Sweet & Salty Trail Mix

Happy National Trail Mix Day!

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I realized recently that nearly every day is a different food holiday, and I couldn’t be more excited! To me, that’s just genius. I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate food every day?!?

When I discovered that National Trail Mix day was today, I simply had to pay homage.

It’s funny–there have been a few different occasions when I’ve explained to people that I eat mostly vegan/vegetarian and they’ve responded, “So do you eat trail mix all the time?” The truth is, no, I actually don’t. In fact, it’s been years since I’ve eaten trail mix. But, I must say, when I made a gigantic batch of trail mix in honor of today, I realized that I have been seriously missing out!!

I’m definitely a salty/sweet girl. If I eat anything overly salty, then I have to balance it out with something sweet, and vice versa. As you can probably tell, it’s a vicious cycle that typically ends with a full and aching belly. When I was growing up, Peanut M&Ms were my all-time favorite because each bite was a satisfying blend of both flavors. So, when it came time to make some homemade trail mix, my first objective was to include the salty/sweet element that I love so much!

Yesterday, after tossing all of my favorite ingredients together, I snapped a few quick pictures, poured some trail mix into a bag, and headed out the door to go to class. Thursdays can get a bit hectic for me and lunch is often difficult, but this trail mix really hit the spot!

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Trail mix is quite possibly the easiest snack in the world to create. Choose any ingredients you love and simply toss them together! Just to give you an idea, I’ve included a recipe for the trail mix I made (and inhaled) yesterday…

Sweet & Salty Trail Mix (vegan and gluten-free):

  • 1 cup mixed nuts (I used almonds and walnuts that had been soaked and dehydrated–you can read about the importance of soaking here)*
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used a mix of coconut flakes, cranberries, and goji berries)
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Chatfield’s All Natural Carob Chips)
  • A couple Tbs. of buckwheat groats (again, I used soaked and dehydrated)*
  • A couple Tbs. of seeds (I used sunflower seeds, soaked and dehydrated)*

Instructions: toss everything together in a large bowl or sealed bag. Enjoy!

*Even though it sounds like I did a lot of soaking and dehydrating, I had all of the ingredients ready in my fridge because I had done the soaking/dehydrating previously and in large batches. Don’t worry, if you don’t want to do this extra step, you don’t have to! I just do it because it helps with digestion, but it’s certainly not necessary.

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Although I love traditional trail mix (like the one listed above), I also had to include my other favorite trail mix recipe: last week, I shared my Easy Oat Cookies (AKA Trail Mix Cookies). These cookies are so addictive that I made three batches last week and ate two entire batches all by myself. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m horrible when it comes to sharing food.

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Aside from noshing on trail mix all day, I plan on making these delicious cookies again tonight to celebrate. I just love holidays :)

Chilled Mango Soup with Strawberries

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I have a serious problem when it comes to buying groceries: I’m easily seduced by the fresh leafy greens, the plump ripe fruits, and the abundance of unfamiliar and intriguing foods. Not to mention the sale signs–those pesky, irresistible sale signs!

Those beautiful fruits and veggies and alluring sale signs all scream out “Buy me! Choose me! Take me home with you!” and by the time I’ve returned to my car, the grocery cart is overflowing and my bank account is empty! You would think that I’d learn to be more careful and selective, but this scenario is played out each and every time I go to buy groceries. Typically, by the end of the week I’m whipping up smoothies like a mad woman to use up all of the fruits and veggies before they perish.

The last time I got groceries, I fell prey to the large mango cart and enticing sale signs touting “2 for the price of 1″ strategically placed at the entrance of the grocery store.

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I love mangoes, but I don’t buy them often enough to gauge when they’re ripe, and when they’re not, I get too impatient to wait for them to fully ripen. Thankfully, my husband coached me on the specifics of mangos: how to slice them (you can peel them or slice them, pictured below) and when they’re ripe–their color will turn from green to mostly red and yellow and they will give a little when you squeeze. Due to his knowledge about mangoes and excellent coaching, I ate the most delicious mango I’ve ever had! It was so yummy that I scooped it from the skin with a spoon and scraped every bit of juicy flesh that I possibly could.

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Fortunately, because I’m a sucker for sale signs, I had purchased multiple mangoes and, as luck would have it, they were all ripe at the same time! Instead of making my typical smoothie, a chilled fruit soup sounded like a welcome change.

I’ve included a recipe for this soup, but to be perfectly honest, it feels wrong to even refer to something as a “recipe” when there are only four ingredients. In fact, the hardest part about this “recipe” is not eating all of the mango before you’ve had a chance to make the soup! But I promise it’s worth the wait!

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Chilled Mango Soup with Strawberries
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large mangoes
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • liquid stevia
  • Fresh mint, to garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Hull and quarter the strawberries and place them in a bowl with the juice from one lime and 10-12 drops of stevia. Let soak for at least 15-20 minutes.
  2. Cut up the mangoes and place them in a food processor along with the juice from one lime and 8-10 drops of stevia. Blend until the mangoes have reached a smooth consistency (you may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula). Chill the mango soup base in the fridge while waiting on the strawberries.
  3. To serve, pour the mango soup into 2 bowls (or, if serving as an appetizer, into 4 small ramekins). Spoon the strawberries on top and garnish with mint leaves (optional). Enjoy!

The original recipe can be found here.

**I’ve submitted this recipe to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Happy National Banana Lover’s Day!

Banana Lovers Unite!

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Yes, this is a call to action!! If you love bananas as much as I do, then you must whip up a delicious banana recipe today! In fact, don’t wait–go now! Er, actually, go as soon as you’re done reading this post :)

Seriously, I LOVE bananas…the browner and sweeter, the better. My husband and step-son, however, like them on the greener side. In order to satisfy everyone, I buy a bunch of green-ish bananas every time I go to the grocery store so that my boys can eat them now and I can eat them once they’ve ripened. And since I’m constantly at the grocery store stocking up on bananas, there is a constant rotation of “perfect” bananas at our house.

Just in case you have bananas lying around and are wondering what you might do with them, I decided to share some of my favorite banana recipes. Because I have a LOT of banana recipes, I thought I would stick with dessert-worthy banana recipes:

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Mini Raw Cacao-liscious Pie: I eat this gorgeous little pie more frequently than any other dessert! The pie filling is a combination of banana, avocado, and cacao and these ingredients lend a delicious sweetness and smooth consistency that is dangerously addictive.

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Banana Coconut Cream Pie: Yes, another pie, but I just couldn’t resist! I have an affinity for  pie :) This is another drool-worthy pie that will leave you wanting more!

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Surprise Sundae and Banana Ice Cream: In case you’ve been living under a very large rock lately, banana ice cream is a life-saving dessert for vegans and non-vegans alike. Basically, you just cut up some bananas, freeze them, and then whir them in a food processor until they are the consistency of ice cream. Yes, it’s that simple. I keep bags of ripe bananas in the freezer at all times so that I can whip up some banana ice cream whenever the craving strikes (which is often). The best part is that you can customize however you want! I like to add a little cacao powder and almond butter and then top it of with cacao nibs…..drool…..

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Peaches ‘n Cream Smoothie: I love tossing bananas into fruit and veggie smoothies! Whether they’re frozen or not, they make every smoothie sweet and, well, smooth! This particular smoothie is sweet and thick enough to be a dessert.

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Antioxidant Smoothie: This is one of my favorite smoothies! Not only is this healthy and refreshing, the flavor is just right: the tart grapes and blueberries are perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the banana. If you’re not a fan of anything overly sweet, then this is the “dessert” for you!

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Vegan Chocolate Pudding: Once again, the combination of bananas, avocados, and cacao powder makes for a deliciously sweet and oh-so-easy dessert!

Hopefully I’ve been able to get you drooling and given you some ideas for yummy banana recipes.

So, what are you waiting for?!? You are now welcome to go celebrate Banana Lover’s Day! xoxo

Sun-Dried Tomato Marinara with Parmesan “Cheese” (Raw and Vegan)

An unbelievable thing occurred with Almonds & Avocados over the past week: my humble little blog went from a mere twenty or thirty views per day (and I’m pretty sure most of those came from my mom) to hundreds of views per day!! That is shocking to me! This drastic change is due largely to the fact that my recipe for Quinoa Pizza Crust, which I submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays, was featured as one of the most popular recipes! I’m so honored that the lovely ladies who host Healthy Vegan Fridays would feature my recipe and so thankful that each week they give me and other bloggers the opportunity to post recipes and encourage one another!

When I began Almonds & Avocados, it was because it seemed like the perfect avenue for me to pursue two of my favorite things: writing and creating healthy, delicious recipes. In the back of my mind, I had grand hopes that my posts would inspire others just like I’ve been inspired by so many different blogs, but I truly never thought that anyone would actually read my blog. When people tell me, “I went to your blog today,” or “I tried one of your recipes,” my first reaction is always, “Really?!?” I’ve realized (after recovering from the initial shock) that it warms my heart each time! In this way, Almonds & Avocados has allowed me to connect with like-minded people and to forge new relationships–what an unexpected and amazing side-effect!! So, thank you so much for stopping by Almonds & Avocados! If you see something you like (or even something you don’t like), or you have suggestions, please let me know–I love the feedback :)

….On to the food! I have an awesome recipe for Sun Dried Tomato Marinara to share with you, as well as a recipe for vegan Parmesan Cheese that will make you squeal with joy (I don’t know if anyone actually squeals nowadays, but I definitely did). Pair these two with some kelp noodles (like I used in the pic. below) or zucchini spirals and you’ve got an amazing raw spaghetti dish!

20120826-080632.jpg I’ve mentioned before but I can’t stress enough that the most drool-worthy recipes are often also the easiest. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve labored over a ridiculously hard recipe only to find that the end result is just sub-par. I get so frustrated: all of that effort for nothing!! Not to mention, groceries aren’t cheap. So, because I refuse to waste energy and groceries, I end up forcing myself to finish sub-par, blah-tasting food. No bueno.

Not long ago, I slaved over the stove trying to create the world’s best marinara sauce. I thought I could devise the perfect sauce to go along with my Quinoa Pizza Crust. My goals were lofty and in the end my marinara was good, but nowhere near “world’s best.”

So, yesterday I started over and began with simple, whole ingredients like these vibrant, colorful cherry tomatoes that I got on sale at Whole Foods…

20120826-080659.jpg I just thought these cherry tomatoes were so bright and cheerful :) I also like the slightly sweet undertones they lend to the sauce.

This time, I decided not to sweat my tushy off so I didn’t even go near my stove. Instead, I pulled out my handy-dandy food processor and set to work. Honestly, this sauce could not be more simple and tastes just like my favorite store-bought marinara, but fresher!

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After I was done whipping up a batch of the sauce (and spooning some straight into my mouth), I decided that I absolutely had to have spaghetti–and when those pesky cravings hit, I’m forced to listen. So, of course, I had to make some Parmesan “Cheese” to go along with my sauce, too.

I’ve decided that these two–the marinara and the parmesan “cheese”–are a marriage made in heaven. Not only did I end up eating the spaghetti for lunch, I ate another huge bowl for dinner, too. And the best part: I have leftovers to make a pizza tonight! Ah, life is good…

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Sun-Dried Tomato Marinara and Parmesan “Cheese” (Raw and Vegan)
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Ingredients
  • ~~Sun Dried Tomato Marinara:
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 Medjool date, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups ripe tomatoes (I used a combination of vine-ripened and cherry tomatoes)
  • ½ cup fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • red chili pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • ~~Parmesan “Cheese”:
  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 1 level Tbs. nutritional yeast
  • ⅛ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
Instructions
  1. Soak the date and sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Roughly chop the ripe tomatoes, basil, and garlic and add them to your food processor. When the sun-dried tomatoes and date have softened, drain them from the soaking water and add them to the processor along with the salt and red chili pepper flakes. (You may want to reserve some of the soaking water if you prefer a thinner sauce or if you want to add it to the noodles later). Blend well until you’ve reached the desired consistency, then slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor is running.
  3. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days. If not using right away, be sure to stir the sauce before you plan to use it as the olive oil tends to settle on the top.
  4. To make the Parmesan “Cheese”: place all of the ingredients in the bowl of your food processor, give it a whiz, and you’re done! That simple!
  5. To serve: place prepared noodles of choice in a large bowl (The noodles don’t have to be gluten-free, but some of my favorite GF versions are rice noodles, kelp noodles, and zucchini spirals). Pour marinara on top (adding reserved soaking water, if needed) and toss the noodles until completely coated by the sauce. Top with parmesan “cheese” and any other toppings, such as olives, capers, sliced basil, etc. Enjoy!

Peaches ‘n Cream Smoothie

I am a total creature of habit. I come up with a schedule or a routine for everything and I like to stick with the plan.

Recently, though, I’ve had to learn to embrace change. I went from working at the same job and following the same schedule for years to quickly going back to school and changing courses and schedules often. Now, my husband is in training for a new job that requires him to work entirely new and different hours as well as to travel out-of-state for business trips. Then there’s my step-son who’s been all across the country this summer to visit grandparents and attend a very important wedding :) He’s finally back in town and next week he’ll start fourth grade. Between back-to-school shopping and frequent football practices, this week has been crazy!

Needless to say, sticking to any form of schedule or routine has been difficult this summer. In fact, it’s been downright impossible!! However, these changes have confirmed what I already believed to be true: everything happens for a reason. So far, we haven’t been dealt more than we can handle (thank goodness). And right now, all of these big, life-changing events have coincided wonderfully! Through it all, the fact that I’m still able to find time to blog has been my saving grace. I find so much peace in reflecting, writing, and sharing with others through this site. So thank you for visiting!

Sorry for rambling…I know you’re really here for the food (and today’s recipe is one of my favorites), so I’ll get back on track :)

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If you haven’t already noticed, I have smoothies often…Ok, maybe that’s an understatement. I eat smoothies daily and sometimes I’ll have multiple smoothies in a single day.

While peaches are in season and oh-so-sweet, I’ve been loving this Peaches ‘n Cream smoothie! It tastes like a yummy drinkable dessert. It’s cooled off a bit outside–and by “cooled off,” I mean it’s in the 90s–but I still enjoy relaxing on the porch with an ice-cold drink, a book in my hand, and my feet propped up. That’s exactly what I did yesterday to decompress. It didn’t matter that the book was for school, I had my Peaches ‘n Cream smoothie and I was in heaven…..absolute heaven.

Peaches ‘n Cream Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1-2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large cup frozen peach slices (you can use prepackaged, but buying fresh and freezing your own always seem more flavorful to me)
  • 1 frozen small banana (cut into chunks before freezing)
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ to 1 cup almond milk*
  • 4-6 drops liquid stevia, to taste
  • pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and mix until completely smooth. Start with ½ cup of milk and increase until you reach the desired consistency.
  2. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
*I’ve also subbed the almond milk with coconut milk and the results are equally delicious! For a creamier smoothie, buy canned full fat coconut milk, place the can in the fridge overnight (don’t shake the can or turn it upside down!), and use a ¼ cup of the thick cream that settles on the top and at least a ½ cup of the remaining coconut water to make the smoothie.

*Update: I’ve submitted this recipe to Healthy Vegan Fridays! Click on the link to check it out and to browse a bunch of other delicious recipes!