Vegan Blondie Bars

I love a solid baking or cooking challenge – veganizing and freeing of gluten are two that I do frequently.  With food allergies and diet preferences abundant in my circles, I have come to embrace this style of preparing food.


I made these during the month of crazy-busy April.  I wrapped up a grad class, an art class, a presentation at work, and working on some other big changes all in one month.  I made time for some fun around Eric’s birthday weekend though.  We got together with some friends to grill out one evening, and I brought these lovelies along for dessert.  The swapping of a few ingredients made them no less delectable, I promise!


To make these vegan, I swapped out butter for coconut oil and chia seeds for eggs.  I decided that while I was it, I may as well swap out the brown sugar for coconut sugar.  It made them a little less sweet tasting but kept the chewy goodness.


This is the fantastic meal prepared by our friend, Ben, which preceeded the dessert.  I’m drooling just looking at this image – please start a food blog!


Q proceeded to work on his tag – making these diagonal pink lines all over the sidewalk, steps, hose, himself… Yup, those are my wedding shoes, they are still going strong.  More on the rest of April later – I have been busy creating, just not posting/sharing busy.


Vegan Blondie Bars – adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

  1. In a small bowl combine: 2 tablespoons chia seed with 6 tablespoons water.  Stir and allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour or till thickened and gel-like.
  2. Grease 13x9x2 inch baking pan with dairy-free shortening.  Microwave 2 cups coconut sugar and 2/3 cup coconut oil until oil is melted.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly.  Combine with chia seed and water mixture and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  3. Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups Cup 4 Cup mix, for gluten-free option!), 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Mix in 1 cup semi-sweet, vegan chocolate chips.
  4. Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly.  Cut into bars while still warm.

Coconut Red Curry & Veggies

This simple and pleasing curried vegetable classic comes from a spurt of energy due to an Iowa warn-up.  Last week we actually had a a couple balmy, sunny days.  It was enough to give me hope for spring!

It actually warmed up enough to melt almost all of the snow and go without jackets a few times.

It was even nice enough to sit on the porch while we had dinner!  I can’t wait to get my summer-cabin themed porch done just right this summer.  I know we will be using it daily.  Anyway, after happy hour or chips & salsa and NA beer, I decided to make something fresh and springy to fit the mood of the afternoon.

I started by throwing a bunch of veggies into a glass 8″ baking dish – 1/2 a red onion, sliced, 3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  I tossed these veggies with sesame oil and then baked these in the oven at 425º for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  Combine 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste in a saucepan.  Stir and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies.  Stir. Serve over warm cooked rice.

I was feeling so in the mood to cook on this warm spring evening that I even whipped up a batch of cherry crisp from canned cherries from last summer‘s crop.  I will share this classic recipe at a later date, because usually when I make this, I just throw it together without measuring – that’s what happens when you make a certain recipe often enough.

Coconut Red Curry & Veggies –
makes about 4 servings

1. In a glass 8″ baking dish combine: 1/2 a red onion, sliced3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  Toss veggies with sesame oil and then baked in a 425º oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  (If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes, or till softened.)

2.  While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  In a small saucepan combine: 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste.  Stir until well combined and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

3. Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies and stir. Serve over warm, cooked rice.

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I made one of these bad boys on Saturday morning – it was the perfect addition to my usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast.  The berry and banana flavors mixed with oats made it taste like a blueberry muffin in a cup.  

I’ve been using the single serving cups that came with our Ninja – they are too easy.  You just throw your ingredients into the cup, attach the blade, stick on the blender, blend for a perfect single serving, then remove and add the drinking lid.  When done, throw it in the dishwasher!
The three of us headed over to the Des Moines Art Center on Saturday morning for a 2-4 year olds art class.  It was snowing and we needed to get out of the house.  Greta loved the different methods of painting – brushes attached to long sticks, cars rolled in paint, tempera sticks, and stamping methods.  Of course, mommy was collecting ideas for her classroom as well.  

After the art center, we made a quick stop at La Mie Bakery for pastries, bread, and coffee.  Eric let me run in and pick out pastries…can you tell?  So much for the healthy smoothie and toast I had for breakfast earlier in the day.  

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie – makes 1 serving 
1. In a blender combine: 1 banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, 2-3 ice cubes, and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk.  
2.  Blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.  

Mango, Blood Orange & Avocado Salad

It has been so snowy, blustery, and plain old cold around here lately.  I have been dreaming of warmer climates and watching the weather of all my favorite warmer places –  SavannahKey West, Ocracoke, and Greensboro.  Sigh.  It is a little torturous at times.  To beat the winter blues, I made this salad over the weekend – it has three of my favorite fruits in it with just a smidge of lime juice and cinnamon.  It is a perfect healthy side salad, breakfast, or snack. 

First, peel 1 mango.  Slice off wedges.  Put into a bowl.

Next, slice the ends off of 1 blood orange.

Cut off peel and pith and then slice to create supreme wedges.  Hopefully yours looks neater than mine did.  Place in bowl with mango.

Slice 1 avocado and remove pit.  Use knife to cut vertical and horizontal slices in the halves (see above).  Use a spoon to remove slices and add to bowl with mango and blood oranges.

Toss with 1 teaspoon lime juice and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Enjoy!

Mango, Blood Orange, and Avocado Salad

1. Peel 1 mango.  Slice wedges.  Put into a bowl.  Next, slice the ends off of 1 blood orange.  Cut off peel and pith and then slice to create supreme wedges.  Place in bowl with mango.  Slice 1 avocado and remove pit.  Use knife to cut vertical and horizontal slices in the halves.  Use a spoon to remove slices and add to bowl with mango and blood oranges.

2.  Toss with 1 teaspoon lime juice and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serve immediately.

Amaranth & Squash Casserole

This was sooooooo good.  I took a classic chicken and wild rice casserole recipe of my grandmother’s and tweaked it just a tad to get this new winter classic.  Best part?  It is gluten-free, vegetarian, and dairy-free.  This is what I needed this week – I have the annual crud.  Moving to a new school, in a new state, with new germs finally took its toll on me.  I am hoping for a speedy recovery, until then, enjoy this recipe.

I used 1 cup of amaranth – it is like a finer version of quinoa – in place of the wild rice.  It is so tiny that I was skeptical at first that it would even add anything of substance to this recipe.

One sliced and peeled golden acorn squash was substituted for the chicken.

Then, I threw in some broccoli and onion for good measure.  See what I mean about the amaranth being tiny?

I made a white sauce, in essence, to pour over my veggies.  This makes one very full casserole of food, I promise.  Eric and I both found ourselves going for for seconds and looking forward to leftovers.  It is substantial comfort food without any discomfort from meat, dairy, or wheat the next day.

Amaranth & Squash Casserole

1. Saute 1/2 yellow onion, diced in 2 tablespoons margarine until soft.  Add 2 more tablespoons margarine to onions, cook until melted.  Stir in 1/3 cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring until bubbly – remove from heat.  Stir in 2 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup almond or coconut milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for one minute.

2.  Pour liquid into a 2 quart casserole dish.  Add to liquid: 1 cut and peeled golden acorn squash, 16 oz of frozen broccoli, and 1 cup dry amaranth.  Stir well.

3. Bake uncovered, 350 degree oven, until bubbly for 40 to 45 minutes.  Serve warm.

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder

This soup is the perfect cure for the end of summer to beginning of fall blues.  Kind of miss the pool with the lingering hot days, but loving the cool sweatshirt nights?  Yeah, me too!

I used some leftover corn on the cob to make this corn and sweet potato chowder – it’s something I have been thinking about for a few days now.  The best part is it used up quite a few of the veggies I had sitting around, fearful of letting go to waste.

The other nice part?  Dairy & animal free.  Sometimes I just need something that is vegan.  I know, some of you are probably scratching your head.  However, sometimes I also just need something animal derived.  I do what my body tells me to do (within reason).  That paint palette cutting board was a gift from my new art teacher colleagues!

Trusty Ninja purees soup with ease.  Just be sure and let it cool a bit, and make sure the lid is on tight, and make sure a fragile toddler isn’t near by to watch it loudly explode in the kitchen.  True story.  I had some double clean-up that night – tears and spilled soup.

She is quite the kitchen helper these days though.  Flipping through the cookbook is a new favorite activity, all the while asking me, “What this?” at every photograph.

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder – makes 6 – 8 servings.  Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Better Soups & Stews, 2003.

1. In a medium saucepan, in hot oil, over medium heat, cook 1 cup whole kernel corn, 1 small yellow onion, diced, and 2 cloves of garlic, minced.  Cook until the onion is tender.  Add 16 oz of broth.  Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Stir in 1 cup dairy-free (or real) cream and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Allow to cool slightly.

2.  Place cream mixture in blender container or food processor.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Return to pan and keep warm.

3.  In a medium saucepan, cook 1 cup whole kernel corn and 1 large peeled and diced sweet potato until sweet potato is softened.  Drain.  Stir into cream mixture.  Add 1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley.  Serve warm.

Zucchini Curry Soup + New Floor Reveal

This post brings you more ideas on how to use the zucchini from the gardens at this time of year, plus another peek at how our house is coming along.  I have been on a long hiatus here lately, due to an overwhelming number of home projects.  

A few more of the monstrous zucchinis coming out of my mother’s garden!  As I pondered what to eat after my ride on RAGBRAI, Eric suggested soup, which was actually quite brilliant.  It was a great way to hydrate and use up a large amount of my zucchini in one recipe.

First, I created a vegetable broth as my base.  I am enjoying using my new gas burner range immensely.    It is almost freaky fast in heat up time – must get used to that still.

Then, I sliced my zucchini and quartered them.  I ended up using 6 cups, which was just about 2 of my medium-large zucchini shown in the photograph.

After simmering broth and veggies about 20 minutes, blend together. 

We have been loving our Ninja Professional blender – there is nothing it can’t blend, chop, puree, or smoothie!  Plus, it has as much power at a fraction of the cost of some the the fancier blenders.  OK, I admit, I was cheering when I read the consumer reports that put some of the cheaper blenders ahead of the uber fancy Vitamix.

We found that this soup is equally good cold or hot – a perfect summer soup.  Greta enjoyed eating her soup and making a mess of it.  Be warned – the curry in this soup will stain!

Now, onto the floors.  When we bought the house, the entryway, downstairs hallway, and kitchen were all covered in laminate flooring.  Honestly, it looked nice, but we realized that tile was what we wanted.

We opted for a slate look-alike and decided to put this down in the entryway, inside the coat closet, the downstairs bathroom, in the broom closet, and to the top of the basement stairs.  This way, snowy boots could go straight to the closet or basement without depositing dirt and salt onto the wood floors. 
One of the most beautiful aspects of the house are its new hickory floors.  Eric picked out the hickory due to its beautiful variation in grain, coloring, and character.  I am thrilled that the carpeting is now gone and we can now gaze at these boards instead.  

Curried Zucchini Soup – serves 6 – 8

1. In a large stock pot, boil 6 cups vegetable broth (or water plus bouillon) with 1 teaspoon salt.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 – 3  tablespoons olive oil.  Saute 1 diced yellow onion until soft.  Add 3 cloves of diced garlic and cook about 5 more minutes.  
3.  Add to the boiling broth, 6 cups sliced and quartered zucchini.  Add onion and garlic mixture and 2 tablespoons curry to broth.  Bring to boil and then reduce and simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes or until zucchinis are softened.
4.  Blend entire mixture with immersion blender or upright blender, taking care not to burn oneself!  Use a towel over the top of your blender if it is not a tight, locking lid.  
5. Return to stockpot and add in 1-½ cups small pasta shells.  Cook according to package.  Serve hot or cold. 

Summer Solstice + Roasted Tofu and Peanut Noodle Salad

Oh yum oh yum.  This easy and cheap meal comes from one of my favorite magazines out there – Eating Well.  My mom requested that I make it for our summer solstice friend and family gathering on the 21st of June this year.  I served it cold, which was nice, since I made it ahead of time I had time to do other things in the few hours leading up to the informal gathering.

Extra-firm, cubed, roasted tofu is the only way to go, if you ask me.  I keep returning to this tried and true method.

I always line with aluminum foil – this makes transferring the cooked tofu that much easier.  Simply pinch the open ends together and pick up the entire packet and dump into recipe.

Prep on this recipe is minimal.  Cook your pasta and drain.  Chop veggies and toss in marinade.  Combine together, mix well, and top with tofu and optional chopped peanuts.  Refrigerate until chilled. Serve cold. 
The bowl of noodles is still half full due to the copious amounts of watermelon, chips, salsa, nacho layered chips, and garlic green beans.  We were so full we forgot the deviled eggs and cooked shrimp that were still in the fridge.  

After large amounts of food and drink, we all headed outside to admire my mom’s raised beds and fenced in gardens.  So far, so good in terms of avoiding pests this year.  However, now I feel the need to knock on wood for her sake.  Her lettuce is gorgeous and even spells Greta!

Roasted Tofu & Peanut Noodle SaladEating Well, August 2013
Serves 5, 2 cups each.
Total time: 40 minutes.

1. Position oven rack on lower third of oven; preheat to 450 degrees.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Put large pot of water on stove to boil for spaghetti.

2. Combine ¼ cup lime juice, ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large bowl.  Stir in 1 16-oz package of extra-firm tofu cut into ½-¾ inch chunks.  Allow to marinate at least 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Transfer tofu to foil-lined pan using a slotted spoon.  Reserve the marinade.  Roast the tofu, stirring once halfway through, until golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cook 1 box of whole wheat spaghetti according to package.  Drain and set aside.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent sticking.

5.  Thinly slice 2 medium orange bell peppers.  Thinly slice 6 cups of napa cabbage.  Thinly slice 1 cup trimmed snow peas, or chop 1 cup peas in pod.

6. Whisk ½ cup creamy all-natural peanut butter, 3 tablespoons water, 3 cloves of minced garlic1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, and reserved marinade in a very large bowl.  Add the drained spaghetti.  Add cabbage, bell peppers, and snow peas.  Toss to coat.  Top with roasted tofu and optional chopped peanuts.  Refrigerate until chilled and serve cold.

Per serving:
423 calories; 21 g fat (2 g saturated, 5 g mono); 0 g cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 21 g protein; 8 g fiber; 546 g sodium; 321 mg potassium.  Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (133% daily value), Vitamin A (46% daily value), Calcium & Magnesium (26% daily value), Iron (21% daily value).

Spiced Corn on the Cob

One thing I am really looking forward to about the move back to Iowa is sweet corn.  There is nothing like sinking your teeth into fresh sweet corn on the cob.  I mourned sweet corn during the years I had braces and could not wait for the day to have them removed – the day AFTER yearbook pictures were taken in ninth grade.  Go figure. 
Anyway, we had our first sweet corn of the season recently and I tried out three wonderful flavor mixtures the last time we made corn on the cob.  Check them out below.  
After husking the corn, see here for a secret to husking corn that I will have to try next time, place corn onto parchment paper and prepare with seasonings.  I broke my ears in half so Eric and I could try all three flavors and choose our favorite.  
For the first ear, I used a smear of margarine, a sprinkling of coconut sugar, and Cajun seasoning.  

For the second ear, I used Sriracha hot sauce and minced garlic.  

The last ear, I used a smear of margarine, a sprinkling of crushed red peppers, and a sprinkling of lime juice.  

I was pretty sure this one would be my favorite – there is just something about hot peppers and limes that get me every time!

Roll the parchment around the corn cobs and then place in aluminum foil.  Fold the edges over the points of the cob first and then pinch long flaps together to make a mohawk on your corn.  Pinch the mohawk together to ensure no loss of flavorings.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  Open foil packets and allow to cool slightly before serving.  
Pretty sure we’d put this cookbook to good use.
Eric’s favorite was the Sriracha combination, due to its spicy heat, but let’s face it, we’ll put Sriracha on anything around here.  I liked the pepper and lime corn – the lime juice made the flavors of the corn and pepper so much brighter.  The Cajun one was equally good –  I could see that flavoring served with hush puppies.  

Ginger [sugar-free] Chocolate Cake

Yum to this cake.  This vegan cake recipe has proven to be a regular in this household.  It is so moist and fluffy without being at all complicated.  One would never know it is a vegan recipe, either.  

The idea came to me whilst shopping in my favorite local health grocery store, Earth Fare.  I was looking at the Jamaican Ginger Ale and wondering how I could make a cake with this Stevia Soda, er, I mean pop.  I have to get used to saying pop again, since the big move to Iowa is looming nearer now.

That reminds me, I wrote an e-mail to Earth Fare lamenting moving away from Greensboro and being unable to shop with them anymore.  I basically begged them to consider a store in Des Moines.  I know these kinds of e-mails are received all the time, but I thought it was worth a shot.  I got a reply!

Hello Chelsea,
Thank you for your interest and support!  We opened our newest store in Noblesville, IN late last year and we are currently working on opening stores in Solon, OH and Carmel, IN in 2013.
At Earth Fare we are always exploring new areas and will consider the Des Moines area for future possibilities.

Thank you again and please let us know if we can be of further assistance.
Best of luck with your move!

Erin S.
Earth Fare Customer Service

Anyhow, a girl can dream. 

This cake is a rich dark chocolate with a sprinkling of ginger.  I swapped sugar for a pop made with Stevia and coconut sugar.

It would truly be a lovely Halloween cake – this plate is proof.

Ginger [sugar-free] Chocolate Cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In an 8×8 inch square pan, mix 1-¼ cup flour, ½ cup coconut sugar, ⅓ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon baking soda with fork.  Mix very well. 

2. Mix 1 cup room temperature ginger ale made with Stevia, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar in a small bowl.  Add all at once to the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Use a spatula to scrape sides and bottoms to ensure adequate mixing.  Sprinkle a light dusting of ginger on top of batter. 

3. Bake 30 minutes or til knife comes out clean.