Vegan Basil Pesto

Green Machine Vegan Pesto

Tis the season for overflowing backyard gardens and farmers markets! It is one of the most bountiful times of the year, and one of the many crops growing faster than you can pick it right now is basil. One of my all time favorite ways to use up basil is in pesto. I grew up eating a very rich version that my mom has made for years. Now that I am on my own, and don’t always have 5 cups of basil to pick from, I have created a spin on this summer favorite that is healthier, and less expensive than a traditional basil pesto.

No need to shell out for the romano cheese and pine nuts, this version is a little lighter and packed with greens. It still has a very strong flavor, but no cheese, and includes a bunch of baby spinach (read: super cheap and super healthy) along with the basil leaves.

My Vegan Spinach Basil Pesto Recipe

Add to food processor:

  • About 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, 2 cups of basil leaves a few de-stemmed leaves of dinosaur kale.
  • A handful of various other herbs, I use thai basil and dill, parsley would work great here too
  • Half cup of raw almonds
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • Drizzle in EVOO until the desired consistency

I keep my pesto in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days, I have not tried freezing it yet but I am sure that would keep it forever!

My favorite ways to eat pesto are spread on warm toast and topped with a slice of tomato, tossed with pasta to be eaten warm or cold, spread on a sandwich, whipped into hummus, added to vinaigrettes to top a salad, and the list goes on and on.

How do you like to eat pesto? What is your favorite flavor combination? Comment below!

315 Brewery Syracuse NY

A Syracuse Brew Tour 

This weekend, I celebrated my best friends birthday with her and her family on a little brewery tour around the city of Syracuse. It was great weather, and we had a lot of fun! Got to try a lot of different craft beers, from local breweries I didn’t even know existed, a foodie sin I know! Personally, I love beer. It is one of my favorite indulgences. My boyfriend started getting me into shandy’s and fruitier IPAS a few years ago, and our taste has since evolved. Now, I really love a good blonde ale, or a lighter IPA.

Eat drink B Mary Syracuse Brew Tour

After stopping at the Onondaga Lakefest Regatta for a wine slushy and a bite to eat, we started our tour at WT Brewery in Baldwinsville. Very small place, but great atmosphere and delicious beers! My favorite was their IPA.

WT Brewery Syracuse NY

Next, we skipped across town to Middle Ages Brewery downtown.

Middle Ages Brewery Syracuse NY

The highlight of Middle Ages was definitely the in-house cat that visited us. Their Wit is always good, and can be found in local grocery stores.

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Next, we went out to Willow Rock Brewing Company on the other side of town. In a restored garage, this place has great vibes. Really cool bar area with room to play corn hole and other games out in the brewing area. Great selection of very different beers, and their samplings were huge. My favorite here was their amber ale.

Willow Rock Brewery Syracuse NY

Finally, we wrapped up the night with our favorite stop, the Local 315 Brewery. We arrived just as they were closing, but luckily caught a beautiful sunset. Their beers were lighter and delicious. The brewery is on their farm with a beautiful patio area and band stage.

315 Brewery Syracuse NY

Obviously, my favourite part was the chickens, turkeys, sheep, and goats. I couldn’t help but feed these precious little babes some fresh clover and grass. So friendly and happy. 315 Brewery Goats

If cider is more your thing, check out my trip to Beak and Skiff cider house a few weeks ago!

 

What is your favorite local beer or brewery? Let me know in the comments!

Favorite Foodie Podcast

The 3 Food Podcasts You Should be Listening to Right Now

I have found a new love. Podcasts. They make such a great replacement for the morning radio in my car, and as background noise as I work. I love cooking shows, so I knew I would love food podcasts. If you are looking to try a few new foodie podcasts to add to your list, I would suggest checking out any of the ones listed below.

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Americas Test Kitchen Radio

If you like Cooks Country, you will love this. Callers submit questions, ask for help, they explain findings from food experiments, give kitchen equipment reviews, taste testings for store bought products, describe recipes, and interview cooking icons. I really like this one because it is just like their TV show, but I can have it on at work or when I am cooking.

Bon Appetit Podcast

Bon Appetit Foodcast

This is a great one for anyone that loves food. Round table discussions, interviews, and stories. Practical tips for modern foodies. I especially love the down to earth discussions they have on the foodcast. I feel like I am sitting around with friends talking what we are going to cook for dinner tonight. The hosts and guests know how to enjoy good food, but don’t leave healthy food out of the equation.

The Sporkful Podcast

The Sporkful

Lots of food storytelling, industry news etc. The host Dan Pashman lives and breathes food culture. I knew this show was for me when I heard the episode “The Agony and Ecstasy of School Lunch” where they told stories and memories of lunchtime in school.

All of the listed podcasts can be listed to on Stitcher or downloaded on iTunes. I do want to warn you, listening will make you hungry! But they provide inspiration to keep trying new things, and listening generally makes me feel less guilty about “nerding out” over food. Any other food podcasts that you would suggest?

The Perfect Foodie Date Night to Get Out of Syracuse

This Friday, my boyfriend and I planned on going out to the zoo after work to enjoy the beautiful weather. It was one of the first evenings we had off together that we had no plans! Well, someone..not naming names…read the zoo’s hours wrong and unfortunately, they were closed by the time we were about to head out the door. But luckily, we ended up taking a different route and had a great night.

Beak and Skiff Deck
We really just wanted to get out of the city and see some green grass, nature, living things etc. and sit outside with a well-earned drink. So first we drove to Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards in Lafayette, NY. They had a live band playing, and had their kitchen and tasting room open for extended hours. We did a $3 tasting for fun and tasted about 6 of their hard ciders, 3 of their wines, and their gin in their beautiful exposed beam and mega huge windowed barn. They seemed to know their stuff and were very generous with their pours.

Beak and Skiff Tasting Room
Then we bought a few of our fav ciders and went out to their deck area to soak in the view. It was just perfect. We played a little corn hole, enjoyed the sunshine and live music. There were families with babies and dogs so honestly what else can you ask for. I then upgraded to a bloody mary with their housemade mix and vodka, and we shared a fruit and cheese plate that was SO good. They gave us generous wedges of gouda, brie and blue cheese. It was a great snack to hold us over until dinner.

Beak and Skiff Apple OrchardBeak and Skiff Bloody Mary

Once the bloody mary started to hit me, we headed out to Ironwood Pizza in Manlius, NY. Honestly, I have had pizza in Florence and Rome. My parents have a woodfired pizza oven that I have cooked the best pizza I could in. Their pizza was some of the best wood fired pizza I have ever had. They had a great selection of craft beers and a cute outdoor area. We shared some IPAS and a spinach ricotta and margarita pie. The pizzas we not over topped, cooked perfectly, well seasoned and the crust was so crispy but still doughy. Just perfect.

Ironwood Pizza

We finished the night with an ice cream cone at Stewarts. I get a lot of slack for loving Stewart’s ice cream, but I am convinced that it tastes so much fresher because they use local dairy. I got a dark chocolate salted caramel swirl flavor. All in all it was a great night to enjoy some great food and drink outside! I highly suggest going to both Beak and Skiff and Ironwood! Great for when you just want to get out of Syracuse, and explore a little.

 

Stewarts Ice Cream Cone

 

4 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste in your Kitchen

Growing up, we always had a compost bin. If I was lazy and tossed a banana peel into the garbage, surely my mom or dad would see it and make me put it in the compost. Compost was real. As I got older and I was solely responsible for my own meals, I realized that the food waste struggle is real. Not only is it an international environmental problem (about 40% of food in the US is wasted) it’s an unfortunate waste of your money. And if there is anyway to avoid or use food waste, we should do so! Since I hate throwing food away, I have picked up some tricks to make sure nothing gets wasted that doesn’t have to be. Here are some of the ways that I keep from throwing money into the trash each week.

Regrow scraps

I just started learning about this one! I have tried it with green onions and so far they have been successful! Other veggies you can regrow on your windowsill include celery, romaine lettuce, and onions. See some ideas here!

regrowing green onion

Cut and peel mindfully

I know this seems simple, but I have made it a point to cut with intention. When I would naturally lop off an inch of asparagus stems, or the end of an onion, I have found that I can get about 10% more of a veggie if I just barely cut off the non-edible bits. Also, I am a huge fan of leaving the skin on many things. You will rarely see me peel a potato, zucchini or cucumber. Extra texture and flavor is always a good thing.

If it’s about to go bad, cook it or freeze it

Sometimes we have good intentions. We hit the market and come home with a ton of fresh veggies. Then you cook one of your planned meals and a week later that massive bag of kale is still in the bottom of your crisper getting limp and damp.

When shopping for groceries, make sure that you aren’t buying more then what you can eat within a reasonable amount of time. I’m not totally innocent here though. If something is about to go in my fridge, I immediately cook it. Sauté the greens, cook the veg, and make a mix and match meal out of it. If I need to, I will then cool and freeze it for another day. Another great way to use up less then fresh veg is to make a big pot of soup, like my favorite- minestrone or third place vegan chili!

Use what you have

I think this is my favorite and best talent in the kitchen. I believe there are two types of people. Those that shop for, and complete recipes step by step (and actually measure things). Then there are people like me, that just cook by what they have, what looks good, and what we like. There is no doubt that I could make a somewhat rounded meal out of just about any pantry with the essentials. Even when there is “nothing to eat” in the house. My go-to is pictured below- chickpea salad on a bed of lettuce!

Keeping a low waste kitchen keeps things clean, simple and creates a rewarding cooking experience that comes from knowing that your hard earned money is being put toward the most fresh fruit and veggies that you can.
How do you reduce waste in your kitchen? What are some tips that you have?

Creamy Vegan Sweet Potato, Lentil and Red Curry Soup

Lately I’ve had this insatiable craving for all things ethnic and spicy. I am always in the mood for Pad Thai noodles and a bowl of spicy curry. But, for the past few years. I have had a very bad experience trying to incorporate curry flavored into dishes with yellow curry powder. It just always came out tasting bland and gross. But I had a vision and I just went for it. The result: the most incredible healthy, filling and flavorful soup I’ve made in a LONG time. You could definitely substitute different veg as you wish. The secret of this dish is jarred curry sauce. It has a much more diverse flavor profile then curry powder that makes the dish.

The breakdown…

  In your crockpot:

-2 big or 3-4 smaller peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (probably could also use a large butternut squash peeled and cubed as well)

-1 red/yellow/orange pepper diced

-1 small onion diced

-a few cloves of chopped garlic

-About 2 stalks of celery chopped

-3/4 cup or so of red lentils

– 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

– Veg broth

– 1 jar of curry sauce (tikka masala is good, red curry is good, yellow curry is good, I think anything would work).

-Red pepper flakes, bay leaves, salt and pepper

Stir and let cook for about 6-8 hours on low in your crockpot.

Take out half of the soup and cool in fridge. Blend once cool in a blender or food processor. Pour the blended portion back in with the other half of the soup (so it’s creamy but still has some substance to it) add in frozen peas or green beans for some color and texture.

I topped with a swirl of plain Greek yogurt (not vegan I know) and some red pepper flakes. Goes really well with a piece of toasted naan or bread.

Enjoy!

Vacation Recap: Eating my way through Cozumel, Mexico

For the past 4 years, my family has organized an annual vacation to the island of Cozumel, Mexico. We rent a house in a beachfront community and spend the week scuba diving, laying on the beach, and most of all…enjoying local food and drinks. This year, both of my sisters couldn’t make it so I was able to bring along my boyfriend and best friend. It was awesome to spend the week with friends and family and above all…unplug and relax!

Most days, I would start the morning with a coffee and light breakfast before leaving to scuba dive with Challenge Diving for the morning.  

 

We would return to the house around 1pm. After some lunch, we would grab a beer and head the the pool until sunset. Then we would shower and visit one of our favorite restaurants downtown.

 Most days my lunch was a mix of snacks and looked something like this:  

 

While Mexican American cooking is sometimes known for being saucy, spicy and heavy.. most local food in Cozumel is surprisingly light. While almost none of the resturants had vegetarian entrees listed on their menus, I was not disappointed by a single meal I ate. All I would ask for is vegetarian fajitas or tacos. The surprise of what would come out was half the fun! Sometimes peppers onions and tomato, sometimes carrot mushroom and zucchini.. I never knew! 

They would cook me up whatever veggies rice or beans they had and serve it on a hot skillet with warm flour tortillas and fresh guacamole and pico de gallo to stuff them with. The last place we visited, Casa Mission, even sensed my disappointment when I asked if the black bean soup was vegetarian. Without asking they whipped up an off the menu vegetarian soup for me to enjoy while my family scarfed down the house chicken tortilla soup, so kind and understanding! 

Some other highlights include our day at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. After a hike up it he lighthouse, some snorkeling and a beachfront massage.. I insulged in a plate of nachos that I may or may not have shared a few chips with our little friends! 

   

 I also love love LOVED our day of snorkeling at Sky Reef and lunch at Coconuts.You can’t snorkel without a proper Bloody Mary first.. Right?  

 

But.. Coconuts is hands down my favorite restaurant and thing to do in Cozumel. It is a beach bar located on the more wild side of the island situated on the cliff side. The views, sand between your toes and margaritas can’t be beat! After a few of their massive drinks you can’t help but fall in love with their in house critters too. 
    
  

Other great meals I enjoyed were at The Pub, Guidos, Antonio’s and Wet Wendy’s. 

  
   
 

Hearty and Healthy Veggie Minestrone Soup

Tis the season to ditch all plans, curl up on the couch and have a quiet night in. It has been the type of cold lately that just paralyzes you just in the trip from the car to the house. On days like this, there is nothing like coming home to a hearty home cooked meal. It’s the best feeling when you open the door and smell your amazing concoction waiting for you.

But let’s get real… we still got #goals so we gotta keep it healthy. This week I put together a random soup and I had to share it. It is hands down the BEST soup I have made this year. It’s chuck full of my favorite things. It is light, filling and the flavor of the veggies and beans works perfectly. You can improvise based on what you have in the house and what you like.

My “recipe” is:

  • 1 small butternut squash peeled and cubed
  • vegetable stock
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 can great northern beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Your favorite spices- I used salt, pepper, dill, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes.
  • Cooked pasta shells

Chop veggies the night before. toss in the crockpot and refrigerate overnight. Cook veggies broth and beans in crockpot for 4 hours on high. Add pasta just before serving. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread. Since the veggies don’t get a good sauté, add a little drizzle of olive oil at the end too.

Storage tip- keep pasta shells stored separate and add as needed. This keeps them from getting overly soggy.

What is your favorite winter soup?

10 Kitchen Tips to Make Your Life Easier

When I see a recipe for something that requires fancy tools and 100 complicated steps, I will most likely step away. I like to keep things simple, easy and practical. If I can’t do it in the half hour between my yoga class and Jeopardy, it’s probably not happening. The same goes for the groceries I bring home. If I know that it will go bad in a day or two- odds are it won’t get finished before it gets tossed.

What keeps me encouraged to keep eating and cooking good, healthy food are a few tricks that I have picked up along the way. They are simple things that make cooking easier and tastier.

  1. When you open a bag or box of baby spinach or spring mix place 2 clean dry paper towels in the container with the greens. This helps dry out moisture, and keeps your veggies from getting soggy so quickly.
  2. Store celery in water. My college roommates taught me this trick and I have never looked back. When you bring home a head of celery, cut and wash it then immediately store in a tupperware container filled with cold water. This keeps the celery so crunchy!
  3. When making something in the slow cooker, prep it the night before. Chop up veggies, add seasonings and other dry ingredients and refrigerate. Add sauces, canned beans and tomatoes just before turning on in the morning.
  4. Buy frozen fruit and veggies. Frozen fruit makes the BEST smoothies and blender sorbet. Frozen peas, corn and green beans are always a great way to eat a quick veggie when there is “nothing to eat”.
  5. Use your blender or food processor to finely chop garlic and onion to go in soups, chilis and sauces. Let’s get real chopping fresh garlic is a pain and no one wants to bite into a big chunk of onion.
  6. When in doubt, season with some good olive oil and fresh ground sea salt and pepper. There are few things that don’t taste amazing dressed this way.
  7. Make your own breadcrumbs to go on top of casseroles. I am not one for creamy heavy casseroles, but if you are making a dish that calls for something crunchy on top, quickly whip up some homemade. Crumble slices of bread in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon or so of butter and some dried herbs and microwave until butter is melted. Mix it all together and you have the best topping.
  8. Save glass pasta, pickle and jam jars for leftovers. Toss them in the dishwasher and use to store homemade salsa, sauces, and homemade dressings. They seal tighter than most tupperware or pyrex containers and fit perfectly on the door of the fridge.
  9. Pizza is best reheated in the oven. The crust gets re-crispy and the cheese gets melty.
  10. Make a batch of cookies and drop half the dough on 2 separate cookie sheets. Bake one sheet and enjoy, freeze the other sheet of cookie dough balls and keep for a rainy day when you just want something sweet. Just make sure to bake the frozen dough at a much cooler temp.

What are your kitchen tricks?

 

*featured photo from kaboompics.com because my kitchen is not that pretty 🙂

Easy (for real) Spicy Homemade Pepper Jelly

I can’t take full credit- a version of this recipe was passed on to me by a coworker. I have always loved Stonewall Kitchen’s spicy sweet pepper jelly, but never considered making it at home. Really, I never considered canning or “jellying” anything. I knew it was a science that required accurate measuring (nope not doing that), temperature monitoring (didn’t even own a thermometer) and perfect timing (LOL nah).

However, it was summer, I was eager to buy up any and all local spicy peppers and this INCREDIBLE pepper jelly recipe fell into my hands. After giving the jelly a taste on a plain ‘ol cracker, I was convinced I had to try and make it. I went out and ventured into the ever-intimidating canning aisle of the store. I wobbled back to my apartment with way too many mason jars and a little container of pectin and started cooking.

A bit of advice- wear plastic gloves. Or if you are like me and can’t be bothered by that, let your hands and any other skin surface you touch burn like fire all day.

Anyway, the jelly came out great. Gave me confidence in canning and preserving, it was so easy! After trying a few different versions of the recipe, I have found one I really love. But be warned, this is spicy. Not like…Franks red hot sauce spicy. It’s more like when you order thai food and accidently get the “hot” option- spicy. If you like more mild spice, switch out some of the hot peppers for a equal weight/size in red pepper.

This stuff is best served over baked brie or a block of goat cheese with crackers or crusty bread. Great to keep in the pantry for a quick appetizer and perfect to take to a superbowl party. I have even used this stuff in a pinch in place of sweet and sour sauce in stir-fry and it was great!

So here it is- give it a try, and let me know how it comes out!

 

Easy Spicy Homemade Pepper Jelly

Makes 1.5 Quarts

Ingredients:

  • 4 Jalapenos
  • 5 Thai dragon peppers
  • 1 Red pepper
  • 1/2 Sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cup White sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Pectin

Instructions:

  • Chop peppers and onion on food processor
  • Bring all ingredients except pectin to a boil in a saucepan. Stir for 1-2 minutes
  • Take off heat and stir in pectin
  • Boil exactly 1 minute
  • Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes
  • Fill sanitized and heated jars with jelly leaving a small space at the rim
  • Flip jars over on a towel and let cool upside down until room temperature