WIAW: Ringing in the New Year

After missing out on WIAW last week (being sick for a few days=no delicious food photos, or food period) I was itching to join in on the foodie party this week!

New Year’s Day is always a bit depressing for me–it marks the official end of the holiday season and it’s back to the daily grind and blah-ness of the winter season. Not that I’m complaining about getting back into a routine (I’m also not technically back into my normal routine for another 3 weeks when spring semester starts up again) but January is a bit of a letdown after the holidays. This year I want to be more excited about January so I’m soaking in my last few weeks of Christmas break and just enjoying the month for what it can be–a fresh start.

Pretty Christmas lights still up in Denver.

Pretty Christmas lights still up in Denver.

The usual post-Christmas shopping spree was on Sunday. The fam and I headed up to Denver for the day and my dad checked out the Van Gogh exhibit at the art museum while us girls shopped the afternoon away. Other than the clothes shopping (I’ll be sharing some of my purchases later this week!), I also convinced my mom to stop at Nooch Vegan Market, a fairly new addition to the city. It’s a small, all-vegan grocery store that stocks a lot of products that not even Whole Foods offers. I could have bought so many things, but I just left with some garlic Parma (a nut-based ‘cheese’ sprinkle), pico de gallo bean chips and a super-delicious dark chocolate chipotle caramel bar. The combo of coconut milk caramel, chipotle powder, dark chocolate and pecan/peanut pieces is incredible–I wish I had gotten more than one!

Maybe the last red cup of the season...

Maybe the last red cup of the season…

While shopping I sipped a short soy skinny peppermint mocha. I’ve never gotten a short at Starbucks before but it’s a good size option for when I don’t want to be too filled up by the drink. I’m sad about this picture though because I’m thinking that might be the last time I drink out of a red cup until November 😦

Recent lunch: leftover sweet potato topped with peanut flour paste, chopped dried fig, sunflower butter and mini chocolate chips, spicy orange bok choy.

Recent lunch: leftover sweet potato topped with peanut flour paste, chopped dried fig, sunflower butter and mini chocolate chips, spicy orange bok choy.

I have a new obsession with bok choy. It is sooooo good sauteed in a little coconut oil and topped with a thin sauce made from red curry paste, citrus juice and coconut aminos. It gets all wilty and delicious in the pan. New favorite veggie over here!

Recent snack: leftover sweet potato fries dipped in Nuttzo, organic ketchup and peanut flour paste.

Recent snack: leftover sweet potato fries dipped in Nuttzo, organic ketchup and peanut flour paste.

This was a weird (but good) snack. I love cutting up sweet potatoes into fry shapes and then baking them with some spices and then dipping them in everything and anything. Organic ketchup and peanut flour paste are the best options, of course.

The cookbooks I got for Christmas...I love them!

The cookbooks I got for Christmas…I love them!

I generally don’t make things from cookbooks, but that’s only because I never had a vegan cookbook before this year. I was lucky enough to get two great vegan cookbooks for Christmas and I’ve already tried a couple recipes from them. Last night I made eggplant muffaletta sandwiches from Veganomicon for my family and they loved them.  It was literally one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, probably because I love the combo of olives, spinach and really good bread. I haven’t had bakery bread in at least a year (it’s a huge fear food of mine) but I got some ciabatta bread from Whole Foods specifically for this recipe and it did not disappoint. I guess eating bread, especially quality bread, every once in awhile won’t kill me!

Recent snack: sweet potato tortilla chips with fresh salsa and hatch chili guac, roasted kabocha squash, dried figs and peanut flour paste.

Recent snack: sweet potato tortilla chips with fresh salsa and hatch chili guac, roasted kabocha squash, dried figs and peanut flour paste.

Another random snack plate. Roasted kabocha tastes amazing dipped in salsa and guac, don’t knock it til ya try it!

Ringing in the new year with Kahlua+almond milk+amaretto.

Ringing in the new year with Kahlua+almond milk+amaretto.

This was a coffee-lover’s dream cocktail. It tasted like a hazelnut latte! Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge drinker (and I’m not planning on becoming one when I turn 21) but it’s great to enjoy a nice cocktail every once in awhile, especially for special occasions.

My last meal of 2012: Whole Foods salad bar goodies including Indian coleslaw, homemade tortilla chips, coconut curry tofu, chipotle orange sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and lentil dal.

My last meal of 2012: Whole Foods salad bar goodies including Indian coleslaw, homemade tortilla chips, coconut curry tofu, chipotle orange sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and lentil dal.

My dad and I made a quick stop at WF for some NYE snacks and I just couldn’t pass up the salad bar–they had a bunch of vegan Indian food options. I got some of my usual items, and then loaded up on the Indian coleslaw (not at all like traditional coleslaw but way better), green garbanzo curry, lentil dal and some battered veggies. It was an amazing last meal!

My first successful donut experiment.

My first successful donut experiment.

You knew I couldn’t go more than a week without trying out my new donut pan! I made some so-so pumpkin protein donuts over the weekend but I finally made some delicious (and healthier) donuts that I just had to share. They are pretty much like banana bread in donut form…

Banana Bread Donuts (vegan)

1 tbsp ground flax+3 tbsp warm water, for flax “egg”

1/4 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 banana, mashed

1 packet stevia (optional)

2 tbsp coconut sugar (or other natural sugar)

3/4 cup spelt flour

1/4 cup vanilla Sunwarrior protein powder (or other protein powder, or more spelt flour)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini)

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Spray a donut pan (I used a 6-cavity pan) with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, mix flax and water; stir and set aside to gel into an “egg”. Stir in all ingredients through coconut sugar. Add in spelt flour, protein powder, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips until a batter forms. Spoon batter into donut pan, filling each to the top, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until just set. Remove from pan and set out on wire rack to cool. Makes 6 donuts.

These donuts are a healthier morning option, made with whole grains and about 6 grams of protein per donut, and they’re made with natural sugars and not overpoweringly sweet. I’m still trying to experiment with gluten free and vegan donut recipes so hopefully I can have one up soon for all you GFrs.

What have you been eating so far in 2013? Do you like to cook from cookbooks? 

The Best Products (I’ve Tried) of 2012

Can you guys believe we’re just a little over two weeks away from a new year? Craziness. When it gets to be this time of year, all I’m thinking about is how excited I am for Christmas, enjoying my time off from school and all the things I accomplished over the past year.

And if you’re a foodie like I am, you might also be reminiscing about the new food you’ve tried over the past 12 months…I know I am! With that said, here are a few of the best things I’ve tried since January 2012!

Zevia

zevia ginger root beer

Before I sucked it up and finally bought my first (overpriced) can of this amazing stuff in May, I’d heard lots of good things about it. I’ve never been a big soda fan, but I used to enjoy diet sodas on occasion. So having an all-natural diet soda was a definite treat! Since then, I’ve tried the ginger root beer, cream soda, cola, orange and lime cola (the orange is the only gross one) and I can’t wait to try more. Like a lot of things I love, these are very pricey so I buy a 6 pack when they’re on sale or maybe once a month at most and make them last.

Kabocha squash

kabocha, peanut flour sauce, coconut flour micro muffin crumbles, frozen grapes, dark mint chocolate, justins vanilla AB

This was another blogger-hyped product that I was on the lookout for since last fall. I didn’t find one until this October and haven’t found it very often since (but I stocked up on two last weekend!), but it’s my favorite squash by far (other than delicata). I prefer the texture and taste over any other and it’s delicious with peanut flour paste, almond butter or ketchup.

Larabars

pineapple upside down cake larabar, fresh pineapple, baby carrots

I’ve seen these around for awhile, but because of my previous fear of fat, I never gave them a try until March but they’ve become my bar of choice since then. I love the flavor variety and the fact that they’re made from whole foods, like dates and nuts. My favorite flavors are cappuccino, pineapple upside down cake, peanut butter chocolate chip, chocolate chip brownie and the Uber banana bread.

Vega products

vega cocoa kissed saviseed

Can you believe I never tried Vega products until earlier this year? Vegan blasphemy, for sure. They have good quality (though expensive) protein powders, simple protein bars and I’m obsessed with their latest product, the dark chocolate-covered saviseed which is packed with protein and Omega-3s.

Cashew cream

raw key lime 'cheesecake'

This stuff is incredibly versatile, and easy to make. Basically you just soak raw cashews overnight or for several hours, and then it’s ready for blending. I’ve made a raw cheesecake (see above), nacho ‘cheez’ dip, mascarpone ‘cream’ and savory cashew cream filling–it really is good for anything!

Coconut milk ice cream

so delicious nsa chocolate

Even if you eat dairy, you need to try this vegan ice cream, it is out-of-this-world good! The healthy coconut fat makes it incredibly rich but not overly indulgent, and stores like Whole Foods carry a million and one flavors so you don’t have to feel limited to chocolate and vanilla. So Delicious and NadaMoo are my favorite brands, but there are definitely more out there–there’s a variety for everyone!

Kale

kale wraps

I think I actually tried kale for the first time last year (it was when I first tried the Whole Foods salad bars) but I didn’t fall in love with it until this year. I know a lot of people say it’s bitter, and it can be, but I’ve found lots of ways to make it tasty and craveable. Homemade kale chips (they’re best made in the dehydrator), crispy sauteed kale, ‘pizza’ kale (kale cooked with pasta sauce and olives), raw massaged kale salads, kale/almond milk smoothies…I’ll eat it almost any way, and I try to eat it at least once a day! Bonus: it’s an amazing superfood.

Coconut flour (or really, coconut everything)

coconut flour carrot cake

I used to say I hated coconut, partly because I didn’t like the texture of shredded coconut but also because I was deathly afraid of the fat in it. I avoided saturated fats like the plague but once I became pretty much 100% vegan, I realized that plant-based saturated fats were totally healthy and necessary. One of the first coconut products I bought was coconut flour–I wasn’t sure if I’d like it but I do! I really love it mixed with baking powder and almond milk and microwaved for a minute to make a crumbly coconut flour muffin but I also want to experiment more with it in baked goods. It’s hard to bake it into things without using eggs but I want to try it out.

Kelp noodles

coconut curry kelp noodle stirfry

If you’ve ever seen these before, they’ve probably grossed you out just a little. They weirded me out too the first time I bought them but I really wanted to try a raw noodle substitute and I’d heard good things. Unlike shirataki noodles, these are made from a seaweed so they’re more of a whole food, they don’t smell weird and they soak up the flavors in anything. They make the perfect low-cal sub for pasta and I especially love them mixed with pasta sauce, nooch, a crumbled veggie burger, kale and olives. I also included them in a stirfry the other night and they were amazing–recipe coming soon!

Garden of Life RAW protein powder

pumpkin chip cinnamon roll with vanilla chai protein frosting

I’ve tried a lot of vegan protein powders, from the (not-so-good) cheapo soy-based powders to the delicious but expensive Vega and Sunwarrior. But I think Garden of Life is my fave. First, it’s made from a blend of raw sprouted plant-based proteins, like quinoa and sunflower seed. It’s also pretty high in protein (17 grams per serving) and is a bit cheaper than some other higher-quality brands, it’s sweetened only with stevia but best of all, it’s delicious. I love both the chocolate and vanilla chai (only available at Whole Foods) flavors and the lovely team at Garden of Life was nice enough to send me some samples of the regular vanilla too so I can’t wait to try that one! Look for a review soon and possibly a giveaway in early 2013!

Figs

A delicious new breakfast: sprouted grain French toast topped with fresh fig and raw vanilla chai protein powder.

It actually makes me really sad that fig season is over–it became my new favorite fruit over the past few months. It pairs so well with both sweet and savory things and though they are a bit expensive, they’re worth every dollar. They’re out of season now but at least I can settle for dried figs!

What are some new foods you’ve tried (and loved) in 2012)? What’s your favorite squash variety?