Sunday, July 21, 2013

Southern California Rain + Cherry Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

How can I explain yesterday? Oh, yes...

Very wet, cloudy, and a little thundery. 

Pardon the mesh screen. Actually, never mind. I think it looks cool, now that I look at it again. Lately, I've been considering taking up photography as a hobby (I used to love photography, until my Nikon Coolpix P80 died in New Mexico).

Anyway, back to yesterday. Yeah, it was very rainy. And we loved every single bit of it. We don't get much rain here in southern California. 
Though we humans wish for more, the pets would prefer none at all..

Rocky actually doesn't get THAT affected by rain (he's more of a thunder-phobe), but I thought he looked so cute in that photo.

My family has this joke that we can collect every drop of rain that falls here in one bucket. It's kind of true. Almost.

One thing I DO know for certain is that I absolutely love rainy days. The sky is white, the clouds are a bit gray, and the sound of the rain calms the nerves.

Of course, some people are not too fond of rainy days, and that's fine. To each his own. But I think there is one thing we can agree on.

Holding an oven-fresh cookie in your hands on a rainy day is magical.

It's even more magical to take a bite out of it. ;)

One of the big sparks to my cookie-making fire yesterday was this blog. I'm seriously convinced that Tim and Shanna Mallon are the cutest couple in the blogiverse. I have fallen in love with the gorgeous photography, thoughtful and skilled writing, and the AMAZING healthy food that they put so much love into making. 

Recently, they made a blueberry buckle. If you don't know what a buckle is, it's pretty much the "baby" of a cobbler and a cake (you know, if food could have kids..). I was so set on making a cherry buckle, since I had cherries on hand. But then I saw my Enjoy Life chocolate chips in my pantry, and a different idea sparked to mind. Chocolate cherry cookies... Then I saw almonds and organic whole wheat flour in the fridge. Cherry Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

I'm going to be honest about these cookies, okay guys? I need to admit to you that these are not the healthiest. Sure, they're vegan, and partially organic. They have ingredients that I'm at least somewhat okay putting into my body. But they just ain't fruit, you know?

Please don't freak out, though. For one, these are TREATS. For two, as you can see from the picture, they do have plenty of healthy ingredients packed into them:

Almond meal and Organic whole wheat flour...

Chopped fresh cherries...

And we can't forget those chocolate chips:

Well, I could give you the recipe right now, but these cookies deserve more talk, because they are - in my humble opinion - one of the yummiest, most divine-tasting somewhat-healthy cookies I have ever tasted.

To start off, the dough is so sweet and chocolatey and has a very unique texture from the almond meal. There's also an occaisional pop of flavor from the cherries. Warning cookie dough lovers: it's going to be hard not to eat the dough.

While the cookies are baking, you can smell the butter, sugar, and chocolate doing their magic. The cherries are there too, but once again, it's quite difficult to pick out that distinct cherry aroma.

After baking... Take a bite out of one of those cookies... You will find that the duet of crunchy, savory almond with sweet, and slightly bitter chocolate pairs so well with the buttery goodness. If you concentrate very hard, you just might taste a subtle cherry flavor. I don't know how much flavor they lend to the recipe, but I'm not getting rid of them. They're too pretty. However, next time, I might just use strawberries. Can you imagine?? Chocolate-covered strawberry cookies? With almond flour? *swoons*

Cherry Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

* 1/4 cup organic butter of choice (Earth Balance Organic is nice)
* 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
* 2 Tbsp. milk of choice (I used soy)
* 3/4 tsp. vinegar of choice
* tiny pinch sea salt (optional)

*3/4 cup almonds, ground in food processor (makes approx. 1 cup almond meal)
* 3/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
* 3/4 tsp. baking powder

* 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
* 1/3 cup finely chopped cherries

1) Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease two round cookie baking sheets.
2) In a medium bowl, combine ground almond meal, wheat flour, and baking powder. Set aside.
3) Using electric hand mixer, combine butter, sugar, vinegar, milk, and salt until evenly mixed.
4) Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Dough should be a bit crumbly, but also very soft, wet and moldable (did that make sense?? Sorry, I can be confusing).
5) Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped cherries, and mix until combined evenly throughout batter.
6) Using hands or cookie scoop, roll out the dough into small balls about the size of a ping pong ball. Place them on baking sheet, and then press them down to make them a bit flatter (or you can keep them as balls. I'm sure they will still taste amazing either way).
7) Bake in oven for about 8 minutes (cookies will be a bit browned at the edges) and then remove from heat. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
8) At this time, you may want to sample a cookie or three. ;)
9) For soft cookies, store in a plastic tupperware. 
10) Enjoy the chocolate goodness!

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Well, that's pretty much it for today. Sorry about that quinoa recipe. I never got to posting it.. I think I would like to work on it a bit more before I do. 

All this rain in California has me wondering how much it's raining right now in other places. *contented sigh* I just love rain. Don't you? :)

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Monday, July 15, 2013

Green Juice with Optional Fruit Blend! :)

Optional and RECOMMENDED fruit blend.

Look at that vibrant green color:

I initially planned on making a simple juice, but then I ended up making a juice fruit blend in my vitamix. *shrug* Hey, it happens. 

Without any further ado, here's the recipe:

Cool Refresh Juice

Serves 3-4 (makes about four cups, with the fruit blend)

* 2 huge green apples
* 2 cups organic grapes
* 1-2 medium large stalks celery
* Small cucumber
* 7-8 huge leaves kale
* HUGE handful organic baby greens
* 2 sprigs mint
* 1/4 lime

* Large frozen pineapple chunks!

1) Run all ingredients through juicer.
2) Pour 1 cup of juice into vitamix blender and add 2-4 large chunks of pineapple. Blend until smooth and creamy, and pour into a large glass.
3) Repeat until all juice has been blended and poured into glasses.
4) Share with the world!!!

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. My parents went crazy for it! Even my sister drank it (and she can be quite picky). 

One more suggestion: adding frozen cherries to the mix makes it taste even more delicious. Just a suggestion. ;)

I'm not sure when I'll be writing my next blog post.. I've got a busy work week ahead, but at the same time, I'm super inspired from the weekend I had (ate at three vegan restaurants in a row!!). So we'll see. 

I made a very simple cilantro-lime quinoa recipe that I'm still debating whether I should post. Hm, I probably will. 
In the meanwhile, I can share a lovely photo of it (paired with my mom's delicious split pea soup!). 

I hope you all have a fantastic week. I'm looking forward to sharing more recipes with you.

Much love,

~ Natalyn

P.S. This juice recipe I posted is more of a REFRESHING, VEGGIE JUICE. If you want a sweeter juice, add more fruit, or maybe add a couple dates when you blend.. that should work. :) 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Tropical-Drink-Inspired GREEN Smoothie... + Other Stuff

Yes siree, I just made me one fantastic green smoothie.

Looks like your ordinary green smoothie, but this smoothie is a green FRUIT smoothie, Piña Colada Style.

Now listen, health fanatics (don't worry, I'm one too): If you want to add more greens to this smoothie, it'll still taste great. But the reason I only used three collard leaves for this smoothie (and lots of fruit, some honey, and stevia) is simply because one of my big passions is to introduce healthy eating to people who have a desire to live a healthier lifestyle. We need to remember that at the beginning of our journey of living healthier, our taste buds were different too - I mean, come on, many of us have been there at one point or another in our lives. This was a time where pizza was my broccoli, and Coke, Pepsi and milk was my water... where greens tasted like straight-up dirt, fruit tasted like a breakfast topping and not dessert, and where sugary dessert was the only highlight of our day and the hell of the next day when we stepped on the scale. I want to show these people that it's normal to feel this way at first about healthy eating, and that it does change your tastebuds over time (I know some of you are reading this, and perhaps agree with me that you are at this part of your life right now). I write this paragraph not to ridicule or point out people who are not living a healthy lifestyle. I'm not even saying that the raw or vegan lifestyle is the only way to be a healthy person - it's not the only way. I'm writing this to let you people know that I understand. I, at one point in my life, have gone through this tough stage. It isn't easy. You want to love health, but the opposite of it just tastes so good. I'm here to tell you (and to remind those who have already made the tough transition) that transitioning to a healthier lifestyle is tough, but CAN be better than you think. 

Have I plant-ranted enough?? ;) Hopefully I was making some sense.

Anyway, in all honesty, this recipe is for anyone who wants to enjoy a different take on America's favorite pineapple coconut smoothie.


Piña Colada Green Fruit Smoothie

Serves 1-2

* 7-8 medium to large chunks of frozen pineapple 
* 3 big collard leaves, most of stems removed (optional step)
* 1 cup coconut water
* 2 big spoonfuls coconut cream (from can)
* 2 big spoonfuls raw honey 
* 5-6 drops liquid stevia (optional, for extra sweetness)
1) Place all ingredients in vitamix and blend until smooth and creamy (may take a little while). 
2) Serve immediately and enjoy!

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I didn't announce this, but I have another recipe I've decided to share.

Simple Healthy Banana Pancake Blinis

Serves 1 hungry person

* 1/4 cup oat flour
* 1/8 cup buckwheat flour
* 1 ripe banana
* 2 Tbsp. full fat coconut milk
* 1 Tbsp. sweetener of choice (raw honey is great)
* 1/4 tsp. baking powder
* 1/4 tsp. coconut vinegar (or ACV)

* Oil or butter (I used Earth Balance vegan spread)

Optional Garnishes and Spreads:
* Bananas
* Hemp seeds
* Coconut cream
* Peanut Butter
* Raw Honey

1) In a small mixing bowl, combine oat and buckwheat flour. Set aside. 
2) In vitamix blender or food processor, combine banana, coconut milk, and sweetener until slightly chunky or completely creamy - whichever you prefer.
3) Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and then add baking powder and vinegar. 
4) Take out a large skillet, and turn on the heat. KEEP AT VERY LOW HEAT (as in, on the 2 or on the low setting). This prevents oil/butter from burning.
5) When pan is ready, add a small dab of oil/butter and let it sizzle on there for a few seconds. Then pour small circles into the pan. Make sure there's room for flipping.
6) Wait for pancake blini to start bubbling from the top, and then flip to other side and wait for at least 20 good seconds. Flip quickly a couple more times, and then transfer to a plate.
7) Continue until all pancake batter is used. 
8) Serve with bananas, hemp seeds, coconut cream, peanut butter, and raw honey!! Delish!

1) This can be a messy recipe.
2) This can take a little longer than the average breakfast, unless you have a very large skillet.
3) When combining wet ingredients in food processor, chunky texture tastes great in the pancakes. However, cooking time with chunky wet ingredients may be different from pancakes made with completely blended wet ingredients.
4) Do not be afraid if skillet pan looks horrible after making pancakes. Just let soak in water. That should help. :)
5) There is a different flavor and texture to these pancakes. Enjoy the variety of healthy food!

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Okie dokie, well that's pretty much it. I hope you enjoy the recipes, especially that green smoothie!! Mmmmm. 

Peace, love, and smoothies.

Much love,

~ Natalyn

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Delicious Ice Cream Pie + My Second Attempt at Kale Chips

Raw Ice Cream Pie!

Wait, did you hear me right?

Yes you did!

A perfect slice of ... 

Ready for this? 

Creamy Peach Sorbet Pie Swirled with Banana Coconut Cream On an Almond Date Crust. Drizzled with Raw MANGO Honey.

Long title. Good food. 

Don't worry, by the end of this post, I'll figure out a way to condense that title.

Recipe notes: If you would like to use a honey other than mango, no worries. It's still going to taste great.
TO MY AWESOME VEGANS: Yes, this recipe does have honey. Though I strongly believe in a plant-strong diet, I do LOVE my honey and have not yet found enough reason to give it up - it's medicinal, it's sweet, and as far as I know it's raw and from a local, cruelty-free source. 
If you do not want to use honey in this recipe, feel free to use date paste or maple syrup instead. Who knows? It might taste even more delicious!

Ok, back to business. Here's how the pie looked like last night when I was making it:

Then I decided to get even fancier and add honey and chopped banana. 

Let's fast forward to today's breakfast: 

Evidence of my encounter with the finished product

It's not super duper sweet, but it's still fantastic. No joke, it tastes like a peach-banana coconut smoothie with crumbly almond-date goodness on both the top and bottom. 

I guess the only way to experience the yumminess 100% is to make this yourself!

Onward to the recipe, and yes, with a simpler title this time:

Peach Banana Coconut Smoothie Pie (with Almond Date Crust)

Makes one 9 inch. pie. Serves 8-10 people... or less if I'm around. ;)

Crust Ingredients:
* 2 cups almonds
* 8 medjool dates (not soaked)
* 1-2 Tbsp. raw honey
* 4-5 pinches salt
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Banana Coconut Cream Ingredients:
* 2 frozen bananas
* 1 cup thick coconut cream (click the link and add less liquid than the recipe asks. Should make 1 cup when you do this)
* 10-12 drops stevia
* pinch salt
Peach Sorbet Ingredients:
* 2-3 cups frozen peach slices
* 2-4 dates (depending on how sweet you desire)
* 2-4 spoonfuls banana coconut cream
* Reserved almond-date crust
* 1 organic banana, chopped
* Local raw honey drizzle

1) First, make the crust in the food processor. Pulse the almonds a couple times, then add remaining ingredients. Mix until crumbly, but sticks together when you press with your fingers. 
2) Reserve about 1/4 cup of crust for the topping (crumble). Press remaining crust into the bottom of a 9" springform pan. Set aside (freeze perhaps).
3) Make banana coconut cream in the vitamix, spoon into bowl, set aside.
4) Make peach sorbet in the vitamix, using tamper. Taste it (delicious on its own), and set aside. 
To Assemble:
5) Spoon a small layer of banana coconut cream over the crust, then add all of the peach sorbet.
6) Swirl remaining banana coconut cream on the peach sorbet pie, then, using a knife or chopstick, begin to swirl designs on the pie. Then add reserved crumble and banana slices. Optional but recommended: drizzle honey over the top as well. 
7) Freeze pie in the springform pan overnight or for at least 10 hours. 
8) Remove pie from springform and transfer to a plate. 
9) Let thaw for 15-20 minutes (if you can wait that long!), then you can drizzle more honey if you desire. 
10) CUT A SLICE AND EAT IT UP! But do share, unless you want a food coma.
11) Stores very well in the freezer. For how long? Who knows? It didn't last very long in my house.

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I hope you enjoy that recipe. It sure made my sister happy. If she went crazy with it, you will most likely love it too! 

So, if you're wondering what I've been cooking up lately, I'm gonna be honest with you. Right now, my favorite foods seem to be kale, honey, organic dijon mustard, coconut cream, bananas, and almonds. Oh, and cacao. I'm not supposed to be eating cacao, but sometimes I let myself have it for a treat because I just love it with kale (I know, I'm a weirdo). 

I love kale chips. You know, those super expensive $6 bags of raw kale chips that last a day or two days if you're lucky? 

My favorite used to be the cheesy variety, but my new favorite as of late is this unique flavor:

SOOO good. Slightly sweet. Super chocolate-y. 

Alas, kale chips are WAY too expensive for a college student to be buying 24/7. 

So I settled with a new plan to get my crunchy greens: making them myself.

And I did. I made those kale chips... with almond meal, mustard, and honey. Four ingredients total. And let me tell you, these were not too shabby! I was this close to sharing the recipe with you tonight, but I decided I would like to get much more accurate measurements before I post. 

Unbaked kale chips
If you have never tried kale chips before, I'll tell you right now that you might love them, you might like them, or you may just HATE them. But I encourage you not to give up until you've tried all different flavors out there, homemade or not. There's sweet kale chips, hibiscus and pink peppercorn, dijon mustard, nacho cheese, sundried tomato, Thai-style, and much more. The possibilities are endless. 

So keep calm. Eat kale chips. They're good for you. Tasty. Crunchy...

Now that my sentences are starting to show the symptoms of a plant rant, I think I'm going to say goodnight to the blogosphere. Hopefully I'll get some shut-eye. That cacao makes it harder for me to sleep - gosh dangit, why does it have to taste so good with kale???? 

Peace, love... and kale. 

Much love,

~ Natalyn [Kale] Rodriguez  ;)