.

Now that I’m older and presumably a bit wiser, I also like the idea of eating things on a stick (have I said “stick” enough yet?), but the key word here is idea. Logistically, it’s much, much easier — and yummier — to remove all the edible components upon eating, and to serve those components over a bed of fluffy quinoa with a side of raw fermented kimchi and just a drizzle of Sriracha. At least, that’s what I did. You do it your way. Heck, even eat this off of the stick if you really want to.

Ok, so I’ve met my quota for typing the word stick in one post. Now,  I can get to the more important issues at hand here. First is the fact that this is an easy, healthy meal that can be rounded out well with some simple sides. So, that’s always nice. But perhaps more important is that I did two tests of this recipe: one with oil, and one without. Gennaro and I both agreed that the oil made absolutely no difference — in fact, I actually preferred the version without oil. So, don’t feel compelled to add any. It isn’t necessary. Unless you’re trying to put weight on or add calories to your diet, I would recommend leaving any unnecessary fat out of the equation. Personally, I tend to feel better, lighter and healthier when I’m not cooking with any added oils. I prefer to save the calories for something really special….like the double chocolate chip cookies I made yesterday…to be shared later…

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Jamaican Jerk Bowls & Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Jamaican Jerk Chickpea BowlsBowls. They’re more than just dinnerware; they’re like an entire subculture of vegan meals. In fact, I would rank bowls — again, not the dinnerware kind, but the stuff inside it — high on the list of things every new vegan should learn about fast. Along with nutritional yeast and cashew cream, bowls might be the single biggest staple in my diet. And the fun part of this staple is that it’s entirely customizable — maybe that’s why I’m so in love with them.

And yet, for a recipe blog highlighting some of my favorite vegan meals, bowls have been completely underrepresented, if not entirely forgotten, on this forum. I feel like a bit of a fraud, in fact, in that my weekday meals usually consist of at least one or two big bowls of beans, grains, tofu, veggies and some sort of sauce — yet very rarely have I shared those meals here. It is apparent to me that a good, hearty “bowl” recipe has been long overdue.

This Caribbean-inspired dish is a great excuse for me to break my habit of not sharing my kitchen sink bowls here, as it’s not quite kitchen sink, but still captures the spirit of what a meal bowl should be. It’s simple, but also just fancy enough to impress, should you need to. And even though I’m sharing the central components of this recipe here, the rest is —  again — entirely amenable to variation. For example, while I used steamed kale as a base in this dish, you might opt for a grain such as cooked quinoa, millet or rice. Or you could just turn this into a salad, using fresh salad greens as a base.

Jamaican Jerk Bowls

I’ve long been a fan of anything Jerk seasoned. In my pre-vegan days, that something was usually chicken. And it was usually dry and overcooked and would have been lackluster had it not been for the seasoning. So it didn’t quite come as a surprise to me when I first tried the Jerk-chickpea combo and loved it more than I ever loved Jerk chicken. In fact, I’m thinking this is going to be a staple in many meals to come. These chickpeas are the perfect salad-topper, high protein snack and, of course, addition to your Jamaican or Caribbean-themed bowls. The dressing is equally versatile. You can use it as a nice change-of-pace dressing, as I plan to do in the future. It also makes a nice alternative to ranch as a veggie dip. I used Brazil nuts for a healthy twist and selenium boost, though I am sure raw cashews would work as well.

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