vegetarian

Birthday Feasts

Last Friday, I celebrated my 22nd birthday! The week leading up to it, I had four friends stay with me because it was their spring break. It was great because I got to play tourist in my own city and celebrate my birthday with them as well! I took them to the Country Music Hall of Fame, some iconic Nashville spots, and the Jack Daniels Distillery. And of course, we ate some pretty amazing food. We didn’t eat out every meal so stay tuned for some new recipes I tested on my village people.   10422920_10152832039623237_6489192471436421229_n1620788_10152833828918237_554891954402108823_n 11081135_10152832037508237_301153506368428946_n

Wild Cow

This entirely vegan restaurant in East Nashville is easily one of my favorites (shocking!). Their intricate menu items show just how easy and delicious it can be to go dairy-free and meatless! We shared the nacho and spinach and artichoke dip appetizers. The spinach and artichoke dip got it’s creaminess from cashews rather than pounds of parmesan cheese, mayo, and/or cream cheese. It gave it a rich taste without being too heavy. For my entrée, I got my favorite salad of theirs – the Market Veggie – loaded with fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and topped with their grilled tempeh. It blows my mind how they make such a seemingly simple salad so outrageously tasty.

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Blvd

On St. Patrick’s Day we rented out a backroom in Blvd as an early birthday celebration for myself and my KD little who turned 21 two days before my birthday. We started off with the butternut squash salad, and then I got the quinoa falafel wrap with a side of kale. Everything was extremely tasty and well priced and having the room was a great way to be able to mingle with all of our friends.

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No visit to the south would be complete without biscuits, and I couldn’t let my village leave without trying some from The Row. Their four homemade jams – tomato, peach, strawberry, and blackberry are a perfect condiment for their flaky, warm biscuits.
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Fido

I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about Fido. Easily my favorite and most frequented breakfast/lunch spot. Their coffee is top notch, their banana nut pancakes are arguably better than Pancake Pantry (gasp!), and their hash browns could end wars (or at least massive hangovers). My go-to’s are the simple eggs (nothing wrong with a classic), the village scramble, or the huevos rancheros. But don’t forget about the baked goods! If you’ve never tried their Sweet Potato White Chocolate Chip muffin, you’re missing out.

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I first visited this place back in May when my dad visited for the weekend, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have dinner with my roommate and her mom on my actual birthday here. We tried the edamame hummus (delicious!) a few new rolls (The R2D2 will definitely be a repeat offender next visit!) and of course I had to get the Amazon roll (shown with the huge shrimp on top) and the key lime pie.

20150320-IMG_0009 Mack and Kate’s

My wonderful friends, Alex and Stacey took me out for an amazing brunch out in Franklin. Alex has been multiple times and hasn’t stopped raving about it since, so I was eager to try it out myself. Our waiter gave above and beyond service with complimentary mini muffins and a huge piece of cake once he found out we were celebrating my birthday! The salad I had was so fresh with big chunks of crab meat, juicy mango pieces, and creamy avocado.

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Saturday night, I went out with my KD little’s family to Merchants downtown. The menu upstairs is drastically different than the one downstairs so I was excited to try new things. My favorite appetizer was their tuna tartare because it had olives and capers mixed right in, giving a new twist on the classic. My dinner was the roasted cauliflower salad with pine nuts and golden raisins, which made for a delicious dish with interesting combinations of flavors and textures.

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So unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, but probably because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of different menu items we all tried as a group. We literally ordered every appetizer and every side dish and each one was better than the next. My favorites were definitely the grilled octopus with avocado and peanuts and the stewed swiss chard. Fun fact – it’s the first time I’ve ever liked octopus!

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Second Winter Break

Last week was my spring break – hard to believe it considering the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing across the US! I spent my vacation in New York and NJ visiting family before heading down to University of Maryland to visit a friend. Unfortunately, the icepocalypse in Nashville followed me back up north and it snowed for a majority of my trip. Luckily though I was still able to squeeze in some quality time with my friends and family, which of course included some amazing food and drinks *disclaimer it’s pretty much all terrible for you, with the exception of Hu Kitchen, but hey it’s ok to indulge every so often 🙂

Hu Kitchen

So the first day I arrived in NY, I had the whole afternoon to kill before my cousins got off of work so I had grandiose plans of meandering the city streets and doing lots of exploring since I hadn’t been since the summer. But those plans were thwarted when my best friend Stacey told me I just had to try Hu Kitchen. By now many of you may have caught on to the fact that we love cooking together and are pretty much kindred spirits when it comes to food so the bar was set high for this place. Hu Kitchen beyond exceeded expectations! It was a combination cafe, market, and coffee shop with a juice/smoothie bar and tons of “grab-n-go” snack items. Their motto is to “get back to human” so all of their foods are made from whole food non-GMO ingredients with no added sugar, preservatives, chemicals, fillers, etc. Honestly, I was in foodie heaven. I spent a solid 15-20 minutes debating what to order before deciding on their stuffed acorn squash, chili lime broccoli, curried sweet potatoes, and of course a coconut cinnamon macaroon for dessert. It was a great place to hangout as well and a friend of mine from my Israel trip met me for coffee and we got to catch up! I even tried their on tap kombucha tea, which was one of the best I’ve ever had. Between seeing her and working on meal plans for my clients, I ended up spending over 4 hours there! Before I headed out I purchased some snacks for the road – chia snap crackers, dried broccoli nuggets, and my personal favorite sweet kale chips. It’s a blessing and a curse there isn’t a location in Nashville because I’m pretty sure if there was I’d have to direct deposit my paychecks there 🙂

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Ovelia’s

Later that evening, we went to a Greek restaurant in Astoria near my cousin’s apartment. We split the tzatziki sauce as an appetizer, which is one my favorite Greek delicacies. For my entrée, I opted for the Soutzoukakia, which was essentially greek style falafel over cauliflower rice and a tomato based sauce. Perfect start to our evening out.

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Bamboo 52

The next night we went to Bamboo 52 in Hell’s Kitchen because we were all craving sushi. I had some of the most unique rolls there. My roommate and I split the Fantasy Roll which had banana topped with spicy tuna and the American Dream roll filled with scallop, lobster, jalapeño, and a honey wasabi sauce. Banana sounds so strange in a sushi roll, but trust me it worked!

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Barcelona Bar

This was a shots only bar in NYC that has over 100 shots to choose from. Some shots even come with music and props to wear while taking them. My roommate and I had the “Leggo My Eggo” one. They wouldn’t tell us what was in it but it tasted like coffee and maple syrup 🙂

The Park

The Park is a favorite spot of my cousins’ so we decided to head there Saturday night. I had only been there for brunch before (where I had the world’s best Bellini), but at night they have a great upstairs area to dance. Definitely could see why my cousins love it so much, and I’m sure it’s even better in the summer when they have outdoor areas as well.

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Amy’s Bread

This tiny cafe is famous for their hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows and since it was snowing when we were in NYC, I knew I had to take Alison here. Of course, being the weird chocolate hater that I am, I opted for a coffee instead but I couldn’t resist getting a marshmallow and I plopped it right into my drink!

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Dylan’s Candy Bar

What you are about to read will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Dylan’s Candy Bar serves candy-themed alcoholic drinks upstairs in the NYC location. Take a minute to imagine that. Yup, it’s even better than anything you could have possibly imagined. When we went, we were the only ones at the bar (granted it was 3pm on a snowy Sunday…) so the bartender had us try some new concoctions of hers. My roommate got a gummy peach ring infused whiskey drink and I got a coffee cake martini, which mostly had espresso and caramel vodkas. It was a beyond delicious way to get a little drunk sweater going before heading to Central Park to take some pictures in the snow.

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Lombardi’s

No trip to NYC would be complete without authentic NY pizza. So what better place to take my Atlanta-native roommate than the first pizzeria in NYC. It was one of my uncle’s favorite spots growing up and it’s become one of mine as well. Whenever I have a friend visit NYC with me, I always without a doubt take them here. They specialize in margherita pizza, and to try to describe it here would never do it justice, so I’ll just leave your mouth-watering with this picture.IMG_3317

Turning Point

For the middle part of our “spring” break, my roommate and I went to my hometown in NJ. So naturally I had to take her to one of my all-time favorite restaurants at my favorite beach, Pier Village (no not that’s not the one from Jersey Shore, in fact my roommate referred to it was “quaint” so there!). Turning Point is an all-day everyday brunch place (yes, you heard me right, you can brunch here every single day). You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu from their Crunchy Monkey pancakes, Hawaiian Style belgium waffle, and pesto egg skillets to a wide array of salads, sandwiches and soups. We started with their fruit bruschetta appetizer, which has chopped strawberries and mango with mint served with house made cinnamon pita. For the main event we each got benedicts – mine with lobster and avocado and hers with sautéed peppers and sausage on cornbread. Absolutely scrumptious!

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that’s sand on the snow!

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#yolkporn

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Bagel Talk

I couldn’t let her leave NJ without having a bagel from my favorite bagel shop near my house. The south just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to bagels, sorry Panera doesn’t quite cut it. I mean take a look at this baby.

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Panda House

So Nashville has GREAT sushi places, amazing Thai, but absolutely no decent chinese food. Zero. Slich. Nada. It’s probably for the best because it forces me to come up with my own much healthier recipes, but when I’m home you better believe I’m eating chinese takeout. Two of my favorite dishes are sesame shrimp and chow mein (basically lo mein with really fat noodles). But I will say, that even growing up we always ordered the steamed dishes and got the sauce on the side because it truly doesn’t need to be swimming in the thick sugary, sodium filled sauce – just a little bit goes a lonnnng way. And of course, egg drop soup is a must have starter!

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Clydz

One evening, we met my cousin Hannah for happy hour at Clydz in New Brunswick. The drink menu actually reminded me a lot of Patterson House with their unique combination of ingredients, liquors, and bitters. I got the Fig Gin Jam (made with real fig preserves), Hannah got the Cucumber Gimlet (cucumber, lime, mint and gin) and Alison got the Decadence (essentially a chocolate martini). Great place to catch up and enjoy a nice cocktail!

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L.P. Steamers

Later that week, I made it to Maryland, despite the snow’s best efforts to stop me. We took a day trip from UMD to Baltimore to go to the National Aquarium. We spent almost 4 hours in there – it was HUGE! From a gigantic 400lb sea turtle to finding nemo, a hot and humid rainforest exhibit, and being waaaay too close for comfort to a shark, this aquarium had it all. Afterwards we headed to L.P. Steamers because what better way to end a day at the aquarium than eating crab. We ordered a dozen crabs to share, which took us 2 hours to eat! Well worth the work (and everlasting old bay spice smell) though – by far the best crab meat I’d ever had and it’s off season!

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That about wraps it up! I’ll leave you with some more pictures from my trip and be sure to look out for new recipes coming your way soon!

so glad I got to see this girl after almost 2 years!

so glad I got to see this girl after almost 2 years!

this mushball is Elmo, the dog I grew up with

this mushball is Elmo, the dog I grew up with

my cousin's bf's dog - what a cutie!

my cousin’s bf’s dog – what a cutie!

delicious homemade brunch cooked by my cousin and me

delicious homemade brunch cooked by my cousin and me – whole wheat blueberry pancakes and broccoli basil egg white scramble

frozen inner harbor Baltimore

frozen inner harbor Baltimore

Aquarium Pictures

February Fennel

For those of you who remember my matcha post from last month, part of my New Year’s resolution this year was to try a new ingredient every month. For February, I chose fennel. Fennel’s health benefits include aiding in digestion, stomach upset, and immunity due to it’s high anti-acidic, fiber, and vitamin C content.  I’ve had in dishes at my favorite restaurant in Nashville, Margot Cafe, but I was intimidated to cook it. Much to my delight, after doing some research there were countless easy ways to prepare the daunting vegetable. For starters, an easy way to prep your fennel for however you chose to make it is to first chop the stalk off the top, then slice the end of the bulb off, cut the bulb in half and go from there. Below are two of my favorites from the month!

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Raw Dijon Slaw

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Ingredients
1 cup assorted shredded or julienne sliced vegetables (I used fennel, beets, carrots, cucumbers, and celery)
1/2 cup white beans
1-2 cups spinach
1-2 tbsp walnuts
1-2 tbsp dried cherries
Dressing: 1-2 tsp olive oil, 1-2 tbsp dijon mustard, 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice, pepper to taste

Directions
1. Chop the vegetables into thin strips or use a vegetable grater or mandolin.
2. Mix dressing ingredients and toss with chopped vegetables.
3. Serve over spinach and top with white beans, walnuts, and dried cherries. (optional)

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Oven Roasted Lemon, Fennel, and Artichokes

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Ingredients
1 cup canned artichokes
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
1/4 cup kamut (wheatberries), uncooked
Handful black olives
Dressing: 1-2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 lemon juiced, parsley, thyme, pepper to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Prepare kamut according to package directions.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place fennel, artichokes, tomatoes, and lemon on it.
4. Mix dressing ingredients, pour over vegetables, and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping in the middle.
5. Serve over kamut and top with olives. (optional)

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Brussels Sprouts Bonanza

So last week I bought a bag of brussels sprouts from Costco. With two pounds of raw brussels sprouts on my hands, I was determined to try as many different variations as possible throughout the week. To start I cut them all in half and roasted them at 425 for about 35 minutes, flipping them about halfway through. Then throughout the week I added this base to different recipes that you’ll find below.

My Classic Recipe

This is my go to recipe – the perfect mix of savory, sweet, and spicy. Roast with the remaining ingredients to intensify the flavor or simply add in afterwards. 

Ingredients
1 cup brussels sprouts
1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Drizzle of olive oil or melted coconut oil
Cinnamon and cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp maple syrup, optional

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

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Ingredients
1 cup brussels sprouts
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Lemon juice, basil, rosemary, oregano, crushed red pepper
Drizzle of olive oil, optional

Mix roasted brussel sprouts with remaining and ingredients. Shown here served with diced tomatoes and quinoa

Sriracha Lime Brussels Sprouts

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Ingredients
1 cup brussels sprouts
2 tbsp coconut aminos (or sub soy sauce)
Lime juice, sriracha, ginger, crushed red pepper, sesame seeds

Mix roasted brussel sprouts with remaining and ingredients. Shown here served with black rice, kale, peanuts, and a poached egg. For a perfect poached egg, simmer a pot of water, pour an egg in and gently swirl for 3-4 minutes as shown below.

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Brussels Sprouts “Hash”

This last recipe takes a spin on a classic breakfast side dish by using shredded brussels sprouts, sweet potato, kale, and avocado instead of white potato, sausage, and cheese. 

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Ingredients
1 cup shredded brussels sprouts (or roughly chop whole ones)
1/2 sweet potato, grated
1 tomato, diced
1 egg
Drizzle of olive oil or melted coconut oil
Thyme, cayenne pepper, rosemary, lemon pepper
1/4 avocado, optional

Pan fry all ingredients (except the egg) until softened. Add the egg in last and cook to your desired consistency. Top with avocado, if desired.

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Cold Peanut “Noodles” and Sesame Tempeh

One of my favorite appetizers at chinese food restaurants growing up was cold sesame noodles. So with some healthy substitutions (mainly the broccoli slaw in lieu of noodles), I was able to recreate this takeout fav! I think I liked this version even better because I didn’t feel bloated and sluggish after eating it. It’s so fresh and flavorful and the sauce is UNREAL. Seriously I ate it for dinner one night and then leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. And I even thinned the sauce out with some extra coconut aminos and water and made a delicious salad dressing! If that’s not a good testimony, I don’t know what is. Enjoy 🙂

Ingredients
serves 2, with leftover sauce
1 package broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, or spiralized zucchini
1 package tempeh
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup coconut aminos (or sub soy sauce)
1/4 cup peanut butter (I subbed half with PB2)
1 tbsp honey
Spices: sriracha, ginger, cilantro, crushed red pepper to taste

Directions
1. Blanch broccoli slaw by boiling for 2-3 minutes and then soaking in ice water. Optional, but I think it tastes better than completely raw veggies. Also feel free to cook them more thoroughly with a drizzle of sesame oil in a pan.
2. Chop tempeh into cubes and sautée them with a tsp of sesame oil for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.
3. Blend all remaining ingredients and spices to make sauce.
4. Toss broccoli slaw with sauce until coated. Top with cooked tempeh and sesame seeds, optional.
5. You can eat it as is, or let sit 1-2 hours or overnight in the fridge (I think it tasted even better the next day!).

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Blueberry Lemon Compote

Last week a friend of mine showed me a recipe for blueberry lemon quinoa. At the same time I had been experimenting with different homemade jams with chia seeds. Chia seeds are great for creating a jam consistency because they expand to up to 10 times their size when combined with liquid. So long story short, I was just playing around in the kitchen one morning and ended up with this delicious compote that came together in just about 10 minutes!

Ingredients
1/4 cup blueberries
juice of one lemon
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
lemon zest or lemon oil (optional)

Directions
1. Mash ripe blueberries with the back of a fork.
2. Add lemon juice, chia seeds, and zest.
3. Stir well to combine and let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the chia seeds expand and thicken the compote.
4. Enjoy over oats, breakfast quinoa, toast, pancakes, or just with a spoon!

Notes
*This is just for about 1 serving, feel free to double or triple the recipe. It will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge in an airtight container.
*If you’d like a smoother consistency, you can blend the lemon juice and blueberries before adding the chia seeds. Personally, I liked it chunkier.

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Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Traditional Italian food is often fried and loaded with cheese and refined carbs making it a total diet demolisher. So does that mean you can never enjoy the rich, gooey, flavorful goodness of pizza, baked ziti, or lasagna ever again? Of course not! But with inspiration from This Rawesome Vegan Life and the help of my partner in crime Stacey, we created a healthy alternative using cashews, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, and Italian spices. Raw cashews surprisingly take on a very creamy, savory flavor when mixed with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and spices. It’s a common base for many dairy-free cheese substitutes, even cream cheese! The sun-dried tomatoes and broccoli create a fresh, lighter version of classic oil-filled pesto to compliment the heavier cashew “cheese.” Seriously y’all, I loveeee pesto, but I think this may be my new favorite! Although it may seem complicated with all the different components of the recipe, I promise it only took us under an hour to prep, cook, and clean (all just in time for our weekly Scandal viewing!)

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats

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Ingredients
serves 2

2 zucchinis
1/2 cup diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
sprinkle of non-dairy cheese, optional (I tried almond cheese for the first time this week, but I also love daiya or Trader Joe’s brand)

Cashew “Cheese”
1/2 cup raw cashews
juice of one lemon
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano to taste

Sun-dried Tomato and Broccoli Pesto
1-2 cups broccoli (steamed and chopped)
handful sun-dried tomatoes
1-2 tsp olive oil (if the tomatoes aren’t packed in oil)
salt, pepper, basil to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Prepare the cashew “cheese” by putting all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth. Remove and set aside.
3. Prepare sun-dried tomato and broccoli pesto by putting all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender, I preferred it on the chunkier side so I used a medium speed setting. Remove and set aside.
4. Cut zucchinis in half and scoop out the seeds to make room for the fillings.
5. Fill zucchini with tomatoes and then layer in cashew “cheese” and pesto (we alternated a dollop of each).
6. Optional, sprinkle your choice shredded non-dairy cheese.
7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and zucchini is softened.

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cashew “cheese”

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sun-dried tomato and broccoli pesto

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filling the zucchini

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mozzarella flavored cheese made from almonds – pretty mild taste and browns nicely!

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before the oven

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ready to eat (and watch Scandal!)

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bon appetit!

Monday Munchies: Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce

My latest grocery store find came just in time for Super Bowl Sunday! I used this amazing Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce from Trader Joe’s to make a delicious and healthy alternative to the classic Super Bowl appetizer, battered and greasy buffalo chicken wings. My version uses cauliflower as a base to soak up this finger-licking sauce!

BBQ Cauliflower Bites

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Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
1 tbsp earth balance spread, melted (or sub olive or coconut oil)
1/4 cup TJ Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Roast cauliflower on a baking sheet with earth balance or oil for about 15 minutes.
3. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and return to the oven for another 15-20minutes.
4. Broil for an additional 5 minutes for extra crisp!

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Monday Munchies: Ezekiel Cereal + Bonus Recipes

I’ve been a fan of Ezekiel bread for quite a while now, but I never really explored their other products until recently. Their cereal is by far the tastiest, healthiest I’ve ever had or made. The reason behind their high nutritional value is because the grains they use are sprouted. Sprouting grains causes a biochemical reaction that increases their nutrient content and partially breaks down the starch, lowering their carbohydrate content.

The cereal definitely has more of a crunchy granola consistency, so it’s great on top of chia seed pudding or even just plain with fruit and almond milk. I also experimented with some recipes using it, so I included them below!

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Bonus Recipes

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Bran Muffins

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1.5 c Ezekiel Cereal
1/2 c Buckwheat Flour
1/2 c All-Purpose Flour (I used Bob Mills GF)
1/2 c Applesauce
1 c Almond Milk
1 egg
4 Dates, pitted and chopped
2 tbsp Coconut Sugar (you could sub maple syrup or sweetener of choice)
1 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Cinnamon to taste

Directions:
1.  Soak cereal and almond milk for 10 minutes.
2. Mix in the remaining ingredients until well incorporated.
3. Pour into a greased muffin tin and bake at 375F for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean.
4. These are extremely low in sugar, so if you prefer a sweeter muffin, add some maple syrup to the batter or drizzle them with honey or nut butter afterwards.

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Energy Bites

2 c Almonds
1 scoop Protein Powder
1/4 c Water
1.5 c Ezekiel Cereal
Optional: 2 dates pitted or 1-2 tbsp maple syrup to sweeten

Directions:
1. Blend first 3 ingredients (and sweetener, if using) until smooth and creamy.
2. Mix in cereal.
3. Roll into small bite-sized balls and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

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Za’atar Parsnip Chips

Za’atar is a very common spice in Israeli foods, so naturally I bought a large bag of it from a market in Jerusalem when I visited in December to experiment with some creations back home. While in Israel, I often snacked on pita chips and crackers baked with za’atar so I decided to try to make a healthier version with parsnips. Parsnips are also a great alternative to potatoes because they have a mild flavor and hearty texture with less calories, more fiber, and more vitamin C. Similarly, they can be eaten boiled, mashed, roasted, or baked in chip form as I detail below.

Ingredients
2-3 parsnips
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp za’atar spice (or sub thyme, oregano, sesame seeds)
salt/pepper

Directions
1. Thinly slice parsnips (easiest with a mandolin, but works with a small knife).
2. Drizzle the oil over the sliced parsnips.
3. Toss with spices to evenly distribute.
4. Bake for 15-20 min at 400, or until crispy.
5. Enjoy with hummus, sriracha, or dip of choice.

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