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.

Recipe Redux: Festive Garland Bars

Do you have any recipes that you return to again and again? Maybe you make it every year for a certain holiday, or just on a laidback weekend for a quick meal or snack. I think most of us have at least one tried-and-true recipe we make often, whether it’s one we came up on our own or one from a blog or cookbook.

For me, this would be my festive garland bars. I first saw the recipe on the Whole Foods site about a year ago, and I knew right away that I wanted to veganize them. I did, and I made quite a few changes to the original to make it my own and a much healthier option. I know some people like their treats to be totally indulgent, and that’s completely fine, but I’ve got a huge sweet tooth so I always healthify my treats to make them a better option for a more regular dessert.

I first made the bars over Thanksgiving break last year and loved them. It was my first foray into reintroducing chocolate back into my life after starting recovery from my ED, and it was a big step forward for me. Now if you read my blog like, ever, you’d know that I love dark chocolate and almost never go a day without it in some form. So it was definitely time to return to these bars.

But since last year, I’ve made even more changes to my diet. I usually stick with gluten free grains because they make me feel better and I love the different tastes and textures they provide to baked goods. So I replaced the oat flour I originally used (oat flour can be gluten free, you just have to check to make sure it is certified g-free) with Garden of Life RAW chai protein powder and buckwheat flour, which give it a bit more protein power. I also cut back on the maple syrup and chocolate chips, and cut out the dried cranberries because I didn’t have them on hand. I also scaled down the recipe to make fewer bars because Thanksgiving break is just around the corner and I didn’t want to pack too much extra food when I go home. It turned out to be a delicious experiment–just as yummy as I remember them, and a little bit healthier to boot!

This year’s version of my fave dessert recipe.

Festive Garland Bars Take Two (vegan, gluten-free)

3 tbsp buckwheat flour (can sub other gluten free flours)

1 scoop Garden of Life RAW vanilla chai protein powder (can use other protein powders, but this gives it a festive taste)

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp cacao nibs (can use more, this was all I had!)

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

2 tbsp grade B maple syrup

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

handful Whole Foods kettle corn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking powder and salt. Stir in cacao nibs until combined. In another bowl, stir together maple syrup and pumpkin until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet and add in a splash of almond milk if needed. Pour batter into a 7X5 baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until springy to touch. In a microwave safe bowl, heat chocolate chips until melted. Pour chocolate over cooled bars and press kettle corn into chocolate. Let the melted chocolate set and then cut into 6 bars.

Have you ever reinvented an old favorite recipe? How do you feel about healthifying desserts?

Friday Faves (August 24)

Well, I can’t believe I finally (almost) made it through my first week of my junior year of college! I can already tell this semester will be busy and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been getting used to a lot of big changes, like the daily commute to classes (which usually takes way longer than it should) and keeping my apartment clean but I’m starting to feel like an adult and it feels so good!

After my first day of classes on Monday, I treated myself to a passion iced tea from Starbucks (much needed, that’s for sure!) and I promised myself last weekend that if I made it through a whole week of classes and extracurriculars, I could treat myself to some Whole Foods salad bar goodies. So you better believe I’m doing that tonight for dinner 😀

Favorite Recipe Redux: Peppermint Super Brownie Bites

Not the most appetizing picture, but I can guarantee it tastes amazing!

I’ve been doing some recipe experimenting here and there when I’ve had time after classes. I made a few things that turned out delicious but not quite perfect. Then I stumbled upon an idea, combining both my raw brownie recipe and Angela’s no bake peppermint patty bars (which are fab, BTW). I wanted something small, cute, chocolate-y and minty without being too overwhelming. That’s where the super brownie bites come in! They’re almond and walnut based, like my raw brownies, so they add a protein and healthy fat punch and are grain-free. I added in a packet of chocolate Amazing Grass, which adds 10 grams of protein, along with tons of greens.  They’re sweetened with a few dates and just a little real maple syrup, so they’re perfectly sweet. The chocolate icing on top is made from dark chocolate chips and coconut oil, both healthy fats. But the result is a delicious, minty brownie bite that tastes almost unhealthy!

Peppermint Super Brownie Bites (vegan, gluten-free)

2 packages 100 calorie almonds and walnuts

1 packet chocolate-flavored Amazing Grass protein powder

3 small Medjool dates

1 tbsp dark cocoa powder

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

3 tbsp vegan chocolate chips

1/2 tsp coconut oil

In a food processor, process nuts, Amazing Grass, dates and cocoa powder until crumbly. Add in maple syrup and 1/4 tsp peppermint extract until mixture sticks together. Roll brownie batter into small balls and place in mini muffin tin or on foil. Meanwhile, in a small pot over low heat, stir together remaining peppermint extract, chocolate chips and coconut oil until chocolate gets melty. Spoon icing over each bite and stick muffin tin or foil in freezer to set. Makes 8 bites. 

Favorite Moment: First time as a weather anchor

The local female weather anchor I look up to…maybe I’ll be like her one day?!

I hate to brag and pretend like I’m super awesome, because that’s just not who I am, but I’ve been working on owning my accomplishments and being more confident, so being complimented for how I handled my first night as a weather anchor at my campus TV station was thrilling for me. It was a practice run through, so it wasn’t aired, but I completely ad-libbed for about a minute, not even knowing much about the weather forecast, and my producer and fellow anchors congratulated me afterwards for how well I did and how they couldn’t imagine ad-libbing for an entire segment. It gave me so much confidence for the semester to come!

Favorite Thing I’m Looking Forward To: Whole Foods salad bar

One of my favorite Whole Foods hot/cold bar boxes to date!

It’s a little lame, but I get really excited for grocery shopping, particularly at Whole Foods. I could live there and be totally happy! When I first discovered the salad bars a year ago, I became hooked and even though I didn’t get it again for another 6 months, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. This summer, I went a little more frequently and tried to switch it up every time. The Whole Foods in my hometown (well, one of them) has a great selection of items at the hot and cold bars and I’m hoping the one in my college town does too!

Favorite Time of Day: Driving to class

Disclaimer: I did NOT take this while driving!

Don’t get me wrong, it is stressful trying to get to class on time while also avoiding cyclists, pedestrians and other cars that are going wayyyyyy too fast and also trying to find parking that isn’t miles away. But it also makes me happy, because I haven’t driven regularly since senior year of high school. In fact, before this summer and my internship, I barely ever drove in the past 2 1/2 years. I actually really love driving alone, because I can blast my music, sing along and just get ready for the day ahead. I feel so much more independent and responsible–Alejandro is my baby and I want to keep him safe 😉

Do you like to ‘healthify’ your desserts (whatever that means to you)? Do you prefer city driving or freeway driving?

Friday Faves (August 3)

Long time, no Friday Faves post, huh? I guess I’ve just been a little too busy these last couple of weeks, with my birthday, finishing up my internship and planning things for the upcoming school year. I’m still pretty busy these next few weeks–in fact, when you’re reading this, I’m probably up in FoCo setting up my apartment for the fall!–but I really wanted to get in a Friday Faves post.

Favorite Milestone: Finishing my first internship

Sorry about the lame screenshot of the video!

When I started my internship at one of the local TV stations back in late May, I had no idea what I was in for. And, well, it was both a lot more and a lot less than what I was expecting, but I’m so glad I did it (and that I’m done on Saturday, woooo!) Now I know that being a reporter (and even anchor) is less than glamorous, but it is incredibly exciting. Unlike most office jobs, being in TV news brings new stories and new challenges every single day. Some days were crazy, others were slow-paced and almost boring. I wrote a million stories, practiced live standups (where the reporter is on the scene and reporting about the events going on, like in the above photo), tried my hand at some editing and video shooting and answered more phone calls than I would have liked to. I talked and joked around with all the reporters and photographers, stalked and admired the anchors and cussed at my supervisor under my breath. Yeah, not everything about the internship was ideal. But I learned more in just 11 weeks than I have so far in my journalism classes over the past 2 years. And now I know that I am crazy enough to want to continue in this business 😉

Favorite Vegan Re-creation: Tempeh “Crab” Cakes

Crumbly and messy, but so so good!

I honestly can’t remember ever having crab cakes in my former omnivorous life. I used to be a huge fan of seafood, but I always went for the shrimp, scallops and white fish. This vegan rehash of the classic crab cake is probably not much like the real thing, but I really liked it. Best of all, it’s pretty simple and healthier than the original.

Tempeh “Crab” Cakes (vegan)

1/4 block tempeh

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used leftover cooked multigrain pizza dough and grated it)

handful broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, chopped celery or green onions

1 to 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (I didn’t really measure it out, just tasted it!)

1/2 tsp garlic salt

2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise (Veganaise or Nayonnaise)

1 tsp mustard

Chop or grate tempeh into small pieces and place in a bowl. Mix in veggies, Old Bay, garlic salt, half of the bread crumbs and 1 tbsp of the vegan mayo. Pack together with hands until mixture can mostly stick together. Form into 3 or 4 small patties and roll in the remaining bread crumbs. In a small pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or a little olive oil, cook patties for 3-5 minutes per side, or until slightly crispy and golden brown. In a bowl, mix the remaining vegan mayo, mustard and a little Old Bay until combined. Serve tempeh cakes topped with the vegan remoulade. Serves 1.

Favorite Thing I’m Looking Forward To: Estes Park

So gorgeous, even on a cloudy day!

A yearly trip to Estes Park, CO in the summer has been a family tradition since I was at least 10 or so…so we’ve been doing it for 10 years now! I love the gorgeous scenery and hiking trails that nearby Rocky Mountain National Park have to offer, the condo-side pool surrounded by giant mountains, quirky cool boutiques and great restaurants (with some vegan options). What’s not to love? I’m going there next week, so I may or may not have some posts lined up for the days I’ll be gone. But I’ll for sure have a recap post!

Favorite Thing I’m Doing Today: Setting up my apartment

I still want this for my place…

In just a few weeks, I’ll be living on my own for the first time ever. Okay, yes, I’ve been technically living on my own for the past two years at college, but both years were spent in the dorms, meaning not a lot of freedom and minimal cooking opportunities. But now I have an apartment of my own (it’s a one bedroom) and I’m beyond excited to move in and start living independently. Well, for the most part since I’ll still be coming home on breaks and once or twice a month, and still relying on my parents financially. But it’s still exciting for me! I can’t wait to actually cook for myself every day, figure out the transportation thing (I’ll have a car, but I still will probably take the bus sometimes), go grocery shopping on my own and maybe even go on mini road trips on the weekends. Oh, and I can’t wait to start decorating the apartment too!

What are you looking forward to in the next week or so? What do you think about apartment living?

Best of…April!

Once again, it’s time for another Best of… post! Seriously, 2012 has flown by like crazy. I can’t believe I’m already totally done with my sophomore year of college (minus one final). But I am so ready to get my summer on!

Best Mouthwatering Post: Savoring Summer

This will be getting made sometime this summer, I (almost) guarantee it!

Who doesn’t love recipe inspiration posts, especially when they feature summery recipes? Summer is by far my favorite food ‘season’–from the amazing fruits and veggies to grilling everything to frozen desserts, it’s all so good. There are sooooo many things I want to make and I hope I have the time to make them all!

Best WIAW: The Finish Line

Smoothies in a bowl are the best breakfast ever.

Okay, don’t get all technical on me. Yeah, my latest WIAW post was posted on Tuesday night, which was May 1st, but all the photos were taken over the last few days of April, so it still counts. I love this WIAW because it includes a nice mix of my ‘staple’ foods as well as some new finds and twists on old favorites.

Best New Find: Larabars

One of my two fave flavas so far!

I am a total Larabar newbie, having turned my nose up at them for far too long. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe it was because I felt they were too much of a ‘trend’ in the blog world to be good (since I generally don’t like the trendy brands that everyone else seems to), or maybe because I was scared of how many calories/how little protein they have. I’m glad I got over my fears and worries though, because they’re so good, well at least the cappuccino and chocolate chip brownie flavors. I’ve yet to try any others (besides the peanut butter and jelly…not a fan) but I’m excited to.

Best Response: Weekend Food and Fitness Thoughts

I’m ready for more summery salads in my life.

Once again, you guys all blew me away with how much you care! It is really hard for me to open up and write posts regarding my eating disorder, but I really appreciate all your insights, whether they are super supportive or constructive criticism. You all are the best 😀

Best Recipe: Garlicky Kale

The kale makes a perfect side dish for basically every meal.

I had a hard time choosing between my only two recipes of the month–ironically both kale recipes. What can I say, I am obsessed with it! The garlicky kale one is really delicious though because it’s so simple yet flavorful and crispy, just like kale chips, except it cooks up really quickly on the stove.

Do you have any good kale recipes to share? What’s the best new product (food or otherwise) you discovered last month?

 

Savoring Summer

Guess what, guys? Just ONE MORE WEEK til I am done with my sophomore year! Wooooooo 😀 Okay, so I still have one final the next week, but I’m trying to ignore that fact 😉 Anyways, my summer basically begins next Friday and I am beyond ready and excited for it! 3 whole months of enjoying the warm weather, soaking up the sun, going on a couple vacays (hopefully) and my internship, along with some other things that I’ll share with y’all later. Oh, and of course, my 20th birthday is in exactly 3 months–heck to the yes!

I’ve mentioned this about a million times before, but living in a dorm is pure torture for a foodie like me. I really miss having a kitchen and getting to experiment with recipes but luckily that won’t be a problem in a week. Of course, I’ve been planning up tons of things I want to make once I have daily access to the kitchen and it’s been making me really hungry 😛 In case you’ve been wanting some recipe inspiration, I’m sharing a few of them here (note: none of them are my own recipes, though when I make them, I will probably tweak some a lot of things. Plus all of them are vegan or can be made vegan).

Photo courtesy of Peas and Thank You.

Who doesn’t want a fun way to eat their veggies? The sauce alone is drool-worthy.

Photo courtesy of Healthy Happy Life.

A healthified root beer float? Count me in, especially since it’s spiked with coffee! I’m planning on making mine with some root beer stevia and vanilla-flavored almond milk ice cream.

Photo courtesy of 101 Cookbooks.

My tempeh obsession is still going strong, and this Asian-inspired dish looks beyond tasty.

Photo courtesy of Shape.

Would you believe me if I told you the taco filling is made from walnuts and the ‘sour cream’ is made from cashews? It sounds strange but I’m willing to bet it’s really good.

Photo courtesy of Healthy Happy Life.

Pink lemonade is a great summertime refresher, but add in a little coconut water, and it’s even better!

Photo courtesy of Peas and Thank You.

I still need to get a donut pan, but as soon as I do, you best believe I am making these salted maple donuts!

Photo courtesy of Healthy Food for Living.

I’ve tried making chocolate avocado pudding and let’s just say it wasn’t great. But pudding with sweet potatoes sounds promising!

Photo courtesy of The Raw Chef.

I am obsessed with all things Greek/Mediterranean and I’m also interested in raw foods. Combining the two sounds like perfection, especially in this totally raw falafel and hummus wrap.

Photo courtesy of Oh She Glows.

Who wants a chemical-laden, sugar-filled DQ Blizzard when you can have a totally vegan, much healthier cookie dough version?

Photo courtesy of The Vegan Version.

I generally don’t like cheese (duh, I’m vegan!) but nut cheese is a whole different story! This baked ‘feta’ made from almonds seems almost too good to be true!

Photo courtesy of Peas and Thank You.

Who knew watermelon could be grilled? It’s definitely a summer staple for me, so it’s nice to have new ways to enjoy it.

Photo courtesy of Healthy Happy Life.

I always need new overnight oats inspirations–why didn’t I think of sticky banana bread? This topping looks crazy good and perfectly indulgent.

What recipes look the yummiest to you? What do ‘summery’ recipes usually include for you?