vegan chocolate mint milkshake.

I have a treat for us today! As you may know, I’m not a sweets person. Give me chips over cake any day of the week. There are exceptions. Growing up, before I learned of my dairy allergy, I LOVED milkshakes. I have fond memories of my younger brother and I making milkshakes in my mom’s house with her blender that was from 1972. Vanilla low-fat ice cream (hey, it was the 90s), skim milk, chocolate syrup… YUM. I’ve always been a super thick milkshake girl.

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The other day, I caught the milkshake craving. Since regular milk and ice cream haven’t graced my lips in over a decade, but I suddenly remembered that I had a vegan “ice cream” hanging out in my freezer from about a month ago when my friend brought it over. Any vegan and/or non-dairy frozen “ice cream” dessert will work for this, but the brand I used is here. I find that it has the best consistency; soy or coconut-based is fine. I used a 2:1 ratio of the frozen treat and cashew milk, a splash of vanilla extract, and a few springs of fresh mint, and gave it a whirl. The fresh mint is essential, as it provides such freshness. Don’t like mint? Try almond extract and a scoop of almond butter, or even peanut butter!

Even though non-dairy ice cream can be icy/not as lusciously creamy as traditional ice cream, adding in the nut milk yields an incredibly thick, creamy shake. Good news? One 8 ounce glass is under 200 calories! Now THAT is a dessert I can totally get behind.

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vegan chocolate mint shake.
a ‘PTL’ original. 

ingredients
1 pint of coconut or soy-based chocolate ice “cream”/frozen dessert
1 cup unsweetened cashew milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-5 fresh mint leaves, plus 4 for garnish

directions
Add all ingredients except for reserved mint leaves to a high speed blender. Blend, starting on medium speed, increasing to high. Blend for 1 minute, adding up to 1/4 cup additional cashew milk if needed/desired.

Divide between four glasses. Garnish each with a mint leaf. Serve immediately.

 

 

light chinese chicken salad with sesame ginger vinaigrette.

It seems ubiquitous that my 100th post(!) is a salad. I suppose it would be completely appropriate if my salad was lemon-themed, but let’s face it, I am just not that organized, and lemons were not in my meal plan this week, aside from my daily warm lemon water routine (<– SO good for you!).

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However, today’s recipe is a salad of Asian inspiration, which is fitting, seeing as Asian flavors are ones that I never, ever tire of. Do you have flavors/cuisines like that? Even with the copious and frankly embarrassing amounts of ginger I consume on a weekly basis, I can never get enough. So I bring you a light and healthy Chinese chicken salad. I don’t think this recipe is authentically Chinese in any realm, but these salads have enjoyed massive popularity for years. Sadly, most restaurant versions are positively laden with sodium and fat, and before you know it, your “healthy” meal has turned into a calorie bomb. No thank you.

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Here, we are grilling our lean chicken breasts (you can use boneless, skinless thigh meat if that’s what you prefer), throwing tons of delicious veggies into our salad, and topping off with a delicious dressing that is rich, thanks to the sesame oil, but not cloying at all. Sliced, roasted almonds provide the crunch factor, and provide us with healthy fats which keep us fuller, longer. This is one recipe I can make over and over again, and never tire of. I hope it’ll do the same for you!

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light + healthy chinese chicken salad.
inspired by many of the Chinese chicken salads I’ve had over the years. 

1 heart of romaine, chopped
2 cups savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup roasted, sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
sea salt and black pepper

dressing:
2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari, or gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or chile-garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
1 tablespoon diced fresh ginger

directions
To make the dressing: combine all ingredients except oil into a blender. With the blender on medium, stream in the tablespoon of oil to emulsify. Pour into a container and set aside.

To cook chicken: Turn the grill, grill pan or heavy cast iron skillet onto/over medium-high. Season chicken breast halves with salt and pepper. If using a grill pan or skillet, add in one teaspoon of grapeseed oil to the pan to heat. Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, or until no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove to a platter, and cut into thin slices.

To assemble salad: In a large mixing bowl add cabbage, lettuce, carrots, red bell pepper, cilantro, almonds and sesame seeds. Add half the dressing, and lightly toss. Top with chicken and additional dressing if desired.

Serves 2 as a main dish salads.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

herbed brown rice mujaddara.

Today we are headed to Lebanon for recipe inspiration. Mujaddara. Mujaddara is a classic Middle Eastern dish that consists of rice and lentils, cooked together, topped with caramelized onions and herbs.

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Commonly referred to as a ‘peasant dish’, this dish has been a staple dish for many communities for centuries, with the first recorded mention of mujaddara dating back to the 13th Century in Iraq! It’s with good reason this dish has stuck around for so long: It’s GOOD.

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Simply, this dish is rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. There are a plethora of recipes out there, some with herbs, some without. Some direct you to cook the rice and lentils together, some have them cook separately. My recipe has you cook the rice and lentils together, and then cook the onions while the rice mixture is simmering away. Caramelized onions may seem like a labor of love, and while they are time-consuming, all they need is a stir every few minutes, and perhaps a splash of water to prevent burning. You do not need to stand over the stove watching them continuously, a la this polenta!

I used brown rice, as it provides more flavor, fiber, and complex carbohydrates into the dish. Especially if you are eating this as a main dish as I did, it’s important to find ways to incorporate as many vitamins and minerals as you can at every opportunity.

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The herbs provide a major hit of herbaceous, vegetal deliciousness, but you can scale down to 1/2 cup to suit your preferences. I used a mix of parsley and cilantro (2:1), but feel free to use any combination you’d like! Whole cumin seeds are preferable, but if you only have ground cumin, just add that in with the salt and pepper instead of with the onions. If you’re feeling fun, top this with a fried egg! Mmmmm. At any rate, enjoy this classic. It’s lovely.

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herbed brown rice mujaddara.
adapted from Bon Appetit. 

ingredients
4.5 cups vegetables stock or water
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1.5 teaspoons each sea salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup fresh mixed herbs (such as mint, parsley, and/or cilantro), chopped, divided

directions
Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice, lentils, and bay leaf and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rice and lentils are tender, 35–40 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let sit 5–10 minutes (there should still be some broth remaining). If dry, add in a cup of additional broth and mix together. Discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper and ground cumin if using instead of seeds. Set rice mixture aside.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cumin seeds and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often and adding water to pan as needed to prevent burning, until onions are golden brown and soft, 35-40 minutes.

Mix half of onion mixture and half of herbs into rice mixture; season with salt and pepper. Top mujadarra with remaining onions and herbs. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Makes 4-6 servings.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

thai chicken noodles with red peppers + basil.

Happy Thursday! This week sure has seemed long, hasn’t it? I’ve had a series of deadlines and deliverables looming over me, both at work and for school, so my free time has been greatly reduced. Who needs to sleep??

While amounts of sleep may be variable, the need to eat certainly is not! I know we all need  easy dishes that come together quickly and stay delicious for next day lunches. Today’s recipe is just that: a rice noodle dish positively loaded with veggies and protein to keep you full and satisfied through the most stressful of days. I’m not sure how authentically Thai this dish is, but I promise you it is positively delicious!

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I like the thin brown rice noodles for this, often called ‘stir fry’ noodles at the grocery store. The brown rice adds additional whole grains and fiber, but if you cannot find, simply substitute white ones. I let them soak until they are just shy of soft, as they will cook a bit in the wok, and continue to soften as they sit. Six ounces of baby spinach (weight) may seem like a lot, but it wilts quickly and you’ll be surprised at how much it cooks down.

Serve with some sake, or a crisp white wine, and congratulate yourself on cooking a healthy, filling meal in less time than it takes to order takeout!

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thai chicken noodles with red peppers + basil.
a ‘PTL’ original. 

directions
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh, minced ginger
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced
1/2-3/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
6 ounces baby spinach
1/3 cup fresh basil, minced
1 lime, juiced
8 ounces thin brown or white rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
sea salt and black pepper, if desired (optional)

directions
Heat oil in wok over high heat.  Stir fry chicken for 3-4 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Add bell peppers, ginger, and garlic; sauté until peppers just begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add green onions; toss 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, lime juice and crushed red pepper.

Toss to blend, about 1 minute. Add thai rice noodles. Add spinach in 3 additions, tossing until beginning to wilt, about 1 minute for each addition. Mix in basil. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Toss consistently, to prevent the noodles from sticking.

Serve immediately. Serves 3-4.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

salsa de chile ancho.

Salsas are so easy to make, yet except for the occasional pico de gallo, I pretty much always purchase them. How about you?

A few years ago, my dad and I made a whole bunch of salsa during our epic canning/preserving weekend. I loved it, but my dad thought it left something to be desired. I’ve always been intrigued by the varieties of dried chiles you can find in those little plastic boxes at the grocery store, but they always seemed like they would be such a chore.

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Oh, how wrong I was! I bought anchos for a four-pepper chili recipe, and was pleasantly surprised at how simple they were to prepare. Although they are dried, they still maintain some flexibility and pliability, and although I softened them in some stock for that recipe, this salsa recipe has you toast them and then prepare them dried, and I promise it is a breeze! This salsa will take you less than 10 minutes start to finish, and it is so completely worth it.

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Anchos are the dried version of a poblano chile, and they have a deep, complex flavor that is often described as having a similar flavor to a spicy raisin. Sounds weird, I know. But trust me, you’ll love it. Removing the seeds allows for the finished salsa to be warm with a mellow heat that will appeal to a wide variety of palates.

I used some crushed tomatoes that I had hanging out in the fridge, but you could certainly swap in a fresh tomato or two (I would use plum/roma tomatoes). Where I live, fresh tomatoes are amazing for 3 months out of the year, other than that, I always turn to canned, as out of season fresh ones tend to be mealy and bland. Yuck.

Note that this recipe is flexible and adaptable, as salsas can be customized in pretty much any way your heart and stomach desire! Eat with chips, add to tacos/quesadillas/burrito bowls, or my favorite way, mixed in with homemade tortilla chips for chilaquiles, topped with a fried egg. Mmmm. I know what I’m having for brunch!

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salsa de chile ancho.
adapted from https://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com. 

ingredients
4-5 dried ancho chiles
3/4 cup tomatoes (I used canned diced)
1/2 small white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
pinch of sea salt
1/2-1 cup hot water

directions
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the ancho chiles, and toast for 30 seconds on each side. Make sure not to blacken them, as it will impart a very bitter flavor. Remove from heat, cut the stems off, and scrap out seeds. Keep the skillet on medium low heat.

In a blender, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, ancho chiles, oregano and salt. Process in a blender. The mixture may “get stuck”, this is when you’ll add the water. Process for 10-15 seconds longer, making sure not to process the salsa too smooth/runny. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon without it running right off.

Add one teaspoon of oil to the skillet. Add the salsa and cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the salsa to cook, lightly bubbling. Taste and add additional salt if desired.

Store in a small glass container for up to 10 days. Makes 1.5 cups.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

spicy tomato + kale soup.

Another day, another soup recipe! Are you sick of me yet? If not, hooray! I am most grateful. And I ask that you join me on today’s delicious journey. I’m mashing up some favorites: soup (specifically tomato soup) and kale. If you’ve been around my blog at all, you know that I love both of those things. See: here, here, here, and oh yes, here! for evidence.

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This soup is perfect for entertaining. It’s completely allergen free and dietary restriction friendly! Gluten free, meat free, seafood free, dairy free, nut free, the list goes on! Not to mention, it’s beyond good for you and nourishing.

I already had a meat-centered dish on my week’s menu, so I used vegetable stock and am using cannelloni beans instead of cream or half and half for a vegan-friendly soup. Because there is no dairy in this soup, it is a great candidate for making ahead and freezing. The kale is nice and sturdy, so it holds up quite well to freezing and reheating.

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Serve with some toast and topped with some extra crushed red pepper for an extra kick, and enjoy!

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spicy tomato + kale soup.
adapted from foodbabe.com

ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2-1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
36 ounces crushed tomatoes (I often puree canned whole tomatoes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock
1 teaspoon each dried rosemary, basil, sage
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 14 ounce can of cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh kale, rinsed and chopped

directions
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions, garlic and carrots for 5-7 minutes until they are softened, onions translucent and fragrant. Add sea salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and rosemary, basil, and sage, and stir to combine. Allow the spice to cook and ‘bloom’ (they will become quite fragrant as they cook) for an additional minute.

Add pureed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Allow the soup to come up to a rapid simmer, reduce heat and partially cover. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, and then add the rinsed cannelloni beans. Stir together and allow to continue to simmer for additional 15-20 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in stand blender. Add chopped kale and cook for 5-10 minutes until kale slightly softens. Taste, and add additional salt/pepper/crushed red pepper if desired.

Serves 6. Freezes well.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible*  

basic, perfect polenta.

I’ve been trying to get better at meal planning for the week, as I already make about 24 stops at Wegmans/Trader Joes/public market/natural foods store each week. It never fails, I inevitably forget an ingredient or pick up a quick meal. I always have the best intentions to do a weekly shop…

A few weeks ago, I picked up some hot turkey Italian sausage at a great price, but never had time to make it, so I promptly tossed it in the freezer. When I did said weekly meal prep, I decided to cook up that sausage with some marinara. I wasn’t in mood for pasta, so I decided to make the classic Italian side dish, polenta.

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Mm, polenta. Have you ever tried it? Polenta is not for weeknight cooking. Classic polenta is made from humble cornmeal, and it takes a while for the cornmeal grains to swell up and cook properly to become tender, yielding that creamy finished texture, not unlike grits.

Polenta is remarkably simple, in both technique and number of ingredients. I used homemade stock for mine, but if you use store bough stock, please try and buy low sodium, as you’ll want to adjust the salt you use. Most recipes have you add the cornmeal to boiling water, a la quinoa or pasta, but not here! I think that contributes to the risk of lumpy polenta; no thank you! We want smooth and creamy: starting both cold and lots and lots of whisking will alleviate that risk.

Leftovers can be cut into squares or triangles and fried crisp in a pan with some oil; you’ll see the leftover polenta will thicken up considerably.

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Serving this under sliced Italian sausage and marinara sauce was a hit, and a delightful change from pasta. This homey, cozy side dish is perfect for short January days.

basic, perfect polenta.
adapted from New York Times Cooking. 

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ingredients
4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon (I have used an Italian cheese blend with mozzarella, fontina, romano with success).

directions
In a deep saucepan or saucier (2-3 quart), combine the stock, cornmeal, olive oil, salt and pepper over medium high heat. Whisk often (consistently, if not constantly), until the mixture comes to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Partially cover and cook for at least 45 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes or so. When polenta becomes too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon, adding the additional cup of stock if needed (I always add 5 cups in total). Polenta is done when it pulls away from the side of the pot, and individual grains are tender and creamy.

Turn off heat and gently mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken; stir and taste for salt before transferring to a serving bowl. Top polenta with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**