Vegan Hazelnut Chocolate Spread

Working with youth has a lot of perks (and a lot of challenges). One of these perks is my schedule. As the program manager of an after school music education program, I generally work from 11am – 8pm. This may seem like the WORST for some people, but for me it has been great. Fresh out of college I had a 9-5:30 job and it just didn’t fly with me. I hated waking up and going to work knowing that by the time I was out of the office I would be too tired to do anything. As a morning person, it is awesome to have a few hours before work to whip up something fun in the kitchen, go on a walk, do yoga, or just relax and putz around the house.

Another perk? Holiday gifts! I’m not a teacher, but I work directly with the kids and their parents every single day. So when the holidays rolled around, I was so touched to be given gifts from the students and families. I received lots of Starbucks cards, a free pass to a nearby Korean spa (the besssttt), and LOTS of Ferrero Rocher chocolates…you know the ones I’m talking about – hazelnut in the center, surrounded by chocolate hazelnut cream, covered in a thin wafer thing and then another layer of milk chocolate and hazelnut pieces…AKA a little drop of heaven and an ode to my favorite combination ever – hazelnut and chocolate.

When I was growing up, Nutella was not a thing we had in the house. It may not even have been popular in the US at that time. But when I was 6, we moved to Germany and I was introduced to this delightful spread. It has never overtaken Peanut Butter – my #1 forever – but this delicious hazelnut chocolate spread is a definite favorite. In recent years I haven’t bought it because 1) I go through it too fast that it’s dangerous and 2) The amount of sugar/processed ingredients isn’t great.

So upon being reminded of my intense love of hazelnut + chocolate around the holiday times (note: all the boxes of chocolate I received are now long gone), I was motivated to make my own Chocolate Hazelnut Spread with more wholesome ingredients.

I was further inspired by this blog post about Toasted Hazelnut Butter and Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Spread. Since I don’t use metric system measurements, my recipe turned out different because I was just going by taste but check out these recipes too because they look wonderful! 🙂

Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp raw unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (optional)
  • almond milk – until desired consistency

Directions

  1. Toast your hazelnuts in the oven. I preheated mine to 350 degrees and toasted them for 8 minutes. The outer casings got golden brown and crisped up a little!
  2. Blend your hazelnuts in a food processor or blender for a few minutes – it will get crumbly first but then will start to release the natural hazelnut oil. I opted to use my food processor because the other day my blender exploded on me during a particularly aggressive smoothie concoction.
  3. Optional: After a few minutes mine was still pretty crumbly so I added a tsp of coconut oil to help it along – it also gave it a delicious hint of coconut flavor. It probably wasn’t necessary because once you add maple syrup and almond milk, it will get liquid enough so feel free to leave it out!
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and continue blending. Scrape down the sides if the cocoa powder gets stuck!
  5. Add a splash of almond milk at a time, continuing blending, until it reaches the desired consistency. Keep tasting and add more cocoa or maple depending on how sweet and chocolatey you want it!
  6. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator and put it on everything 😉

 

Recommended Meal

I ate my Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and a sliced banana on top of my oats this morning. Delicious!

Another idea? Spread it on your spelt bread toast 🙂

 

 

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Basil Almond Pesto

We love pesto but don’t love the price of pine nuts. Through experimentation, we have decided that almonds make a great alternative (they are cheaper and healthier!).

Typically, Alex and I will make a batch of pesto, eat some on pasta, and then store the rest in a mason jar. It will last quite awhile and is nice to have on hand because you can use it to *glam* up a lot of simple dishes! Put it on your pasta, sandwiches, pizza, salads, crackers, anything really. The suggestion below is for a relatively small batch but you can definitely make it in larger amounts.

This post is short and sweet, and mostly a reminder to experiment in the kitchen. I have never written down the exact recipe we use for pesto and I’m sure it has ended up a little different each time. That is totally part of the fun. Start with the almonds, determined by how much pesto you want to make, then add your other ingredients based on taste! It doesn’t matter if it ends up being the most authentic pesto or not, what matters is that you like it and it’s enjoyable to make. Have fun!

Basil Amond Pesto

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • Basil (approx. 4 oz)
  • Lemon Juice (approx. 1/2 lemon)
  • Parmesan cheese (vegan? blend in some nutritional yeast flakes)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt + pep

Directions

Important: Make sure you have LOTS of basil! We did a whole 4 oz. pack from Trader Joe’s (our plant didn’t have enough to make it from our little herb garden) but could have easily used more…we love it!

  1. Blend up the almonds a bit to get them started – it will be really loud and take awhile but eventually it will start moving! If it is really not blending up, add a little olive oil.
  2. Add some basil and blend! (save some back so you can taste and then add more later depending on how strong a basil taste you want!)
  3. Begin adding everything else in little bits, tasting as you go. Have fun using your taste buds to steer you in the right direction of proportions. Tip? Don’t go crazy on any one ingredient before you add a little of all of them. Once you add a whole bunch of salt, you can’t take it back – so go little by little until you hit the perfect combo!

Meal recommendation

We sautéed chicken thighs (cut into bite sized pieces) in a cast iron pan with olive oil. Once cooked through, we removed the chicken and cooked mushrooms, chopped red bell pepper, and zucchini in the same pan, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Once everything was done, we loaded up our plates with as much pasta, pesto, and toppings as we could eat, seasoning everything with some red pepper flakes and extra parmesan cheese!

It definitely hit the spot!

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Spelt Loaf

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very musical family. At age 5, I began playing the cello and I took private lessons and participated in youth orchestras until I graduated from high school. I now work at a music education program for youth, so clearly it had a huge impact on me and what I value in life. But that isn’t what this post is about…

For awhile, I had private lessons each week about 45 minutes from my house. My mom would pick me up from elementary school on early release Wednesdays and drive me to my lesson (thanks mom).  Lucky for us, Great Harvest Bread Co. was on our way home so we would sometimes treat ourselves and stop after my lesson. It blew my mind that they gave each customer a slice of bread to enjoy while deciding what loaves to buy and take home. It was the best! I’m not even sure if Great Harvest still exists, and I certainly haven’t frequented one in years. I think we stopped going when mom was diagnosed with Celiac Disease – sad days. But clearly it made a lasting impression on me because 15-20 years later, I still remember it so fondly – good marketing technique Great Harvest!

The loaves always switched so I didn’t get the same every time but my all time favorite was definitely this delicious loaf that was essentially a giant cinnamon bun with buttery, spicy swirls and chunks of nuts (either walnuts or pecans). It was insane and I loved it.

All this is to say, I finally felt like I had mastered the spelt bread loaves I’ve been making for a few months so this week I decided to switch it up. Inspired by my childhood memory of drooling over this delicious nutty spiced swirl bread…I decided to make a Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Spelt Loaf.

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Spelt Loaf

For the most part, the method is the same as in my Basic Spelt Loaf recipe. I’ll summarize the method but will mostly emphasize the steps that are different – so please refer to that recipe if you need a refresher on the basic steps of bread making!

Ingredients

Bread

  • 4.5 cups whole spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp honey (or raw sugar)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water + 3/4 cup warm almond milk

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl*

  • 1/3 cup butter – softened to room temperature (not melted)
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup raw pecans chopped

*I think next time I’m going to add more of every type of filling to make it even more decadent, so just experiment with the amount of sweetness and nutty bites you like!

Directions

  1. Combine the water and almond milk in a microwavable bowl and warm it up (not too hot). I decided to do half almond milk because some of the recipes I glanced at for sweet breads used dairy instead of water. I’m not sure if it made a difference but the loaf turned out great so it’s what I’m putting in this recipe – feel free to experiment with all water though!
  2. Stir the honey or sugar into the warm water mixture and add the active dry yeast. Let it sit until foamy – about 10 minutes.
  3. Combine salt and spelt flour in a large bowl. (Less salt than my regular loaf)
  4. Add yeast liquid to the flour and combine using hands or spatula (or standing mixer if you have one). Once combined, flour the sides of the bowl and leave the dough for 1 hour to rise. Cover with a dish towel and leave in a warm place.
  5. While dough is rising, mix softened butter together with 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a dash of salt.
  6. Once dough has risen, empty it out onto a well floured work surface. Knead it a little bit and then use a rolling pin to roll it into a rectangle (short end should be about the length of your loaf pan!). Do this carefully, mine stuck a lot and I had to use spelt flour on top of the dough to make sure it didn’t get too stuck to the pin – don’t get frustrated, just be gentle!
  7. Spread the butter mixture evenly onto the dough rectangle. Then add the pecans and sprinkle the rest of the sugar and cinnamon on top!
  8. Carefully roll the dough into a loaf – start at one side, using pressure to keep the roll nice and snug but not so tight you squeeze it into a weird shape…be nice to it! Keeping it snug will ensure it rises evenly and there’s no big gab between the layers!
  9. Place the loaf into a greased loaf pan being careful to put the side with lines or folds on the bottom!
  10. Leave your loaf to proof for 30 minutes, covered with a dish towel in a warm place.
  11. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  12. Optional: Combine 1 egg and a tiny bit of milk and brush it over the top of your bread before baking! I did this but don’t know if it made a big difference. You could also spray your bread with a little water as soon as you put it into the oven – the steam helps create a crust.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees (keep an eye so the top does not get too brown!). Then turn down the oven to 350 and bake for 20 more minutes. If the top is getting too dark, cover it with aluminum foil. The goal is to make sure the inside is fully cooked, without burning the top! You want to make sure those delicious swirls get baked through and are not soggy, so I recommend baking the full 35 minutes!
  14. Most important step – ENJOY THE HEAVENLY AROMA IN YOUR HOUSE WHILE IT BAKES! 🙂
  15. Remove from oven – unlike my regular spelt bread, it did not feel quite as hard and didn’t sound hollow when I removed it. This made me worried but once it cooled and I cut into it…it was absolutely perfect! So if it is browned and feels relatively solid, don’t be too worried if it doesn’t sound perfectly hollow!
  16. Remove from loaf pan and allow to cool on a rack of some sort OR be sure to rotate the side it is cooling on so it is cooled on all sides!

Eat warm or toasted, slathered with butter or margarine and enjoy! 

 

Vanilla Maple Chia Pudding

Need a quick morning meal or something easy to take to the office for a mid-morning snack? Chia pudding is easy to prep, delicious to eat, and good for you!

When I first started seeing Chia beverages in stores I was really freaked out. Have you seen those juices that have little tiny blobs suspended evenly throughout the drink? It is kind of eery how they are perfectly suspended in the juice, like each seed has a little force field around it or something. Also, when I finally got up the courage to buy one the consistency was confusing – kind of thick with little chia blobs and the occasional crunch of a seed. Maybe you love them, maybe you don’t. Whichever you are, I recommend you try chia pudding!

With a higher ratio of chia to liquid, the pudding becomes thick enough to eat with a spoon and the consistency no longer throws me for a loop. It becomes a pleasant, creamy and thick pudding snack that is packed with nutrients, fiber, protein and healthy fats.

Not sure where to buy chia? It is now available in most grocery stores since it has become so popular. But you know where I buy it? Homegoods! Homegoods is a store, related to TJ Maxx, that sells home furnishings and decor at a discount rate. They have a whole health food section and most of it is very cheap for top of the line organic and natural products. Anyways, I get chia seeds there – a bag for $5.00 – but you can buy it nearly anywhere. If it seems expensive, think about how tiny the seeds are and how many chia puddings you can make with one bag…it’ll last awhile and be worth it!

Vanilla Maple Chia Pudding

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (grade A or B)
  • dash of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • your favorite toppings!

Directions

  1. Measure out your milk into a tupperware or mason jar
  2. Add chia
  3. Add vanilla, maple, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Give it a quick stir to break up the chia clusters. Then secure the lid and shake!
  5. Put it in the refrigerator to chill and thicken. Shake again after 5-10 minutes. Then leave it for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Add your toppings – my favorite is strawberries, blueberries and coconut flakes!
  7. Enjoy immediately or put the lid on and take it with you to work – keep it in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.

Salad with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese & Pepitas

Spring has sprung! And you know what that means…longer days for backyard potlucks and parties! Our friend threw a beautiful backyard bash to ring in the first days of Spring and it was wonderful.

Alex and I got a CSA box last week. Have you ever gotten one? CSA means Community Supported Agriculture and it is a way to buy produce directly from the farm that grows and harvests it! Unlike shopping at a farmers’ market though, the farmer packs the CSA box and determines what goes in there. AKA  you don’t have control over what you’re getting each week. Which may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually amazing…It encourages you to try new vegetables, break your routine, and experiment with new recipes. Look out for more reasons to sign up for a CSA later on…

This week’s box came packed with seasonal leafy veggies and greens so we made a large salad to share our CSA bounty with all of our friends!

Salad with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese & Pepitas

This salad is a prime example of me checking out our refrigerator situation and making it up as I went. For example, we had acorn squash left over from earlier in the week (we were sad we didn’t eat that much squash this winter so we went out and bought some even though it was late in the season!) I thought goat cheese and pepitas would go nicely with the squash. The flavor combo was reminiscent of winter & fall, so I whipped up a fresh citrus vinaigrette – making this salad a lovely farewell to the colder months as we usher in spring & summer!

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 purple cabbage sliced thin
  • 1/2 acorn squash
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Raw pepitas
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  1. Prep the acorn squash – cut it in half through the stem, use a fork to scrape out the seeds (save them and roast them if you want). Leave the skin on and place the squash half cut side down on a cutting board. Cut it into slices about 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place the squash in the pan – single layer if possible. Sprinkle salt & pepper on top, let it cook for a few minutes checking to be sure the squash doesn’t get burnt. Once one side is brown, turn the pieces over so they get cooked all the way through. Sprinkle salt & pepper on the top one more time. Once squash is easy to pierce with a fork, take them off the heat and set them on a plate to cool slightly.
  3. Place the chopped kale and sliced cabbage into a large salad bowl
  4. Crumble goat cheese on top and sprinkle raw pepitas.
  5. Once squash is cool, cut them into bite size pieces and add them to the salad!

Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 3 parts olive oil (I used Pasolivo Citrus Olive Oil – the best!)
  • 1 part white balsamic vinegar (balsamic or red wine vinegar could be substituted)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a mason jar (or in my case a recycled TJ’s salad dressing bottle) – SHAKE IT UP! 🙂 Dress your salad lightly right before eating and toss!

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Enjoy with friends and a chilled glass of rosé! 

 

Spelt Breadmaking Basics

If you’re like me, you probably never really thought about baking bread as an option. For some reason, it’s one of those things that seems like a mystery but we don’t dwell on it too long and we go on buying loaves from the grocery store with not much thought.

Well, that changed for me about a year ago. Due to a lot of digestive and GI problems, I was put on a very limited diet, the FODMAP diet. Ever heard of it? (Struggling with GI problems? Check out the diet here and the reasoning behind it here.)

Anyways, for 2 months I was on the strictest diet ever (dinner party host’s worst nightmare) and despite being kind of terrible, it was also an interesting challenge. Alex and I got very creative with our cooking, and its what really inspired me to try baking my own bread! Wheat flour was on the DO NOT EAT list. Having grown up with a celiac mom, that didn’t bother me too much because I grew up eating homemade cookies, pancakes, banana bread, etc. with rice flour or gluten free flour mixes. (Though I do not think my mom typically baked her own GF yeast bread – like I said, bread making remained a mystery to me.) However,  unlike people with celiac disease, folks on the FODMAP diet can eat spelt flour which is something I had never tried before so my interest was piqued.

What is spelt?

Spelt flour is an “ancient grain” that has low levels of gluten, is easy to digest, and has a higher protein content than wheat flour. I’m not an expert on any of this, but Alex and I quickly decided we liked the taste of spelt bread. Now that I’m off the strict FODMAP diet (but continue to watch what I eat and use it as a reference point), we continue to use spelt in all of our breads and baked goods. I highly recommend you try it, especially since my go-to recipe for spelt bread is really easy.

More info about spelt here. Where to buy it? I actually order it online from Amazon. They do carry it in certain stores, like Whole Foods, and you may try looking at your regular super market. I have found that I go through the small bags really quickly since I bake a lot of bread AND some of the brands at Whole Foods (VitaSpelt) are expensive. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill or Arrow Mills brand, and be sure to get whole spelt flour, not white spelt flour! I order Bob’s Red Mill spelt in packs of 4, 24oz. bags and store the open bag in an airtight container.

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Spelt Bread Recipe

After deciding to give it a try, I researched online and found a recipe that was easy enough not to scare me away. This is the one I used, and it continues to be my basic guide for spelt bread. Honey Spelt Bread

I continue to use the same proportion of ingredients as they recommend in that Food & Wine recipe, but I have switched up a few things while experimenting. Here’s my version of the recipe & directions!

Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups whole spelt flour + more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1-3/4 cups *warm* water
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave or sugar
  • A loaf pan – 4X8 is the standard size

Directions

  1. Put the water in a microwavable bowl and microwave for 15-30 seconds so its lukewarm but not hot. Add your honey and yeast to the water and stir. Leave it for 15 minutes until its creamy and yeast has bubbled a little…It’s coming to life!
  2. Combine spelt flour and salt in a large mixing bowl – I use a whisk to make sure salt gets dispersed. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and combine with a spoon or your hands until its well mixed together. It will be sticky – that’s normal. Its also why I use a spoon and not my hands for this part…it’s sometimes hard to get off!
  3. Shape the dough into a ball, lift out of the bowl and dust the sides of the bowl with flour. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a dish towel or lightly greased plastic wrap.
  4. Then place your dough somewhere warm and leave for an hour or doubled in size– I usually turn my oven on WARM for a few minutes, then turn it off and place the bowl in there. Just make sure its not so hot it will cook your bread or damage the towel or plastic wrap. You can also just leave it on the counter if your kitchen is relatively warm.
  5. Lightly grease your loaf pan – I use olive oil and rub it around with a tiny piece of paper towel or my hands.
  6. Sprinkle spelt flour on a cutting board or clean work surface. Carefully coax your dough out of the bowl, it is okay if it’s a little stuck, that happens. Flour your hands and knead the dough by folding it in half one way and pushing on it, then folding it in half the other way and pushing on it. I usually do this just a few times. Spelt flour doesn’t need to be knead as much as wheat flour.
  7. After kneading the dough, shape it into a log the length of your loaf pan. Put the side that has visible folds on the bottom so the top is smooth.
  8. Cover again with a dish towel or greased plastic wrap and leave for 30 minutes or until it’s risen in the pan. This process is called “proofing.” I’m still perfecting the length of time, I change it up and sometimes leave it an hour or so. There’s such a thing as “over proofing” bread, but I don’t really know what that means…I think it gets too much air in the dough so there’s big holes. I haven’t noticed that in my loaves, but they always taste great!
  9. While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  10. Using a sharp knife, make a vertical cut down the center of the loaf a 1/4 inch deep or so. You can also make 4-5 horizontal cuts if you prefer. As the dough continues to rise in the oven, it will make a nice shape and also help air escape if necessary.
  11. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t get too dark!
  12. Once it is done, take the bread out. Using oven mitts, turn the loaf pan over (use a knife on the edges if necessary) and pop your loaf out onto a clean surface. Using the mitts pick up the loaf and put it on top of something that will let the air get on all sides of it so it cools properly. 
  13. Once it has cooled…eat it!

PLEASE don’t let the number of steps deter you. It is a fun process and I know you can do it. Also, it gets easier each time and by now it is a piece of cake for me (or a piece of delicious bread…). Wishing you luck and can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you!

Additional Notes

  1. Toppings! This loaf of spelt bread has raw pepitas on top! I spritzed the dough with water and then pressed the pepitas into the top to add a nice crunch to the crust!
  2. Mixer – most bread recipes call for a standing mixer with dough hooks. Don’t let that deter you. Thus far I have not had any significant trouble using my stirring or hand mixing method. I may end up purchasing a mixer because it’ll make my life easier but don’t let your lack of mixer stop you from trying recipes!
  3. Yeast – You can buy fast acting yeast in little packets from the grocery store in the baking aisle next to the brownie mix (yum). Do this the first time you make bread, but if you decide you like making bread and/or pizza dough, you should buy the little jar because it’s more affordable than buying tons of the little packets!.

Monster Kale Smoothie

Just me, myself and my ginormous green smoothie…

I went to the gym for the first time since being sick today. My legs have been itching for a workout, but my lungs needed some more time to heal so I just biked for 20 minutes and then did stretches on the mat. It felt SO good to be kind to my body and make it sweat a little.

Anyways, after getting home from the gym I decided to make a green smoothie because we have a LOT of kale right now. I’m not always a super fan of kale (GASP! A health-conscious, foodie person NOT in love with kale?!?!?!). That’s right. It gives me stomach aches and doesn’t always taste great – you can quote me on that if you want. Anyways, I’m particular about how I like to use kale.

BUT, I do love it in smoothies… IF you get the right mixture!

Monster Kale Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 4-6 BIG kale leaves (mine was flat but you can use curly too, either way cut out the stiff ribbing so its mostly leaf, not stalk!)
  • 2 handfuls frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (vegan? leave this out – add less liquid!)
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • Optional: 2 tbsp coconut milk (I had leftovers from making coconut rice this week!)
  • Water as needed to blend!

Directions

  1. Throw all your good stuff into the blender.
  2. Blend it up REAL good.
  3. Enjoy!

I didn’t actually intend for this smoothie to be the size of my head, but it yielded a lot and I was hungry so I took it all and sipped on it at work all morning. I might not even need lunch! Hence the name…MONSTER kale smoothie.

What I love about this smoothie is that the greek yogurt, avocado and kale really balance out the fruity sweetness so it doesn’t taste like dessert – it’s a little sweet and a lot of goodness!

Homemade = Less Money & Less Waste

My biggest pet peeve? Folks who complain about being broke but who also buy lunch every day…C’mon people! Buying groceries and then preparing meals at home is definitely the way to go.

In addition to being cheaper (and healthier), making food at home produces less waste than restaurants do when cooking for the public. Its that easy! Make the environmentally conscious decision to cook at home as much as possible.

Think about it:

  • Food waste – this is a big one! It is easier to predict the amount of food needed to feed your household than it is to predict customer demand in a restaurant. Food waste is a huge problem at restaurants due to miscalculating demand, large unfinished portions, etc. If you miscalculate the food needed at home, you can put the leftovers in the fridge, stored in a reusable tupperware for lunch the next day!
  • Food production/storage waste – when you cook at home you have control of how much disposable food storage you use. When you eat out, you have no idea how much plastic wrap, styrofoam containers, and other disposable packaging they use and throw away.
  • Disposable napkins, plates, utensils – this is more applicable to fast food or take out, but think about how often you bring leftovers home from a restaurant in a disposable container!
  • Restaurant energy consumption to refrigerate, air condition, heat, light up the establishment is significantly higher than your home energy consumption – do not take this lightly! Energy consumption is actually a huge deal when it comes to storing, preparing, and cooking food!

Note: Alex and I go out to a meal once or twice a week. We recognize that eating out is a social activity and can be exactly what you want after a long week at work! Treat yourself – because that’s important too. But, let’s be honest – eating out for a meal everyday is bad for your wallet, your health, and the planet.

So Environmentalism on a Budget Lesson #1? Cook at home – save money, save the world.

Environmentalist on a Budget

It’s easy to care about the wellbeing of the environment, but much harder to ensure your actions reflect your words. Even more so when you’re on a tight budget.Yet, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your ecological footprint and contribute to altering our society’s treatment of the planet. Alex and I were recently inspired by a woman who has produced less than 1 mason jar filled with trash in two years….have you seen the video? If not, go watch it now.

Let’s be clear…Alex and I are not setting that lofty a goal for ourselves, its all about baby steps! But that video did help us realize that there are a lot more things we can be doing. It helped inspire us to make even more of an effort to be environmentally conscious by changing little things in our daily routines and living practices.

We’re recent college graduates. I work for a nonprofit and Alex is an intern with the National Parks Service while he applies to graduate school. AKA we are not rolling in cash. But we are determined to do what we can with what we have!

Interested in reducing your ecological footprint and making more environmentally friendly decisions? If we can do it, so can you! The first step is simply being conscious of wanting to be more environmentally friendly and keep this in mind throughout the day when making decisions and going about your routine.

Next step? Follow emiesfoodforthought and keep your eyes out for my frequent posts with tips & recommendations for making small changes with big impacts.

 

 

Stir Fry with Basil & Coconut Rice

We typically stir fry once a week (at least) but switch it up each time so it doesn’t get old! This recipe calls for eggplant, broccoli, and bell pepper but you can easily switch it up with any vegetables you are craving or have on hand. Green beans, zucchini and carrots are some of our other go-to stir fry veggies, so get creative and add whatever you like.

One of our recent faves? Stir fried chicken or tofu with basil and veggies, on top of steaming hot coconut rice! The coconut makes it taste decadent, the basil makes it fresh, and veggies & protein make it a filling and healthy meal!

Substitution Tips: Don’t want rice? Quinoa is a wonderful and healthy substitute! Coconut quinoa is amazingly delicious so I actually highly recommend switching out rice every once in awhile with this nutrient and flavor packed seed!

Stir Fry with Basil & Coconut Rice

Prep Time: 10 Minutes, Cook Time: 20-40 minutes (depending on rice!)
Serves: 2

Ingredients

Stir Fry with Basil

  • Extra Firm tofu OR
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Vegetable or coconut oil
  • Onion
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh or dried ginger
  • Soy Sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Chili Sauce (we use Sambal & Sriracha)
  • Black pepper
  • Sugar

Coconut Rice

  • Rice (White or Brown or Quinoa!)
  • 1 can coconut milk (tip: look for one that is JUST coconut milk + water, try to steer clear of other ingredients or unnatural flavoring)

Directions

  1. If you plan ahead, marinate your chicken or tofu! Cut the protein up into bite size pieces and put it in a tupperware. Make an easy marinade – mostly soy sauce, a little rice vinegar, as much chili sauce as you want, some cracked black pepper, some ginger (finely chopped or ginger powder) and a small amount of chopped up basil. Shake it around so the protein is coated in this mixture and put it in the fridge. I often do this in the morning so it marinates all day 🙂
  2. Begin to cook your rice as you normally would. We use a rice cooker but you can easily do it on the stove top. We usually make 2 cups of dry rice, which means we have left overs to use in lunches!
  3. While your rice begins cooking, chop your veggies into bite size pieces. Tip: keep them mostly the same size so they cook at the same pace!
  4. Mix up a stir fry sauce: Soy sauce, chili paste, a little rice vinegar, and a tiny bit of sugar to sweeten it up. I don’t include exact amounts – just sample it as you go adding more of what you like. Its part of the fun! Once you’re satisfied, set this sauce aside.
  5. Heat up a wok or sautee pan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil. Once its hot, add the onion and ginger. Watch to be sure they don’t cook too fast, turn down the burner if necessary.
  6. After a few minutes add your chicken or tofu in one layer so each piece is touching the hot pan. Wait a few minutes and then turn the pieces over so they are browned on both sides. If using chicken, be sure to cook it long enough that it is no longer pink and each surface has been cooked. Once cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside.
  7. Heat up a little more oil in the same pan and add the eggplant (in a single layer if possible). Flip the pieces after a few minutes.
  8. Once the eggplant has cooked a little, add your bell pepper and broccoli, stirring it every once in awhile so all veggies get some time on the pan and preventing any pieces from getting too cooked/burnt!
  9. Once the veggies are mostly cooked (tip: broccoli is softening up but still bright green!), slowly pour your sauce on top, stirring as you go so all veggies get coated in it – be careful not to put TOO much sauce, or you’ll have a soup instead of a fry.
  10. Add your protein back into the pan and mix it up well. Turn off the heat and cover so it stays warm and it all steeps in the sauce to soak up flavor!
  11. Once your rice is almost completely cooked and only has a minute or two left – stir in 1/2 of the can of coconut milk. Doesn’t seem like enough? Add more if you like! Close the rice lid and let it soak up the milk for a minute or two while you get out your plates and get ready to serve up your food!
  12. Serve a healthy portion of hot coconut rice and then top it with your stir fry. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!