Countdown to Christmas Recipes: Pecan Pie Pecans

First things first: thanks for all the great responses and advice on my last two posts! I really appreciate all you had to say and hopefully I can put it in to use and start working on getting rid of that annoying calorie counting habit.

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Who doesn’t like the flavors of the holiday season? Peppermint (my personal favorite), gingerbread, eggnog, spices, pumpkin (I know, it’s more of a fall thing but it’s still sticking around), cranberry…there’s a flavor for everyone to enjoy. The holidays are not just about the food, of course, but enjoying the special food of this time of year is a big part of the experience.

One of my other favorite Christmas-y flavors is pecan. I don’t know why it reminds me of Christmas but it does and I love its roasty flavor. Last year at this time I came up with a couple recipes using pecans–coffee maple pecan butter and raw mini pecan pies. I’m not even sure that I’ve ever had real pecan pie, but I do know that I love that flavor, all caramelized and gooey.

So why not take the flavor of a pecan pie and add it to…pecans? Over Thanksgiving break, I was planning on making some grain free maple pecan bars for the big day, but the crust didn’t turn out great and I almost scrapped the whole thing. But then I tasted the pecan topping and thought, “Wow, this tastes like pecan pie!” So I decided to roast the pecans and they turned out amazing.

Roasting nuts at home is super easy, and you can add whatever flavors you want. Obviously these are inspired by the classic pecan pie and they really do taste like pie. Trust me.

Ummm, yum!

Pecan Pie Pecans (vegan, gluten free)

1/2 cup raw pecans

2 tbsp Grade A maple syrup

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp almond butter (I used AB that’s just made from almonds)

sea salt, to taste

In a medium pot over high heat, bring maple syrup, coconut oil and almond butter to a boil, whisking frequently. Stir in pecans and sea salt; make sure pecans are mostly covered with the maple syrup mixture. Preheat oven to 375. On a baking sheet lined with foil, spread pecans out in 1 layer. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until pecans start to caramelize. Makes about 1/2 cup. 

Do you like pecan pie? What’s your favorite holiday flavor?

This recipe was submitted for Healthy Vegan Friday #19.

Vegan MoFo: Sweet & Salty Squash Seeds

You know something’s good when you can’t stop eating it straight out of the oven!

If you’ve ever roasted your own pumpkin seeds before, you know how addictingly delicious they are. They’re almost impossible to screw up (seriously, even burned ones taste good) and they’re incredibly customizable. And they’re a fall tradition in my family. Every year around Halloween, we’d carve giant pumpkins and set them outside with candles inside. But before we could carve them, we had to gut them first. Kinda gross, but the reward was the tons of seeds we’d find inside. We’d set them out on plates overnight to dry and then the next day my mom would roast them in a secret blend of spices that tasted amazing together.

It’s not quite Halloween yet, but I was still in the mood for some roasted seeds…without all the pumpkin guts. When I bought a carnival squash the other day to roast, I realized it came with a bunch of seeds. Um, light bulb moment–I could try roasting squash seeds! Squash seeds are generally smaller than pumpkin seeds, but that means that they take less time to roast and are easier to remove from the squash. But they taste just as good, if not better, than pumpkin seeds. I decided to go with a sweet and salty take for this batch, and of course they’re vegan as all my recipes are. But they’re also much healthier than typical roasted seed recipes that call for lots of oil or butter and sugar. A little goes a long way in this recipe, but the end product is worth eating straight off the pan.

Told you I ate some of them straight off the pan!

Sweet & Salty Squash Seeds (vegan, gluten-free, grain-free)

seeds from 1 squash (or multiple squashes, if you want to make more)

1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp coconut oil

sprinkle sea salt, to taste

In a bowl, mix the seeds, maple  syrup and coconut oil until seeds are sticky and coated. Sprinkle sea salt on top and taste to make sure it has the perfect balance of sweet and salty. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, making sure the sugar doesn’t burn too much (full disclosure: mine did, but they still taste great). Remove from oven and let cool (or just eat right away!) and store in a plastic bag. Makes about 1/4 to 1/3 cup seeds.

This is another small batch recipe, just because squashes don’t produce many seeds but you can always use seeds from more squashes and just up the amount of maple syrup and coconut oil you use. These seeds have just enough natural sugar and salt to taste amazing but aren’t loaded down with unhealthy ingredients. Plus squash seeds, like pumpkin seeds, are full of healthy plant-based fats, so eat up!

Do you like to roast pumpkin seeds? What is your favorite flavor combo (like sweet & salty, etc.)?

Thanks for all your amazing comments on my last post! I think it’s cool that you think it’s cool that I’m on TV 😀

WIAW: Weird Day of Eats

This is going to be a quick WIAW post since I’ve been incredibly busy this week–it’s midterm time and I’ve been overloaded with other school stuff too. But I still wanted to get in a WIAW so here it is! This is showing (almost) all of my food from Monday and it was a weird day of eating. My fridge hasn’t been working so I’ve had to keep my food in a small insulated cooler and I have to constantly change the ice out. It’s a pain in the butt, especially since the whole ordeal ended up making my kale inedible 😦 but hopefully my fridge will be fixed soon.

Caramel apple protein smoothie. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk. A quarter of a Pink Lady apple. 1 small Medjool date. Vega vanilla almondilla protein powder. Dried apple ring.

This was totally made up on the spot, but it worked, and actually tasted caramel-y. It’s still warm enough here most days for smoothies so I hope I can enjoy this a few more times.

Starbucks tall salted caramel mocha frappuccino light with soy. Unpictured side of dry roast edamame and maple pecans.

Yes, this was lunch. And yes, it was delicious. Also yes, it didn’t leave me satisfied. Obviously having a lunch that’s mostly caffeine and fake sugar will do that to you, but I was really craving a light frappuccino and this did the trick. I tried to bulk it up by adding protein (edamame) and fat (pecans). I wouldn’t do it again, but it was tasty.

Hannah yam. Salted almond butter, maple syrup, vegan chocolate chips.

This quick snack did the trick. The combo seems really weird but it works. If you’ve never tried a Hannah yam, you should. They look like regular potatoes on the outside but have a yellow-y inside and taste like a sweet potato.

This is my morning weather update from this week! It’s CTV’s (my college’s TV station) first week trying out these morning weather updates so hopefully they get better over time. And next time I hope I don’t look fat–it’s probably just how the shot was cropped and that it’s widescreen but I look seriously bloated. No bueno.

Yay for cheap-o knockoffs!

If you thought these were TOMS, you’d be wrong. But they’re almost as good, plus they were under $10. I made an impromptu stop at Super Target the other day and got sucked into buying these shoes. But hey, they were a good deal and I needed a pair of flats. You can’t really tell by the picture, but they’re a glittery gold. So cute, and so cheap.

Coconut flour microwave cake topped with peanut flour. Kale with vegan creamy garlic dressing. Two falafel balls. Dried apple rings.

Finally some veggies other than a sweet potato! This was the last of my kale because sadly it wilted after being in a less-than-cold fridge. Sad day. This was a delicious, if random, dinner though. (Side note: I finally have peanut flour back in my life!)

Protein cereal bowl. Sunrise maple cereal. PB & chocolate Puffins. Chocolate chips. Raisins. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Peanut flour.

I used to be such a cereal fiend, but now I have it maybe once a week. And it’s always in protein cereal bowl form, aka I put protein powder or peanut flour in the bottom of a bowl, dump in the cereal and other add-ins and then add almond milk. So good, and I get a nice dose of protein with my carbs.

Do you have any ‘knockoff’ shoes? What’s the weirdest lunch you’ve ever had?

Vegan MoFo: Pumpkin Macaroons

I first heard of Vegan MoFo last year, when I was new to veganism and still eating Greek yogurt on occasion. I thought it was a cool concept but I didn’t think much of it until this year. Now I would say I’m 99% vegan (that 1% accounts for occasional trips for gelato, or accidentally eating something at a restaurant that turns out to not be vegan) and eating a more well-rounded plant-based diet. A year ago I was eating a lot more vegan ‘convenience’ food like Morningstar veggie sausages every morning and I couldn’t live without my daily bowl of overnight oats. Now I skip all those faux meats (tempeh and tofu don’t count!) and I rarely have oats anymore. I’m eating cleaner than ever and experimenting all the time with my meals. Basically I’m having more fun with food and loving it!

One of the new foods I’ve been embracing is coconut. I used to be afraid of it, but now I know how healthy and tasty it is. I’ve mostly been using it in oil and flour form and both are amazing but I bought some coconut shreds a couple weeks ago and barely made a dent in the huge bag…until now.

I’ve been wanting to try Hail Merry’s raw macaroons ever since I first spotted them at Whole Foods. But at $7.99 a bag, they’re a definite splurge that have just not been in my budget lately. So why not try to make my own macaroons?

Mine are almost raw, and incorporate everyone’s favorite fall veggie, pumpkin. I mean, why not put it in everything and end up being orange by the end of fall? And I just had to include some chocolate in there because you can’t deny the amazingness of pumpkin + chocolate, but you can always skip that step.

Chocolate dipped.

Pumpkin Macaroons (vegan, gluten-free, grain free)

1/2 cup finely shredded coconut 

2 tbsp almond flour/meal

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

pinch sea salt

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tbsp dark chocolate chips

In a food processor, blend the first 5 ingredients until they stick together. Roll into small balls (makes about 15) and place on a sheet of foil or a plate. Stick in the freezer for 10 minutes. In a microwave safe bowl or over low heat on the stove, heat the coconut oil and chocolate chips until melted. Dip macaroons into melted chocolate and stick back in the freezer. 

Plain.

What I love about these is that it doesn’t make a huge batch (you can always scale up the ingredients to make more though) and each little macaroon is around 30 calories…yes, even with the chocolate! So you can always have a few for a snack or just pop one after dinner for a mini dessert. They’re grain free and are packed with healthy fats, natural sugar and even a veggie…but they taste like a dessert!

 

This recipe was submitted for Healthy Vegan Friday #15

Have you ever had a macaroon? Do you like the pumpkin + chocolate combo?

College Vegan on a Budget: The Big 1-0-0

This is part 2 in an ongoing series about shopping on a college girl budget, trying to keep my expensive vegan tastes in check. 

Okay, as you might be able to tell from the title, I spent $100 on groceries over the weekend. Well, $100.59 to be exact, but who’s counting? Oh right, my wallet is. To be fair, though, I had a few items on my list that were ‘necessaries’ but sadly, on the pricier side. But, I’m willing to pay the price for healthy foods.

Take maple syrup, for instance. I ran out of it over a week ago, so I had to stock up soon. At Sprouts, I saw some lower calorie, sugar free maple syrup. Curious, I checked out the label. It was made from xylitol, caramel coloring, maple flavoring and a few other ingredients. So, not as bad as normal fake sugar-free syrups, but no where near real maple syrup. By real, of course, I mean 100% maple syrup, either grade A or grade B. The good stuff. This xylitol syrup was $4, a relative steal for a maple replacement. But I decided against it, because lately I’ve been trying to go for the real thing, and not worry as much about the calorie count. As long as it’s natural, it’s good. So at Whole Foods, I grimaced a little paying $7.99 for a bottle of grade A maple, but it’ll be worth it for the rich taste and natural sugar source. And a little goes a long way, so it’ll last me (hopefully) 3 weeks.

This week, I’ll be splitting up my purchases not just by store, but by splurge vs. staple. The staples are things that I kinda needed, or that will last me for awhile and are therefore worth their price. The splurges might be inexpensive, but I tried to keep them to a minimum this week and I think I was fairly successful.

All this, for just under $20. This is why I love Sprouts!

I consider Sprouts to be like TJs for Colorado. Okay, so I’ve never been to a TJs (and I’m incredibly jealous of all of you who have regular access to one) but Sprouts is probably a similar concept. They have their in-house brand along with similar products to what Whole Foods has, but generally a lot cheaper. Their produce and bulk sections are a real steal. I got strawberries for $2.50, a plantain for 99 cents and some organic coconut sugar for under $5. Good deal, considering those things can go for much more in other stores.

Splurges: Larabars (I do need ’em for busy days, but they’re a bit pricey), vegan Greek yogurt, Nature’s Path maple cereal (I already had some cereal at my apartment, but I wanted to try this kind)

Staples: strawberries, dried mango, plantain (time for homemade plantain chips!), coconut sugar (perfect for baking)

What It Cost Me: $19.95. 

Verdict: Definitely a money-saver. The cereal was kind of expensive, but I think I’ll enjoy it and it’ll last a while since I mix cereals.

Whole Foods

My bulk and produce stuff. This time the figs were cheap!

I actually did okay at Whole Foods, despite spending $80. Trust me, it could have been more. Luckily, they were having a sale on all bulk items (score!) and a lot of their produce was cheap. I got kale for $1.99, figs for $3 (unlike the $6 they were last time) and 3 sweet potatoes for under $3. However, where I got in trouble was buying protein powder. I’m not someone who’s content with generic, cheap soy-based protein powder. I like my protein powder to be more natural, and plant-based. I had a $5 off coupon for some raw protein powder, so I decided to suck it up and buy some. It ended up only costing me $20 with the coupon, which is a steal for a high-quality protein powder!

Some of this week’s more fun stuff!

Splurges: maple flavoring (I was going to go for vanilla extract, but that was over $1 more), maple syrup (a necessity, but also very expensive), grawnola (totally have been wanting to try this for awhile), bulk maple almonds, organic ketchup (I could have gone for the cheaper store brand, but this one had less sugar), canned coconut milk (I want to try making my own coconut whipped cream), Theo mint chocolate bar (can’t live without chocolate, and this will last me a week and a half), Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze packs (they were only 80 cents each this week!), Garden of Life RAW protein powder (expensive but worth it)

My staples, for baking, cooking and just eating!

Staples: u/s vanilla almond milk (I bought the cheapest brand, which happened to be Almond Breeze this week), pumpkin seeds in bulk (they literally cost me 67 cents!), organic canned pumpkin (I scored the last can!), semisweet chocolate chips, Earth Balance coconut spread (I wanted to get extra virgin coconut oil, but they were out and I had a coupon), bulk olives, black figs (so much cheaper this time), kale (duh!), garnet yams

What it Cost Me: $80.64 (ouch!)

Verdict: I will be watching my spending more closely next time, but I also won’t have as many big purchases, like the maple syrup and protein powder. Everything else was under $5 each. 

I know that I can’t and won’t be spending this much every week, but sometimes it’s just worth it to get a few really good, healthy, high quality items. Luckily, a lot of the stuff I bought today will last awhile, so they won’t be weekly purchases.

What are your weekly shopping staples? Are you willing to pay more for certain things (like good chocolate, protein powder, etc.)?

WIAW: Snack Talk

July’s almost over and I haven’t even done a WIAW post that really fits with the theme for this month…sorry to disappoint, but this one doesn’t either! Oh well, I play by my own rules 😉

As you can probably guess by the title, this WIAW is all about snacking. I am big on snacks and have at least 2 per day, along with little bites and tastes of fruit and nuts here and there. I can’t do the 3 square meals a day because I get full fast but I also get hungry fast so my 5 meals a day are all fairly small and snack-sized but that’s what works for me. And I love getting to eat a little bit of a bunch of things rather than one big thing so snacks are perfect! These are some of the snacks I’ve been enjoying this week…

One of my favorite new finds: Alter Eco dark chocolate with quinoa crisps.

Chocolove used to be my favorite chocolate brand because of all their creative flavors, like ginger dark chocolate and chilies and cherries in dark chocolate. But once I discovered Alter Eco chocolate, I’m not planning on going back to Chocolove. For one thing, Alter Eco’s chocolate is organic and fair trade. But it also tastes richer and more like chocolate. Oh, and it comes in a quinoa crisp-studded flavor. Yeah, it’s like those chocolates with rice crisps in it, but way better. Quinoa may seem weird in chocolate but it so works!

Nothing better than fresh mango!

I didn’t eat this bad boy all at once, but I probably could have. I love the juiciness of a ripe mango and don’t really care how messy and sticky it is, it’s just so damn good. They’re so hard for me to cut, but it’s well worth the deliciousness.

Homemade trail mix: dry roast edamame, freeze-dried mango, pistachios and mini chocolate chips.

I’m a trail mix lover for sure. What I don’t love is the price–store-bought trail mix is pretty pricey and not always tasty. That’s why I like to make my own because I can put only the stuff I like in it and it’s cheaper to buy all the ingredients I need in bulk. That’s a win win in my book.

Outfit break! Red flutter-sleeve shirt (American Eagle), aqua cami (Aeropostale), denim cuffed shorts (Abercrombie Kids).

I always say that I don’t really have a set style. It’s kind of a mix of girlie, preppy and boho but it’s all me. This outfit was more on the breezy, boho side. I bought this top a couple summers ago and I love it. I don’t have a lot of red in my closet but some days I like wearing the color if I’m feeling really bold and fun.

Nighttime snack: vegan chocolate chip cookie, Nadamoo mint chip coconut milk ice cream.

I recently discovered Nadamoo and their coconut milk ice creams and I can’t get enough of them. So far I’ve had the maple pecan, java crunch and now the mint chip. My favorite is hands-down the mint chip. Everyone has a favorite ice cream or froyo flavor that they go back to over and over and mine is anything pairing mint and chocolate. The coconut milk ice cream version is super creamy and reminds me of Christmas because it’s more pepperminty but I love it. And I love that it’s colored slightly green by spirulina instead of artificial colors!

Who said vegans couldn’t have maple bacon waffles?

This wasn’t a snack, but I just had to share it. I have no idea where I came up with this waffle flavor, but I realized I had a package of smart bacon in my fridge and wanted to experiment with it. I’m not the hugest fan of it because it’s pretty processed, despite being low in calories and stuff, but it does taste good when it’s crisped up in the microwave. I decided to put it in a waffle and this sweet and salty combo was born. It was actually decent, but next time I’d drizzle more maple syrup on top. Oh, and I’m a huge fan of real, pure maple syrup. None of that low-cal, fake syrup stuff for me!

What’s your favorite frozen dessert flavor? What’s the weirdest waffle or pancake flavor you’ve ever seen?