We’ve moved!

Hi all! Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that this blog has moved to the main Conveganence website – conveganence.com. We’ve got a new and improved design that makes it easier for you to navigate the blog and find the recipe you’re looking for. Also, each recipe posted will now contain a PDF printer friendly file and nutritional information. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I hope you’ll follow the blog over at its new location!

Power Packed Pineapple Smoothie

power packed pineapple smoothie - #vegan #soyfreeIf you’re into fitness, you’re familiar with the age old requirement of consuming protein within 30 minutes after your workout. Before I switched over to a vegan diet, I followed this rule religiously. I’d make a shake from whey protein and skim milk, or I’d eat a Detour bar. Now that whey and Detour bars are out of the question, I’ve had to get more creative with my post-workout meal.

This pineapple smoothie is one of my go-to shakes after a morning workout. I usually whip it up before my workout and drink half of it before I leave the house. I leave the other half in the fridge so I can drink it right away when I get home. After drinking this, I don’t have to worry too much about protein, iron, or calcium for the rest of the day. I can usually fulfill those requirements without much effort. Also, the natural sugars and carbohydrates give me enough energy to power through the morning and the afternoon. That being said, if you’re concerned about your carb intake, I recommend drinking it as I do: half before your morning workout and the other half after.

power packed pineapple smoothie - #vegan #soyfree

Most of the nutrients in this smoothie come from hemp protein and chia seeds. Both of these ingredients are pretty amazing. I recommend researching them to learn about their benefits. Someday I will do a post about different plant based protein powders, but today’s post is all about the smoothie recipe. Here it is:

Protein Packed Pineapple Smoothie

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

3 C chopped kale, tightly packed

2 C fresh pineapple cubes

4 tbsp hemp protein powder

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 C nondairy milk (I used flax milk)

squeeze of fresh lime juice

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor with a few ice cubes. Process for about 1 minute. The kale will give the smoothie a gritty texture, but it’s still delicious! If you don’t like the texture, you can always juice the kale, before combining it with the other ingredients but it will bring down the fiber content and won’t be as filling.

power packed pineapple smoothie - #vegan #soyfree

Hope you enjoy! What’s your favorite post-workout meal?

 

Summer Squash and Lentil Soup

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Coming up with new recipes during the summer can be a challenge. I don’t have much of an appetite during the summer, so it’s hard for me to figure out what, if anything, would be appetizing. Other than coconut milk ice cream, of course 🙂

So when I’m stumped for recipe ideas, I ask myself these questions:

1) What’s in season, fresh, and available? To answer this question, I stop at the first thing that comes to mind. For this recipe, that thing was summer squash.

2) Which foods can I pair this with to maximize nutritional value? For me, the simplest way to figure out if a meal will be nutritious and filling is to ensure that it has enough protein and fiber. So I added baby kale and lentils to the mix. Obviously there are many more components to complete nutrition than protein and fiber, but I focus on those two for simplicity’s sake. 

3) How do I make this weather and/or occasion appropriate? Obviously a stew would be too heavy for a summer dish, so I decided against adding heartier elements like potatoes or other root vegetables. I decided a soup would be ideal, because it’s not as heavy. Plus, this week will be very busy for me, so I wanted something that I could make a lot of and keep in the fridge for leftover lunches and dinners.

4) What ingredients do I add to make this delicious? This is the fun part! If I’m using ingredients I’ve never cooked with before (or if I’m in a creative rut), I consult one of my new favorite books, The Flavor Bible. It has a huge database of almost every food you can think of, with lists of recommended pairings. For this dish, I relied not on The Flavor Bible, but  rather on my previous experience with lentil soups, summer squash, and kale. I rounded out the recipe with diced tomatoes, vegan chicken broth (yes, such a thing exists…click here for more info), garlic, onion, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaves.

If you follow that formula, it’s relatively easy to come up with new and original recipe ideas.

Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t visit my blog to hear me ramble on about how to come up with a recipe. So let’s get to the soup.

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Summer Squash and Lentil Soup

Serves 4-6 (as a main)

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 C dry green or French lentils

2 small summer squash of your choice (I used yellow straight neck squash and zucchini squash), sliced thin

6 C vegan chicken broth

3 C packed baby kale (or regular kale, with stems removed and leaves chopped)

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Juice from 1/2 large lemon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 bay leaves

Directions:

1) Add 1/2 C broth to a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heated to medium-high. Add onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.

2) Add summer squash, and cook for about 3 more minutes. Wilt in baby kale, then add thyme, tomatoes, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Cook for about 2 more minutes.

3) Add lentils and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon and thyme garnish.

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Pupsicles

pupsicles - conveganence

We’re having a heat wave here in Chicago. The temperatures have been in the 90s the past few days, and have reached over 100 degrees with the heat index. I don’t really mind it, other than the fact that Bikram is out of the question.

I just feel bad for my dogs! Usually we go for a 3-mile walk every day through the Frank Lloyd Wright district. It’s the highlight of their day, and mine. But with this weather, we’ve been restricted to short walks and playtime in the yard. It’s just too doggone hot for anything else.

I wanted to make them a special treat to brighten up these dog days of summer. (Okay, I’ll stop with the puns.) So I combined a few of their favorite foods in the food processor, and froze the mixture into some super cute dog treat molds I had ordered from K-9 Cakery. The treats took me about 5 minutes to make, and they froze solid in about 90 minutes. Best of all, my dogs LOVED them!

My cocker spaniel even ate the entire plate after I photographed it. Oh well, at least it won’t be hard to make more.

pupsicles - conveganence

Zoe and Beau giving their cutest faces to get a pupsicle. How could anyone resist those eyes?

Pupsicles

Prep time: 5-10 minutes, plus 90 minutes freeze time

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

1 cup cooked oats

1/3 C carob chips, melted

1/3 C peanut butter

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pour into molds (or ice cube trays, if you don’t have molds) and freeze for at least 90 minutes. Keep treats in the freezer for storage.

Cavatappi with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Broccolini

I’ve been under the weather this past week with an upset stomach. For some reason, I only want to eat junk food when I’m not feeling well. And because I’ve been feeling sick, I haven’t been working out. Yesterday, I was finally starting to feel better, but the effects of being sedentary and eating poorly were catching up to me. I needed something light and healthy, but with enough starch to keep my stomach settled.

This recipe, like many others, was conceived of in the aisles of the grocery store. The eggplant caught my attention first, then the broccolini (mini broccoli). Since both ingredients can be bland on their own, I decided to roast some mini heirloom tomatoes and garlic to boost the flavor. I rounded it off with a large shallot, some fresh basil from my herb garden, and some balsamic vinegar. The result was pretty amazing!

cavatappi with eggplant, roasted tomatoes and broccolini

Cavatappi with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Broccolini

Serves: 4

Prep time: 1 hour

Ingredients

12 oz cavatappi pasta (or other pasta of your choice)

1 small eggplant, cut into 1″ chunks

1 1/2 C broccolini florets

12 oz mini heirloom tomatoes, cut in half

1/3 C fresh basil (about 8 large basil leaves), sliced into chiffonade

1 head garlic

1 large shallot, sliced very thin

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375F. Spread tomatoes in a single layer on baking pan. Spray or toss with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

2) Peel the garlic and remove all of the cloves. Lay out the cloves on a square of tinfoil and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Secure the garlic in the tinfoil and place in a ramekin dish.

3) Roast tomatoes and garlic on the top rack of the oven for 40 minutes.

4) Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add shallot and saute for about 5-6 minutes, or until shallot turns golden brown. Add eggplant, and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add broccolini florets and balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 more minutes, then reduce heat to low.

5) Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water.

6) Add cooked pasta, roasted tomatoes, and roasted garlic to the eggplant mixture. Turn up heat to medium and cook until pasta is heated through, for about 5-6 minutes. Add basil and cook for another minute or so. Serve!

cavatappi with eggplant, roasted tomatoes and broccolini

cavatappi with eggplant, roasted tomatoes and broccolini

Haute Salsas

haute salsas - conveganence blog

Summer is in full swing, which means many of us have weekends full of block parties, BBQs, and impromptu get togethers. We’ve had people over almost every weekend this summer (usually on short notice). It isn’t easy to plan a menu when you only have a few hours before guests are arriving, or before you have to bolt out the door to a party. Heaven forbid you have two social gatherings in one weekend. That would be this introvert’s worst nightmare.

If you’re one of those people who can bring a box of cookies from the grocery store and not hate yourself for it, then read no further. However, if you want to impress your guests (or hosts), then you have to go the homemade route. Homemade salsa is a guaranteed crowd pleaser–but you know what’s better than a salsa? THREE salsas. I know what you’re thinking: Three salsas, Jessica? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Just hear me out! The secret to making three salsas is to use the same base for all of them. Yes, you’ll spend a little bit more time chopping. But you can get all 3 of these salsas ready in under an hour (less if you use a food processor). This recipe is perfect for those weekends when you have more than one party to attend, as it makes enough for 2 gatherings. You don’t have to use the fruits I used here–get creative with whatever you prefer: mangoes, strawberries, rhubarb…the possibilities are endless.

I used mason jars to divide the ingredients. I gave half of the salsa to my neighbors and kept the rest for myself :)

I used mason jars to divide the ingredients. I gave half of the salsa to my neighbors and kept the rest for myself 🙂

Haute Salsa

Makes about 8 cups of salsa

Prep time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1 very large white onion

2/3 C finely chopped cilantro

5 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

juice from 3 limes

salt

1 medium english cucumber, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, cored and diced

2 C fresh cherries, pitted and diced

2 C fresh pineapple, pitted and diced

Directions: 

1) While chopping the ingredients, keep each ingredient in a separate container or bowl.

2) Divide the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeno equally among 3 containers (0r 6 if you are making this for 2 separate gatherings).

3) Add the cherries to one container, the pineapple to the second container, and the cucumber and red pepper to the third container.

4) Squeeze the juice from 1 lime into each container. Add 1/2 tsp salt to each container as well. Toss ingredients thoroughly.

5) Optional: You might want to let the salsa chill in the fridge for an hour before serving.

Mercury Retrograde, Baby Bunnies, and Watermelon Gazpacho

First, I want to talk a little bit about Mercury in retrograde. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here is an informative link. In a nutshell, when Mercury is in retrograde, according to astrologers, it messes up everything related to technology, communication, travel, and logistics. I usually know when Mercury is in retrograde when I have two or three disastrous days in a row. Have you ever had a week where nothing seemed to go right? Maybe you missed appointments, experienced flight delays, your computer crashed, your cell phone broke, and the brakes went out on your car? Next time you have one of those weeks, check to see if Mercury is in retrograde.  It probably is.

I figured out Mercury was in retrograde about two weeks ago, when I knocked over my camera and the lens broke. Then, I had problems ordering a new lens. Then, there were some technical issues preventing us from getting the Conveganence website finished in time for the launch so I wasn’t able to do any of the promotional activities I had planned. Then, I somehow deleted several weeks worth of recipes (about 40 hours worth of work) for the August meal plan. Later that day, I had managed to recover or rewrite some of the recipes, but I lost them again when my power mysteriously went out. The following day, some of my subscribers noticed that a couple pages were missing from the July meal plan. I corrected the issue and sent out a new file, but gmail wouldn’t let me attach it. Finally I was able to send it out, but I noticed I sent out the wrong file type. Then my office chair fell apart.

By Wednesday of last week, I was so frustrated I just gave up. I decided to take a few days off from Conveganence and work on some projects around the house. After all, during Mercury retrograde, you’re supposed to take the time to revise, repair, rethink, reflect…basically anything that starts with a “re” 🙂 My plan was to REfurbish some 100 year old windows I got from Craigslist and REpurpose them into coffee tables. I bought a new workbench for this project, but noticed the screws were missing when I tried to assemble it. Of course they were!

I resisted the urge to scream and/or break something, took a deep breath, and turned my attention to another project: assembling a compost bin I bought a few weeks back. That endeavor took me several days and turned out to be a complete nightmare. After uttering several thousand profanities, I almost managed to finish assembling it. The lid doesn’t close completely, but whatever. I’ll fix it later.

I guess the purpose of this rant was to explain my absence from the blog recently. But now I’m back, with 2 great things: a photo of some baby bunnies that are nesting in our backyard, and a recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho.

Here are the baby bunnies. I took the photo in the upper left corner just 1 week ago. I snapped the remaining 3 photos yesterday. It’s amazing how much they have grown in just one week! All 8 bunnies have opened their eyes and their ears stand up. They are also starting to explore outside of the nest.

babybunnies

 

Aren’t they adorable??

Okay, now for a recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho! A variation of this recipe is in the Conveganence July meal plan. It’s one of my favorite things to make during the summer. I must admit I was skeptical the first time I tried gazpacho. Chilled soup was not my thing. I was in Madrid at a Flamenco theater/restaurant called Casa Patas (House of Feet). I was traveling alone, with only my dogeared copy of Rick Steves’ Spain 2006 to keep me company. Rick insisted that I give the gazpacho a try, and because he hadn’t steered me wrong yet, I ordered it without hesitation. Washed down with some sangria and flamenco, it was just the thing for a hot July night in Madrid.

Since then, I’ve made gazpacho at least once every summer. The watermelon in this version makes it extra refreshing and perfect for steamy Chicago summers.

gazpacho

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes chill time)

Ingredients:

2 large hothouse tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 1/2 C cubed watermelon, seeded

1 fresno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1/4 C cilantro leaves

2 limes, juiced

1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions

1) Place serving bowls or glasses in freezer and allow to chill while preparing gazpacho.

2) Combine the ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute.

3) Chill gazpacho in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Serve in glasses. Garnish with lime.