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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Elle’s Spanakopita

I LOVE spanakopita. It is by far my favorite thing to order at a Greek diner, even though I’m sure the way they make it includes about seven sticks of butter and five thousand calories. Enter homemade healthified spanakopita. And quick! This took maybe an hour start to finish!

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Elle’s Healthified Spanakopita

1 bag frozen chopped spinach
1 bag frozen chopped kale
1/2 package phyllo dough (or however much you think you need), thawed
1 package reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
2 small onions, chopped
2 eggs plus 1 white, beaten
2 heaping tablespoons chia seeds
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper to taste
(I purchased all of the above from Trader Joe’s.)

Thaw your spinach and kale, then squeeze all the liquid from it. Chop it up a little smaller if there are larger stems of kale. (I’m lazy and didn’t want to dirty a cutting board, so I did this with shears.) Let that stuff hang out on the side and preheat your oven to 350 F.

Sauté your onion in some olive oil. Once it is soft, translucent, and starting to brown, add the spinach and kale to the pan. Sauté all that together until the leaves are dry and heated through. Dump that into a bowl and let it hang out.

Spritz your 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ square pan with some olive oil. Lay down a sheet of phyllo, fitting it to the corners of the pan. Spritz lightly with olive oil. Repeat this process with about four or five more sheets of phyllo. (While you’re working with your phyllo you should cover it with some plastics wrap and a towel so it doesn’t dry out.)

Now, go back to your bowl o’ leaves. Stir the feta in and then check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Now stir in the eggs and chia seeds. Dump the whole pile into your phyllo lined pan and smooth it out.

Now you’re going to top the whole thing with about 6-8 sheets of phyllo, spritzing with olive oil in between each layer. In all honesty, I do this very haphazardly.

Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, covering halfway through. Once the top is golden brown remove from oven and let cool. This really tastes best at room temperature or refrigerated.

Enjoy!

xo,
Elle

Truffle Scrambled Eggs With Goat Cheese

You guys, I’ve discovered the perfect meal for any time of day. These eggs are as amazing for a decadent breakfast as they are for a simple lunch or dinner.

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Truffle Scrambled Eggs With Goat Cheese

2 whole eggs plus 1 white, beaten with a splash of water (I urge you to use cage free organic eggs. More responsible and they taste better.)
1-2 ounces goat cheese (Trader Joe’s Chèvre with Honey is spectacular here.)
1-2 teaspoons truffle oil
Chopped parsley or chive
Freshly ground black pepper

Spritz your nonstick pan with a little olive oil and pour eggs in. Immediately dot the goat cheese and parsley or chive on the eggs and scramble with a rubber spatula to desired doneness. If (like me) you like your eggs firmer, the goat cheese will start to run a bit. That’s okay.

Spoon eggs onto plate, drizzle with truffle oil, top with black pepper, and salt to taste.

Feel free to double, triple, or increase to whatever quantity you need. Since this is a quickie meal for me, I make it in teeny single girl quantities but that doesn’t mean you have to!

Serve with some hearty whole grain toast (like Ezekiel) for breakfast or a lightly dressed mesclun salad and glass of Cab for dinner. You’ll be doing a happy food dance by your second bite, I promise.

xo,
Elle

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.

Smoothie Time!

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I’ve worked out a new smoothie method, which is infinitely better than the hand blender method I had been using.

First I dump some almond milk and kale in my new Oster (with a glass–not plastic, yay!– beaker) and whir it around until it all the kale is completely ground into the milk.

Dump in frozen fruit (bananas and pineapples here), ground flaxseed, blend, and sip!

So much less work than my past smoothies!

xo,
Elle

Elle’s Incredible Orzo Salad

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People rave about this orzo. It is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and the best dish to bring to a potluck, holiday meal, or barbecue. (I’ve brought it to all three, and served it at home as a simple side with a piece of grilled fish or tempeh.)

Here is the recipe, which doubles well if necessary.

1 pound regular or whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions, run under cold water, and cooled a bit
8 ounces of feta, crumbled*
An 8ounce bag of arugula (If baby variety, leave as is. If leaves are large, tear ’em up.)
1 bag dried cranberries, orange or regular (5 or 6 oz)
About 1/2-3/4 cup any of these: pine nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
Juice of four lemons
Extra virgin olive oil (maybe 1/4 cup? More if it seems dry.)
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste (I like Trader Joe’s Flower Pepper for this.)

Dump everything in a bowl. Mix. Serve, or chill to serve later. If you refrigerate for a while, I recommend adding more olive oil and lemon juice before serving.

*This can easily be made vegan by leaving out the cheese or substituting either finely grated vegan mozz, or firm tofu that has been pressed and soaked in olive juice.

Enjoy!

xo,
Elle

Whole Foods-esque Homemade Peanut Butter

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I normally buy peanut and almond butter from Whole Foods since it is ground right in front of you and you know there is nothing in there but nuts. It occurred to me that since the nut butters I was buying were just ground up nuts, there is a fair chance I could make them myself. I was right, I could and holy deliciousness.

The very sophisticated recipe is below.

Dump peanuts in food processor (what you see above is honey roasted).

Press the on button.

Have peanut butter.

But seriously, first the peanuts will become powder-like, then they will almost form a ball, then you have pb. I like mine not totally smooth (or what I call Whole Foods’ consistency, because, well, that’s how you get it at WF) but you can totally keep processing to get pb that is smoother, creamier, and a little runnier.

This did not separate at all! And kept beautifully for a week at room temp. I’m sure it could keep longer than that, but there would have to be some left to find out.

Hope you all enjoy your all natural homemade pb! (Stay tuned for other varieties of nut butters soon!)

xo,
Elle

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

Vegetarian Dinner Party

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Here is the full menu:

Antipasti:

Focaccia and Broccoli Bread
Fresh Mozzarella (served with extra virgin olive oil to drizzle)
Zucchini a Scapace*
Pickled Radish and Cucumber
Caponata (Which I stole from my mom. Doesn’t everyone do that?)
Various peppers and olives from Whole Foods’ Olive Bar

Entree:

Pineapple Fried Red Rice*
Sweet and Sour Meatless Balls*

Dessert:

Summer Fruit Pudding*

[Quick aside: I am lucky that the neighborhood I work in has a weekly farmers’ market. I am even luckier that there is a new addition to the vendors there. Vito, who sells awesome fresh mozzarella (and I am quite the critic), great breads, and a million kinds of homemade ravioli. He has won a loyal customer in me for the entirety of the farmers’ market. I got the fresh mozz, broccoli bread, and focaccia from him.]

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As you can tell, I like a lot of little dishes for antipasti. I think it’s nice to have a plate full of a bite of this and a bite of that. As far as entrees, I figure (as long as it’s good) one is enough.

Isn’t casual entertaining the best in the summer?

xo,
Elle

*I’ll post these recipes over the next two weeks.