if you ever need a crowd-pleasing dip…

buffalo hummus

Then you should really make this buffalo hummus. Because it checks all the boxes:

√ Takes almost no effort
√ Quick to prepare (and even quicker to go!)
√ Nutritious
√ Full of flavor
√ Spicy
√ Tastier than store bought hummus
√ Impressive to guests
√Inexpensive ingredients

buffalo hummus 1

I pretty much made the exact recipe from Oh She Glows (hence no recipe on my blog, so check out the original source here), although I did add way more Frank’s Red Hot because…well, one tablespoon just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I’ve been on such a Frank’s Red Hot kick for the last year, I even carry it in a small container with me on the go sometimes. It really is great to have on hand.

I prepared it the night before a party. I had only ten minutes to spare before I had to go to bed (I say ‘had to’ because if I don’t get to bed at a certain time every night and Jules wakes me up for feedings in the middle of the night/early morning, I’m pretty much a zombie the next day). So, in a much simpler way, what I’m trying to say is: make this. It’s quick, simple and you’ll want to dip everything in it!

buffalo hummus 2

what i eat: an update and a tomatillo-avocado recipe

cilantro

One. I’ve changed this series name to What I Eat, instead of How I Eat. I thought about How I Eat, and I immediately wanted to respond with a , “I eat with my mouth”. So that just kind of killed it for me.

Two. I haven’t posted one of these in a long time. Originally, this was going to be a post about my Sunday at home (I know. Please…contain yourself). But as I sifted through photos, I realized, no this is totally a What I Eat post. And so, here we are.

salad

Romaine lettuce with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

Every chance I get, I’ll add hemp seeds and (sometimes) chia seeds to my food. Hemp seeds, in smaller amounts, are virtually tasteless and texture-less so it’s an easy extra dose of nutrition (essential fats, amino acids, protein, etc.). I add hemp seeds to most of my food, even if it’s just a small sprinkling.

I use chia seeds less since they have a crunchy texture when dry and a gelatinous consistency when wet. They are great sprinkled on avocado toast or in smoothies. One of these days I want to experiment with them in a homemade strawberry or raspberry jam.

mexican skillet

One-pan Mexican quinoa topped with tomatillo-avocado sauce (not pictured above / see tomatillo recipe below)

I’ve really taken to quinoa lately. Initially I disliked it, but I recently learned that I just prefer it smothered in sauce. In Sunday’s case, a tomatillo-avocado sauce. But my favorite is quinoa with steamed broccoli and mushrooms in a simple San Marzano tomato sauce. YUM.

stew

West African peanut soup. I added two sweet potatoes to the recipe to make it heartier and subbed the collards with kale. Not pictured: a side of brown jasmine rice.

sunday cooking

Monday’s dinner in the front, Sunday’s dinner in the back.

Sundays have been my go-to day for bulk cooking. At most, I’ve only been able to cook two  meals and some prep work for other meals for the week. My goal is regularly cook three meals most Sundays. Cooking on one day makes the following work week so much easier: No cooking, less dishes, more time—what’s not to love about that?

cupcakes

Cupcakes from Burgers & Cupcakes

Sugar is my weakness. Still working on that ravenous sweet tooth. Another thing I’m working on? Breakfast. Lately, it’s been my least nutritious meal of the day, i.e. lots of toast and bagels.

My main goal is to eat a mostly plant-based diet. As in veggies, fruits, whole grains and legumes. I haven’t eaten meat in over a month now and I don’t plan to either. I’ve had very little temptation to do so and it’s usually fleeting, so it hasn’t been too difficult to abstain. That said, it’s been easier to eat well because other more nutritious ingredients get more play. I’ve been much more creative and adventurous with dinners. I’ve always been down for trying new dishes, but now I’ll take something that normally has meat and replace it with a vegetable or grain…or nothing at all! You can pretty much make anything vegetarian or vegan.

As for protein? This seems to be the common question when you tell people that you’ve stopped eating meat. I always say I’m not worried about it. There’s enough protein in foods like nuts, seeds, lentils and even fruits and veggies to help me get my recommended intake. I’m more interested in B12 and plan on buying a supplement this week.

tomatillo sauce

Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce
makes about 2-4 servings

1 tomatillo, husk removed and sliced
1/2 of an avocado
1 small handful of cilantro or to taste
1/2 lime, juiced
chili powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients together. Add a tablespoon of water at a time to reach your desired consistency.

This sauce on top of the Mexican quinoa made the whole dish for me. Feel free to use on other foods like nachos, tacos or spicy potatoes.

how i eat: what’s for dinner this week?


dried pasta

I am so in the mood for some new cookbooks. Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food gets great reviews. One day, my friend and I planned on eating at the restaurant for brunch, but the wait time was long and we were so hungry. The tiny tables sidled up so close to other patrons weren’t looking too appealing to a very hangry me either, so we ended up at a place around the corner instead. It was mediocre and I regretted not waiting just a little while more for the acclaimed brunch. I always make a mental note to go back, but just never get around to it. I’ll make it there one of these days. But once we we’re all moved in, I’m going straight to Amazon and ordering this book. It’s the next best thing. I can’t wait to try out some new recipes and I love simple Italian/French cuisines and techniques so I’m confident I’ll love this one. But for these next few weeks of moving madness, I’m sticking with what works.

Sunday: Chicken BLT Avocado salad with my lemon dijon vinaigrette. This is on regular rotation. As in, every week for weeks now. I like it that much. Bob doesn’t mind it either. I think it’s the homemade croutons that make it for him.

Monday: Skinny pasta alfredo with spicy roasted broccoli. I’d been craving a comforting alfredo sauce for a while now and since I need to use up the ditalini rigati, I figured ditalini rigati alfredo (that’s a mouthful!), why not?  I wanted only a slightly lighter option than the usual stick of butter and loads of cheese and cream version and found this one. It was perfect because, while it was a touch lighter, it was still  rich and creamy like the original. I didn’t have Neufchatel cheese, but I did have cream cheese which comes pretty close, so I used that. I didn’t have heavy cream, so I completely omitted it from the dish, but I did use whole milk (as opposed to 2%) so I think that made up for it.  I ran out of white flour so I used using whole-grain instead, but that flavor came across in the pasta a little bit. You’ll definitely want to use white flour for this.

Tuesday: I’m excited for this one: Thai chicken wraps and a small side salad. I’ll grill thin chicken breasts, cover it in this peanut sauce, add a little extra cilantro and sliced seedless cucumbers, wrap it in some of those fajita wraps I have in my fridge and call it a night. Greens on the side are a must. I’ll toss in a few roasted Brussels sprouts on the side for Bob (he loves ’em) and a romaine salad for myself.

Wednesday: Bob is going to cook! He’s been adamant about using up all the ingredients we have in the fridge/freezer/cabinets so he’s going to do an “everything but the kitchen sink” Crockpot dish. All I know is that it will include sausage and bbq sauce. Not going to lie—I’m a little worried that he might go overboard, but I’m crossing my fingers for a hit. I’m still learning to relinquish control in the kitchen.

Thursday: A Spanish omelette. Thinly-sliced potatoes, crispy bits of bacon bacon and caramelized onions all tossed into a batter of eggs seasoned with milk, smoked paprika, vinegar, salt, pepper and then cooked. This recipe comes close to what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve been finding myself more exhausted than usual when I come home on Thursdays (end of the week fatigue!), so I’ll  probably cook the onions and bacon ahead of time. I like saving the easiest or quickest meal for Thursdays since all I want to do is lay out, watch Sex & the City reruns and nod off at around 9pm. That’s the ideal Thursday night right there, guys.

the dressing i put on everything

lemon

Almost everything. As in, salads, avocados, sandwiches, raw and cooked veggies. I haven’t yet tried it as a marinade for meat, but that’s coming up. I could imagine it ‘ll taste excellent on some grilled chicken breasts. Ooooh! I just pictured this and now I want to try it with the chicken I’m making this Thursday. Okay, done. It’s happening.

It’s such a simple vinaigrette and it’s something I just decided to make after not having all the ingredients to make another dressing. I haven’t looked back since.

See these here?

lemon dijon vinaigrette

That’s it. That’s all you need. You might have them in your kitchen already. Easy peasy.

Let’s not even call this a recipe. Let’s call it…a blend of simple ingredients. You don’t even need to follow the same measurements. These happen to be the measurements that I prefer, but if you lean towards a certain taste, then add more of that. Adjust, taste as you go…do you.

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
serves 2-4 (depending on how large your salad is)

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder or garlic paste (when I have it, I prefer the paste.)
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar.
Shake vigorously until fully emulsified.
Serve.
Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.

Quick, versatile, almost effortless and 10x better than the store-bought stuff!

how i eat: what’s for dinner this week? 3/15 – 3/19

palak paneer

Getting my ingredients ready for the Palak Paneer.

On Sunday, Bob and I went into  a deep spring cleaning mode in the kitchen. We learned that we were hoarders of delivery ketchup packets, instant coffee samples, years-old spices, freezer-burnt pie crusts and for some odd reason (one that I can’t seem to remember) a boatload of raw sesame seeds. Needless to say, there’s a lot more room in our cabinets and refrigerator and the kitchen looks a little less crowded now. It’s nice to see it clean and organized for a change! So this week’s dinners are all about using what I have already. Of course, we bought a few grocery items over the weekend to round it out, but for the most part, I’m trying to use what’s here. We want to make sure that when we finally move next month, there’s as little as possible to bring to the new place.

Sunday: Homemade Kentucky Fried Chicken Famous Bowl. I attempted those delicious mashed potato bowls from KFC and they were yummy, except I forgot the gravy, which in my opinion, is an absolutely essential part of the bowl. Luckily, it was still good without it. Here are the layers: mashed potatoes, sweet corn, crispy baked chicken nuggets and a light sprinkling of cheddar. That’s when the gravy would come in. Though if I remember correctly, KFC actually puts the gravy after the potatoes, not over the entire bowl. I’d prefer the latter. Gravy over EVERYTHING or nothing at all. It’s definitely healthier without, but the bowl begs to be smothered in beefy brown sauce.

Monday: Palak Paneer, which is very similar to the Saag Paneer I usually make. Made this for the first time last week and loved it. I wanted to perfect it, so I gave it another go this week. I generally find most recipes lean kind of bland, so I always up the amount of spices considerably. I subbed the Paneer with halloumi, added way more garlic and a pinch of the powerful anti-inflammatory, turmeric. The fire-roasted tomatoes add a great flavor to the dish as well.

Tuesday: Sweet Potato Bisque and grilled cheese tonight! It’s a regular in this household and if you’ve been following this blog for some time, then you know I’ve mentioned this soup once or twice (possiby more than that) before. It’s easy, quick and nutritious. Grilled cheese because what is a soup without grilled cheese? Sad is the answer to that.

Wednesday: BLT Grilled Chicken and Avocado Salad* with homemade croutons. One thing I’ve been obsessed with lately? Making my own croutons. HEAPS above the store-bought kind, let me tell you. Can I even go back to the standard stuff? Begrudgingly, I probably will in a pinch. But ever since I started toasting French bread, turning them into crumbs in the food processor and then sauteeing those crumbs in butter, garlic and salt there has been no turning back for me. It’s freakin’ delicious. And once you make the croutons, they last for a couple of weeks which I appreciate since we can’t polish off a whole loaf of crotuons in one sitting (well, we could if we wanted to, but…). This salad is BOMB. I mean, we’re talking salad with bits of bacon on it, so…obviously. It’s got tons of flavor and filling enough for dinner, thanks to the protein from the chicken and the healthy fats from the avocado. I prefer to use my own lemon-oil-dijon mustard dressing concoction, but Bob’s not a fan (he’s weird) so he uses a balsamic vinaigrette instead. I love my salad dressing so much that I practically inhale it like it’s going out of style. I just might post the recipe for that one soon.

Thursday: As usual, it’s cleaning out the fridge/leftovers day. This might involve an omelette with random ingredients or a simple pasta with one or more veggies.

 

*No recipe for this one as I thought the name was pretty explanatory, but I can always post at a later time, if requested!

5 (refined) sugar-free desserts that don’t suck

This post has been in my drafts fooorrrever (read: since last October) and for whatever reason, I’m just getting around to posting it now.

raw browniesRaw brownies (see #1 for recipe)

All throughout last September, Bob and I went sugar-free. Most of the time, it was pretty easy to do, but some days were admittedly more difficult than others. The first week, we went out to dinner and hadn’t ordered dessert-which we almost always do. “This sucks,” Bob told me when we got home. “What can we eat that’s sweet?” Luckily, I anticipated that both of us would want a treat, especially on a Friday night when we tend to stay in and watch movies (prime snacking time!). Instead of completely cutting us off, I decided I would make us healthy desserts that were sweetened with natural ingredients like dates, cinnamon, real maple syrup or raw honey. Avocado Chocolate cookies were on the agenda that night and they did just the trick. The ingredients were few, the recipe was easy to follow and the cookies were done in no time. I knew that with a little foresight and some easy, healthy dessert recipes in my back pocket, we’d do just fine in our month-long no-sugar diet. And we did.

I started becoming more mindful of what was in my food. I had to be careful about the products I was buying. For instance, I had to make sure that the sandwich buns I bought were made without any added sugars (very hard to find, by the way) and I couldn’t allow myself any condiments like ketchup or bbq sauce unless I made it myself. The first week was rough and it felt very restrictive. But after that, I made sure to plan every single meal, right down to the snacks, each week and it was smooth sailing from there. The planning is what worked best for me. I’d highly recommend doing a month-long sugar detox. If you’re totally committed and prepared for it, then that’s more than half the battle! And you’ll feel healthy and energetic throughout and afterwards, which I think is reason enough to do it. My best advice is to just prepare, prepare, prepare.

This is a list of the goodies we enjoyed that month. The best part? They’re delicious and you wouldn’t even know that they contain zero sugar. The second best part? They’re good for you.

1.) Raw Brownies

brownie bites

Raw brownies are pretty much identical to that time I made brownie bites. Make ’em sans the sprinkles of course.

[Click here for recipe]

Notes: The cashews can be replaced for raw pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts or even a mix. I don’t recommend peanuts, as the flavor is too overpowering. I’ve had the best results with cashews or pecans. You can roll them up into little bites (as pictured above) or you can leave them flat in the pan and cut them into squares. This will last up to a week (perhaps a little over) in the refrigerator. I’ve gotten some great feedback on these brownies—everyone loves them!

2.) Banana Ice Creambanana ice cream

Recipe (adapted from The Kitchn):
serves 2

3-5 frozen bananas, sliced
1-2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
A dash of cinnamon

Toss frozen bananas,vanilla and cinnamon into a high-powered blender.
Pulse the bananas for a bit, as not to overwork your blender. Then blend until you get a smooth, frosty consistency.
Serve immediately. It melts quickly!

Notes: This was Bob’s favorite of the month and if you’re an ice cream fanatic and you like bananas, then you’ll go nuts for this stuff. You can leave it simple or you can throw whatever into it and transform it into a sundae. Bob really liked it with these paleo coconut macaroons we found at the store, but a topping of melted peanut butter sounds heavenly to me.

3.) 3-Ingredient Raw “Caramel” Dip with Fruit

Raw Caramel Dip

[Click here for recipe]

Notes: I love this dip most with bananas and apples, as I find those fruits to be most compatible with the caramel-like flavor. It’s quick to whip up and it lasts for about a week in the fridge.

4.) Avocado Chocolate Cookies

chocolate avocado cookies

Image and recipe by The Smoothie Lover

[Click here for the recipe]

Notes:  Mine came out a little flatter than what’s pictured above but they came out great regardless. No avocado taste whatsoever. These cookies are soft and uber-chocolaty with a partly-cakey, partly-fudgy texture (the best of both worlds!).

5.) Cherries & Chocolate Smoothie

cherry garcia smoothie

Recipe:
serves 1

1 cup of homemade almond milk
3/4 – 1 cup of frozen sweet  dark cherries
1/4 of a frozen banana
2 heaping tbs of raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
t tbs raw honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Taste and add more of anything to your liking.

Notes: This is basically a Cherry Garcia in smoothie form. Who wouldn’t love that?

3-ingredient raw “caramel” dip

Raw Caramel Dip.

I am automatically suspicious of any recipe that has quote marks in its title. Because once you see the quotes, particularly around something delicious like “cheese” or “chocolate”, in my head it translates “cheese” into “not real cheese and not as good” and “chocolate” into “carob powder that supposed to taste like chocolate but actually tastes like dirt”. I can tell you “caramel”, while not real caramel shouldn’t warrant the eye roll because it’s sweet and caramel-ly, sans the stickiness, but every bit as smooth. Oh. I also forgot to add, it’s completely guilt-free. As in, no refined sugar and no butter, but plenty of vitamins, minerals and natural sugars to keep you going. There are just three basic ingredients that are going to make this caramel dip, but you’re welcome and encouraged to add in a few other ingredients that could take the flavor up a notch.

I’ve experimented with a few raw caramel recipes and found a version of my own to be the simplest and most delicious. All it takes is a few good-quality ingredients.

3-Ingredient Raw “Caramel” Dip (adapted from Goodness Green)

1 cup of pitted Medjool dates* 
1/4 – 1/2 cup of homemade nut milk** 
1/2 teaspoon of good vanilla extract
Optional: a pinch of cinnamon, pinch of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of real maple syrup***

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until completely smooth.
Serve as dip for apples, bananas or any other food you desire.
Will keep in an air-tight jar in the fridge for about a week (perhaps a little more).

*Must be Medjool dates because these are sticky and have a sweet caramelized flavor. If these aren’t an option, then you’ll want to soak your other variety of pitted dates for 1/2 hour to 1 hour before blending to soften. You can then use the soaked date water as your liquid base.
**Water is a fine substitution here too. Also, you might want to err on the side of more, depending on how thin you want the consistency of the dip to be.
***The dip will be sweet without the syrup, so you’ll want to taste-test first before adding in.

Raw Caramel Sauce

Not only does this raw caramel have a brown-sugar-like sweetness and lovely, creamy texture, but t’s easy to to make, easy to eat, doesn’t require any cooking and won’t get stuck in your teeth. Sticky caramel apples be damned!

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