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!