Nacho “Cheez” Sauce

You guys. I have something amazing to share with you.

I’ve been incorporating more potatoes into my diet recently thanks to my favorite youtube vlogger High Carb Hannah. She’s doing a 30 day potato cleanse eating nothing but potato recipes and non starchy vegetables. While I haven’t gone completely potato based, I have been inspired to eat more spuds lately. I’ve been eating a lot of oven baked fries with dipping sauces and tonight I made this insane cheese-y deliciousness.

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There are a few recipes out there but I made mine based off of what I had on hand in my kitchen. I’m pretty excited about the results. So excited in fact, that I used an oven baked potato fry to wipe my Vitamix when I was done. And since my sauce is all veggies and no fat, I didn’t even bat an eyelash. In fact, I sat down for more.

Nacho “Cheez” Sauce:

3 chopped potatoes-I used 2 red potatoes and 1 gold potato

3/4 yellow onion diced

3 large carrots chopped

1 cup chopped sweet peppers

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon chives

dash of cayenne pepper

sprinkle of salt (I added mine after I portioned it out so I could use less)

Boil all of the veggies in water. Place nutritional yeast and spices into Vitamix then add boiled veggies and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, you can add some of the potato water to thin it out. Add cayenne and salt to taste.

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Voila! Perfect, delicious sauce made before you have time to bake a potato. Obviously, this sauce does not have the same taste of cheese but if you’ve been plant based for more than a few weeks (or just never really liked processed cheese) you’ll go nuts over this stuff. I made enough to fill two mason jars full!

I’ve already decided that tomorrow I’ll be having a loaded baked potato with this stuff all over it topped with salsa. Is it bad that I’m drooling for tomorrow’s dinner already?

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Curry Creations

It’s cold outside. Finally. Growing up in Virginia has taught me that there is no rhyme or reason to Mother Nature. Seriously, where else in the world does it go from 60 degrees one day to 30 degrees and back again? Oh well, I guess I should be used to it by now.

This week I kept myself warm by cooking up the most tasty curry I’ve ever made. I adapted the recipe from plant-based on a budget. I used green onions and omitted the coconut oil. Because I was trying to cook without the coconut oil, I forgot how quickly garlic burns and immediately destroyed the bottom of my largest pan. I tried to get the burnt bits off by running the pan under water and of course, let out a cloud of smoke that set my fire detectors off (at least they work right?).

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Luckily for me, I had only used half of my green onions and was able to start over although I had to use a different pan (I was starving and didn’t want to take the time to fully clean the original pan right away). Because of this, I omitted the carrots and snow peas but I did add in some fresh basil and sprouts right at the end. The basil really enhanced the flavor. I also used coconut cream instead of coconut milk but this was only because that is what I had on hand. I do like using coconut cream in my curries although only every now and then as it is very high in fat. In the future, I’ll stick to buying coconut milk.

All in all, this curry is amazing. The only change I would make to the original recipe is that I would leave out the salt. It may have been the curry powder I used (I had a curry powder mix from a local cooking store) but the saltiness was a little overpowering in my version.

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I apologize for this post being later than I had expected. The newest ios update for Macbook apparently is is not compatible with my camera. It took a few days but I figured out that I CAN upload my pictures from my camera to my phone and then share them in iCloud to my computer for blogging purposes (annoying and super frustrating, but effective). Hopefully Sony will send out a new update for their app sharing soon as this is sure to drive me crazy.

Recent Plant Based Creations

After Thanksgiving this year, I went to Fredericksburg to catch up with some of my high school friends and spend some time with my brother who couldn’t make it to Charlottesville for dinner. I drove into town on Friday night and my closest friends and I spent a night at the newly opened Sedona Taphouse catching up over dinner and drinks. It was so nice to have everyone back together again even if it was only for a few hours.

I stayed with my friend Katie who had to be out of her house early Saturday morning to catch a flight back to Atlanta. I found myself alone in Fredericksburg for a few hours while I waited for my brother to wake up (he’s a bartender and tends to have the exact opposite sleep schedule as me). While I waited I found myself perusing the shops and ended up finding a rice cooker for a pretty good deal at Kohls. I tried to talk myself out of getting it because I really don’t need any new cooking appliances but I thought it would be a great investment and I’ve already used it several times since last week.

The first time I used it was to make a lentil sweet potato dish that I kind of just threw together. It turned out delicious. I put a cup of green lentils in my rice cooker with some water and curry powder as well as one chopped up sweet potato. I threw in half a chopped red pepper and when it was all cooked I put it on a piece of lavish bread from Trader Joe’s. I rolled the whole concoction up and threw it in my toaster oven. When it was nice and toasty, I covered it in Sriracha and wound up with this beautiful creation. It was so good I made another one the next night.

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Once I finished off my lentils, I found myself trying to eat up a bunch of vegetables I had purchased earlier in the weak. For dinner on Wednesday, I took the last of my lavash bread and created a plant based pizza.

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I spread some hummus on the bread as my “sauce” and threw spinach, tomatoes and some nutritional yeast on top. Again, I threw this in my toaster oven until it crisped up and voila! Another plant based dinner ready in minutes. Who said this lifestyle was hard?

Quick Recap and a Few Recipes

I know I said I’d try to update more and then failed to get back into the swing of things. But what can I say?, I’ve been busy and a little stressed out lately. I have started taking more time to work out though and my class has gotten a lot easier (and thankfully, is almost over). Just in time for the Holidays!

Since its been a while and I’ve finally taken the time to reboot my laptop (I usually post from my iPad). I’ll take a little more time to recap what I’ve done the past two months.

Towards the end of October, many of my friends came back into town for UVa Homecomings. It was so nice to see friends from out of town and just spend some time on the Lawn.

I’ve spent most of November trying to catch up on schoolwork but I’ve also had some time during the week to try out some new plant based recipes. I’ve really gotten into this lifestyle and have found a way to make it work for me. I feel so much better when I eat food from plant sources and I’ll occasionally treat myself to dairy products when I’m out (although I haven’t eaten meat in weeks and don’t plan to ever again).

I’ll try to be better about taking pictures when I try out new recipes from now on but for now, here are some of my favorite creations from the last month including a recipe I made myself:

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (I substitute in about 1/4 cup almond flour as well as the regular flour on this one just because I like the taste although the regular flour holds the shape of the cookies a little better).

Black Bean Corn Tacos-Essentially just beans, rice, avocado, and any assortment of veggies and spices you can think of. I topped this one with guacamole. Perfect for any meal of the day.

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Tahini Dill Sauce-this one I made myself as a dipping sauce for roasted potato wedges. Here’s the rough recipe I used:

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (you can use any plant based milk, this is just to add creaminess and cut the taste of the tahini a little bit).
  • 2 tsp dill
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 2 tsp chives
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Process everything together and enjoy!

My Whole30 Journey

I picked up a copy of It Starts With Food this week and started my Whole30 journey on Monday. Admittedly, I won’t complete it because my trip to California is at the end of the month (and there’s no way I’m going to Napa and not tasting wine) but I really didn’t want that to be an excuse for me not making any lifestyle changes in the mean time. I’m sure I’ll want to do it again and truly stick to it but if I’m being honest, it probably won’t be until after all of the holidays that are creeping up. At least starting now will help prepare me for the holiday season and hopefully I’ll make better choices during that time. I’m really just hoping to get some healthy habit changing tips throughout this whole process.

I went to the Farmer’s Market and then to the local grocery store to get some supplies and prepped my meals for the week on Sunday. So far, I’m really loving my menu. First I made Cauliflower “soup” but it really turned out the consistency of mashed cauliflower. Still delicious, so no complaints. I added chives and some nutritional yeast for flavoring and I’ve just discovered how much I love chives. Seriously, where have they been all my life and why am I not using them more often?

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All the veggies I bought for the week (not pictured cauliflower I picked up from the grocery store since I can’t get it locally around here).

I’ve also been eating these INSANE buffalo chicken stuffed peppers. I actually boiled the chicken before cooking (to make stock for the soup) and it turned out fine. I just reduced the temperature to 275 and cooked for the recommended time. I went to The Spice Diva on Saturday and got some surprisingly cheap spices to use. I was shocked at everything I could find for under $6!

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Six dollars for all of this? I can’t believe it, these will last me a while.

For breakfast, I’ve been eating a hardboiled egg and what I’ve named a monkey bowl. A banana covered in almond butter with unsweetened coconut on top. SO. GOOD. Seriously, why have I not discovered this combination before?

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Lunches have been salad and cauliflower mash so far and dinners are chicken stuffed peppers. I haven’t been hungry at all, I’ve just been struggling mostly with cutting out cravings in the evening or really just cutting out my desire to eat all the time. I’m only a few days in so we’ll see how things go from here. So far no sugar crashes but I’ve heard that’s coming. We shall see.

Summer Fueled Lifestyle Changes

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Like many people, I’ve always been interested in food and living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve struggled a lot with my weight in the past and have been confused by the many different advertised ways to eat healthy. After reading many a self-help book about being healthy I’ve determined that the best way to ensure good health is to learn how to cook. It’s so, SO simple and yet, most of the time we find ourselves coming up with excuses not to do it. I’ve always had basic skills in the kitchen but I grew up on lean cuisines and hoagies for dinner most nights. Definitely not the best eating habits but I’m determined to change that.

This year I’ve really dedicated myself to cooking more often because I hate that food has amounted to being either processed or overpriced in a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out, however I’ve noticed that since I’ve stopped eating out as often I’ve saved a lot of money and have been able to eat much better quality foods. My body has thanked me for it as I have more energy than ever and I feel happier.

At the beginning of the summer, I watched this documentary and it really changed my perspective on the way I eat. While I admit that I’m a sucker for a big dramatic documentary, I have to say that this one really hit home with me. I’m not going to be only eating for medicinal purposes now but I have tried to make some lifestyle changes because of this movie. I really do believe that plant based foods are so much healthier than animal products and I’ve tried to limit the animal products I consume. The biggest thing I’ve changed however, is my consumption of processed foods. Through cooking I’ve started opening my palate to fresh whole foods.

This summer I made a pact to only buy foods from local sources. I did most of my weekly grocery shopping on Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market and if I run out of groceries I’ll walk to one of our  local grocery stores. I tried Relay Foods again but I never know what I’m going to need for the week until the day I decide I’m going to cook so that doesn’t usually work for me since you have to order ahead of time.

Although it’s been a little challenging at times, I’ve really enjoyed spending more time preparing food in the kitchen and getting outside and walking to pick up my food rather than having to drive somewhere. I realize I’m one of the lucky few people who has access to food within walking distance of me but I might as well use the resources while they’re available. Not everyone is so lucky. I really enjoy what I’ve been cooking up lately and I’m having fun experimenting in the kitchen. I’d love to post some pictures of the things I’ve cooked but so far its just been random combinations of vegetables and the spices in my pantry. I will definitely post some great recipes if I come upon any.

I’ve been contemplating the Whole30 program but I’m going to Napa Valley at the end of September and there is no way I’d pass up the chance to drink wine in wine country. I’ll probably start the program anyway (yes I know its cheating but whatever I can always start over when I get back). So as I get started I’ll keep everyone updated with the recipes I find. I’m planning on making a few big meals at the beginning of the week so this weekend is going to be spent meal prepping and grocery shopping.

Purple Bell Peppers

Last night I tried a purple bell pepper for the first time. And it was delicious. When I went to the farmer’s market last week, I found a bunch of bell peppers and I was shocked to see purple among the available colors. I threw it into my bag because, why not? I’m down for something new. I’ve been reading a new book that talks about produce and the different nutrients available in each. This book also talks about how many of the fruits and vegetables you find at the grocery store are less nutritious than what you will find at farmer’s markets. I’ve not finished the book yet but it has encouraged me to shop more at farmer’s markets and my local market so the purple pepper was a fun experiment which, to tell you the truth, I had actually forgotten about until yesterday. Last Monday I roasted two sweet potatoes and two squash together with some quinoa and that lasted me the whole week. Sure, I cheated and bought take out one day and my dad cooked me dinner last night, but for the most part, most of my meals this week consisted of 4 vegetables and quinoa!

Anywho, today I remembered the pepper and a few other veggies I had in my crisper so I poured myself a glass of red wine, pulled them out of the fridge, and set to work thinking about what I wanted to make. I ended up chopping everything up, throwing half of it into a pot with some rice, and pouring the left over Khao Soi (from my takeout night) I had on top. I must say this is one of the best dinners I’ve made in a while (sure the sauce from the Khao Soi probably contributed most of the flavor but I liked that I turned it into mostly veggies instead of the noodles it came with).

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Leftover Khao Soi with veggies and rice (I already scooped out a lot of the rice in this picture. It was thicker but I just couldn’t wait).

While that was simmering, I found the mixed greens I bought last week and tossed them into a salad spinner with the remaining half of the veggies. I even made a dressing with a little bit of garlic, lime juice, olive oil, and just a drop of soy sauce.

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Mixed greens with a chopped onion and cucumber

I’m pretty proud of the variety I created for myself last week and I probably spent $20 total for groceries. I still have a few days worth of food left too. I’m guessing that it will probably take me a while to figure out how to plan my meals and what I need to purchase if I’m really going to stick to cooking more frequently. But the good thing is that it’s loads cheaper than eating out and to be honest, this was the best dinner I’ve had all week. Maybe that’s because I worked for it.