My Favorite Recipes of 2015

For some reason it hit me a couple of days ago that I have officially stuck with cooking healthy, vegan meals for an entire year now! In honor of this anniversary, I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite recipes from 2015.

Best Recipe

Minimalist Baker Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls 

I made these on Thanksgiving morning and I am still thinking about them. They were a huge hit at our house – even with my non-vegan husband. This was one of the most complicated recipes I tried all year (I had to work with yeast for the first time ever), but it was well-worth the effort.

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Best Sandwich

Minimalist Baker Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich 

Make it. Now. It’s that good. And make sure you make the garlic hummus sauce, even though the recipe says it’s optional. It’s really the best part of the entire sandwich!

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Honorable Mention: Tiny Lemon Tree Cannellini Bean Sandwich

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Best Salad

Tasty Yummies Autumn Harvest Salad 

This hearty and flavorful roasted vegetable salad is meant to be served at room temperature. I highly recommend adding butternut squash to this one.

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Best Entree

Vegan Yumminess Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Tofu 

I’ve made a zillion versions of this now, using different combinations of vegetables and variations of the sauce, and they are all amazing. Tofu “stir fry” is a great way for me to pump up my vegetable intake when I feel like I’ve been lacking in that area.

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Best Knock-Off of a Meat Dish

One Green Planet Tempeh Gyros with Tzatiki 

I actually hate most meat knock-off dishes. I just don’t find them appealing at all. And I’m actually not a huge tempeh fan, if I’m being completely honest. But this recipe is a winner. I think marinating the tempeh for several hours really makes the difference here, so make sure you don’t cut any corners with marinating. It will be worth it! I also suggest you make extra tzatiki because it’s awesome for dipping (veggies, pita chips, etc.) and as a salad dressing, too. 

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Best Chili

Taste of Home (aka “Julianna’s”) Chili

There are LOTS of veggie chili options and I like several of them, but this is my standout. It’s easy to make (the hardest part is chopping up all of the vegetables), super healthy, and has great flavor. I call it “Julianna’s” chili, since my friend Julianna (who is a meat-eater) introduced me to the recipe last winter and I have been hooked on it ever since.

The only photo I have of this one is pre-cooking, but you get the idea. It’s loaded with veggies!

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Please let me know what you think if you try any of these! Happy cooking!!

Vegan Thanksgiving 2015: Part II

I’m happy to report that my first homemade vegan Thanksgiving was a success! Generally, everything went well in the kitchen and the food was tasty (check out my previous post for links to all of the recipes I used).

So, how did we like each recipe? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “spit out first bite and threw the rest in the trash” and 5 being “loved it and will definitely make again,” here are the scores:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans: 5

This was the most difficult of the day’s seven recipes and definitely gave me the most anxiety leading into Thanksgiving Day. I’ve never worked with yeast before and I was concerned that my dough may not rise properly. However, I didn’t have any issues with the yeast or any other aspects of the recipe. The whole process took about 2:30, including letting the dough rise, assembly, baking, and cooling, but for special occasions, I definitely think the effort was worth it and I will make these again.

After rolling out the dough, you add the yummy filling ingredients, including pumpkin butter, cinnamon, sugar, and chopped pecans.

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The final product, including icing and more chopped pecans!

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Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait with Ginger Snaps: 4.5

This pudding was super easy to make. It’s healthy (canned pumpkin, chia seeds, and spices are sweetened with just a bit of maple syrup) and delicious, and even won rave reviews from my meat and potatoes loving husband! I definitely plan to make this again. The only reason this didn’t get a 5 was because the cinnamon rolls were just too delicious for anything else to get the same score.

I was definitely glad I made the pudding the day before because it was one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving Day.

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I assembled the parfaits on Thanksgiving Day so the (store-bought) ginger snaps would retain their snappiness.

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Mashed Potatoes: 4

This was my husband’s favorite dish of the day. Although the potatoes looked a little dry (there is no milk in the recipe), they didn’t taste dry at all. This recipe is a keeper for sure. The best part was that I didn’t have to peel the potatoes.

Roasted Carrots with Fresh Parsley: 4

This was the most simple recipe of the day, but it was really delicious. I don’t make carrots very often, but I will now that I have this recipe.

Meatless Loaf: 3.5

One of the main reasons this recipe appealed to me was because the author was clear that this loaf wasn’t trying to be meat. Personally, I don’t care for the taste of fake meats (yes, I’ve tried a bunch of brands), but I did want something that was a real, satisfying main course. I may be a vegan, but a salad won’t ever be enough to really fill me up, especially on a holiday.

This recipe really delivered what I was looking for. It was filling and hearty (and healthy!), with ingredients like tofu, beans, walnuts, and chopped vegetables. Although the recipe called for a lot of ingredients, it was not hard to make. Basically, everything goes in the food processor and you’re done.

The recipe makes quite a large loaf, so I’m thinking about trying to freeze some for future use. I will be honest that it isn’t the most attractive dish, so I added the carrots to the platter for some color.

The baked meatless loaf with roasted carrots.

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Whole Wheat Stuffing with Green Lentils: 3

I loved the addition of the lentils in this stuffing recipe because it made the stuffing more substantial than any other stuffing I have tried. That being said, this is only getting a three for two reasons. First, I wish I had added some additional vegetables, as my ratio of bread to vegetables seemed a bit off. Second, I wish I had used a different bread. I bought an organic whole wheat sourdough and, unfortunately, the sourdough flavor was a bit too overpowering. I will definitely try this recipe again because I think it has the potential to be a standout.

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Mushroom Gravy: 3

I will start by saying I’m not a huge mushroom person (I picked the recipe because my husband is), so I wasn’t expecting to love this. I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it, but I definitely didn’t love it. My husband liked it, but thought it was a bit heavy on the mushrooms.

 

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Things I would do differently

  • To the extent possible, I would grocery shop the week before the holiday, not the week of the holiday. Only a handful items really wouldn’t have been fresh if I bought them last Friday (e.g., the fresh baked bread) and I could have made one last minute trip for those few items.
  • I would either make my own pumpkin butter for the cinnamon rolls or purchase a few flavors to sample beforehand. I had a hard time finding already prepared pumpkin butter in the store and I did not love the flavor of the brand I ended up using.
  • I would use a different flavor whole wheat bread for the stuffing and might experiment with adding more celery and perhaps squash, mushrooms, and/or another vegetable to make the dish a bit less bread-heavy.
  • I would add a bit of sugar to the pudding (note: I like things sweeter than most and my husband said he liked it as is).
  • I would add some kind of green salad to the menu.

All in all, this Thanksgiving was a success! It was definitely a lot of work. Plus, we think it cost more to purchase all of the ingredients for this meal than we have spent in the past ordering our meal from Whole Foods. There are definitely pros and cons to each approach and I guess I’ll have to weigh those between now and Christmas. I think I’ll probably be doing dishes until then…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

April Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed writing these “favorites” posts each month, so I’m sticking with it. Here are five things I’m loving in April, in no particular order:

(1) FINALLY training in the sun! It was a very long and very cold winter in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve done a lot of training and racing in bad weather. I ran a race in a sleet storm, another in a cold rain, and had a race cancelled because of snow. I cut one recent outdoor training ride short because I couldn’t feel my face and my fingers actually hurt from the cold. It hasn’t been fun.

Things finally seem to be turning around, though. Last weekend, I had a total blast getting in a 3-hour ride in the sun!

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It’s amazing what a few warm rays of sunshine will do for my mood. It made me really excited for everything that’s coming my way this year. I think this winter was so long that I didn’t realize that race season is right around the corner, but it is! My first tri is in less than one month. Things are heating up (literally and figuratively) and I know I have a really fun and exciting season ahead of me!

(2) No-Bake Almond Granola Bars. I tried making my own granola bars for the first time ever, using a recipe from May’s Triathlete magazine. I’ve always heard it’s “easy” to make granola bars at home, but “easy” is a relative term, and since I’m fairly new to cooking and baking, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out, it is, in fact, easy to make granola bars at home – although, I will say that the ingredients (in this case, almonds, almond butter, and dark chocolate) are not cheap!

These no-bake bars set in the fridge for two hours. I kept the dark chocolate in large chunks and that was a decision I don’t regret making.

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Despite the cost, the final product is delicious and nutritious! The recipe yields 16 bars, which you can store in the fridge or freezer. I think this recipe could be altered by using different nuts – cashews or walnuts, for example – or adding other ingredients, such as coconut flakes or dried fruit. I plan to experiment with this recipe after I finish enjoying my first batch of almond and chocolate treats.

I will say that these bars are a bit messy, so I’m not sure they are great training fuel, but they are good for snacking and/or dessert at home or in the office.

Check out the May issue of Triathlete for the recipe.

(3) MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capri. As I mentioned, it is finally warming up in Northern Virginia, which has meant more outdoor riding. YAY! Last week, I was able to wear my MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capris and a short sleeve jersey for a 2-hour outdoor ride.

After riding in so many layers for most of this winter, it felt so freeing to ride in only one layer of clothes!

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This is the first time I’ve been able to wear the capris outside and they did not disappoint! They are super comfortable, have the perfect amount of padding, and are just the right weight for this time of year. They are going to be my go-tos for spring riding. 

(4) Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Green Figs. My friend, Oiselle Flock member, fellow triathlete, and dietetics student, Taryn, always posts the most interesting nutrition info on social media. I love reading her posts! I have learned so much from her and I highly recommend you follow her on Instagram if you have an interest in food and nutrition (follow her on Instagram at: instagram.com/tmbf).

Taryn recently posted about the health benefits of organic whole green figs available in the Trader Joe’s freezer section (and, yes, she has an adorable dog, too). 

IMG_2834 I picked up a bag during my last grocery shopping trip, along with some other frozen fruit. I’ve been adding the figs to smoothies with Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder from Vitacost (use my Vitacost referral code for $10 off your first order).

One of my favorite combos so far is a ripe banana, one fig, a couple of frozen strawberries, and a few frozen pineapple bits, with one scoop of “Viva Vanilla” flavor Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder, unsweetened soy milk, and ice. I blend it all together in the Vitamix and it tastes just like a milkshake! It is an awesome post-workout treat!

I love that my “treats” are now healthy things like fruit smoothies, instead of Twizzlers! I decided I wanted to change my diet at the end of last year and I did. As Taryn says, you have the power to #makeyourhealthhappen!

(5) TriEqual.com and #50WomentoKona. I’ve posted quite a bit about the #50WomentoKona issue on Twitter and on Facebook, but I still get questions about it, so I thought I would briefly discuss it and provide some additional resources here.

No matter how complicated WTC (the company that runs Ironman-branded events) tries to make this issue, it’s really quite simple: while 50 professional men can compete in the Ironman World Championships each year, there are only 35 slots for professional women. 35 does not equal 50.

I obviously don’t have any direct personal stake in this issue, as I’m not a professional triathlete. However, I do feel passionately about this issue. As I stated on International Women’s Day:

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To me, the issue boils down to equality of opportunity (I can’t take credit for that phrase, but I think it’s perfect!) and that is a concept everyone should get behind – whether a professional or age-grouper; male or female; triathlete or not. 

If you want to learn more, I recommend the following:

  • Visit the TriEqual website for more information and to join the team of TriEqual volunteers. 

I hope everyone is having a great April!

February Favorites

No one has ever accused me of lacking enthusiasm. I’m either not interested, or I’m all in. Here are five things I’m loving this month:

1. Minimalist Baker Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich I recently tried the most delicious recipe from Minimalist Baker. This chickpea sunflower sandwich is AMAZING! I really can’t say enough about it. The recipe says the garlic sauce (which is made with hummus and lemon juice) is optional, but you really need to make it. It’s so tangy and bright. That may even be my favorite part of the entire sandwich. I added sliced tomato and avocado, but you could certainly add other toppings (lettuce, red onion, etc.).

The most amazing sandwich in the history of sandwiches.

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While I initially made a sandwich, I have subsequently put a scoop (okay, maybe more than a scoop…) of the chickpea mixture on greens with chopped tomato and avocado and the garlic sauce drizzled on top to make a salad. I’m sure I will be using the sauce on a zillion different things going forward. Both the sauce and the chickpea filling were quite easy to make. I think this will appeal to meat-eaters, as well. Make this recipe – you won’t be disappointed!

2. TRX at Machine M3 If you live in Northern Virginia, you must try a TRX class at Machine M3 in Vienna. One of my major goals for this year is to work on my strength. I know I’m not alone here – getting stronger seems to be a popular goal for many runners and triathletes, based on the blogs and social media posts I’ve read lately. Several people recommended TRX to me and I finally tried it a few weeks ago. The great thing about TRX is that there are always alternate versions of each exercise to make it harder or easier. For example, in my class, I do sit-ups with a weighted ball, but only extend the ball forward (easier), as opposed to holding it over my head (harder). I hope to eventually be able to do sit-ups with the ball over my head, but for now, I like that I have the option to modify and still benefit from the exercise. I think I may be the last person on Earth to discover TRX, but if you haven’t yet and are a runner or triathlete looking to improve your strength in 2015, I highly recommend trying it!

3. MooMotion Revolution Shorts I know I have raved about the MooMotion Revolution Shorts before on my blog and social media, but they are that fabulous, and I know people may be looking for new gear as their cycling mileage builds heading into the spring. These shorts are comfortable, flattering, and durable. I used two pairs for almost all of my training and racing last year and they still look as good as the day they arrived at my door (I say “almost” because I also had a pair of Rosa Tri Shorts in the rotation, and although they are beautiful, I didn’t wear those quite as often because they didn’t mix and match with as many tops). One of the features I appreciate most in the Revolution Shorts are the pockets. There are pockets on both the left and right sides of the shorts for holding gels or keys (you can even fit an iPhone in the pockets), which is perfect if you’re running off the bike. They come in classic colors (black, navy, charcoal), so you can mix and match them with any tri top or cycling jersey. If you have been looking for new tri/cycling shorts, you should definitely give these a try.

That’s me at Rev3 Poconos, wearing the Hudson Tri Jersey and Revolution Shorts.

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4. Bobo’s Oat Bars I recently discovered Bobo’s Oat Bars and they are absolutely delicious. These vegan bars are made in Colorado, from non-GMO, natural, and organic ingredients. They come in many flavors and every flavor I have tried so far has been outstanding. These bars really do taste homemade. I have been looking for a vegan fueling option for my long training rides this spring and summer and these are going to be perfect! They are also great as snacks with a little peanut butter on top! I’ve found them in a local health food store (Roberta’s in Fairfax, for anyone in the area) and my local CVS (a pleasant surprise), but you can also order them online from the company’s website.

5. Hoka Cliftons As you may remember, I had some issues with knee pain leading into the marathon last fall and the pain reappeared when I started building my running mileage again heading into the spring racing season. Alyssa suggested I explore some other shoe options and after trying several different shoes, I bought a pair of Altras. I liked the Altras, but I never felt quite comfortable in them. While the knee did seem to improve from the added cushioning the Altras provided, I was starting to have some other issues popping up during runs. I went to see my chiropractor, and she suggested I try Hoka Cliftons, as they would provide the cushioning to protect my knee, but have a slightly higher drop (Altras are zero drop). I’ve worn them a few times and already feel more comfortable in them than I did the Altras. I’m hopeful that these are going to work well for me and keep me injury-free this year.

My new shoes!

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I’m always looking for new things to try, so let me know in comments what you’re loving this month (I know it’s not the weather!).