WFPB Vegan Queso

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WFPB Vegan Queso

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That's right! It's the moment you've been waiting for WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED VEGAN QUESO that tastes just like the creamy, spicy queso you remember from back in the day. 

The most popular recipe on my blog to date is my low-fat vegan cheese sauce and that does not surprise me in the least - it's easy, pretty much fool proof, super healthy and CRAZY good. When I first heard that you could make a creamy, 'cheeze' sauce out of vegetables I didn't believe it but when I finally perfected my own, I swear, I almost heard angels singing - I danced around my kitchen, called myself a genius as I kept eating the stuff off the spoon (much to the deep, external embarrassment of my boyfriend). In the past I was a huge cheese lover and although I can't say I have craved real cheese since becoming vegan, this is a recipe I make time and time again when I want something super comforting. 

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This spicy, creamy, south-of-the-border version is probably my favorite variation yet AND its even SIMPLER than the original! The mouth feel and flavor profile are unreal and even the biggest cheese lover wouldn't think twice about double dipping into this plant-based-bowl. 

In my original 'cheeze' sauce recipe I use a tiny bit of hummus to give the mixture a creamy, savory kick. I love using hummus as a lighter alternative to the usual nut-based vegan cheeses which can honestly leave most people feeling a little too full because of their calorically dense nature. This time around I use tahini (aka sesame seed butter, aka the base of most hummus) to create a smooth, silky texture that cannot be beat. I also didn't add any turmeric in this variation - it is used to give the sauce a 'cheese-like' color but I think the combo of carrots and red pepper do the trick here. 

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Again - This sauce is actually good for you - it is just veggies, nutritional yeast, sesame seeds and some seasoning but when combined it turns into something all it's own that will seriously have your head spinning. 

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Give it a try and let me know how you like it!


Serves: 4-6 people (as a dip) • Prep Time: 10 minutes • Cook Time: 15 minutes 


  • 1 large idaho gold/yellow potato, roughly diced
  • 2 small carrots, roughly roughly diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, roughly diced (bonus points and a more smokey flavor if you slightly char the pepper on your stovetop or grill first)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, roughly diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 low sodium veggie bouillon (optional, can omit or use vegetable stock instead)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp. of your favorite hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp. good, runny tahini (like this brand)
  • roughly 1/3 cup vegetable cooking liquid
  • Salt or coconut aminos to taste
  • 1/2 jar of your favorite salsa

1. Chop the potato, carrots, red pepper, onion and add to a pot along with your garlic and veggie boullion. Add enough water (or veggie stock if you don't have veggie bouillion cubes) to cover the vegetables about half way - turn the heat to medium high and cook till the vegetables to become soft enough to easily pierce with a fork, apx. 10 minutes. 

2. Once tender, add the vegetables and 1/3 of the cooking liquid to a high speed blender along with nutritional yeast, hot sauce, tahini and salt. Blend on high till the mixture becomes fully smooth and creamy, you will have to use a spatula or your tamper (Vitamix peeps) along with way. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

NOTE: Yes I want you to blend everything while it's still very HOT. I highly recommend using a high speed blender (with vents) but if you are using a conventional blender (or nutri-bullet type device) let the mixture cool down a bit before blending to prevent an explosion.

3. Transfer the cheezy mixture into a sauce pan and heat at medium-low just until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken slightly, apx. 3 minutes. 

4. Once warmed through, stir in half a jar (or more if you prefer) of your favorite salsa.

PRO TIP: As much as I love fresh style salsas like 'pico de gallo', I would caution against using them in this recipe - they are a bit too watery and will thin out your sauce too much - instead opt for a can of 'thick' style salsa from the Latin section of the grocery store - my favorite brand is Green Mountain Gringo which I can't get in California but, whatever, I make do. 

5. Serve warm with homemade corn chips, on a burrito bowl, in a quesadilla, as a nacho topping, in tacos, in a wrap...you get the idea, this stuff goes great with EVERYTHING. 

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Healthy & Delicious Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Whole foods, plant based, gluten free, no oil, no refined sugar and just-like-the-original chocolate chip cookies. I swear, if you love crispy yet chewy chocolate chip cookies these will leave you 100% satisfied and if  they don't then, well, I don't know what to do for you!

I've probably only had plant based cookies once or twice since going vegan but I had always wanted to come up with my own recipe for chocolate chip cookies I wouldn't feel bad about eating - and now that I've done it, I'm just stuck wondering ...what was I waiting for?! 

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This recipe was a total experiment and I didn't know if it was going to work out. I used no guidelines except for the classic tollhouse cookie recipe I know by heart (I make 8 dozen every week at my day job). My main inspiration was that I finally wanted to use aquafaba in a recipe as an egg replacer and wooo-weeee that stuff is magic! I also love the texture that the combination of oat, quinoa, chia and almond flour gives the cookie - crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside chocolate chip cookie that you can eat the whole batch of and not feel bad about. Enjoy!

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P.S - As with most batters, It's worth noting that the raw cookie dough is just as good as the baked cookies themselves and it's totally safe to eat because there's no eggs! 


Serves: Apx. 18 cookies • Prep Time: 10 min • Cook Time: 12 min


  • 1.5 cups GF oats, blended into flour
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, blended into flour
  • 1/4 cup almonds, blended into flour
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup/other liquid sweetener
  • 1.5 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (aka the liquid from a can of chic peas)
  • 3-4 tbsp. plant milk
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, vanilla extract and cinnamon (all optional)
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used the mini's from the brand Enjoy Life)

1. Preheat your oven to 375*F. Add oats, quinoa, almond and chia seeds in a high speed blender and blend until a fine, flour like consistency is reached. Pour the flour mixture into a large bowl.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

NOTE: Start with one or two tablespoons of plant milk and increase in tbsp. increments till you reach a stiff classic-cookie-dough consistency. 

NOTE: You don't have to worry about over-mixing because there's no gluten!

3. Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet sprayed with a teensy bit of coconut oil. Before baking, flatten out the cookies slightly and leave about a 1" diameter around each cookie.

4. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, checking at the 10 minute mark. 

5. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes before enjoying. 

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Tofu 'Satay' Thai Lettuce Cups with Spicy Peanut Sauce

An easy, fresh lunch or dinner that satisfies that craving for something a little out of the ordinary. When I am feeling in a rut with my food choices I like to change up the way I eat salads - and these lettuce cups totally do the trick. By simply shifting lettuce from a "thing in a bowl" to a crispy vehicle for peanut-y tofu-y cashew-y goodness can make all the difference.

The recipe is inspired by my friend (and house mate) Mimi who totally does not give herself enough credit in the kitchen - shes a genius and she inspires so many of my dishes. She said the basis for this recipe was conceived on a whim while rolling through the isles of Trader Joe's - and if you ask me, it is a total masterpiece. When she first made it for us one night I couldn't help but eat more than my share - lol - sorry, Mimi. 

And....I hate to brag but by no exaggeration this peanut sauce is the best around. The recipe actually makes a much larger batch than you might wish to use here but I have a feeling you will be wanting more - it's great over any fresh salad, tofu dish, or even spread onto bread as the beginnings of the best Thai-influenced sandwich. Not to mention, it's made with PB2 powder which has 80% less fat than peanut butter so you can eat A LOT without feeling weighed down.

Okay, enough talk, scroll on down and make this recipe for yourself. Let me know how you like it in the comments! 


Serves: 2 • Prep Time: 15 minutes • Cook Time: 6 minutes


 

For the Lettuce Cups/Filling

  • 1-2 heads of bib or butter lettuce (romaine will also work great)
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, sliced in .5" cubes
  • 1/2 red fresh onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews, chopped
  • handful mint or cilantro (optional)

Satay Thai Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 cup PB2 powder
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. hot sauce of choice (I use Sriracha)
  • 2 tbsp. coconut sugar or other sweetener
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup water, depending on desired thickness
  • salt & pepper to taste

1. Mix together your satay sauce in a small bowl or mason jar (the amount is way too much for this recipe but, I am betting you'll want more)

2. Prep your veggies by washing the lettuce cups and delicately separating the leaves, dicing the onion and red pepper and mincing the fresh herbs. 

3. Sautee your cubed tofu in a dry shallow pan, allowing it to slightly brown each side (this takes about 1-2 minutes per side). Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

4. Once the tofu is slightly cool, add it to a bowl and pour in about 1/2 cup of the peanut sauce. Give it a stir till well combined and then add in your fresh herbs, cashews, red onion and pepper. 

5. Spoon the mixture into the lettuce cups and enjoy with extra peanut sauce on the side!

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

 

 

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Chocolate Quinoa Crispy Bars

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It probably comes as no surprise but, I've had Halloween on my mind for quite a while now. Every year I talk about what I am going to be for a solid three months - in August it is always something super specific, extravagant and pricey, in September I have 100 new ideas that are slightly more "practical" and by October 30th, well, I usually panic due to my poor planing and end up being nothing at all. Anyone else? 

Now, if there is something I don't have trouble committing to, its making healthy versions of halloween treats. I am a sweets junkie - but as a plant based vegan I have made it a goal to create as many "feel good" candy recipes as I can that will have even the most sugar-addicted among us totally satisfied. 

This one is a HIT! My quinoa crispy bar is a take on rice crispy treats but with an elevated palate, a killer crunch and a pretty wonderful ingredients list. Everyone who has sampled these has loved them and I fully intend on making them for Halloween - and you should too!

Note: Puffed quinoa can be hard to find in the states, but I found a bulk bag on Amazon that I totally love (link below). 

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Makes: apx. 12 3"x3" bars • Prep Time: 15 min • Total Time: 2 hr 15 min


Base

  • 3/4 cup of any nut butter 
  • 3/4 maple syrup 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil 
  • 3 cups puffed quinoa or sub puffed rice
  • 3/4 cup oat bran

Chocolate Ganache

  • 2, 3oz. bars of vegan chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup full fat canned coconut cream 

1. In a medium saucepan combine the nut butter, maple syrup and coconut oil until fully melted.

2. Allow the above mixture to cool slightly on the stovetop while adding the puffed quinoa and oat bran to a large bowl.

3. Pour the nut butter mixture over the quinoa mixture and stir until fully coated. Transfer to a parchment lined rimmed baking dish and firmly press it out into an even layer using the back of a spatula. 

4. Before placing in the freezer, place another piece of parchment on top and gently press down on the mixture using your palm to further help compact it. Allow to chill for at least 1 hour. 

5. Chop two 3 oz. chocolate bars and add to a small sauce pan with the coconut cream - heat gently while stirring frequently until the chocolate is fully melted. 

6. Remove the quinoa base from the freezer and pour the chocolate over in a smooth, even layer and place the whole thing back in the freezer for another hour to fully set up. 

NOTE: You can double the chocolate ganache recipe for a thicker chocolate layer, but I think the ratio works out quite nicely here.

7. After freezing, slice the frozen bars into any shape you like using a very sharp knife. You may let the bars de-frost for a few minutes but please enjoy them cold (they get a little crumbly otherwise). Store in the freezer in an airtight container for up to a few weeks.  

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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7 Whole Foods I Eat Everyday: Autumn Edition

While I totally believe in "eating the rainbow" year round (no, I don't mean skittles, I mean a broad range of diverse plant foods) to feel balanced, sustained and healthy most of us are creatures of habit when it comes to daily meals. I love to experiment in the kitchen but if I am being honest, I have my "go-to" diet staples that help me feel nourished and fully satisfied day in and day out. I base my diet around these "bulk" foods and I keep things interesting by I changing up how I prepare them and what I eat them with. Doing this honestly and intuitively (i.e - changing it up when a food no longer appeals to you) is what makes eating whole-food-plant-based easy and effortless.

It is essential to find the foods you love and that make you feel your best in order to sustain a healthful lifestyle - it is my hope that sharing my go-to foods will help you identify your own and inspire how you can incorporate some of these whole plant foods into your diet. 

I have a few requirements for my seasonal staples... they need to be: 

  • affordable (because...student loans)
  • delicious (because...duh)
  • easy to prep in different ways (because I love to be in the kitchen)
  • nutritionally dense (because I like feeling good)
  • filling (because I like feeling full)

Now, if you're really listening you might notice your appetite naturally changes with the seasons according to what is fresh and available in your corner of the world. For instance in winter I crave warm soups and nourishing starches, in spring I move towards salads and lighter cooked food, in summer I need to eat tons of raw, fresh fruit and water rich veggies. In autumn (my personal favorite) I begin to add in more fats and "harvest-time" fruit and veggies.


Here are the seven foods I eat everyday during autumn:

1. Greens

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You will see greens as part of my daily diet year round. Greens are essential - they are full of micronutrients like iron and vitamin D and fiber and they are super filling. It is is easy to get your greens in - I eat them raw, steamed, blended up in smoothies and wilted into soups. I make sure to base my meal around greens at least once a day. My favorites in fall are kale, spinach, red lettuce and romaine. 

PRO TIP: I always keep a pack or two of frozen spinach in the freezer - it is the best for blending into smoothies and adding into soups. Plus you get so much more bang for your buck!

2. Apples

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"An apple a day...". Yes, I eat an apple every-damn-day. I usually opt for green apples as the pectin in their skin has the highest source of dietary fiber in the plant kingdom but around this time of year I love to try seasonal, sweeter varieties like pink lady, gala and galvenstein. I love to cut them up with banana, oats, raisins and chia seeds with almond milk to make a raw breakfast cereal. If I don't have one for breakfast, I'll always have one as a snack - usually spread with a bit of nut butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. 

INTERESTING FACT: You can eat the WHOLE APPLE, core and all. Bite the apple from the bottom to the steam - it's all good stuff! People usually look at me and horror when I do this but I am telling you, there's literally nothing to it. 

3. Chia Seeds

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As far as healthy fiber-rich fats go, chia seeds are my favorite - it took some getting used to but I love the texture they give to everything I add them to. I usually have them sprinkled over my breakfast or blended into a smoothie but if I am feeling snack-y but not hungry, I will add them into a bit of water for a filling boost. You can also use them in baked goods as an egg replacement or get creative with a quick and easy chia seed pudding. 

4. Nuts/nut butter

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For a while I cut nut butters out of my diet as I believed they were too high in fat but let me tell you - they are also full of protein and great mirconutrients we need! Nuts and nut butters keep me full for hours and help to supress my cravings for less than healthy foods. I spread them on apples, mix them into breakfasts, use them in dressings and blend them into smoothies. My favorites are tahini (great for savory dishes), cashew butter (pricey, but worth it), brazil nuts and almonds. 

5. Sweet Potato

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Sweet potatoes are my one true love. I can eat them for breakfast lunch and dinner as there are so many creative ways to use them. I love using them in curries, soups and stews but usually I just bake off 5 or 6 at a time in the oven until they are super soft and eat them straight out of the fridge throughout the week (don't judge me). 

PRO TIP: Make sure to eat the skin because that stuff is full of probiotics sexy older sister, prebiotics, and easy to digest fiber. 

6. Beans

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I try to eat some kind of bean everyday - admittedly sometimes that is store-bought hummus but more often than not is black beans, kidney beans or whole chic peas. I love mixing these filling little jewels into salads, soups and all different types of bowls. 

7. Chocolate

Okay, not a whole food, but I am just being honest...I have some form of chocolate everyday. I truly believe we should enjoy what we consume - I savor chocolate and it makes me happy so I make sure to enjoy it (responsibly) without restriction.

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Sweet Potato Pecan Scones with Tahini Maple Glaze - Vegan!

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IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! 

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I know it's only early September but in my house I let Fall reign as long as I possibly can. Growing up in New England I couldn't get enough of the slightly cooler season - I was one of the weird kids who was happy to cover my books in brown paper bags, organize my school supplies, get out of the sun and get into a pile of crisp orange leaves. As I grew older my fondness for fall only became stronger and as 'pumpkin everything' became the norm - but I believe pumpkin is only a prince in the realm of fall foods because in my book sweet potato is king. It's sweeter, slightly more dense and has a better all around flavor. 

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And if we are on the subject of royalty - another majesty in my kitchen kingdom is the scone. Light, flaky, tender yet crisp. I promise you, this vegan scone recipe is better than any butter-laden batch. The method is pretty fast and fool proof, too. The simple ingredient list is loaded with healthier choices like coconut sugar in leu of white sugar, spelt flour instead of white flour and coconut oil over vegan butter. I love how the pecans add an interesting crunch and an extra pop of flavor. But of course the thing that makes this recipe a star is the glaze - a shockingly simple blend of equal parts high quality tahini and maple syrup. The way it pairs with the just-slightly-sweet but well spiced pastry is uniquely addictive.

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A few things to note: It's pretty easy to find canned sweet potato these days if you can't be bothered to first bake one as that can take a pret-ty long time when you just want to get on with your scones. Subbing canned pumpkin should also work fine - I just might up the sweetness a bit by adding a full cup of coconut sugar instead of 3/4 cup. 

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I based this scone recipe off one that I developed earlier this year using a Minimalist Baker recipe as my initial jumping off point. I have made many variations of these scones over the past few months - mixing in whatever fruit is fresh and in season - to almost all positive results. I do believe some of Minimalist Baker's readers found scone-success subbing vegan butter in leu of coconut oil but I personally think coconut oil makes for a more tender final product - not to mention, it's one ingredient vs. the many unpronounceable additives in vegan butter. 

Make this recipe - it's still a treat but a healthier one and it will convert even the most summer loving, non-scone-eater you know. Enjoy Fall Lovers! <3


Serves: 8 • Prep Time: 10 min • Bake Time: 15-17 min


Ingredients

For the scones

  • 2 cups spelt flour (sub wheat flour or gluten free alternative with varied results)
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar (sub 1/2 cup white sugar)
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin spice (or combine a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom to make your own)
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt
  • 6 tbsp. solid, room temperature coconut oil
  • 1 cup mashed or canned sweet potato (sub pumpkin puree)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetned almond milk + 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans (plus some left whole for garnish)

For the glaze

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup high quality tahini
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

 


1. Preheat your oven to 425*F (yes, its a high temp. for baked goods). Measure out your almond milk and stir in the apple cider vinegar, let the mixture curdle while you prepare the rest of the scone batter. 

2. In a large mixing bowl combine your dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir to combine.

 3. Scoop the room temperature coconut oil into the bowl and incorporate into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter. Keep going until the entire mixture resembles dry sand and there are no large pieces of coconut oil left. 

4. Using a spatula, gently mix in the sweet potato puree, almond milk and pecans just until everything starts to come together to form a loose dough. Do NOT over mix! 

5. Once the dough begins to come together, transfer the mixture onto a floured surface and use your hands to form it into an even, round disk that is about 1.5" thick. Ideally at this stage you still want to be able to see little pieces of unmelted coconut oil as this is what will help the pastry to get nice and light and flaky. 

6. Use a sharp knife to slice the disk into 8 equal triangles - as you would a pie. Carefully transfer each piece to a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little more coconut sugar or top with more pecan pieces for garnish. 

7. Bake for 15-17 minutes - once a toothpick comes out clean, they're done!

8. While baking mix together the glaze ingredients with a fork. 

9. Allow the scones to come to room temperature before applying the glaze - which can be drizzled or "painted" on - your preference. Top with a few more pecan pieces if desired. 

10. These do well at room temperature and store great in the fridge for a few days! If you do plan on heating them back up, apply the glaze at the time you plan on consuming them or else you'll end up with a sticky mess. 

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

 

 

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Vegan 'White Cheddar' Mac and Cheese - Just like Annie's

While attending college in NYC, I LIVED off Annie's 'White Cheddar' Mac & Cheese. I remember thinking it was really healthy because I would add (the cheapest) frozen veggies to bulk it up. I would make four, yes, four boxes at a time and demolish as much as I could in one sitting because...why not?! This paired with my other food staples of peanut butter & jelly and (man, this is embarrassing) frozen raspberries with cool whip (?!?!?) left much to be desired but I felt like I was eating like a queen! While I did have a lot to learn (namely, the answer to why my stomach hurt all the time) I do still get a hankering for that classic, tangy "white cheddar" mac & cheese on occassion. I know the Annie's brand now makes a vegan version but I thought it would be so much better if I finally just attempted it for myself using whole food ingredients. Like any good college recipe this sauce is quick and easy to make - I did it while the pasta boiled! This is a no-frills recipe that is remarkably similar to the purpled-boxed original in taste and texture - but it doesn't start as packet full of white powder, so thats a plus! 

I made this recipe gluten free by using a quinoa + corn shell style pasta (linked below) and kept it college-classic by adding frozen sweet peas - I am admittedly addicted to the combination of sweet peas and this tangy, cheesy sauce. Not the healthiest thing but it surely satisfied my craving in a much more nutritionally responsible way! 

Give it a try yourself and then tell me, what were your 'go-to' meals in college, and do you still crave them?!

While attending college in NYC, I LIVED off Annie's 'White Cheddar' Mac & Cheese. I remember thinking it was really healthy because I would add (the cheapest) frozen veggies to bulk it up. I would make four, yes, four boxes at a time and demolish as much as I could in one sitting because...why not?! This paired with my other food staples of peanut butter & jelly and (man, this is embarrassing) frozen raspberries with cool whip (?!?!?) left much to be desired but I felt like I was eating like a queen! While I did have a lot to learn (namely, the answer to why my stomach hurt all the time) I do still get a hankering for that classic, tangy "white cheddar" mac & cheese on occassion. I know the Annie's brand now makes a vegan version but I thought it would be so much better if I finally just attempted it for myself using whole food ingredients. Like any good college recipe this sauce is quick and easy to make - I did it while the pasta boiled! This is a no-frills recipe that is remarkably similar to the purpled-boxed original in taste and texture - but it doesn't start as packet full of white powder, so thats a plus! 

I made this recipe a bit more nutrient dense by using a quinoa + corn shell style pasta (linked below) but kept it college-classic by adding frozen sweet peas - I am admittedly addicted to the combination of sweet peas and this tangy, cheesy sauce. Not the healthiest thing but it surely satisfied my craving in a much more nutritionally responsible way! 

Give it a try yourself and then tell me, what were your 'go-to' meals in college, and do you still crave them?!


Serves: One, no, actually four, but realistically, one • Prep/Cook Time: 15 minutes all in 


For the Sauce...

  • Scant 3/4 cups raw cashews
  • Apx. 1.5 cups boiling hot water, added 1/2 cup at a time (you don't want the sauce to be too thick or else it won't coat the pasta properly so if doesn't drip off the back of a spoon, keep adding more water)
  • 2-3 tbsp. lemon juice, adjust to taste
  • 3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp. stone ground mustard
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder or 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • splash (maybe 1/2 tsp.) apple cider vinegar
  • lots of fresh cracked pepper
  • salt to taste

And for the pasta...

  • 1 8 oz. box of small 'shell'-style pasta, I used this gluten free Quinoa + Corn variety from Ancient Harvest - so good!
  • 1/2 cup of frozen english peas, or other veggies of your choosing (broccoli or spinach would be great)

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, drop in your pasta and cook according to packaged instructions. 

2. While the pasta is cooking add all of the sauce ingredients to a high speed blender and blend on high till you reach a smooth, even consistency. You want the sauce to appear relativley thin - just like the sauce for Annie's original does, (it will thicken as it cools) so don't be afraid to add more water than you might think necessary. 

NOTE: I used the cooking liquid from the pasta as the hot water in the sauce (because I am just that lazy) but you could also boil water for the sauce separately if you can spare the extra 2 seconds of effort. :)

3. Once your pasta is almost done, drop in the frozen peas to the boiling water for maybe 30 seconds (adjust this time if you are adding larger frozen or fresh). Drain your pasta and veggies. 

4. Pour the sauce from your blender into the empty hot pot and heat slightly. Then add your drained pasta and veggies back in and stir gently to combine. If the sauce appears too thick around the pasta add a bit more hot water.

5. Fill up a bowl and enjoy your creation- ideally when cramming for a test, or in the case of a Parsons student (my alma mater), pulling an all nighter to finish making a miniature-bat-wing out of thread, chalk, toxic glue and plexiglas only to have it fall apart on the way to class.

NOTE: You may want to double the sauce recipe as it makes just enough for one box of pasta!

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Vegan Nutella - Plant Based Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

You've seen me post about it incessantly for the past few months and FINALLY my better-than-the-real-thing + easy-as-pie vegan Nutella has been perfected and I really can't remember EVER being more excited to share a recipe!

I recall the minute I found out nutella wasn't vegan - reading the label in a lonely grocery store aisle I was understandingly surprised and disappointed. I guess I always knew Nutella wasn't great for you I just never assumed it use dairy as the base because it's so shelf stable. But yes, its true - brand name Nutella uses dairy, a ton of processed sugar, loads of oil and just a little kiss of hazelnut and chocolate to make up it's ingredient list - HOW RUDE?! 

Although I dreamed of it forever, It wasn't until this year that I got around to testing this recipe and let me tell you, it was a serious touch and go mind-game the first few times around. With a tired arm (from continuously using the Vitamix tamper) and a gloppy, oily mess in the blender I wanted to give up so many times but something inside told me *KEEP GOING*. I played with the near-disastrous spread for what felt like hours, switching between Vitamix and food processor and back again, tinkering with tablespoons of coconut oil, maple syrup and almond milk - and then somehow, like magic, the mass came together to form the most glorious spread! The consistency was perfect, the flavor was spot on, the scent was intoxicating but now, I had to see if I could re-create it. I knew there had to be an easier way than praying and swearing loudly for two hours in my kitchen so I bought a bulk batch of raw hazelnuts and got to testing (much to my boyfriends delight, who literally ate his weight in the stuff).  It took me another few tries but I finally developed the proper method for making light-as-air, deeply chocolatey, nutty and creamy vegan Nutella - and surprisingly, it's much easier than I ever could have imagined! 

Unlike store-bought Nutella, this version is full of real, whole food ingredients. I use a blend of freshly roasted nuts as the base, then employ maple syrup to sweeten, cacao to give a chocolate boost, plant milk to make it creamy and melted coconut oil to give it body. Although my version is light and almost "whipped" in appearance it is still very rich and calorically dense so a little goes a long way there, guys! 

Perhaps the thing I love most about this spread is it's rich and varied possible uses - spread on warm toast, or enveloped by vegan crepes, dolloped onto fresh strawberries, stirred into breakfast bowls, and my personal favorite, by the spoonful, right out of the jar. And please don't be intimidated by my heroic struggle above, it is super easy to make as long as you follow the details below and have a high-speed blender! Give it a whirl and I can promise you, you will never, ever, want store-bought Nutella again!


Serves: 20, 2 tbsp. servings • Prep Time: 20 minutes • Blender Time: 10 minutes


  • 1.5 cups blanched hazelnuts - I used these so you don't have to worry about removing the skins!
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, cashews or brazil nuts (I've used all three with great results)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup cacao powder or unsweetened good quality coco powder
  • 2.5-3 cups plant milk, total, added in 1/2 cup increments (add more for thinner consistency)
  • 1 scant tsp. pink salt
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp. coconut oil *OPTIONAL, but recommended for consistencies sake*

PRO TIP: For optimal consistency, it is essential that you do not half or reduce the recipe by any amount. The blender requires a good amount of ingredients to grab onto so it is really able to combine them effectively. PLUS who really wants to make a *little* bit of vegan Nutella, common?!


1. Preheat your oven to 350* F. Spread the hazelnuts onto a parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, give them a gentle shake and toast for another 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool just slightly on the stovetop.

2. Add your toasted hazelnuts to a high-speed blender with the raw nuts of your choosing plus the maple syrup and first 1/2 cup of plant milk - blend on low speed, gradually turning it up to high. 

3. Once you reach high speed, go in with your tamper and stir, helping the mixture to blend - it will be grainy and thick at this point (it will also be quite hot, so use caution). Continue adding milk in 1/2 cup increments until the mixture begins to look more smooth. 

4. At this point, add in the rest of your ingredients and another 1/2 cup of almond milk - blend using the tamper again. In total, you will be blending and using the tamper for 3-5 minutes. It may look rough there for a minute or two -just keep going -scrape down the sides if needed and BELIEVE!

5. Once you've reached a totally smooth and creamy consistency, add a few tablespoons of coconut oil to a sauce pan and melt on low heat until it is totally liquified. Then, turn your blender on low speed and stream in the liquid coconut oil until well combined - THIS is the key to getting the best, most spreadable texture!

NOTE: You WANT the spread to look a little bit runny at this point, it will firm up in the fridge as the ingredients cool!

6. Transfer to mason jars or other airtight containers. Store in the fridge for up to ten days!


LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Baked Tandoori Cauliflower Wings and Minty Lentil Salad

I love the flavors in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking - the ingredients and spice combinations make those cusines far and away my favorite to veganize. As you well know I LOVE a good, hearty curry but now that it's summer I have been dreaming of lighter fare with a spicy edge - cue my dream of making a smokey, crispy, kicked up cauliflower tandoori.

Tandoori cooked food (usually chicken) actually gets it's name from the cooking apparatus it is prepared in, a tandoor oven (which I don't have). But the spice flavoring itself is a tangy, spicy, savory blend of ginger, tamarind, garlic, coriander, cumin and a ton of paprika which gives it a vibrant red color. To me, Tandoori spice has a smokey BBQ flavor that is quite unique and totally addictive. You can certainly go through the trouble of making tandoori paste on your own (a recipe is easily googled) but I used this prepared brand for ease and convenience - because, let's face it, when I am having a craving for something I am super impatient. 

When first testing this recipe I went into my cupboard to grab regular flour only to realize I was totally out. I had bought a bit of chic pea flour a while back and when I saw it wayyyy in the back collecting dust I thought "how bad could it be?", but what I should have asked is, "WHY HAVEN'T YOU USED CHIC PEA FLOUR TO MAKE BATTER ALL ALONG?!". Not only is this option gluten free and more nutrient dense but in my opinion chic pea flour offers a richer mouth feel and flavor profile compared to wheat flour Traditionally, tandoori chicken is marinated in a combination of spices + yogurt to keep it super moist and I feel as if the chic pea flour helps to mimic this better than regular wheat flour. I also choose not to double bake my wings (which is usually the way of things with recipes like these) but rather mix the seasonings directly into the batter - it adds to the addictive, moist on the inside, crispy on the outside texture. 

Pair these Cauliflower wings with my fresh, protein packed lentil salad and you have a summer meal that will leave everyone fully satisfied and begging for the recipe. 


Serves: 4-6 • Prep Time: 15 minutes • Cook Time: 30 minutes


Tandoori-Style Cauliflower

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 cup chic pea flour
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened plain soy or almond milk 
  • 2/3 cup tandoori paste OR tandoor dry spice to taste
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup (to ensure browning and provide a hint of sweetness)
  • 1 tsp. salt & pepper
  • OPTIONAL: I also added a bit of garam masala spice and garlic powder to kick up the flavor a bit

1. Preheat your oven to 425*F and cut the cauliflower similar sized into florets. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2. In either a large ziplock bag or bowl whisk together the rest of the ingredients to make your batter. The batter should have the consistency of a conventional pancake batter - thick enough to coat the florets. Taste and adjust seasonings. 

3. Add all the florets to the bag or bowl and mix well to coat evenly. Don't worry if some of your cauliflower breaks apart in the process. 

4. One-by-one, remove each floret from the batter and give it a shake to remove the excess batter and distribute them in one even layer on the baking sheet. There may be some left over batter, but thats okay - just discard OR save to make more tandoori cauliflower tomorrow.

5. Bake the cauliflower in the oven for 30 minutes. You can remove the florets half way through the process and flip them to ensure even browning but it's not necessary. 

6. Serve hot, room temp or cold!

NOTE: I don't own a grill but would be willing to bet that finishing these on one would be a great way to get that traditional tandoori 'char'. I'd get it super hot and spray the grill or grill pan with some cooking oil - I'd place the baked cauliflower on the grates for just a minute to get some charred browning, using tongs to get some even color. I'd imagine that the batter may stick just a little but it would be worth it. Cue me scrolling grill pans on Amazon for 2 hours.


Salad

  • 2 cups cooked brown or green lentils (apx. 1 cup dry)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 large red pepper, roasted or fresh
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped

Minty Dressing

  • handful fresh mint
  • handful fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. garam masala spice
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 rounded tbsp. maple syrup or agave nectar

1. Cook your lentils according to package directions and allow to cool fully. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Chop all other ingredients and add to the lentils. Mix to combine.

3. Make the dressing in a food processor by pulsing all ingredients until well combined. Toss over the salad and allow to chill for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry. *I left it overnight*

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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Easy Layered Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

At the risk of you doubting the deliciousness of this recipe I do want to say that this is the first time I went all out on testing a cashew 'cheese'cake recipe of my own. Maybe it's that I thought it would be too much work (it isn't, just takes some patience) or that I didn't trust myself with *that* much dessert just laying around (I shouldn't have) but I made this extra creamy, chocolatey, layered dream for very good reason - my mom's 60th birthday! She is also vegan and I really wanted to surprise her with something truly special for such a momentous occasion and lets just say that neither she, nor our omnivore family members were disappointed. This is a 'cheese'cake to suit everyone - rich flavor, crunchy crust, creamy filling, chocolatey, tangy, ultra indulgent and fairly healthy. Best part? No one will know it's good for you! It is the perfect thing to bring to a summer party or a birthday event - the presentation is alone gets people all worked up in a chocolate tizzy! 

My Mom always loved chocolate and she used to make a crazy mousse cake topped with whipped cream and fresh berries in the summer months that people would go nuts for. I used her favorite flavor and texture profiles to inform this recipe because the day was about her, after all. In the weeks approaching my Mom's big day, I researched and tested - looking at different methods and recipes for vegan 'cheese'cakes. I even bought cashews in bulk. I was ultimately most informed by Minimalist Baker's killer 'cheese'cake recipes but I took notes from a few other sources as well finding the perfect blend of ingredients to make for a truly decadent dessert.

I should warn that this cheesecake does take some time to prepare - so plan to make it in advance. Upside: It stores in the freezer wonderfully. I topped mine with raspberries (mainly for presentations sake) but next time I'd love to try adding a layer of coconut, a drizzle of peanut butter sauce or even some vegan whipped cream - it will be great any way you 'slice' it (that pun is for you Mom). Happy birthday, I love you.


Serves: 16 small pieces • Prep Time: 30 minutes • Chill Time: 6 hrs - Overnight


EQUIPMENT

  • Spring form pan (8-10" will work best)
  • Food processor
  • High Speed Blender

Crust

  • 20 Medjool dates, pitted (apx. 1.5 cups, packed tightly)
  • 1 cup nuts (I used toasted hazelnuts but almost any nut will do)
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

Filling

  • 3 cups raw cashews soaked overnight
  • the juice of two large lemons (scant 2/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1, 14 oz. can full fat coconut milk (add both the solid and liquid)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cacao/coco powder, divided and added to half the mixture to make the chocolate layer
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

Ganache

  • 1/2, 14 oz. can coconut cream (not coconut milk, can be found at Trader Joe's)
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao/coco powder
  • 2-4 tbsp. maple syrup, to taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pink salt

Topping (optional)

  • 1 large carton raspberries

1. A day or two before you want to serve the cake make the crust and filling to ensure ample chill time so the layers can set up. To make the crust combine dates, oats and nuts in a high speed blender on high power till you reach an even, crumbly consistency. Add in vanilla and salt, pulse again. The mixture should come together when pressed between your fingers - if it is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.

2. Press crust into the bottom of a springform pan that is sprayed lightly with oil (to make sure the cake doesn't stick). Work your way up the sides slightly with the crust to make a lip. Set in the freezer to firm up while you make the filling.

3. To make the cheesecake layers add all of the filling ingredients listed above (excluding the coco powder if you want a chocolate and vanilla layer) to a high speed blender. Blend on high till fully combined. The mixture will look thin, but not to worry, it will set in the freezer.

4. Pour half of the cheesecake mixture into a storage vessel and hold in the fridge. This will serve as your "plain" or vanilla layer. Blend the cacao powder into the remainder for your chocolate layer.

5. Remove the springform pan from the freezer and pour the chocolate layer over the crust. Put back in the freezer to set for at least one hour before pouring over the vanilla layer. 

6. Cover the springform pan with plastic wrap and put the whole cheesecake back the freezer to set for at least three hours or ideally overnight.

7. Once the cheesecake is completely solid it's time to make the ganache. Simply combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan on low-medium heat - whisk till just fully melted and combined. You can also do this ahead of time and store in a glass vessel - reheat to a pourable consistency simply place the jar in simmering water for a few minutes stirring occasionally. 

8. Pour the hot ganache evenly over the cheesecake while still in the springform pan. Decorate with raspberries and set in the fridge for at least an hour or until the ganache is fully set. 

9. About 20-30 minutes before you're ready to serve remove from the fridge and release the springform mold. Slice into pieces and plate it up!

Leftovers: Stores great in the freezer for a week or two - just be sure to keep it covered with some plastic wrap or transfer to a storage container. Allow the slices to defrost for a half hour or so before enjoying!

 

LIGHT & LOVE, LIVECLEAN KITCHEN

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