Cinnamon-Coconut Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds & Halloween lovin’!

As I sit in my cubicle with a 13 pound faux-fur coat, leopard print dress, fishnet tights, red pumps, fake cigarette holder, and half my hair spray painted white, I am full of anticipation and general merriment from one of my all-time favorite days of the year: HALLOWEEN.

If you didn’t guess by my description above, I’m Cruella Deville this year. While my can of hair paint ran out far too early to completely coat the left side of my head and I wasn’t able to track down a pair of long, red gloves, I still look pretty legit/am going to spit in the face of the next coworker who asks me if I’m Lourde.

This week has been spent preparing for my weekend chock full of celebrations and costumes and basking in the spooky spirit, which means costume shopping, pumpkin carving, and baking of fally treats!

A few days ago, Col and I carved our pumpkins. Every year I do a cylops since I’m too impatient, and not at all artistic in the “good at drawing things” sense. This year though, I wanted to finally carve a sick ass pumpkin that actually looks like something recognizable. I decided on Ms. Pacman and Collin did a ghost.

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….mine is on the right. As you can see, Ms. Pacman basically resembles a dad snoring on the couch after falling asleep watching a jets game. Although, I am proud of Collin’s ghost guy.

We may not be the best, but at least we listened to Monster Mash radio and I made got to make these delicious morsels:

Cinnamon Coconut Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, cleaned and de-gooped
  • 1 heaping tbsp. coconut oil, in liquid form
  • 1 tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once you thoroughly wash off and de-goop your pumpkin seeds (assuming you’re using the straight from the pumpkin variety), lay out several paper towels or a tea towel and pour seeds over it in a single layer. Dry them completely or at least as best as you can…they stay pretty slimy sometimes. 

In a medium-size bowl, add melted coconut oil, coconut sugar, and cinnamon and give it a mix. Next, pour your dried off pumpkin seeds into the mixture and stir to completely coat the seeds. Bake in a single layer on a cookie sheet, for about 25 minutes, flipping them every 5 minutes or so.

I’ve been trying to get more into munching on pumpkin seeds, but am such a cheapskate when it comes down to buying some, so having two pumpkins worth (I made the other batch into a spicy/smoky roasted flavor I will share soon) was just what this chick had in mind.

I used some of them to make Blissful Britt’s Maple Pumpkin Pie Oat Bites which turned out so yummy and perfect still-good-for-you-while-being-delicious treats.

I also put the seeds in my coconut milk yogurt this morning, snacked on them yesterday at work, and am planning on putting them in a batch of pumpkin oatmeal.

Between costume shopping for my Cruella and Olive Oyl get-ups to scary movie watching sessions with my gal pals to pumpkin carving and baking, I think it’s safe to say I’ve definitely been moved by the spirit of Ol’ Saint Halloween.

Has anyone else roasted their own, fresh-from-the-pumpkin seeds?

Also, anyone know where to get some good quality hair paint that will make my unruly, thick, curly, cow-licky hair white?

HAPPY HAUNTING!

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Creamy Vegan Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

If I had to list 5 of my favorite things in life, it’d probably go a little something like this:

  1. Swimming in rivers
  2. Running on trails
  3. Cooking…anywhere
  4. Writing beneath the trees
  5. Eating rice of any kind

While a majority of people would rank pasta as their starch of choice, I am ALL ABOUT rice.

From curries and stir fries to enchiladas and soups, rice is the mother of carbs, and one of my true loves.

While I typically prefer brown rice, because of both its taste and health benefits, there are some times where I throw caution to the wind and serve up some white varieties, like when I eat risotto.

My devotion to rice is how I fell in love with cooking when I was a kid. Beginning with rice-a-roni, I elevated my craft over the years to actually cooking, and began experimenting more and more. After binge-watching Hell’s Kitchen, where all the chefs seem to do is cook (fuck up) risotto, I was determined to conquer this elusive dish and see if it really is as good as it looks.

Long story short, it was, and I cooked it at least once a week.

Back then, my risotto was chock full of cheese and cream, and could basically cause a heart attack just by taking a whiff.

So, in celebration of how far I’ve come on my journey to physical and mental health (oh, and for my mom’s birthday of course…) I decided to revamp my risotto recipe to make it not only vegan, but healthy…terms that people sometimes think are synonymous.

Not only is it just as decadent and creamy as my original version, it doesn’t rely on cheese and cream for its deliciousness. The herbs and vegetable flavors are front and center, rather than acting as necessary additives for the dairy to cover up.

Creamy Vegan Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup merlot or your favorite red wine
  • 1 container organic veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cups baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and cutting the ends off your asparagus, chopping them into fourths. Place on a baking sheet with 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper, and give them a shake to coat them evenly. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, bake for 10 more minutes, or until they’re soft, but still crunchy.

While asparagus bakes, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add sliced mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes more. Next, add the 1 cup rice and stir to incorporate everything. Cook rice with the veggies for another 5 minutes to toast the rice. Then, add the minced garlic, wine, and herbs. Stir constantly until wine is absorbed, and then add veggie broth one cup at a time, stirring constantly and making sure each cup is absorbed before adding the next. Once rice is tender and cooked through, turn heat to low and prepare cashew cream.

In a blender, add your drained soaked cashews, about 1/3 cup of water (less if you want it thicker, more if you want it thinner, you know the deal), lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until mixture is creamy and no lumps remain.

Add roasted asparagus and cashew cream to the risotto and mix well to incorporate. Let sit together on low for about 5 minutes until everything is incorporated and warmed through. 

This recipe will satisfy your craving for creamy indulgence without weighing you down and making you feel like you’re gonna pop a button off your jeans.

All you rice connoisseurs out there, try this baby out and let me know if you enjoyed devouring it as much as I did.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

Like I previously posted, I made a vegan spread for my non-vegan mother and stepdad this past Sunday.

When I was brainstorming recipe ideas, I had three main things in mind for what my mom likes

  1. Anything Decadent
  2. Anything Creamy
  3. Anything with Garlic

Now, I’m all over the “anything with garlic” aspect, but the other two aren’t typically what I look for in a meal, and aren’t usually what first comes to mind when most think vegan, so I had to batten down the hatches to make a meal that satisfied both my mom’s favorite meal components, while staying true to my veganism and keeping it all healthy. After all, there was a bit of nitpicky “mom pressure” on my shoulders to make her like my “vegan food.”

One of the first recipes I ever mastered as my very own classic is my rosemary risotto. I used to make it with tons of sharp cheddar, parmesan, and cream, and I made it at least once a week. I hadn’t ventured back to my risotto recipe since I committed myself to recovery and wellness, so I knew that I wanted to vegan-ize it for my mom who adores the recipe. (The vegan version came out DIVINE and I will be sharing tomorrow!)

To go with it, I decided on tomato soup. Not really one for Campbell’s, but a lover of restaurant-quality, creamy, lucious tomato, I’ve been craving a piping hot bowl from one of my favorite hometown restaurants that has since shut down. I know that my mom loves any kind of soup that’s creamy, so voila! Tomato soup was the answer to all three requirements of the birthday feast!

The cauliflower and cannellini beans make the soup creamy, thick, and decadent after everything is pureed, while the black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes give the soup a kick. It’s comfort in a bowl, I tell ya.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 large, vine ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 large can of organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup canellini beans
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup merlot or your favorite red wine
  • 1 container organic, unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Basil ribbons for topping

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your sliced fresh tomatoes on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and top with salt, pepper, and oregano. Bake for about 20 minutes or until skin starts to wrinkle and corners become crispy. While the tomatoes are cooking, heat a large pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add diced onion, pepper, and cauliflower to the oil, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and cannellnini beans and cook a few minutes more. Once veggies are softened and beginning to brown, turn heat to medium-high and add the balsamic vinegar, stirring constantly until the veggies have absorbed the vinegar. Next, add the can of crushed tomatoes, the wine and veggie broth. Stir to incorporate everything. Add the roasted tomatoes from the oven and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes. Let soup cool, then either use an immersion blender, or a regular blender to puree the soup. Reheat on low heat and season to taste. Serve immediately and top with fresh basil.

This soup is thick, spicy, and flavorful, and is best served with a giant slice of your favorite bakery fresh bread!

Enjoy!

Sunday Dinner: Happy Birthday Mom Edition!

I love my mom.

I know that’s a bold statement coming from a 22-year old millennial, but my mom and I have a pseudo-Gilmore Girls-esque relationship except, in my humble opinion, even better, because while I grew up amid a weird amount of divorces and marriages with both of my parents, I’ve grown to love my family dynamic more and more as the years go by.

With my mom, I can be a complete brat and tell the truth in any way, shape, or form, and I know my mom will always be there both as a BFF and with the wisdom every daughter craves from a mother/maternal figure, but is usually too proud to ask for.

This weekend, her and my stepdad came to Rochester for her birthday weekend spent with Collin and I. We went to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Natural Oasis on Monroe Ave (omg go, I swear you’ll thank me later), got some fancy wine at Apogee on Park Ave, then my mom and I went to yoga together on Sunday morning while Collin and Keith experienced the Zero Gravity Float Center they’ve been dying to try.

We met up for lunch at the Red Fern (duh), did some Halloween thrifting, and then col and I took a swim in their hotel pool before they came back to our place for my vegan birthday masterpiece!

We started off with my Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup:

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Then continued to the main course, Creamy Mushroom & Asparagus Risotto:

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Then we ended the feast on a sweet note with Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes, courtesy of Minimalist Baker:

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We ended the night giving gifts and playing catchphrase, me and my mom’s favorite game (we’re both quick-witted, word wizards & basically adore all word/fast-paced guessing games).

I woke up this morning with that all too familiar aching in my heart that comes with the end of a weekend with the people I love most, but cannot wait for the upcoming holiday season, where the bond my mom and I share always comes out full force when we bask in the glow of our favorite, and most wonderful time of the year!

Happy birthday Mom, I just love ya.

P.S. recipes for my soup and risotto will be up tomorrow & Wednesday!

Quick Veggie Stir Fry over Creamy Coconut Quiona + Book Recommendation

This past Monday was one of those classic “Manic Mondays” for me. I got up extra early, but still managed to have to run out the door because of a just plain tragic hair day, had a million emails to answer at work since our system was down the previous week, took my lunch time run and shoveled in some food before I had to be back on the clock, and had an equally stressful afternoon, which, I hate to admit, involved just how shitty my hair continued to look all day long.

When I got home, I only had about an hour before my yoga class was supposed to start, and I really wanted something that was light, but nourishing enough to keep my full for my hour and a half class.

Since I love anything coconut, anything asian-inspired, and anything veggie, I whipped up a really great meal that I’m going to keep on my “Manic Monday” repertoire: Veggie Stir Fry over Creamy Coconut Quiona.

It’s fast, decadent, healthy, and filling even if you have just a small bowl as a snack.

I apologize for the lack of photo evidence that I made this, but I ate it .098776353 seconds after it was done.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2):

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 zucchini, cut into medallions
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 2 tbsp. white or rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cook quinoa with the 1 cup of water according to the directions on box. While the quinoa cooks, chop all veggies and heat a pan over high heat and add sesame oil. Once oil starts to smoke slightly, add in veggies and stir constantly until they’re tender. Turn heat to medium-high and add soy sauce, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and salt & pepper. Add coconut milk, curry powder, crushed red pepper flakes and more salt & pepper to cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Once soy sauce and vinegar are 3/4 evaporated, serve veggies over coconut quinoa and enjoy!

This week I also finished an incredibly important and beautifully written book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:

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Margaret Atwood is one of the most badass literary figures of our time, and is as witty and snarky as she is brilliant. This book is important for not only all women to read, but every person who has questions about the direction our world is headed in regards to gender discrimination, environmental depletion, and political collapse. It is also so beautifully written that it extends beyond the issues surrounding it, and takes you so deep inside the protagonist’s head you truly feel a part of her tragic world.

It knocked my socks off, and it anyone is looking for a great read, I recommend you check this baby out!

This Week’s Project: Soften My Rigid Expectations.

There is nothing I dislike more than making mistakes.

I’ve always been hard on myself for as long as I can remember. I thrive off of setting high expectations for myself, and the high I get from achieving the lofty goals I set out to conquer.

But, along with the highs that come from living up to my impossibly high standards for myself, there are also inevitable “failures.” These “failures” usually leave me guilt-ridden, anxious, and inwardly hateful towards myself. Although I truly love my tendency to dream big and think of my ridiculously strong willpower as a huge asset, I know that it is a negative attribute to be so unkind to myself when I don’t accomplish a certain goal.

Whether that goal is to exercise in the morning and the evening, or get everything done on my to-do list while knitting a scarf, or graduating with a 4.0 every semester and immediately become a well-respected poet, I find it hard sometimes to “go with the flow” and accept the fact that sometimes, creating a vision of who I’d like to be isn’t always the same as being kind to myself.

If I miss a workout when I promised myself I would do it when I got home, I feel guilty and push myself extra hard the next day, or I won’t stop bitching about how I should probably just suck it up and get it done (even though I know perfectly well I’m just too damn tired).

When I graduated a semester early and didn’t immediately find a full-time writing job, I felt like a failure for a good two weeks even though I saved enough money to move in with my boyfriend and supported myself by working on a boat, one of my lifelong dreams.

Last night in yoga, my instructor talked to us about the phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and how we need to rephrase this in our practice, and in our lives. Instead of just “powering through” and “gettin’ er done,” we need to soften, to breathe not through the pain or the challenges, but with the pain or the challenges. When we soften instead of harden, we feel everything going on within our bodies and without. We may not get to that final stage of a pose, or that final goal on our to-do list, but we actually feel the work we put into moving into that post, into reaching that goal, and we start appreciating ourselves for our efforts and attention, not just for the outcome.

This week, I am making a conscious effort to be more gentle to myself. If I truly don’t feel like exercising, I’ll give myself a break and keep reassuring myself that this is what my body needs, this is what I crave at this moment, so it is the healthy choice.

If I don’t write incredibly stellar scripts at work, or I am a few script approvals short of my weekly quota, I will not leave the office kicking myself for not being a “good” writer. I know I try my best, so that is all that matters. I put in the work, and not every week is going to be my best week.

This week, I am making an effort to soften, to accept and appreciate the efforts I put into my every day, and allow myself to relax a bit more.

I am not my work, I am not my body, I am not some future version of myself I’ve created in my head. I am me, and I am now…I will not be me and I will not be now forever, so it’s time I stop and smell the roses of my life. And even if I get pricked by their thorns, I will just let the wounds heal.

I invite all of you to be a little bit kinder to yourselves, leave your personal judgments behind, and appreciate the efforts you put into living, working, and being every single day.

3 Reasons to do Yoga

Back when I was in my last year of middle school, and during the first year of high school, I went to yoga once a week with my friend Fiona and both of our moms every Thursday.

We had a badass, incredible, beautiful-from-the-inside-out teacher who I looked up to and adored, and got to be silly while we made fun of the adults exhaling like lions and actually saying “namaste” at the end of class…obviously we were the coolest kids on the block.

While our moms were absolutely in love with yoga, Fiona and I were pretty good and had tons of fun at yoga together, but were never really that into it. We didn’t breathe with our bodies, always cracked up while we were in happy baby, and could barely sit still in savasana. Our commitment to yoga was basically a commitment to our love for our instructor, and love of goofing off together.

Once our instructor left to pursue massage school, both Fiona and I and our moms were left feeling abandoned and yoga just wasn’t the same after that. Our Thursdays stopped being Yoga-days, and over time I just kind of forgot about picking it up again.

Well, after years of an on-again-off-again relationship with yoga that was pretty much centered around finding youtube videos that were short enough for me to concentrate without getting frustrated that I’m not automatically a yoga baller, I have FINALLY fell in love.

I now have experienced the “yoga light,” why people are so devoted, so addicted even to yoga and all the benefits. Maybe it’s cause I’m older, maybe it’s cause I’m wiser, or maybe it’s just because I don’t have my pal beside me to make me laugh in the funny poses. I faced my fears, joined a studio, and ventured to my first real-life class since I was 14…and it was incredible.

So since email is down at work, and all I want to do is toss my responsibilities out the window in the name of TGIF, here’s some reasons why I’m pumped about committing to my yoga practice.

  1. You Get Stronger. Though I’m very fit, am a passionate runner and exercise enthusiast, I would not consider myself “strong.” Yes, I can run 20 miles at a time and bust out a heart-thumping, hour-long nonstop insanity session and revel in every minute of it, but I am notoriously scrawny in my upper body and can barely manage a push-up. I despise strength training though I know the benefits of it. But when you do yoga, you build strength through elongation, through flexibility, through tapping into your body, not fighting it. I’ve found that when I remove the “you can do its” from my mind, and instead just focus on how my body feels, I am usually pleasantly surprised with the results. I can finally do chatarungas, hold crow poses, and am even on my way to doing hand stands. It takes practice and determination, and most importantly, being patient with yourself and listening to your body, but yoga will help you reach new levels of strength, both physically and mentally, that lifting weights just doesn’t satisfy.
  2. You escape from the cage of your own mind. This is an aspect of yoga I was never able to tap into until recently. I am a multi-tasking freak with a mind that flies a mile a minute, and turning off my stress while tuning into my body and soul was never something I could manage for more than 30 seconds. Since I rejuvenated my yoga practice, I have finally seen the light of releasing myself from the cage that is my own mind. When I step on the mat, I immediately focus on what my body is doing, and how I can focus on moving with my breath. The only voice I let in is my instructor’s voice. When I focus on just my body, my breath, and my mentor for the class, I lose myself while rediscovering myself in a whole new way. By the end of the practice, I’m sweaty, loose, open, and most importantly, I am calmer than I was before I walked into the studio, and this calmness stays with me through the rest of my day or night. By turning inward, the thoughts that crowd my mind no longer seem truly important. As a result, I am also more humble, more appreciative for the body that allows me to contort, strengthen, and lengthen, and even more appreciative for the soul it houses.
  3. You become a part of a community. Though I am all for doing yoga online with free classes or web memberships and such, it is so worth the money to join a studio. Not only do you get the hands-on adjustments from your instructor, and the fellowship of other yogis at all different levels with all different strengths and weaknesses, when you go to a real-life class, you cannot just abandon it when you feel like grabbing a snack or don’t “feel like it” anymore. (I’ve done this countless times while doing my youtube classes). When you go to a studio, you are able to focus and lock yourself into your commitment to your body and your practice. Usually, it’s this commitment that is lacking for me when I do youtube yoga. Joining a studio keeps you committed, engaged, and since you spent the money, coming back for more. Do some research and find a studio around you that is affordable (at least kinda affordable), find a studio doing a free community class and stop in to check it out (that’s how I found my studio!), and check out studio web sites to see which have the most accessible classes for you.

Now I know I literally just bought a membership at a local studio and am in the beginning phases of my yoga journey, but these are just some benefits I’ve experienced already, and they’re the core reasons why I will keep coming back for more.

Namaste lovely people!