Elle’s Favorite Snacks

My criteria for snacks are pretty simple: they must be delicious, healthy, convenient, and as minimally processed as possible. Oh and they must be vegetarian. Preferably vegan. And I’m conducting a gluten free experiment (partly for health and partly for Lent– whatup my Catholic peeps!), so they’ve also got to be gluten free. Simple, right?

Remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally where Harry explains that Sally is the worst kind of girl? A high maintenance girl who thinks she’s low maintenance. Just popped into my head for some reason. Weird.

Back to snacks…

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I do most of my shopping in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but I’m fairly certain that all of the snacks I’ve mentioned are available everywhere now. With the exception of the 50% less salt almonds. Why is Trader Joe’s the only store that realizes we want an option in between salted and unsalted? I want a little salt sometimes, please!

(And I know you can make your own kale chips, but let’s be real here. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

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Sadly missing from the above photo is hummus and red pepper strips since the worst has happened and I ran out of both.

(Hint– life is easier if you cut a crapload of celery, carrots, and pepper strips when you come home from the store. There are many days a week when it’s so easy to grab a sandwich bag full of those veggies and a little container of hummus or nut butter, throw it in my purse and lunch is done!)

What are your favorite snacks?

xo,
Elle

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Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding…Yum!

Guys, if you haven’t discovered chia seeds, you’re missing out. Unlike flaxseeds, they don’t need to be ground to be digested, are high in protein and fiber, and they absorb about a million times their weight in liquid. Which means if you soak them in something slightly sweet, creamy, and yummy, they turn into a tapioca like pudding that makes a great dessert (or breakfast, for that matter) with some fruit.

I’m going to give you a super easy recipe for chia seed pudding. Here’s the nutritional info (for 1/6 of the recipe, not including any caloric sweeteners you may use):

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Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

1/2 cup chia seeds
2 1/2 cups milk (I use unflavored almond milk)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
Sweetener to taste (I use either a squirt of agave nectar or a couple packets of Truvia–think 3 to 5)

Mix everything together. Use a whisk or the cocoa is never going to combine with the liquid. Once the mixture seems to be thickening a bit (after a minute or two of mixing), cover and refrigerate.

In an hour or two, you have delicious pudding!

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This will last up to a week in your fridge. If it gets too thick, just stir in a splash or two of your milk of choice. Enjoy!

xo,
Elle

Sweet and Smoky REAL Popcorn

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Guys, I had a revelation about popcorn this week. It was twofold. The first fold was that microwave popcorn does not taste that good. The second fold was that most of the popcorn I buy is probably genetically modified. I know, horrifying! I don’t want to eat that crap!

I also remembered my parents making popcorn in a pot when I was a kid, so I decided to give it a whirl. What a fantastic experiment! I’ve been making plain buttered/salted (Earth Balance buttered, that is) and this deliciously savory sweet and spicy mix. This one is like the popcorn version of fancy warm bar nuts.

Here’s how:

In bottom of pot, toss organic popcorn kernels (enough to cover pot), a dab of Earth Balance (or a little olive oil), a generous pinch of sea salt, and a generous grind of African Smoke Seasoning from Trader Joe’s (this stuff tastes like the powder on barbecue chips).

When I say “generous” I mean generous. Whatever salt and seasoning you put in the pot right now is what is going to season all the popcorn.

Keep heat low and cover pot. Once it starts popping, shake the pot every few seconds so the kernels don’t burn. (Remember Jiffy Pop? Shake it like that!)

Once the popping has slowed down to a pop every few seconds, remove from heat. Now, stir in a little melted Earth Balance (this is vegan butter, btdubs. Feel free to use dairy butter if that’s your thing) and a generous grind of Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar. Stir it up and enjoy!

Happy snacking!

xo,
Elle

PS, Just a friendly word of advice: wait until the pot is cool to attempt washing it. I learned that lesson the hard way via a wicked painful steam burn on my thumb.

Summer Fruit Pudding

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This was so yummy! I made it layered and trifle-like but it would also do beautifully in a single layer of filling with fruit arranged prettily on top. And it is totally low fat, vegan, gluten free, and guilt free. It would be a great dessert for a barbecue or potluck!

Elle’s Summer Fruit Pudding

4 cups vanilla coconut milk (from the refrigerated dairy dept, not the kind in the can)
Agave syrup to taste (how much you need depends on how sweet the milk is to begin with)
4 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp almond extract
1 pint blueberries
1 large peach, sliced
1 large banana, sliced

Reserve about a 1/4 cup of your milk and whisk the corn starch into it. Put it aside (for future reference this is known as a “slurry”). Sweeten the rest until it is the sweetness of pudding. Bring to a boil. Once boiling (or close to it). Add your slurry, and whisk, whisk, whisk! Keep whisking until pudding is nice and thick. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Allow to cool (but don’t chill or it will set up too much.

Now you’re just going to layer your pudding and fruit (a loaf pan works perfectly and so would a pie pan). I did a layer of pudding, a layer of banana slices, a layer of beef and peas (if you didn’t get that Friends’ reference, ignore me and DO NOT add those items!), a layer of pudding, a layer of (half of the) blueberries, a layer of peaches, then the last layer of pudding and the rest of the blueberries to finish. Chill for a few hours and enjoy!

This is really light and delicious; it is the perfect dessert for these hot summer days.

I hope you all have a great Fourth of July!

xo,
Elle

Quinoa Salad

I love quinoa. To me, it’s like rice but better. In addition to being healthier (quinoa is a complete protein containing all eight essential amino acids), quinoa is also more versatile, being just as delicious cold as it is hot.

This quinoa salad is loosely inspired by a traditional dish from Naples called Zucchini A Scapece, which my grandfather made over and over every summer by frying zucchini from his garden, then dousing it in red wine vinegar, fresh mint and raw garlic. (I have a healthy version of this recipe that I’ll be sharing soon.)

This is a really fresh, clean, and light salad. This amount serves two as a side.

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xo,
Elle

Brown Rice Breakfast Bliss

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I must admit that I find oatmeal to be kind of meh. First off, it takes forever to make (if steel cut, which is the only kind you should be eating), and I just don’t have that kind of time in the morning. Plus it tastes like warm mushy nothing. I much prefer the taste and texture of brown rice, so here is my formula for Elle’s Brown Rice Breakfast Bliss. It’s a formula not a recipe because no one should have to measure or think as soon as they wake up.

About 1/2 cup leftover cooked brown rice (quinoa or barley probably work too)
1/4 (if microwaving) to 1/3 (if stovetop) almond, coconut, or soy milk
Agave syrup to taste (can sub honey or maple syrup if you like
About a tablespoon of nuts or seeds (I used pepitas in the photo above.)
About a tablespoon of dried fruit or 1/2 cup of fresh fruit or both

Toss it all together (except for the fresh fruit) and heat. I prefer stovetop heating to the microwave. The microwave simply heats the food, while cooking it for five minutes in a pot allows the flavors to meld together and some of the milk to evaporate and thicken. It is just yummier from the stove. Top off with fresh fruit and eat!

I’ve put everything together in a bowl the night before and just popped it on the stove in the morning (as a time saving option). By the time my hair is done, so is my breakfast.

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Complex carbs, fiber, and good sugars are the best way to start your day!

xo,
Elle

Vegan Veggie Pizza

This pizza was the delicious product of random veggies I had lying around, some premade grocery store pizza dough (the mom and pop type with like three ingredients, NOT the national brands full of preservatives) and soy mozzarella.

I would say this serves 2-3 as an entree or 4-6 as an appetizer.

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This was so good that I fed it to several non-vegans (one of whom is very vocally opposed to vegan cheese) and they absolutely loved it. I hope you will too! Homemade pizza is such fun food.

xo,
Elle

Smoothie Time!

I love smoothies. More specifically, I love my smoothies. Jamba Juice and Smoothie King are okay, but I think mine are much better. Probably because I use all fruit and no yogurt, sherbet, or weird filler stuff.

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This particular smoothie has frozen organic strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, in addition to almond milk*, and organic baby spinach. I swap the fruit out according to what is in my freezer. Frozen peaches, mangoes, and bananas are delicious too.

*I like to use almond, coconut, or soy milk, but use whatever works for you. Rice or dairy milk will be great too if that’s what you like. If you want to be really decadent, you could use chocolate almond or soy milk with frozen bananas or berries. It’s like the most delicious milkshake on earth. And much less guilt inducing than a real milkshake.

I use an immersion blender like this:

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Fill up the measuring cup with spinach and fruit…

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Pour in some milk…

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Blend, blend, blend…

And there it is!

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What are your favorite smoothie combinations?

xo,
Elle

Senegalese Peanut Stew

My mom found this recipe, made some changes, and it is one of my favorites! The original version wasn’t veggie-ish enough for us, so that is where most of the change lies. We love us insane amounts of veggies.

I encourage you to use organic veggies for this recipe (and others) if possible. In addition to being better for you and the earth, they just taste better. Everyone wins!

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Start out by sautéing the onion and pepper in a little olive oil.

When softened, add the carrots and sweet potatoes. Let them cook for about five minutes.

Add the ginger, cloves, salt, and pepper. Let this cook for about a minute, then add 4 cups of broth. Once that comes up to a simmer, stir in the peanut butter. Let this cook uncovered on low until the sweet potatoes are soft (about 45 minutes). If it starts to get too thick, add more broth. I wind up using about 6 cups.

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STOP! SPINACH TIME! Oh, oh oh oh… MC Hammer? Anyone? Is this thing on?

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This recipe happens to be not only vegetarian but also vegan and gluten free, so all on special diets can feel free to enjoy!

xo,
Elle