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* 

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.

Do you ever get an idea in your head and it will. not. go. away. until you make it?? That is today’s recipe for me. A colleague brought in leftover stuffed peppers (mmmmmm) a few weeks ago for lunch, and an idea suddenly popped in my head: chicken parmesan stuffed peppers. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I thought so too, so I looked around on the internet and the few recipes I could find weren’t calling out to me, so I decided to create them. If I do say so myself, these are a winner.

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Inside of frying the chicken a la chicken parm, I decided to impart that crispy crunchiness by topping the peppers with a whole wheat panko, cheese and parsley topping. Delicious, and a great way to cut down on calories. We are using whole wheat orzo pasta in the filling, but feel free to use regular orzo pasta. I also found these super cute teeny tiny little fresh mozzarella balls, but any small fresh mozzarella will work for this. Mine were about 1/2 inch big, but you could always buy a big ball of it, and cut it down. That would probably be more economical, but hey, I was all about convenience, and cuteness.

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This recipe seems long, but it’s really just cooking each component, adding them together, and then assembling the peppers. Beautiful! My friend James and I devoured these the night I made them. The recipe makes five as written, and three of my peppers were on the smaller side. One big one was almost too much. As with many casserole type dishes, these get better the next day.

A portable, healthy way to get my chicken parmesan craving? yes, please!

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.
a ‘PTL’ original recipe. 

ingredients
12-15 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached or roasted, shredded or cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
scant one cup whole wheat orzo, cooked
5 assorted bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded, tops reserved and diced (preferably red/orange/yellow)
1/2 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup fresh baby mozzarella balls
1 1/2 cups jarred marinana sauce, 1/2 cup reserved
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

topping:
1/3 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each)
5 baby mozzarella balls (optional)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oval 2 quart dish, add cut peppers, standing up to the dish. Cover with foil, and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes to slightly soften the peppers. Remove dish and let cool. Set aside.

To cook the chicken: Heat a deep skillet with one tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cover and let cook for 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat, let cook for 3-5 minutes, and then shred or cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat a pot with boiling water and cook orzo to package directions for al dente. Remove, strain, and then add cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the panko topping: combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper. Toss together with a fork.

While orzo is cooking, heat a small skillet over medium high heat with remaining tablespoon of oil. Add diced onion, diced pepper tops, and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring often for 5-7 minutes, until slightly softened and lightly charred. Remove and add to mixing bowl. Add cooked, chopped chicken, marinara sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper is using. Lightly toss. Add baby mozzarella balls and lightly toss again.

Using a spoon, carefully fill each pepper with filling to the top of the pepper. Add a small spoonful of sauce to each top, and spoon the remaining sauce around the peppers in the casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to assess softening of peppers. Once peppers “give” a little (about 45 minutes), remove foil, add the panko topping, and top each pepper with remaining mozzarella ball. Turn the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure no burning.

Remove from the oven, and let sit for a few minutes. Serve, topped with ribbons of basil.

Serves 5.

**Please use all 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*  

winter vegetable soup.

It feels funny to post a winter soup recipe on a weekend where the weather was a record breaking 63 degrees yesterday!

Still, I was making soup regardless of the weather, and in typical NY fashion, we’ll be back to mid-30’s tomorrow. It was fun while it lasted! But, now, it’s time for winter vegetable soup with mustard greens.

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I saw this soup in an issue of Real Simple, and I loved the idea of swapping kale for spicy mustard greens in soup. As evidenced by this blog, kale is a mainstay in my recipes, soups and in other dishes. It’s always a good idea to switch up your greens to ensure the best variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and for a savory palate like mine, mustard greens are a perfect fit! They are bitter with a bite, and they go perfectly with flavors of this soup: silky sweet potatoes, smoky flavor from the paprika (make sure to use smoked not sweet or hot!), and the tomatoey broth. The freshness and bitter taste is so lovely.

This winter vegetable soup may not be the prettiest bowl on the block, but it’s vegan, gluten free, and paleo and allergen-friendly. Just in time for these last few weeks of winter. Enjoy!

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winter vegetable soup.
adapted from realsimple.com 

ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 cracked black pepper
14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1 large bunch mustard greens, stemmed and chopped
parmesan cheese, for serving

directions
Preheat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and heat a tablespoon of oil. Cook onion, garlic, and paprika in oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, sweet potato, salt, and pepper; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mustard greens, tomatoes, and chicken broth; simmer 25 minutes.

Serve topped with parmesan. Serves 4 as a main dish.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**