Wednesday, December 21, 2016

walnut + cardamom tea cakes

Christmas and cookies go together like Easter and eggs. It's just not Christmas without cookies. Certain cookies though, ones that you don't make any other time of the year. This year I recreated a family favorite, Russian tea cakes. Or Mexican wedding balls, or snowballs, or whatever you call these little melt in your mouth morsels. My mom used to make these at Christmas, usually for our annual party, and my brother and I would roll them in powdered sugar, hot out of the oven, while standing on our little stools at the kitchen counter and marveling at the buildup of melted sugar accumulating on our finger tips.

I've taken a pretty generic Russian tea cake recipe, veganized it,  added cardamom, and upped the nuts! Yum! They turned out perfect. The only down side of making these cookies is you just might end up ruining your dinner appetite because they are sooo addicting.

walnut + cardamom tea cakes
  • 1 cup earth balance, softened (or another brand of vegan butter)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (I used Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • more powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix together the butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. I don't have an electric mixer, which is recommended for tasks like these, but mine turned out just fine so just mix with a spatula if you don't have one either. Add the vanilla, cardamom, and salt. Fold in the flour. When just combined add the nuts and fold until completely combined. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the cookies and then roll them into little tablespoon sized balls. Place on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.

After just a minute of being out of the oven, while they are still hot, roll them in powdered sugar and then set aside to cool further. The sugar will melt as it coats the cookies so if you want them powdery on the outside do another roll through the sugar after they are completely cooled. These have only been rolled once.

These cookies will melt in your mouth, cover you in powdered sugar, and make you smile, just as a Christmas cookie should.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2016

chickpea noodle soup

The classic chicken noodle soup often symbolizes more than just a nourishing meal in our society. It means love, attention, care, and comfort, bringing back memories of Mom taking care of you when you were sick or on a cold winter night. My mom used to make amazing chicken noodle soup with big chunks of pulled roasted chicken, rustically chopped carrots and celery, sometimes peas, and usually a spirally pasta. Everyone has a different version in their past that invokes different memories and feelings, but I think that we can safely say that this soup feeds more than the body, it feeds the soul.

Chickpea noodle soup can have the same effect, I promise. This soup is hearty, comforting, and nourishing. It's good for you, and for the chickens. I can actually hear the chickens across the street right now, I think they are clucking their approval.

chickpea noodle soup
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp miso paste
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 (more) cups water
  • 4-5 oz ramen noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 

Chop the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery to desired size. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and add the veggies. Saute a few minutes and add the first 2 cups of water and black pepper. In a separate bowl or measuring cup whisk together the miso paste, cornstarch, and the last 2 cups of water. Add this to the soup pot. Cook over medium heat until bubbling.

Meanwhile, cook your noodles as directed. I used straight wheat ramen noodles but any sort of pasta should work fine. Drain and rinse the noodles and add to the soup along with the chickpeas. Bring the soup back to a simmer, and you are ready to go!

We ate this soup with fresh parsley and Tom had toast (of course, he is a toast man). But it really doesn't need much, it's filling and tasty all on it's own. The perfect soup for these rainy winter nights in Honolulu 🌧

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

tahini + chocolate thumbprint cookies

The peanut butter/tahini swap out continues! Here is another recipe that would traditionally call for peanut butter, but works wonderfully with tahini instead! To create this recipe I used my 5 ingredient peanut butter cookies as a guideline, and I nailed it! Tahini is a staple ingredient in my fridge. It's actually a super versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet recipes! I use it in salad dressings, sauces, hummus, and buckwheat granola on the regular but the possibilities are endless. I have done the tahini-chocolate combo before in energy ball form, but these cookies... these cookies. The tahini tang with a dash of sea salt complements the dark chocolate drop so perfectly, and then roasted sesame seeds on top?! That final touch makes these cookies irresistible!

tahini + chocolate thumbprint cookies
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup maple
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour and baking soda in a small mixing bowl. In a larger bowl whisk together the tahini, maple, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold until completely combined. On a lined baking sheet drop spoonfuls of cookie dough at least an inch apart from each other. This dough is much gooey-er than the pb cookie dough, which you can just roll into balls, so they won't be perfectly round but try to make them circular. Make a depression on each cookie with your thumb. This little dip is going to be filled with chocolate, yum. As the cookies bake the depression will rise so make it a little deeper than you think. Bake the cookies for ten minutes.

While cookies are in the oven start melting the chocolate. You'll need about 2/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks. I use the dark chocolate chunks from Whole Foods brand. In a small pot boil about an inch of water. Set a metal bowl on top of the pot and add the chocolate. Constantly fold the chocolate from bottom to top until it is completely melted, remove from heat.

By this time the cookies should be done, it doesn't really matter if you cool them before chocolate-ing them because the chocolate then needs time to cool too. With a teaspoon, divide the chocolate evenly between all of the thumbprints, filling the depression. If the thumbprint depressions got very shallow during baking, just add the chocolate a little bit at a time to avoid it spilling over the edge. Sprinkle the chocolate with the roasted sesame seeds while it is still melty.

Eat one immediately. Then eat another after about 20-30 minutes, the chocolate will be fudgy by then. And then have another one after they have been refrigerated and the chocolate has hardened. You have to try them in all of the stages, right?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

thai peanut hummus

Another hummus! And what better flavor to pair it with than a spicy thai peanut curry? This idea sprouted from my investigation of the similarities between peanut butter and tahini. The result: their nutritional profiles are pretty similar with regards to fat content, sugar, and protein (depending on brand and quality). I already use the two interchangeably in granola and energy ball recipes, why not hummus too?   

thai peanut hummus
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (15.5 oz, drained and rinsed)
  • 2 tsp red curry paste (such as Mae Ploy)
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth! Garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts. I like this hummus best with fresh crunchy veggies but crackers or pita chips make prime dippers as well.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

lentils + collard greens with easy miso gravy

You all know how deep my love for lentils goes, but the highlight of this post is really the easy miso gravy. It's vegan, it's quick, it's only 3 ingredients (and one of them is water so really only 2), and it's good on everything. Plus, with Thanksgiving right around the corner you can add this to your vegan friendly holiday menu. Actually, you might want to just make this whole recipe for Thanksgiving because that's all I could think about while I was eating it!

If you have made any of my other lentil recipes, you know the drill about soaking. But if you haven't, I strongly recommend soaking lentils overnight for quick cooking, but as little as 2-4 hours should do, you just may need a little bit more cooking liquid and time. So that is step number one, go and soak your lentils.

lentils + collards
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup dry lentils- soaked at least 4 hours, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • collard greens
  • 1/2 kabocha squash- roasted (pumpkin or sweet potatoes would be nice as well)
The next step is roasting the squash; slice into 1" thick wedges, drizzle with olive oil, and pop them into a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes. 

While these are roasting, heat a tsp of olive oil in a medium pan and add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft and then add the lentils, water, and some salt and pepper (Don't forget, you can always add more salt but you can't take it out!). Cook on medium heat, or a slow simmer, until all liquid is absorbed and lentils are soft. If you didn't soak your lentils overnight you may need another 1/2 cup of water so make sure you test them!

Collard greens are usually sold as a bunch. I buy mine at the farmers market and they can range in size from 4" in diameter to up to 10" so it's up to you and your particular collards how much you use. If stems aren't your thing, slice them out, then slice the leaves into 1/2" strips. I used about half a bunch of collard greens for this recipe.

Once the lentils are cooked, add the collards and simmer until just wilted but still bright green and remove from heat. Your squash should be done by now too, so turn the oven off but leave them in there while we quickly throw together the most ahhhhhmazing vegan gravy ever.

easy miso gravy

In a small bowl whisk together:
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
In a small sauce pan heat:
  • 1 cup water 
  • 2 Tbsp miso paste
When miso paste has dissolved and broth is simmering, add the slurry (cornstarch/water mixture), and continue to whisk until thickened and simmering. Boom. Easy vegan gravy.

Now gather your loved ones, give thanks, fill your plates, and make a difference, one meal at a time. 🙏

Saturday, November 12, 2016

chai spiced fig balls

I guess it's about time I posted another ball recipe 😊. And since it's almost holiday season (anything after Halloween is holiday season to me!) I chose some warming chai spices to get you in the spirit. I have already been burning my Christmas scented candles and fantasizing about my Maui Christmas coming up! It's hard not to with all this schoolwork, holiday break is my light at the end of the tunnel.

These chai spiced fig balls are soft, sweet, and have a little kick! The complete combination of chai spices makes for a well rounded and smooth finish but don't stress out if you don't have all of them, the most essential ones are cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. I used dried figs here but dried apricots would also work well, and the shredded coconut is optional, although they are a little sticky without it. The point is, make your own version with what you like and what you have available.

chai spiced fig balls
  • 8 oz dates
  • 8 oz dried figs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups oats
  • 2 Tbsp flaxmeal
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, or 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Begin by coarsely chopping and soaking the dates and figs. I like to pour hot water over them and let them sit for 5-10 minutes. If they are super moist, you may be able to skip this step but I keep my dried fruit in the fridge so this is necessary for smooth processing.

While those are soaking, blend the oats in a food processor or blender into a coarse meal. If you are grinding flax this needs to be done separately. Flax seeds need to be ground for this recipe in order act as a binder, holding everything together and soaking up some moisture. So don't go throwing whole flax seeds in there. Combine the ground oats and flaxmeal in a mixing bowl. Now strain the water from the soaking fruit and add it to the food processor with the maple syrup and all of the spices. Blend until relatively smooth, some chunks are okay, your preference. Add this spicy fruit mix to your dry ingredients and fold to combine completely using a wooden spoon or your hands. Or both.

If the "dough" is too sticky to handle just pop it in the fridge for a bit, but sticky is good, it makes soft moist balls. Roll into 1" balls and coast with coconut if desired. Store in the fridge to enjoy a little taste of Christmas whenever you please.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

pumpkin quinoa risotto in baked portobellos

Well, it's that time of year again: pumpkin season. I'd like to say that I am spending the chilly autumn days in colorful woolly socks while baking and drinking cinnamon tea but let's face it, it's still 82 degrees in Honolulu and the only socks that I ever wear are while I'm running or working out. I do drink cinnamon tea though. My current tea obsession includes chai green tea and Good Earth tea. I have memories of my mother drinking Good Earth tea and me thinking it was too potent. Now I can't seem to get enough of that sweet and spicy pleasure.

Although the temperature change is minimal, autumn in Hawaii is no exception to the winter harvest vegetable craze that overwhelms the culinary scene this time of year. Pumpkin, or any other orange squash, are incredibly versatile vegetables. They compliment curries, cookies, soups, pies, and even lattes. This quinoa risotto is rich, warming, and comforting, as well fresh, healthy, and EASY!

Risotto can be intimidating. Baking a pumpkin can be intimidating. This recipe takes that intimidating work out of both of those tasks so you can enjoy the flavors of fall stress free. If you are taking on the task of baking and pureeing your own pumpkin, good for you! I have a post with some helpful hints here if you've never done it before. If you want to use brown rice instead of quinoa, check out my recipe for brown rice carrot risotto here for some tips, although this is basically the same "quick risotto" method. This recipe is adapted from Simply Quinoa's butternut squash version. 

Stuffing baked portobellos with the risotto is just a serving suggestion, one that I highly suggest, but this dish can also be served alongside any vegetable as a main or a side.

pumpkin quinoa risotto
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
    • cook in a small rice cooker or stove top by simmering covered until all or most liquid has cooked off.
  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree 
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pumpkin seeds and fresh parsley to garnish

Cook the quinoa first thing. You can even do this the day before or whenever is convenient for you to make this process easier. Next, prepare the portobello mushrooms for baking. I just take the stems out, give them a quick rinse, lay gills up on a lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh or dried thyme. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and bake mushrooms for about 30 minutes. This should be the perfect amount of time to make the risotto.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pan on the stove top. Add the chopped onion and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in the pumpkin, spices (save the salt for last), and about half of the vegetable broth. Cooking on medium heat add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine completely. Add the remaining vegetable broth, and more if necessary. Continue cooking until heated thoroughly and then add the nutritional yeast. Taste for salt. I find that when cooking with vegetable broth I usually don't need additional salt, but this is my preference. Make sure you taste and salt accordingly.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and the risotto from the heat. Serve by generously filling the portobello caps with piping hot risotto and topping with pumpkin seeds and fresh parsley. This batch will generously fill four mushroom, hopefully with some left over.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

black bean burrito bowls


I have many reasons for creating this blog and posting plant based recipes for the world to see. One of my main goals is to motivate you, yes you, to make healthy choices and find the vitality and energy that naturally results from this style of eating. So I'm going to make it easy for you. I'm starting a new "series" if you will, the easy vegan. It's a new page on the blog, similar to the vegan version page that contains recipes that have been recreated without the use of animal products. Easy vegan will contain vegan recipes that are just that... easy. Simple ingredients, minimal cooking time, and limited equipment needed.

To start of the easy vegan page I present you with the black bean burrito bowl. Infinitely adaptable, bursting with flavor, and ready in less than 30 minutes. I haven't included exact measurements for this recipe because it all depends on how many people you are feeding, and of course, how big your bowl is. The cilantro vinaigrette is enough for two bowls.

There are basically five components to a burrito bowl:
  • greens- lettuce, spring mix, kale, or a combination
  • grains- brown rice or quinoa, make ahead of time if possible
  • beans and veggies- canned black or pinto beans, onion, bell pepper, corn, and anything else you please
  • dressing- cilantro vinaigrette, creamy cilantro + lime salad dressing, or cumin + lime tahini dressing 
  • toppings- avocado, salsa, hot sauce, even tortilla chips-- be creative!

First thing to do is start your grain. I have a little rice cooker so I can just set it and forget it, usually around 20 minutes for a cup of brown rice. Once the rice is cooking, start chopping veggies. For this particular bowl I used red onion, green bell pepper, fresh corn, and black beans. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, add all the veggies and saute until soft. Add the beans, some salt, cumin, and chili powder, and cook about 5 minutes. Prepare greens as desired; rinse, trim, chop, etc. As for the dressing: 

cilantro vinaigrette
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • juice from 1 lime
  • pinch of salt

Trim the cilantro stems from the bunch. Add all ingredients to a high powered blender and blend until smooth. 

Now it's time to construct your bowl. I literally just go in the order as listed above: greens topped with rice topped with beans and veggies, topped with dressing, and add-ons for the win.

And there was hot sauce, definitely hot sauce on this bad boy. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016


I've always been a bit of a runner. I ran in high school because of various sports and then on and off throughout my adult life. It keeps me fit, gets me outside, and helps take my mind off of the many (many) tasks of my life as a student. And I am currently training for a half marathon! Woo-hoo! About four years ago I ran the Maui Oceanfront half marathon and now I'm at it again. My next 13 mile task to tackle is about a month away and will be here on Oahu. That means the training runs are getting longer and the need to stay hydrated in the Honolulu heat is essential.

I have never been a big fan of sports drinks but with these long runs comes some severe dehydration. I find that any run over 5 miles puts me at risk of a hankering headache either later that day or even sometimes the next day. I'm almost positive that these headaches are due to do my fluid and electrolyte loss and their inadequate replenishment. Hence the sports drink.

A general rule of thumb for a sports drink is 6% carbs for fast glucose replacement and 80-100 mg of sodium per serving due to the loss in sweat. While a sports drink like Gatorade can supply hydration, sugar, and electrolytes, along with them comes preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. Not exactly ingredients we want to be fueling our bodies with, right? I'm more into the real thing, real colors, real flavors, and naturally occurring electrolytes in real food.

So here it is...


in a 1 quart mason jar add
  • 1/2 cup black cherry juice, cranberry juice, or other 100% juice of your choice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 orange (half juiced, half sliced)
  • top up with filtered water
And refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts:

This includes the whole quart, orange slices and all
  • 197 calories
  • 47 g total carbohydrates
  • 37 g sugar
  • 296 mg sodium
  • 507 mg potassium 

This comes to about 5% carbs by weight and makes four 8 oz servings. These were calculated using the USDA Food database and nutrition panels on the juice and the maple syrup. Numbers will vary depending on what type and brand of juice you choose to use, the size and type of orange you use, and your salt measuring skills (because most measuring spoon sets only go down to 1/4 tsp) so don't get caught up in the numbers. I made this on the lighter side so if you are working out at a super high intensity there is room to vamp up the glucose (by adding more juice or maple syrup) and/or the sodium content (though you probably won't want more than 1/4 tsp per quart). As long as you are using real fruit juice and real fruit you are getting plenty of potassium. But play around with it and find what works for you!

Now get up and start moving and sweating so you can put your new sports drink to the test!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

sweet potato brownies

I love requests. Sometimes I have a million ideas for recipes to try and blog posts to write, and then there are times, like now, when I have a hard time getting motivated to do a blog post. But, like all things in life, it is just another little phase, the ebb and flow of creativity that cannot be forced but needs to be ridden organically with time and patience. Nothing gets those creative juices flowing though like a special request! I get super motivated by all of my blog readers when they tell me what they want to see on the blog, specific or vague, easy or complex, I am here for you! So tell me what you want see!

My most recent request came from my mother, and she wants brownies! So naturally, I tackled the task immediately. Of course I will make brownies and post them on the blog for you, I don't mind at all 😉

But not just any brownies; ooey, gooey, fudgey, chewy, sweet potato brownies. And of course, I had to make them a couple of times to get them just right. So here is the finished product Mom! In perfect time for your homecoming from your yoga retreat in Greece, you lucky girl!

sweet potato brownies
  • 1 medium (orange) sweet potato
    • baked and mashed, should be about 1 cup
  • 2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flaxmeal mixed with 6 Tbsp water)
  • 3/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup flour (unbleached all purpose or gluten free variety of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegan dark chocolate chips (optional, but trust me, you are going to want these)
Bake your sweet potato ahead of time. I baked mine the day before just while I was home doing laundry, or homework, or whatever. If you let it cool completely it is easy to peel the skin off with just your fingers and cut into chunks or mash with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together those flax eggs and set aside. In a food processor add the baked sweet potato, raw cacao, maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut milk. Process until smooth, add the flax eggs and process. You don't necessarily need a food processor for this step, it can be done with an electric mixer or by hand, just make sure you mash that potato really well!

Transfer this fudgey mixture into a large bowl and sift in the flour and baking powder, fold together with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the chocolate chips and fold to combine. Transfer to a 9X9 glass baking dish lined with parchment paper. You could just grease it if you don't have parchment but I am so over that kind of baking, parchment paper is the easiest and cleanest way to bake anything and I'm not turning back now! Sprinkle a few more chocolate chips on top...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing. It'll be worth it, trust me. 

Store in the fridge and make sure to share! 

Any other requests?? Let me know what you want to see on the blog! I am super busy with school right now so not a lot of time for brainstorming. But always time for cooking, so help me with some ideas! You can reach me here, by leaving a comment, or on instagram @iamalmostvegan! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

lemon roasted broccoli + chickpeas

Roasted. Veggies. I could LIVE on roasted vegetables. Actually... I do live on roasted veggies! You can roast pretty much anything, season them with almost anything, and eat them for every meal. Too easy. This dish is great as a side for fish, to bring to a potluck, or works as a meal served with quinoa or brown rice. The trick here is to roast the lemon wedges before squeezing the lemon juice, I swear, it makes a difference 😉.

lemon roasted broccoli + chickpeas
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon (or 4-5 wedges)
  • 1 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans
  • salt + pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. I like my broccoli florets chopped relatively small but this is your preference. Chop onion, smash garlic, and drain and rinse the chickpeas. Arrange all veggies on a baking tray lined with parchment. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt + pepper, and arrange lemon wedges evenly over tray (remember- don't squeeze those lemons yet!)

Roast for 15-20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. With a pair of tongs squeeze the roasted lemon wedges over the whole tray. Boom 👊🏼

I have a fun trick to share with you. Being vegan, or vegetarian, or some variation of the two, iron consumption can be an are of concern. While there are plenty of plant-based iron rich foods such as lentils, beets, and leafy greens, the bio-availability of iron is easily disrupted by other nutrients (i.e. calcium). A good way to sneak some extra iron into the diet is by using Red Alaea sea salt. This is a traditional style Hawaiian salt mixed with red volcanic clay, which just happens to be rich in, yep, you guessed it, iron oxide. So keep calm and sprinkle on.