Basil, Lemon & Avocado Zoodles

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My “plants only” variation on pizza and pasta. You can thank wine for the gorgeous food styling you’ll see here. πŸ˜‰

This weekend was cold and crummy for New England, and all I craved was creamy pasta and spicy pizza (hey, I’m half Italian what can I say? The carbs just call my name). Cue the lighter, plant-based versions of these dishes. We all know my love for zoodles is fierce, so I used these zucchini noodles in order to satiate my craving for several pounds of fresh spaghetti. I made a delicious variation of my Creamy Avocado Sauce & Zoodles by tweaking the recipe to give it a brighter, zestier flavor to balance the creaminess of the avocado. It turned out to be perfection. I also made a second batch of my Vegan Portabello Pizzas because they were THAT delicious, I just wanted more. I used a little less sauce and cheese on top this time around and *voila* the toppings managed to stay put this time πŸ˜‰ These two dishes together aren’t the most typical combo, but they certainly satisfied my carb-focused cravings, and brought a punch of flavor to dinnertime. Yum.

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This weekend’s Vegan Portabello Pizzas, topped with Lightlife Veggie Pepperoni, Daiya Vegan Mozzarella and olives. You can find the recipe here.

For a more in depth “How To Zoodle” check out my previous post, Creamy Avocado Sauce & Zoodles.

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Things you’ll need: fresh basil, lemon, a ripe avocado, garlic and zucchinis for zoodlin’.

Basil, Lemon & Avocado Zoodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves, about 1 cup
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 – 4 zucchinis for zoodling

Directions:

Step One: Make your sauce. In a food processor, combine avocado, lemon zest and juice, basil leaves, garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
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Before blending.

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Avocado sauce after blending.

Step Two: Make your zoodles. For a full how-to, check out my previous post Creamy Avocado Sauce & Zoodles.
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These zoods are ready to rumble.

Step Three: Blanch your zoodles in boiling water for 90 seconds, removing immediately (these have a high risk for over cooking, they literally only need a few extra seconds to be overdone). Once your zoodles have blanched in boiling water, toss the hot noodles with the avocado sauce.

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Step Four: Garnish with extra basil, a wedge of lemon and serve immediately. Enjoy!! πŸ˜€

This sauce was unbelievably DELISH! I loved the added zestiness of the lemon, and the basil added a bright, summery flavor to the dish. The avocado sauce would be great with any kind of pasta, and was especially summery served over zoodles. Yum.

I really hope that you guys enjoy this as much as I did, these dishes definitely beat the rainy summer day blues away. How was everyone’s weekend?? Good I hope. πŸ™‚ Let me know in the comments!

With warmth,

L

Top 5 Best Booyah Summer Salads

It’s officially summer! That means you should be spending more time outside, barefoot and dancing to live music, floating in the ocean or running like the wind in the sunshine, and less time in front of your stove cooking. I’ve chosen my top five favorite salads for summertime – perfect for picnics, BBQs, or eating directly out of the container in front of your fridge before you jet off and do something fun with your people. All five are packed to the brim with nutrients and flavor, so you don’t have to worry about eating something healthy before heading out to that outdoor concert you’re about to dance your booty off at. These salads are my personal favorites, and I truly hope that you fall in love with them as much as I already have.

1. Mediterranean Quinoa Power UP Salad

This salad combines my favorite summer flavors: fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs, tossed with quinoa in an out of this world vinaigrette dressing and topped with feta (don’t worry my fellow vegans – there’s a great mock feta recipe in there, too!). So delicious.

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2. Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad

Not only is this the prettiest rainbow colored salad that ever existed, it’s full of good stuff for you and is super quick and easy to whip up. You can throw this salad together in under 30 minutes and impress the hell out of your friends/your boo because it is stunning to look at. And it tastes even better. πŸ˜‰

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3. L’s Bangin’ Kale and Farro Salad

Um, NOMS. This salad is super easy, super quick and packed with flavor. It requires zero cooking, just can opening skills. You can eat it plain (as shown below), or cook up your favorite grain and throw it on top (farro is especially bomb, and is how I put it all together in the original recipe). The chickpeas and edamame give this salad a boost of protein, and it actually gets even better once it’s chilled overnight in the fridge.

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4. Green Goddess Bowl

Ok, this one might be cheating because it’s less of a salad per se and more of a bowl. However, I’ve included it on this list because of the freakin’ out of this damn world Tahini-Lemon sauce, that would basically make anything you find at the farmer’s market taste amazeballs. So, you can basically take this food equation and run with it: Grain + Protein + Veggie + Tahini-Lemon Sauce = YES YES YES YES YES. It’s really that good. In the original recipe, my bowl was composed of quinoa, lentils, broccoli and kale, but there is literally no combination that would not be stellar as SIN.

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5. Mexican Quinoa and Tempeh Salad

Last but not least, this Mexican-inspired quinoa and tempeh salad is a fiber and protein packed one pot meal, and can even double as a maj taco or burrito filling. It’s also the gateway dish to fall in love with Tempeh as your new fave plant protein (Shhhh, don’t tell the meat-eaters!). Light, flavorful and super healthy, this one is a serious winner.

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Which one is your favorite?? Tell me all about it the comments.

With warmth,

L

PS: I had an unexpectedly great ass-kicking this morning in bootcamp and it felt SUPERB!! We were all feeling pretty lame for our normal Tuesday morning Gal Workout this morning, so we decided to head to bootcamp instead. We had a substitute instructor who lead a stellar Tabata workout. I hope you guys get a little of that Booyah feeling today, too. XOXOX.

L’s Kick-Ass Minestrone Soup

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As 2014 winds down, I am starting my New Year’s health kick early – with my main focus on healthy food that doesn’t taste like sh*t. Last night I made an uber healthy minestrone soup which is vegan, gluten free and packed with antioxidants and flavor. I ended up doing my workout after work (instead of my usual crack o’dawn 5 am workout) last night and when I got home after cranking it at BodyPump, I was RAVENOUS, so I forgot I was supposed to be taking lots of pictures to share with all you lovelies. Instead I just went for it. So please bear with me. πŸ˜€

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Hi there. Just preppin’ for Body Pump! πŸ˜€

I made this guy up on the fly last night, so don’t mind my measuring units. Also, the simmer time is just about 25 – 30 minutes, so it’s a nice quick and easy soup to whip up, and doesn’t contain any weird/unusual ingredients (and if you don’t have fresh herbs, just substitute dried ones. No big deal, yo!). Serve with a crusty wheat sourdough (my personal fave) and a fabulous glass of red vino, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a fantastic, quick and healthy meal! πŸ˜€

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This is what my kitchen looked like when I had the realization I had taken zero pictures of me prepping my soup. D’oh.

L’s Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of veggie broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of chopped garlic
  • 5 – 6 medium carrots, chopped
  • 5 – 6 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-oz can Cannelini beans
  • 1 15.5-oz can red kidney beans
  • 2 zucchini squash, diced
  • 1 medium bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • Several friendly shakes of dried thyme and dried oregano (at least a teaspoon, I think I had more)
  • Small shake of dried sage (about half a teaspoon or less)
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Step One: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, or until the onion is slightly translucent.
Step Two: Add the carrots and celery, and saute for a few minutes. Once the carrots and celery have softened slightly, pour the entire contents of the can of diced tomatoes into the pan (juice included!).
Step Three: Add the broth and herbs and bring to a boil.
Step Four: Add the beans (make sure you’ve given them a good rinse first in a colander) and zucchini and turn the soup down to a simmer. Simmer on low until the zucchini is cooked, about 20 – 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step Five: Enjoy!
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The finished product – get in my mouth NOW! πŸ˜›

As you may have noticed, I omitted the usual pasta that is found in minestrone. You can add some if you’d like at the end and cook according to the directions on the box (elbows, rotini, ditalini – whatever you like!). I personally would rather get my carbs from a nice hunk of crusty bread dipped right into the soup. You could also use quinoa instead of pasta for something a little different. I was just really into the bread last night (give me all the carbs). YUM! photo 4

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I ate mine soup by sopping it up with some whole wheat sourdough, aka the most amazing bread on Earth. YES.

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This soup was super easy, super healthy and deceptively filling (usually soups don’t really fill me up or make me feel satiated but this one really did)! I felt very satisfied eating it for dinner after my workout and it was perfect way to warm up on the chilly evening last night. If you read my post yesterday (Mexican Quinoa and Tempeh Salad), you will know I’m heading to Florida in 10 days, and am trying to keep it low cal to balance the excessive amount of delicious sweets I ate over Christmas (I’m afraid to put on that bikini after the plethora of Vegan Cut-Out Sugar Cookies). This fits the bill, and is packed with nutrients and protein from the beans. It’s also a great way to practice for my Veganuary challenge (I’m making the leap Jan 1st! I bought Vega Performance Protein and everything!). I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do. It was really, really friggin’ good.

Sending love your way today! The last Tuesday of 2014 – here we go!

xoxox,

L ❀

Mexican Quinoa and Tempeh Salad

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Mexican Quinoa and Tempeh Salad – YES PLEASE.

Hoooooray! We all survived the holidays. Phew! I had an absolutely smashing time in Connecticut with my parents, sister, brother-in-law and my 9 month old nephew, who had us all in stiches dying laughing as he played with his new gifts. Being the nice Auntie that I am, Santa L brought him a sit-to-stand “bike” that had a dashboard with crazy car sounds and flashing lights. He loved it and spent Christmas Day bouncing away shrieking along with the car noises, all while holding the horn down a la a miniature Masshole-in-training. I couldn’t be prouder of my adorable little nephew (and of course, he is the most intelligent, advanced and cutest baby in the universe – I’m not biased at all). I know that my sister may want to shank me by New Year’s Day because of the level of crazy this toy brings out in her son, but at least I have a chance to dodge her from all the Stop Drop and Roll Burpees I’ve done in bootcamp recently. All in all, a fabulous time.

HOWEVER, I am going to Florida in two weeks (yay!) and I am feeling a *little* fluffy, probably due to the 35 Vegan Cut-Out Sugar Cookies I ate, along with the 12 Vegan Ginger Molasses cookies, a monstrous slice of Raw Vegan Pumpkin Pie and the 7 Apricot-Date Amazeballs (also, if you haven’t yet, check out my updated vegan cookie recipes – I’ve included pics from when I made them over Christmas. You’ll be able to enjoy my sister and bro-in-law’s 1970’s time capsule kitchen that is probably getting demo’ed as you read this). You may think I’m just exaggerating the amount of sweets I consumed, but I swear on Chanel I am not. I enjoyed each and every one of those amazing cookies but cannot look at a sweet treat for a long time, as I’ve fulfilled my quota for a while. So today’s name of the game is “Let’s get back on track!” – time for some healthy, flavorful and nutrient dense meals.

Usually, tofu is the veg protein All-Star and soaks up its fair share of the lime light in the vegan/vegetarian scene, but in reality tempeh is The Boss, the dominating nutrient-packed overachiever (think Rihanna and Beyonce – Queen Bey is clearly on top, but RiRi is pretty much right up there). It’s made from whole soybeans, less processed than tofu, and has more protein and fiber per gram. If you’re a little wary of tofu’s weird-looking cousin, this is the perf recipe to try it out for the first time! This quinoa and tempeh salad is full of flavor, filling, and super nutritious – also packed with protein and carbs to support my semi-pathetic runs up and down the hills in CT (compared to where J & R live, Boston is a pancake). I actually made this recipe the week before Christmas and brought the leftovers with me and ate it over some baby spinach for a few lunches while I was at my sister’s. This dish is a super easy, one pot-esque (ok, to be fair it also involves one large saute pan too), and full of zesty and fresh flavor. It’s also a “bursting with nutrients” winner: it has about 10 grams of fiber, 17 grams of protein and only 350 calories per serving! Yes! Fear not the tempeh, because it f***in RULES (and it woke up like this). πŸ˜€

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All the ingredients for Mexican Quinoa and Tempeh: salsa, black beans, quinoa, frozen corn, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, tempeh, limes, cumin, and cayenne. YUM.

Mexican Quinoa and Tempeh Salad

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 (8-oz.) package tempeh, diced into bite-size pieces
1 cup hot to medium salsa
Juice from two limes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh corn (or frozen)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, and fresh cilantro to taste
1 avocado, diced

*If you’re not into avocados, you can substitute a steamed/baked sweet potato, diced for a similar texture but different flavor πŸ™‚

Directions

Step One: Place water into a medium saucepan on high heat. Once it starts to boil, add the quinoa, reduce to simmer and cook for 12 minutes on low heat, and allow to sit for five. (I’ve found a pretty large variety in quinoa cooking directions, so just follow whatever yours says on the package. Make sure the quinoa to liquid ratio is correct too. You can substitute broth for more flavor if you’d like).
Step Two: While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Place the tomatoes, corn and beans into a large bowl. Chop and prep the tempeh, pepper and onion. I find it super helpful and makes my cooking flow if I prep all the veggies first before I start sauteeing. Do whatever feels right to you. πŸ˜€
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First things first, I usually dump the easy, low maintenance ingredients right into the serving bowl first. It helps get it out of the way. Just throw the corn, beans right into the bowl and slice those tomatoes in half (or not, if you’re short on time!). Easy peasey.

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Next, prep your veggies that are going to be sauteed with the tempeh. Dice into bite-sized pieces.

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I chopped the block of tempeh into bite sized pieces and set aside while I sauteed the onion.

Step Three: Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, and add the chopped onion. Cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
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The name of the game is multi-tasking. While your quinoa is simmering away, saute the onion until translucent.

Step Four: Add the diced red pepper, tempeh, salsa, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
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Add the salsa, tempeh, red pepper and spices. Saute for about 15 minutes.

Step Five: Cook the tempeh mixture, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
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Most of the liquid from the salsa should be reduced and your tempeh should be beautifully coated with the spices and salsa. Your kitchen should smell like Mexico. πŸ˜€ Mmmmmm!!

Step Six: Once the quinoa and tempeh are cooked, pour both into a large bowl containing the beans, corn and tomatoes and mix together. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
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When your quinoa is ready, dump right on top of your veggies in the bowl.

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Add the tempeh mixture, and dress the salad with the lime juice. Sprinkle cilantro and add salt and pepper to taste. Give that baby a good stir.

Step Seven: Serve and top with a few pieces of diced avocado or sweet potato based on your preference. Enjoy as is, or use as a f-in awesome filling for tacos/burritos, or a serve as a salad over greens with an extra squeeze of lime.
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The finished product, with avocado. Yummmmmmmmmm.

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I threw half of a baked sweet potato right on there. It added a nice sweetness to offset the spiciness of the salad and was DAMN GOOD.

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You can dice a whole sweet potato and add it right in the salad as well. YUM!

This is one of my favorite dishes that I make. It’s so simple, but really packs a lot in there – both nutritionally and flavor-wise. YUM! You can adjust the level of spice to taste as well – I like it VERY spicy, so I cook mine with hot salsa and a few extra shakes of cayenne pepper. The spiciness is completely up to what you’re down for. πŸ˜€ It’s a great way to kick off your healthy goals for 2015. It’s never too early to start getting back on track and healthy for the New Year (or if you’re afraid to try on your bikini right now for your Florida trip in less than two weeks). I hope you all had a FANTASTIC holiday, and I can’t wait to keep up all this healthy amazingness in 2015! YES!

With warmth,

L

xoxoxox ❀

Spanish Style Lentils Γ  la L

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Spanish Style Lentils Γ  la L: warm, comforting, nutrient rich!

Now that we are in that month or so that is happily smushed between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and bursting with holiday cheer, I wanted to take a break from all the rich, decadent and elaborate holiday meals and bring it back to simple, flavorful, healthy and warming comfort food. This meal is high in nutritional value, flavor, and is so simple: it’s a single pot meal that cooks up in just about 35 minutes. Lentils are one my favorite legumes – they are fiber and protein all stars! Just one cup of cooked lentils provides: 90% DV (daily value) of folate, 63% DV of fiber, 37% DV of iron, 36% DV of protein, 21% DV of potassium (plus 28% DV of vitamin B1, 25% DV of vitamin B5 and 21% DV of vitamin B6) – aka they are total powerhouses of nutrients. The spices in this meal are saffron and smoked paprika (pimeton), which are the major players in one my favorite Spanish dishes – paella. Here they lend a smokiness and earthiness (yeah, so weird but I couldn’t think of how to describe saffron, some connoisseurs say it has a metallic-honey, with grassy, or hay-like notes – idk, those descriptions sound suspect – but saffron is the BEST even though it is so dang expensive) to this dish. I like to describe this lentil dish as “stewp” – a hybrid between a soup and stew – perfect for serving with some crusty bread, or pouring over your favorite grain (brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley…you name it). YUM!

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Ingredients for Spanish-Style Lentils: veggie broth, lentils, onion, celery, carrots, saffron, and paprika. Not pictured: wine (bc I was totally drinking it straight out of the bottle to “taste” it), parley for garnish and a bay leaf or two.

Spanish Style Lentils Γ  la L

Ingredients

  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 – 3 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup of dried lentils, washed and picked over
  • 2 cups of veggie broth (or more, depending on how soup-y you like your stewp)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of dry red wine
  • 2 tiny pinches of saffron (1/2 tsp)
  • 2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parsley, chopped, for garnish
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All of the herbs/spices in a small bowl, with my finger for reference size. Saffron is SO expensive, so just add as much as you can spare, even one pinch will give pretty stellar flavor to the dish.

Directions

Step One: Heat the olive in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots for a few minutes, until they are softened (5 – 7 minutes)
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Saute the vegetables over medium heat until softened, about 6 minutes.

Step Two: Add the spices and saute for 1 minute.
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I accidently dumped my bay leaves in there while sauteing the spices. I would try to pick them out if you do the same (I did, only minorly burning my fingers), but it’s not a make-or-break situation. They can be put in with the veggie broth and wine.

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Give it a good stir to ensure that the spices are evenly distributed and get a nice little saute to pop the flavor up a few notches.

Step Three: Add the veggie broth, wine and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Stir in the lentils, and allow the mixture to simmer on medium-low heat, partially covered for about 35 minutes, or until the lentils have softened.
While you’re waiting, enjoy a glass of that dry red wine! πŸ˜‰
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Carefully add the veggie broth – I always start with 2 cups of broth and then add more if desired. This time I added an entire container of broth (4 cups) and the stewp was more on the soup end of the spectrum – great for dipping my crusty bread in there! πŸ™‚

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Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of wine. I added closer to 1/2 cup because I wanted more for drinking (duh).

Step Four: Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread or over your favorite grain, and enjoy!! πŸ˜€
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Enjoy your lentils with a glass of your leftover red wine!

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Add some fresh (or dried, in this case!) parsley for garnish.

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I served my lentils with crusty bread to dip into the stewp-y part. YUM!! SO goood! πŸ˜€

This “stewp” is balls to the wall amazing. It’s warm, comforting and versatile – you can make it more of a soup, or stew, depending on your preference. It’s an easy, one-pot meal that is one of my go-to’s for busy weeknight dinners. There isn’t much to it (but has that comforting earthiness), and the simmering time gives you enough downtime to enjoy a glass of that dry, red wine that you add. The perfect ending to a crazy day, if you ask me. πŸ˜€

I added some crusty, whole grain bread to it (and a glass of wine to savor), but as I mentioned before – don’t feel limited. Serve over a cup of wild rice, red quinoa, or farro if you’re looking for more of a stick-to-the-ribs stew. So, so delicious. It really hit the spot I was craving – healthy, flavorful, and filling. Perfect for an early December evening meal πŸ˜€

I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did last night! Yummmm!!! πŸ˜€

Happy Tuesday, all! ❀ πŸ™‚

xo,

L

Quick & Dirty: Baked Sweet Potato with Spicy Black Beans and Corn

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Baked Sweet Potato with Spicy Black Beans and Corn: Simple and Satisfying!Β 

This post could be entitled “What to Make When You Don’t Feel like Cooking Sh*t” (sorry Mom, I know you don’t like the cursing but sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking sh*t). I did not feel like cooking, or even chopping, last night when I got home from work. Yet, I still wanted to eat something warm and comforting – stick-to-your-ribs cuisine. I started by baking a sweet potato (I always have a bunch of Russet and sweet potatoes on hand for moments like these – I usually always have a little Greek yogurt in my fridge and there’s really nothing simpler than a baked potato with plain Greek yogurt and chives for dinner when you’re not feeling it). I wanted something a little more than the plain baked potato/Greek yog combo that is my default go-to, so I rooted around in my pantry, found a jar of salsa, a can of black beans and I knew I had some sweet corn floating around in my freezer, so I threw them all together in a pot and came up with this laughably simple and surprisingly delicious meal last night. (Also, sweet potato + black beans is a phenomenal combination. One of my fave dishes that my sister and bro-in-law make is their vegan sweet potato and black bean enchiladas, which I will share with all of you the next time I whip some up with them – aaaaaaah-mazing).

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Ingredients for Baked Sweet Potato with Spicy Black Beans and Corn, plus Cataluna spice blend, and toppings: Avocado, sweet potato, cumin, black beans, salsa, frozen corn.

Baked Sweet Potato with Spicy Black Beans and Corn

Ingredients:

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 can (16 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jar (16 oz) of salsa (I’m the Spice Queen so I used Hot salsa – use whatever you like)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Cataluna spice blend (pimeton and smoked cinnamon based – you can give a few shakes of cinnamon, smoked paprika, chili powder to taste to replace this)

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Directions:

Step 1: Poke holes in your sweet potatoes on both sides with a fork, bake at 450Β°F for 40 minutes, or until tender.
Step 2: Meanwhile, put together your topping. In a medium saucepan, combine black beans, salsa, frozen corn, and spices.
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All of the ingredients in the saucepan ready to be mingled.

Step 3: Cover, and allow to simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If your baked potato is not done yet, turn heat all the way down to low and allow for the spices to meld until the potatoes are ready, stirring occasionally (if your beans are starting to stick, or the sauce is boiling off too fast, just turn the heat all the way off and leave the spicy bean mixture on the hot burner to stay warm until your potatoes are ready).
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The spicy black bean mixture simmering away while the potato is baking in the oven…

Step 4: Carefully remove the baked sweet potatoes from the oven and slice them all the way through down the middle.
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Careful when removing your potato from the oven and slicing it! It will be wicked hot. (Take if from the girl whose past burn injuries were 90% due to cooking).

Step 5: Spoon the spicy black bean mixture into the center of the potato. Top with cilantro and sliced avocados or plain Greek yogurt. Allow to cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn your tongue! Enjoy πŸ˜€
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Make sure you stuff that sucker full of the spicy black bean mixture – SO. DAMN. GOOD!

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Top it off with cilantro and sliced avocado or a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt (for extra protein).

Honestly, I was surprised when this came out as good as it did! It required no chopping and minimal cooking skills to create. Sometimes, you get lucky when you are just feeling uber lazy and are messing around in your kitchen trying to make something quick and dirty to eat for dinner. It’s super nutritious too: one medium sweet potato provides just about all of of your daily nutritional requirement of vitamin A and half of your vitamin C; and the black beans provide molybdenum, folate, fiber and protein. And best of all, the combination of sweet and savory with a little spice thrown in there is to DIE for and immensely satisfying! It’s the perfect easy meal for a cold, blustery night like last night. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I hope this saves you from a take-out order of mediocre food. πŸ™‚

Happy Huuuuump Day! We’ve made it halfway to the weekend! Hooooray!!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Have a great day everyone! Sending you warming thoughts. ❀

xoxox

L

Sunday Simmer: Warming White Bean and Pesto Soup

Hello, hello! Happy Monday. It is really chucking down rain out here in Boston, so today is the perfect day for the soup I made yesterday! I had a very good relaxing/restive weekend, and I hope you guys did too. I made my return to the yoga studio after long runs/half marathon training and my cross-training classes at the gym sucked up most of my free time this fall. The chill is in the air outside (bye summer!), and that heated studio and my mat were calling my name. And man, I am so glad I did! I am facing my week feeling very zen. After feeling very warm and melty on the inside after savasana, I wanted something just as warming to eat last night. So, I made this soup, with white beans, leeks, red potatoes, Swiss chard, carrots, a whole bunch of fresh herbs and a little bit of pesto for pop. And damn, was it good! It was a little bit like a unique form of torture waiting for it to be ready and smelling the herbs and vegetables melding and harmonizing together in steamy cloud in my kitchen. Last night I felt like I was in a cartoon with those wavy lines coming off the pot and me, with my nose leading, following them into the kitchen. YUM. Lucky for me, from start to finish, this soup probably only takes about 45 minutes to make (depending on how fast of a chopper you are!) – the simmer time is only 10 – 15 minutes. The best part (there always is a pretty solid “best part” on B&B, I assure you) is that one large serving is only about ~200 calories. YES! You can still fit into your skinny jeans the next day (or, whatever adorbs outfit you’re feeling). πŸ˜‰ The second best part is that the taste-to-difficulty ratio is low: you basically chop some veggies, stick ’em in a pot and BOOM: amazing, healthy and immensely satisfying meal (especially on a cold, rainy day with horrid traffic like today).

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Warming White Bean and Pesto Soup – serve with a delicious piece of crusty bread and voila – perfect soothing, warm meal for a chilly and rainy day!

Warming White Bean and Pesto Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cans (16 oz) Cannelini beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large leek, washed and sliced*
  • 3 large carrots, washed and sliced (I don’t bother peeling, whatev)
  • 1 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 (packed) cups rainbow chard, washed and chopped
  • 2 containers of veggie broth (32 oz each – 8 cups in total)
  • A bunch of fresh herbs: ~ 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, 1/2 Tbsp thyme, 8 – 10 sage leaves, chopped**
  • 2 (heaping) Tbsp pesto***

*Leeks are super tasty but a pain in the ass to clean. I fill a large bowl with tap water, and as I chop, I throw the chopped pieces of leek into the bowl of water and swirl/rub to remove the dirt and grit. You def do not want that in your soup! Once they are cleaned off (they float!), I simply scoop them out of the bowl and gave them a good shake to remove excess water. It doesn’t really matter if they aren’t super dry because they are headed straight for that soup pot.

**I bought a pack of “poultry blend” fresh herbs at the grocery store and it contained rosemary, thyme and sage. I figured that would pair well with these ingredients, and it did! Use whatever you like – parsley, dill, whatever your fave is. I really liked this combo in the soup, so I would definitely try it out if I were you.

***You can use your own homemade pesto, store bought if you’re in a time crunch, or follow my recipe for pesto (there’s a vegan AND vegetarian version!) below. Whatever works for you. πŸ™‚

Directions:

Step One: Prep all your veggies first, that way, all you do is dump them in when it’s “Go Time”.
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I set two bowls up while I was chopping: one large and one small. Into the small, I put the chopped onion, leek and minced garlic (which I ended up just dumping straight into my saucepan once the oil was heated up – so easy!). In the large, I put the potato, carrot, Swiss chard and herbs (the beans were draining in a colander after rinsing) – this one I also just up-ended straight into the saucepan once the broth was simmering. Makes life just a little easier to have all your veggies in one place.

Step Two: Once all your veggies are ready to go, heat ~1 Tbsp olive oil and saute the onion, leek and garlic in a large saucepan.
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I’m aware this picture kind of sucks, but there was so much steam coming off the onion/leek/garlic mixture it was hard to get a good one! Saute for a few minutes, or until the onions are starting to become translucent.

Step Three: After about 5 – 6 minutes of saute time, add one box of the broth (32 oz or 4 cups), and bring to a simmer.
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Make sure you get a nice, rolling bubble on that broth before you start adding veggies. It will cut down on the cooking time and you’ll get to eat this delicious soup faster.

Step Four: Add all your remaining veggies, beans, fresh herbs and enough veggie broth to cover them. The Swiss chard will cook down, but make sure there is enough liquid to submerge all your veggies (I used both boxes of veggie broth, but just in case your saucepan is a bit smaller than mine – add it gradually).
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Just for a visual, that is about how much fresh herbs I added in total – almost a small handful. The more the merrier, it really adds great flavor to the soup.

Step Five: Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and allow to simmer on low for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender (aka you can easily insert a fork in them, but they are not so cooked that they are disintegrating into the broth).
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Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper. Unless your broth is low-sodium, you probably can skip the salt altogether, so you don’t end up with salt overload and puffy eyes like I did today. πŸ˜›

Step Six: Swirl in pesto and enjoy! πŸ˜€
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Soup sans pesto – it’s pretty damn delicious pesto-less. I ate a whole bowl plain first before I convinced myself it needed “something.”

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Soup with pesto added – YUMMMM!!! The pesto gives it just a little bit of something special. πŸ˜‰

So, not going to lie – I didn’t originally have plans to add pesto to this soup. But, it needed SOMETHING. The soup itself is wonderful with just the fresh herbs, it tastes fresh and light, but to give it a little somethin’ somethin’, I added the pesto for a flavor ka-POW. Pesto is one of my favorite things in life (for real – every birthday, if it isn’t vegetarian buffalo “wings”, it’s pesto) and it has a multitude of uses beyond pasta (spaghetti squash pasta, zoodles or otherwise). It adds a bright, fresh flavor to any dish. If you’re not in a time crunch, take a moment to whip up this pretty dope version. Obviously, it tastes the best when you use fresh basil that is in season, but I found some pretty legit fresh and hydroponically grown basil in the grocery store.

L’s Bomb Pesto:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (or Romano cheese, if you’re not vegan)*
  • 5 Tbsp pine nuts (or chopped walnuts, if that’s more your style)
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 5 cloves of garlic, minced)

*If you’re not down with the nutritional yeast, try “diluting” it with cashews (blend nutritional yeast & cashews together in a 3:1 cashew : yeast ratio and add 1/2 cup of the mixture in place of the cheese). OR, substitute my sister J’s fave brand Go Veggie! Vegan Parmesan cheese.

Directions:

Add all ingredients into a food processor and blast until they are finely chopped into a pesto-like consistency (just enough so that the nuts are chopped). Add more olive oil if necessary. If you want to be a cooking rockstar, after adding the two tablespoons to the soup, divide the remaining pesto into a clean ice cube tray and freeze – that way, you can take one “pesto cube” out of the tray and use as necessary without thawing a whole container. Genius, eh? πŸ˜€ Once they are completely frozen, you can pop them out of the tray and place them into a freezer bag or airtight container for storage (and to make room in your freezer).

I hope you guys enjoy this recipe as much as I did, I am preeeeeeeettty excited to go for round 2 at lunch today. Yum.

Happy Monday, everyone! ❀

xoxox

L