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 Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup (Vegan)People tend to say many different things when you tell them you’re from Detroit. Often, adjectives and descriptive phrases come to mind. Usually, “Vegan Haven” isn’t one of them. In fact, I doubt anyone has ever used that term to describe the city of Detroit and its surrounding areas. And there’s probably fair reasons for that. But I’d venture to say it would come as a surprise to most people that Detroit as a whole — the “food desert” pockets of Detroit make for a different story, entirely — does not exactly present a dearth of vegan options, either. While not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, Detroit has plenty to boast about in the world of plant-based cuisine. Without getting too ahead of myself, it’s difficult for me to not be optimistic when I look at the upswing of vegan options in this city since I moved back 3 years ago.

Not only are there two exclusively vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my house in Royal Oak, but another mostly vegetarian and Macrobiotic restaurant is no more than a 7 minute drive away. All offer many vegan options. And that’s not even considering downtown Detroit, where things are getting even more exciting. Since I moved back to the area, a longtime favorite vegetarian restaurant out of Ann Arbor, MI opened a second outpost near Woodward avenue in downtown Detroit. Then recently, an entirely vegan soul food restaurant made its mark on the city. Not to mention that Whole Foods Market famously opened its first location in the city, also right off of Woodward. I’ve been there several times since it opened, and love reporting that it seems to be enjoying continued success. I’m so excited about the growing number of vegetarian and vegan options around here that I’ve long been considering doing an entire blog post with reviews in the near future. So stay tuned!

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

But that’s not even where I’m going with this post. See, I told you I can get a bit excited. Hence, my tangent. No, the real point of this post is that in addition to the many exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants, there are also many non-veg restaurants in the area that have begun catering to us vegans, including local pizza places offering vegan (and sometimes gluten-free and vegan) pizzas, vegan sushi options popping up at Japanese restaurants (and not just the usual asparagus or avocado rolls) and make-your-own kale bowls topped with veggies and Daiya cheese with Shiitake bacon at the latest local “it” spot.

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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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My Favorite Vegan Mac and Cheese

my favorite mac and cheeseI know I have, like, a bagillion mac and cheese recipes or variations of mac and cheese on this site. Actually, I only have 3 others. But in the food blogging world, that sort of seems to me like a bagillion.

At any rate, despite the fact that I don’t need to post yet another mac and cheese recipe here, it would feel disingenuous to go on with life knowing that there’s a go-to mac and cheese that I pretty much make exclusively these days that I haven’t shared here. It’s quickly become one of my favorite meals, and one that I make at least once every few weeks — especially during this cold winter, when I’ve been craving warm comfort food and carbs.

I know the internet, as well, has no shortage of vegan mac and cheese recipes using cashews as a base. That’s fine. What I like about this particular recipe is that there are very few ingredients, it’s very creamy, and the miso and smoked paprika are secret ingredients that sort of make this a perfect blend of delicious, umami, smoky and decadent goodness — without any oil or processed fat. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that, despite its lack of processed ingredients, this recipe will wow even the most ardent omnivore or self-proclaimed “cheese addict” you may be feeding.

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Indian-Spiced Pressure Cooker Black Lentils

Indian-Spiced black lentilsI seem to have a tendency to make things harder on myself than they need to be. When I was a kid, I remember school teachers telling me I was “thinking too hard” about math or, well, more math problems that were giving me trouble. They could see it in the way I furrowed my brow — a sure sign I was hyper-analyzing each and every problem, thinking just a bit too hard about something that was probably, to them, quite simple.

In yoga classes, I’m often told by instructors that I make poses harder on myself than they need to be. While everyone else is doing a simple downward dog, I’m stressing over where each hand and foot is placed on the mat, how high my arch is, or where my shoulder blades are placed. And while it’s good to think about these things, somehow I manage to make them consume my practice. It can be problematic when you’re looking to yoga as a means of de-stressing and relaxation.

I do it in the kitchen, too. Countless times I’ve taken the hard way to get dinner on the table, ending up with loads of pots and pans — many of which were probably unnecessary — in the sink when it’s all over.

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Ganache Strawberries

chocolate ganache strawberriesI mentioned in my last post how inspired I was by Chef Fran, whose book Vegan Chocolate dazzled and delighted me once I got the chance to fully peruse its pages upon my return from New York. I was mesmerized, particularly, but the beautiful photo of chocolate ganache, which was just simply a big bowl of glorious, shiny, deep and rich chocolate. No need to get fancy, there. A bowl of chocolate sauce was enough to pique my curiosity and had me testing things in the kitchen very shortly after my return, as tired as I was feeling… Did I mention that I do not do well on less than 8 hours of sleep?

Anyways, I headed to Whole Foods to see if I could find an unsweetened Bakers Chocolate so that I could start testing recipes for a low-sugar ganache using alternative sweeteners. But once I got to Whole Foods, I found something better: vegan chocolate chips sweetened with…

Stevia!

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My Week at Vegan Academy

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With fellow student Renee: a yoga teacher and Ayurveda practitioner from Boston.

Would you like to go to the academy in February?

That was how my mom’s email started last summer. 

Then you can come back and teach us everything. 

That was her sign-off.

Perplexed, I looked at the newsletter that my mom had forwarded to me. It was an update from Victoria Moran on her latest work in the vegan community, starting with the recent graduation of 15 students from her “Vegan Academy”, where she trains students to become Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators.

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Ultimate Vegan Nachos

ultimate vegan nachosMy first foray into Super Bowl entertainment was in 2007. I remember it because I was a senior in college and decided that I wanted to be the designated caterer for our house’s Super Bowl party. Apparently, though, I didn’t get the memo about Super Bowl parties typically being centered around beer and wings and low-key fare. Instead, the menu ended up being something like paninis and pasta and other comparatively fancy options — a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by my housemates, who commented about whether or not we should be serving wine instead of beer (Liz, if you’re reading this, I think it was you who asked that).

Well, I haven’t catered a Super Bowl party since then — and mostly because things like law school and full-time work have gotten in the way of any sort of Sunday night social life. But that’s not to say I haven’t thought a lot since about what, exactly, I would serve if I were to explore the world of Super Bowl entertaining once again.

The answer, every time, has decidedly been nachos. I love nachos. And I can say that because even though I’m now vegan and gluten-free, nachos are still so doable. After all, there are a plethora of vegan cheese products now on the market, and pure corn tortilla chips, by definition, are gluten-free (though you still have to read labels because, as we all know, hiding gluten in seemingly gluten-free products seems to be a popular food industry pastime).

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Fat-Free Potato Salad

vegan, fat-free potato saladTo say I’m a carb-aholic does not entirely describe my problem. It’s potatoes that are my carb of choice. And I don’t care how you give them to me. Mashed, fried, boiled, baked, roasted or au gratin — I don’t discriminate and love ‘em all (as long as they’re all vegan versions, of course).

But as benign as the potato may seem on the scale of addictions, the danger in my affinity for spuds usually comes in their preparation, as it’s long been a tradition for the potato to be prepared with fat. Oil for frying and roasting. Buttery spreads for mashing and melting over baked. And boiled potatoes, if not soon to be mashed, are often on their way to becoming part of a salad filled with oily and fattening mayo or mayo replacements. I love it, don’t get me wrong. But does it love me back? Doctors Esselstyn and McDougall say “no”.

When I searched the internet for “fat-free potato salad”, I found little in the way of a solution. Many such recipes called for processed “fat-free” mayo blends, which use artificial ingredients and flavors, along with several preservatives. That was simply not an option for me.

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Cranberry-Oatmeal Cookies

cranberry-oatmeal cookiesWell, just a few weeks after I proudly bragged about not getting sick in several years (and I was not including getting Lyme disease in that proclamation, just for the record), I’m stuck at home this weekend with a pounding headache, body aches and chills. That’s what I get for bragging, I guess.

Last night was the first time in my life that I walked out of a movie I actually liked. It was a girls night out. Dinner and a movie. Dinner was fine, though I was feeling pretty tired. And then there was the movie. Captain Phillips. I was excited to see what was supposed to be Tom Hanks’ best performance since Forrest Gump. But I didn’t get very far into the movie before my head began to pound and  I started to feel dizzy, sweaty, nauseous and just plain sick. So that was why I was forced to walk out of what seemed to be a decent movie, and one I think I would have been enjoying had the room not seemed like it was spinning as I watched.

Now that I’ve got enough medications in me to actually look at a screen without seeing double, I thought I’d take advantage of my day as a shut-in and actually post this cookie recipe I’ve been holding onto for too long. I made these cookies a few weeks ago and had to fight Gennaro off from eating all of them before I could take a picture. These are classical oatmeal cookies with a twist of tartness from the cranberries, which replace the more traditional raisins.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Because now, I go back to putting my head down and not thinking for awhile.

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