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cashew sour cream… and some thoughts on calcium


Sour cream made from cashews… sounds cool, right?

But why not just use regular sour cream and save myself the trouble? Why is everyone trying to avoid dairy these days? Milk has been part of our diets forever! This must be another one of those hippie food trends, like avoiding gluten. And if I cut out dairy, where do I get my calcium?

This used to be my train of thought, until a few years ago when I decided to change several areas of my life, my diet being one of them. I’ve always been health conscious, but it never occurred to me to cut animal products from my diet until I began researching plant-based eating, and decided that 1) my body simply didn’t need meat or dairy, and that 2) I would actually be healthier without them. Not to mention, I would also be contributing in a way that was kinder to animals and our environment.

Initially I went vegan, then “downgraded” to vegetarian, and have since decided to drop the labels, which tend to carry a little more judgement than I’m personally comfortable with. On rare occasions, I still eat a turkey sandwich or have one of my step dad’s famous Italian meatballs, but I fully believe that meat and dairy are unnecessary and do more harm than good to our bodies and our impact on the world around us.

I don’t worry about getting enough protein or calcium, and based on my blood work and how I feel, I know that I am. This article explains it well:

“Like iron, magnesium, and copper, calcium is a mineral. It is found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of plants. Animals get their calcium by consuming these calcium-rich plants. So even though we are all conditioned to believe that calcium comes from milk and dairy products, the real source of calcium richness is the earth. No wonder that a whole-food, plant-based diet has plenty of calcium.”

It’s also true that the amount of calcium we ingest is not equivalent to how much we absorb. The calcium in plant foods is more bioavailable. For example, we absorb about 30% of the calcium in a cup of milk, but the absorption rate from kale and broccoli is closer to 50-60%. Therefore, a plant-based diet may be lower in total calcium intake, but much higher in absorption due to better quality.

Okay, enough science.


Cashew sour cream is much easier to make than I anticipated; it’s simple and it tastes great. I’ve used it on veggie chili, tacos, and chips and salsa. And it more than meets the requirements: rich and creamy, slightly tart, and the right consistency for a dollop. It also keeps really well in the fridge for several days.


1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3-4 hours, or overnight

1/2 cup water

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp apple cider vinegar


1. drain cashews and put in high speed blender

2. add water, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to blender

3. blend on high for a few minutes, until fluffy and smooth


sweet potato chips with black bean pineapple salsa


This is easily one of the simplest light meals I’ve ever made, and considering it only takes 20 minutes start to finish, the results far outweigh the minimal effort involved. My kind of recipe. All that’s required is preheating an oven, mixing in a touch of coconut or olive oil and seasonings with the sliced sweet potatoes, and chopping fresh vegetables, which, as strange as it may sound, is probably one of my most favorite things to do – in a meditative sort of way. The hardest part, for me, is being patient for 20 minutes. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true… hence needing meditation.

But I didn’t discover the best part until today: the leftovers. This recipe is even better the second day, after the peppers, black beans and onions have marinated in the pineapple and tomato juices. The sweet potatoes will be softer rather than crispy, but they too have soaked up the glorious flavor, so really who cares. I just topped everything with Sriracha and packed it for my lunch tomorrow at work, but realistically speaking, it will probably be my breakfast. That darn patience thing again.



2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced 1/8” thick – try to make as uniform as possible for even cooking

2 T coconut oil

2 T garlic powder

1 T cayenne pepper

1 T black pepper

2 medium banana peppers, seeded and sliced into rings

3-4 small vine ripe tomatoes, diced

1/2 small red onion diced

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 avocado, sliced into chunks

1/2 can diced pineapple


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

3. Combine potato slices with oil and seasonings (I used my hands in a big bowl), then spread evenly across baking sheets

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip potatoes, bake another 10-15 minutes until slightly browned and crispy

5. While potatoes are baking, combine all other ingredients in a large bowl

6. Top sweet potato chips with salsa mixture

Serve with cashew sour cream and cilantro

Makes enough for 2-3 people.


coconut ginger spiced lentils

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If cooking were baseball, there’s no denying what the grand slam of flavors would be: coconut, ginger, garlic, and cumin… with coriander knocking in a solo home run the very next play. It’s certainly not a new discovery, Indian and Thai cuisine have had this figured out since the get-go. The silky savoriness of coconut and the spicy bite of fresh ginger infuse perfectly with cumin’s pungent aroma and subtle sweetness, and with the roasted, nutty fragrance of ground coriander. And garlic, well… garlic speaks for itself. It’s really no wonder I could eat my weight in food at any Thai or Indian restaurant anywhere.

With so much flavor, it’s crucial to have a base that holds it all together. Rice and noodles do a fine job, but I must say, there’s something about lentils that lend that little something extra. Maybe it’s the silky feel and firm bite that provides just the right foundation to help balance the flavors.

In addition to being a party for your taste buds, this dish is also very nutrient-rich and hearty. Toss in some extra vegetables, like tomatoes and green peas, and you’ve got yourself a slam dunk.


1 tbsp coconut oil

1 shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp ginger, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups red lentils

1 cup light coconut milk

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup frozen green peas


1. heat coconut oil in sauce pan over medium-high heat

2. add garlic, shallot, and ginger, cook about 3 minutes

3. stir in cumin and coriander, cook another 2-3 minutes until fragrant

4. pour in can of tomatoes with juice, add lentils, broth and stir well to combine

5. heat until boiling, then cover, reduce heat and simmer on medium low for 15 minutes

6. when finished, stir in coconut milk and frozen peas, heat through for another 2-3 minutes

I suggest serving with fresh avocado. Simply delish.



chewy chocolaty peanut-buttery protein bars

010I’m really not sure why I’ve always been so intimidated by baking, but I have. And while I fully believe in conquering the things in life that hold us back, for some reason I haven’t felt the need to apply that notion to this area of my life yet. Maybe it’s because, well, not to down-play it or anything, but it’s just baking. Just baking?! I don’t think I really mean that. After all, what could be better than a fresh, buttery croissant right out of the oven… or a slice of indulgently rich chocolate cake… or heck, even a hot and gooey glazed donut? There clearly is something magical that happens when flour is mixed with some combination of sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. The joy is most certainly not lost on me.

This does seem like something I need to tackle at some point. If for no other reason than to open up an entirely new world of food, which sounds quite motivating. I just haven’t ventured there yet. One step at a time I suppose. And while I’m openly sharing my apparent struggle over this issue, I may as well get to the heart of the matter. I think I carry the belief that baked goods, as delicious as they may be, just aren’t as healthy. I also know that I can’t resist breads, cookies, or sweets in general with much discipline (if there’s chocolate involved, it’s just over), so making them is almost like setting a diet trap for myself. But I think that’s being pretty small minded, not something I aspire to be. So rather than close myself off to an entire method of cooking, and basically an entire food group, maybe it’s time I prove myself wrong and find a way to make healthy versions.

Consider these no-bake protein bars my very first step into the world of baking – irony intended – but hey, I used flour; it’s a start. The hemp seeds were a bit of a splurge, but they are loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and give a nice nutty flavor and texture. Sunflower seeds would probably work just as well, and save a few bucks. The bars are really everything you could want… chewy, crunchy, salty-sweet, additive-free and packed with protein. Let’s just say, I made them last night, and I’m down to one. I’ll be sad to see it go.


(Recipe adapted from oh she glows)


1 1/2 cups whole grain oat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup Garden of Life RAW protein powder (or powder of your choosing, unflavored is best)

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp chocolate covered hemp seeds (or plain hemp seeds for vegan)

1/2 cup rice based cereal (I used Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla and crushed up into pieces)

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter

1/2 cup agave syrup sweetener

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp mini dark chocolate morsels (for vegan, use vegan brand chocolate)

1 tbsp coconut oil


1. Use an 8 x 8 pan, lined with parchment paper

2. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl:  flour, protein powder, 1/4 cup hemp seeds, cereal, and salt

3. Add in peanut butter, agave syrup, and vanilla, mix to combine – can splash in a little water or almond milk if too dry

4. Press down into pan then put in freezer

5. Melt chocolate chips with coconut oil in small sauce pan over low heat, careful not to burn

6. Cut frozen dough into bars, drizzle with melted chocolate and top with remaining hemp seeds

7. Place back in freezer to set, keep stored in freezer (bars soften as they get warmer)





spicy sweet potato and lemon garlic butternut hummus


butternut squash hummus

Ever make a mistake, but the end result turns out to be better than originally planned? That’s not exactly what happened here… but more on that later. A few Sundays ago, I decided to join in on the Super Bowl food frenzy madness – by the wayAmericans consume about 2,400 calories during the game alone, and 1.25 billion chicken wings… yep, you heard me – and contribute a healthy option: homemade hummus. Having never made hummus before, it seemed like an interesting yet not too challenging task, but leave it to me to complicate things…

I love traditional hummus, in all its chick pea-tahini-garlic glory, but I wanted an ingredient twist. A quick survey of the kitchen revealed a couple of sweet potatoes sitting idly by, right next to a lazy little butternut squash. Seemed like a good place to start, so I searched for some ideas to see which would make a better hummus. Well, as with most internet searches, down the rabbit hole I went into a world of endless hummus possibility. After some narrowing down, and a little inspiration from two of my favorite blogs, the adventurous foodie in me just couldn’t resist, and I knew I had two… um, hummuses? hummai?… two types of hummus to make.

Needless to say, I got too swept away in my kitchen world to make it in time for kickoff, but I think I enjoyed playing with the recipes more than the game anyway (I’m a real football fan, I promise). I guess when you experiment with something, mistakes can happen. When making the butternut squash hummus, I accidentally picked up the pumpkin spice seasoning bottle instead of the paprika, and dumped in a tablespoon before realizing, and having an oh sh*t moment. But I have to say, it certainly didn’t hurt. The spicy sweetness combined well with the savory squash, after all I suppose pumpkin is a squash. I would probably make the same mistake when making it again, except like, on purpose. Bottom line: when you see pumpkin spice OR paprika in the ingredient list, that’s why, and it’s your moment to decide if you like pumpkin spice enough to see what it tastes like in hummus. I say go for it.

And while things should have stopped there, they certainly didn’t. Heck no, I was on some crazy hummus experiment binge at this point. After I made the sweet potato hummus, and then the butternut squash, I stood there dipping veggies and pita into each, unable to decide which I liked better. The taste and consistency of the sweet potatoes mixed with tahini and everything else was almost like eating peanut butter. Win. The butternut squash came out much more like traditional hummus, mixed with chick peas, garlic, and lemon, plus the secret ingredient… giving it a smooth tangy richness. In the end, I mixed the two together, creating the best hummus I think I’ve ever had, and called it a day.

sweet potato hummus

sweet potato hummus

Ingredients: spicy sweet potato hummus

2 medium sweet potatoes

1/4 cup tahini

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tbsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Steps: (I roasted the sweet potatoes and squash together on the same baking sheet to save time)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper

2. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and place face down on baking sheet, bake for 35 minutes

3. Let sweet potatoes cool, then remove skins (they should slide right off)

4. Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl with a fork, mix in tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings, stir until smooth


Ingredients: lemon garlic butternut squash hummus

1 medium butternut squash

1 can low sodium chick peas, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 lemon

2 tbsp plain soy milk

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp paprika or pumpkin spice

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, line baking sheet with parchment paper

2. Cut squash lengthwise and scrape out seeds, spray inside with cooking spray or rub in a little olive oil, place halves face down on baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes

3. Remove from oven and let cool, scoop out insides and transfer to a high speed blender

4. Add chick peas, tahini, juice from lemon, soy milk, and minced garlic to blender, blend on high until smooth

5. Add paprika or pumpkin spice, cumin, salt and pepper, and blend

sweet potato and butternut squash hummus on toast

sweet potato and butternut squash hummus on toast



the best kale salad ever


No offense to collard greens, black eyed peas and cornbread, but after this recipe I’m starting my own New Year’s meal tradition. I may have even just found my favorite recipe for 2015. Seems a little early to be making that call… but I really don’t care. This is SO. GOOD.

If nothing else, this is definitely my new favorite way to eat kale. Ever had a tired jaw from chewing… and chewing… and chewing raw kale? I have. Well fear not. This dressing tenderizes the leaves giving them the perfect texture (slightly crisp but not soggy), and an amazing tangy-sweet-garlicky flavor. Yum. Combine that with savory roasted sweet potatoes, toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds, spicy garlic roasted chick peas, and the subtle sweetness of pears, and you’ll be trading in the collard greens too.

I’m sure there’s another reason this recipe tastes so good; my body has been craving this food. After weeks of being out of my normal routine… traveling to see family for Christmas, flying to see friends for New Year’s, sleeping in different places, eating foods I don’t normally eat (and more than I normally eat), getting less exercise than usual… oh yes, this meal was right on time. Yesterday was the first day I’ve spent at home in a couple weeks. I slept in, then immediately went to the grocery store and bought every vegetable I could fit in my cart. After getting home (and sleeping some more), I chopped and roasted and toasted until I felt right again.


I added roasted mushrooms, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts… just for good measure.


Although I’m starting the new year feeling totally spent (with jeans that are a tad snug), I wouldn’t trade the past few weeks for anything. It’s the best time I’ve ever had during the holidays. For one thing, I got to see my little sister and brother-in-law who live in Germany, and it’s been over two years since we were all together. I’ll keep this brief so I don’t cry (well too late), but being so far away from them for so long is tough. They are so much fun to be around, and my sis is my best friend. We get each other in that way sisters do, and it meant so much to me to feel that instant bond with her as soon as we laid eyes on each other. I really needed that, and I’m so grateful for the time we had. Especially for the night my brother, sister and I all cooked dinner together, just us three. It was pretty dang special.

Another highlight was staying up late watching House of Cards on Netflix with my mom and brother, all curled up in her king size bed in our PJs, eating my brother’s homemade cheesecake with cool whip and spoons. Yeah, that happened. A couple days later my dad and I went for a long run on the Riverwalk. I felt like that kind of made up for the cheesecake incident, but more importantly it was good “dad time,” and I always love that. The week was topped off with an annual brunch with my oldest and best friends from back home. This year we had a couple of cute little additions, which made it feel different, but even better.

For New Year’s I flew to Austin to visit my old stomping grounds and see some of my favorite people. On New Year’s Eve, a friend suggested that we each recognize something that had meant a lot to us that year. When it was my turn, I said that I’ve grown in appreciation. I feel a much deeper gratitude for people and experiences in my life. I know this because there was a time I didn’t feel it much, when I didn’t feel much of anything. Now when I’m with the people who mean the most to me, I feel our connection in my heart, and I’m so thankful to have it. It reminds me that my heart is open now, and it motivates me to keep it that way.

I hope each of you had a wonderful New Year. If anything meaningful from last year jumps out in your mind please share with us. I usually try not to make resolutions… but I think I’m gonna make one (oh geez), and that is to post more often. It makes my heart happy to share.

On to the “best kale salad ever”…


1. 1 bunch of organic kale, washed, leaves removed from stems.

2. 1 medium sweet potato, sliced into wedges

3. 1 pear, sliced

4. 1/2 cup raw walnuts

5. 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

6. 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and patted dry

7. Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

8. olive oil

For the dressing:

2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb apple cider vinegar

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

1 tsp agave syrup

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp lemon juice


  • preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • whisk together dressing ingredients in a bowl
  • chop kale leaves until finely shredded in very small pieces
  • pour dressing over kale in large bowl, use hands to coat well and massage into leaves
  • coat sweet potato wedges lightly in olive oil, spread evenly on baking sheet
  • coat chick peas lightly in olive oil and Sriracha hot sauce, add to pan with sweet potatoes, roast for about 20 minutes, until potatoes slightly browned
  • in medium sauce pan, toast walnuts and pumpkin seeds in 1 Tb olive oil for 5-10 minutes, careful not to burn
  • Toss roasted sweet potato, chick peas, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and pear with kale and serve

Makes enough for 4-6 people




kitchen catch up

I seriously can’t believe how backed up I’ve gotten on posting recipes, it’s really been driving me crazy. So today I’m playing catch up, which means you get six recipes in one post. I mean, what kind of food blogger am I? I wish I had some good reason for blog neglect… traveling? sick dog? busy schedule? Hmm, all possible causes in fact… maybe just laziness? I really hate to think that… Nah, I’m going to blame it on my other love, running. Actually, I’m happy to report that within the past few weeks, I’ve completed a marathon and two half marathons. There, that sounds better. Not only has all the training, planning, preparing, and 4:30am long runs been time consuming, it’s been all consuming. I’ve had to focus a lot of energy, but race season has come to an end, and I’m definitely ready to relax a little. (And stay posted for race reports).

While I may not have been sharing recipes, I have been eating, like a lot. I’ve been making very basic, quick meals full of healthy carbs, fats, and plant-based proteins. I’ve felt strong and energized for activity, experienced quick muscle recovery after workouts, and remained completely injury free despite logging hundreds and hundreds of miles in running this year. All of which I whole-heartedly believe are strongly linked to eating a plant-based, mostly whole foods diet. So, let’s get to it…

#1: roasted red pepper crusted tofu



  • 1 package extra firm organic tofu, drained and moisture pressed out
  • roasted red pepper dressing (I used Annie’s Naturals – so, so good)
  • nutritional yeast flakes
  • organic green leaf lettuce, chopped
  • any and every raw vegetable you desire! I used green onion, mushroom, bell pepper, avocado… and pickles ;)… I like so many veggie toppings you can barely see any lettuce, obviously.


  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. slice tofu in 1″ cubes, in batches coat tofu in dressing, then roll cubes around in nutritional yeast to coat
  3. spread evenly on baking sheet and bake tofu for 20-25 minutes or until browned, flip about half way through
  4. chop salad ingredients and add tofu when done!


#2: quinoa veggie super bowl



  • 1 bunch organic kale, removed from stem, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup zucchini chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos all-purpose seasoning
  • pineapple salsa


  1. heat olive oil in non stick skillet over medium heat
  2. add mushroom, onion and kale, let cook about 5 minutes
  3. add garlic and remaining vegetables, season with Bragg’s, cook another 5-7 minutes
  4. remove from heat, stir in quinoa, top with salsa and enjoy


#3: spicy curry butternut hummus sandwich with pan-seared tofu

This sandwich was inspired by the most amazing hummus I’ve ever had, made by an independent local vegan family – owner’s of Rabbit Food and featured weekly at the Athens, GA Farmer’s Market



  • 1/3 package extra firm tofu, drained and moisture pressed out, sliced into 2 large rectangles
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • your favorite bread and sandwich toppings. I went with steamed kale, sautéed zucchini, orange tomatoes, sliced red bell pepper
  • spicy curry butternut hummus


  1. heat oil over medium high heat, add tofu and let cook on each side about 5-7 minutes, try not to disturb tofu so it browns well
  2. I won’t insult your intelligence… just assemble your sandwich😉


#4: creamy avocado angel hair with sun-dried tomato, kale, mushroom and brussels sprouts



  • angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 package mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 10- 12 brussels sprouts, chop off ends and slice in half
  • 2 Tb balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tb olive oil

Sauce: adapted from this recipe on my favorite vegan food blog

  • 1 large avocado (halved and pitted)
  • juice from 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup Veganaise
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. cook desired amount of pasta and drain
  2. sauté onion, mushroom, sundried tomato and garlic about 5-7 minutes, then add kale and stir
  3. sauté brussels sprouts in separate skillet with 2 Tb balsamic vinegar, cook until sprouts are slightly browned, about 15 minutes
  4. meanwhile add all avocado sauce ingredients to high powered blender and blend on high until well combined
  5. stir sauce into mushroom, kale sauté, add to pasta and top with brussels sprouts


#5: roasted baby butternut squash

This is great for a quick healthy snack! I picked these up at the farmer’s market and just sliced them in half, scooped out the seeds, drizzled on olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. I never knew squash could be finger food… but it shall be from now on.😉


#6: crispy quinoa spinach cakes

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  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tb flour (I used gluten-free, worked great)
  • 2 Tb almond butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out, pat dry
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomato
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped


  1. preheat oven to 400 degrees, line baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. mix together in large bowl: egg, flour, almond butter, white wine vinegar
  3. add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well into flour mixture
  4. scoop out desired amount for patties and pat into shape, place on to baking sheet, makes about 8 patties
  5. Cook for 15 minutes. Flip over, then cook another 10 minutes.


I recommend making extra quinoa, adding a couple Tb of olive oil, white wine vinegar and a little salt… this goes great with the leftover quinoa cakes!