Sourdough 101: From Starter to Bread


I really love sourdough.  Which is a good thing seeing as I’m writing an entire post about it.  My sourdough obsession began last fall when I decided it was time to get serious about making my own.  Usually I would buy it from the store and complain about how expensive  it was, or how it contained ingredients I didn’t approve of, or (and most often) there was none available! Unfortunately I had no urge to make my own; it always seemed like a whole bunch of work to make the starter, then make the bread, then keep the starter alive, etc.  Up until I started making sourdough, I pretty much stopped eating bread because I don’t approve of conventional yeasts and flours.  I prefer my grains fermented and without preservatives, thanks.

So, why sourdough?

Sourdough is basically fermented flour.  If you haven’t heard, fermented foods are in.  They contain more nutrients and are easier to digest then their regular counterparts.  The beauty of sourdough is it’s made by combining flour and water with the natural yeasts that are all around us on a daily basis.  These wild yeasts are on your hands, food, and simply floating in the air all over!  The combination of letting water and flour sit together with these wild yeasts makes what is called a “starter”.  To make bread, you simply add some starter to more flour and water, throw in a pinch of salt, and now you’re imbedding all the friendly bacteria with your next loaf.  Pretty cool, huh?

From the time you  mix the starter with more flour and water to make bread, the organisms get to work chomping through the flour and creating lactic acid, neutralizing phytates and therefore making the nutrients of the flour more readily available to your body.  These are the same phytates that are found in legumes and cause gas and stomach discomfort (same reason I always buy dry beans and soak them with some apple cider vinegar for 24 hours.  But I digress..).  Not only is the lactic acid produced by our wild yeast friends good for improving absorption of vitamins and minerals, but is also helps slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream.  This is beneficial because it prevents the sugar spikes associated with eating carbohydrates.  The last great benefit of these wild yeasts is they help break down the glucose molecules in the bread, meaning people who have gluten sensitivity can usually eat sourdough without any discomfort.  Gotta love pre-digested food!

 

I apologize for my last comment about pre-digested food, I just really love sourdough.  And once you understand how to make it (and now fully understand how bad-ass it is for your health) you might be singing praises of a similar note!  Is it super easy? No.  Does it take some time to truly understand how to make the prefect crusty loaf?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Hell yes!!  I remember when I began my starter I was dancing around the apartment, singing and dancing to the wild yeasts and trying to attract them into my flour and water slurry.  Necessary?  That is yet to be determined.  My husband thought I was crazy but I’ve been using the same starter for over a year now (November 3 was her 1st birthday!).

Let’s get down to business.  Making the starter takes at least 5 days, more if you’re in a colder environment.  You start by adding a cup of purified water and flour to a glass jar/container and whisking them together until a smooth batter forms.  Let that sit, uncovered, for 24 hours.  The next day remove half of the batter and throw it out.  Add 1/2 cup purified water and 1/2 cup flour to the mixture and whisk until combined.  Continue doing this for the next three days or until your starter bubbles and has a sour smell.  There is no exact way to know exactly when your starter is fully matured, however usually after even a few days it makes a pretty good bread.  I remember after feeding my starter on the third day I couldn’t wait anymore and made some rolls that turned out (slightly flat) but really tasty!  When your starter is fully mature, keep it covered with cheesecloth or a paper towel in the fridge.  You will have to feed it only once every 7-10 days at this stage (same thing as before, remove half the starter and add equal parts flour and water.)  This only necessary to remember if you are not making bread once a week because when you make bread, half the starter is used to make the dough and then you feed the mother starter before placing back in the fridge.

Af far as types of flour to use, I recommend using a whole grain for the starter.  The wild yeasts thrive on all the nutrients in whole grain flours; as do humans (just saying).  Personally, I used sprouted flour to make my starter and feed it a variety of wheat including rye and spelt.  Another tip for making the starter is use a wide mouth glass jar or bowl because it is easier to add flour/water to.

Once your starter is matured and bubbling away, it’s time to whip up some bread!  The genius part of making your own sourdough is all you need is flour, water, salt, and starter.  No pre-packaged yeast, sugar, or oil.  To start, you take half of your starter and add it to a bowl.  (I recommend whisking your starter before removing half as it is natural and will separate.  Simply whisk a few times until everything is fully blended.)  I usually add the starter to the base of my kitchen aid because I use it to knead later.  Once you take the amount of starter needed, add equal parts water and flour to your mother starter (whisking till smooth) and put back in the fridge.  Then add ~ 1 cup both flour and water to the starter in the bowl and whisk.  It might seem like I’m stressing the whisk part, but I can’t stress enough how amazing a tool a whisk is when dealing with this sticky, gooey, starter!

Cover the mixture with saran wrap and let sit out for about an hour to warm up.  The reason to keep your starter in the fridge is to slow down the rate that the yeasts eat the flour and therefore the amount you need to feed it.  Before making your dough you want your yeast to get super active again to ensure maximum rising of the dough.  I will be honest, I have skipped this step in a rush and nothing dreadful has happened.  I just find the best bread, puffiest and highest, comes from really active yeasts!

Next step is to add flour and salt to your active starter, and begin to mix.  I highly recommend using a electric mixer for this step because it does require a lot of kneading.  Now, I never weigh my ingredients or even use measuring cups to add the flour because the amount needed changes depending on the season, dryness of the air, etc.  I also firmly believe that no amount of measurements would yield the perfect dough that I can see/feel.  I roughly wind up adding 3 (+/-) cups of flour and 1 to 1 1/4 tsp sea salt.  Add the flour gradually, and watch to see how the dough is looking.  Finished dough will be pliable, not sticking to the sides but also not crumbling at the bottom of your bowl.  If you happen to add too much flour, no worries!  Just add a touch of water.  This dough is very forgiving!  When you achieve the perfect dough, allow it to knead for 5-10 minutes.

I usually use 1-2 cups white flour then throw in some rye and whole wheat.  You can use all whole wheat, and I really wanted to when I first started this sourdough adventure a year ago, however I discovered that the addition of even one cup of white four makes a huge difference in the texture of the final product.  100% whole wheat bread is quite dense and tends to be extremely sour.  Just remember that this bread is fermented and therefore using a bit of white flour is really not that bad.

Allow your dough to rest on a lightly floured plate covered in saran wrap for an hour. From here, you can go ahead and form it into a loaf, baguette, rolls, or whatever you want if you are in a rush.  If you have time, gently stretch the dough into a large, flat ring and fold it in half, then in half the other way, and place back on the plate to rest another hour.  Repeat that one to two more times before forming the dough into it’s final destination shape.

Now comes the fermentation period.  I suggest a 16-24 hour ferment to start with, and then you can expand from there.  I like my dough really sour so sometimes I will allow the dough to ferment for upwards of 30 hours.  It also depends on the temperature of where you are.  The warmer the climate, the faster the process will take.  Making sourdough is a learning process.  That is why I have waited so long to share this recipe with you!  I have gotten many requests to explain how to make sourdough, but I wanted to have a bunch of experience under my belt because every time I have learned something new and helpful.

In the past year I have made over 100 breads, from rolls to baguettes, bagels to sliced sandwich bread.  I am hooked!  Nothing beats pulling a loaf of crusty bread out of the oven and breaking into it hot with a bowl of soup.  Or grilling an amazing burger and serving it on a hot, homemade bun.  You get the idea.  Hell, I even made a loaf of this bread and brought it on a plane with me to the grand canyon this past April!  I have a seriously addiction to good food.

I hope this was enlightening and helps give you a push to try it out for yourself.  If you have any questions, comments, or concerns while in the process of making your own starter or bread, please reach out to me!  I have seen just about every form of bread disaster before so I hopefully will be able to help you out.  Also, feel free to do a bit of bread bragging when you pull your first loaf out of the oven.  I am a sucker for a good picture of homemade bread!!

 

Sourdough Starter

purified water

whole grain flour (whole wheat, rye, spelt…)

patience

Directions:

  1. Whisk together 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water in a wide-mouth glass jar.  Allow to sit out, uncovered, for 24 hours.
  2. Throw away  half of the mixture, and add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour to the jar.  Whisk to combine and let sit out another 24 hours.
  3. Repeat step 2 for another 5-7 days, or until the starter is bubbly and has a sour smell.  Patience friends!!
  4.  Store in the refrigerator with a cheesecloth on top.  Make sure to feed the starter (throw away half and whisk in equal parts flour and water) if you are not making bread every week.  You should not go longer than 10 days without making bread of feeding the starter.

 

Margaret’s Sourdough Loaf

yields two long baguettes or about 12 medium rolls

1/2 starter (about 1 1/2 cups), recipe above

flour (your choice!)

purified water

salt, ~1 1/4 tsp

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water to the base of a stand mixer .  Cover with saran wrap and let sit for an hour.
  2. Slowly add about 2 cups flour to the starter with the mixer running, paddle attachment in.  Add salt.  Before the flour is fully incoperated, change the paddle attachment to the dough hook.  Add another cup of flour slowly.  You are looking for a dough that does not stick to the sides and also is not crumbling at the bottom.
  3. You can add more flour/water at any time.  Keep kneading the dough and watching until the perfect dough consistency is achieved.  Continue kneading for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Place dough ball on a lightly floured plate and cover with saran wrap.  Let sit for an hour.
  5. At this point, if you are in a rush, you can shape it into whatever bread product you want and begin the fermentation time, see step 7.  If you have more time, condition the dough further by completing step 6.
  6. Take the dough and gently stretch it into a flat disk.  Fold in half, then in half again the other way.  Place back on the plate and cover in saran wrap for another hour.  Repeat this step 2 more times.
  7. Form into bread shape of your choice and place in a parchment lined pan/loaf pan you are going to bake it in.  Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 18-30 hours.  The longer it ferments, the stronger the sour flavor will be.  Also remember the warmer the temperature is the quicker the dough will ferment.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 F for ~30 minutes.  You can tell when it is done because the outside will form a hard crust and if you tap on the top of the bread it will sound hollow.  Cool completely before storing covered in the fridge.  This bread lasts awhile in the fridge, up to 2 weeks, and can be frozen for a longer shelf life.

Maple Almond Brownie Blast Nice Cream


Can you believe summer is almost over?!  It’s crazy to think about, and stressful because the end of summer means it’s very close to my wedding!  It feel’s like October 28th is creeping up fast and my to do list just gets longer by the day.  I have to sample a few more wedding cakes before I finalize my plans for what I’m baking, I have to set up a food tasting with our caterers to finalize that menu, design my vegetable arrangements with my best friend…the list goes on and on! Sorry, did I say work?

Lot’s of coffee and treats have been powering me through this crazy time of work and planning.  I have a bit of a sweet tooth and with these hot and hazy days of late summer, my go-to dessert is cool and creamy ice cream.   Seriously, I’ve been crushing on ice cream hard the last week and have come up with three new recipes!  They all start with my favorite frozen banana base, aka “nicecream” in the food world (I’m so trendy!). Today I’m sharing a fully-loaded version, studded with giant brownie chunks and toasted meld-in-your-mouth walnuts, all paired perfectly with a creamy slightly-nutty almond and dash of sweet maple syrup ice cream base.  Pure bliss! If you haven’t checked out my last post for giant lentil brownies, I suggest you head on over and whip up a batch for the brownie part in this treat!

I have a bit of a confession to make; I don’t have a ice cream scoop!  Which is crazy considering I spend 90% of my time in the kitchen cooking.  It’s actually hard not having one because when I make muffins or cookies I cannot easily scoop the batter and dispense it on the pan in perfect portions.  I usually wind up using a tablespoon and creating a giant mess.  Par for the course with me.  Whenever I go over my parent’s house and bake, or anyone’s house for that matter I feel so fancy and luxurious using a scoop.  Guess it’s time I bite the bullet and shell out the $3 to get one…

Scoop or no scoop, you can still enjoy this frozen treat.  The best part about this recipe is it only requires one bowl (really blender) and no fancy ice cream maker. Let the regular people have ice cream!!

 

Maple Almond Brownie Blast Nice Cream

4 super ripe medium bananas, peeled and frozen in chunks

3 Tbsp almond butter

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 giant lentil brownie, diced in small pieces

1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces

1/4 cup cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Blend the bananas, almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a high speed blender.  Add a splash of non-dairy milk if using a food processor to help blend.  Fold in the brownie pieces, walnut pieces, and cacao nibs.
  2. Line a 9×9 baking pan with wax paper, all the way up the sides.  Spread the ice cream mixture evenly in the pan and let freeze for at least 3 hours.  The longer you freeze it, the harder it will become.  Store in the freezer with saran wrap over the pan for up to 3 days.  If you want it to last a bit longer, transfer the ice cream into a air-tight container and store for up to a week.

Giant Lentil Brownies

The past few months I’ve been all about beans.  You name the bean, I’ve put it in something!  I even created a vanilla cake recipe using cannelloni beans that I am going to make into my wedding cake!  I’m for real bean crazy over here.

Not only are beans nutritious and super filling, but they are also cheap and extremely versatile.  I buy my beans dry, soak them, then cook them in large batches. Sometimes I sprout them a few extra days before cooking; it all depends on my mood and what I’m planning to use them for.  At any given time there is at least one giant bowl of soaking beans on my counter.  Usually there is sourdough dough fermenting next to it, but that’s for another day.

I’ve been eating mainly vegetarian since last September.  But to be honest I don’t like to put a label on my “diet”.  I don’t believe in diets.  I believe that you should eat plant based (as in mostly vegetables and fruits), whole food (no pre-pared or packaged crap: stay to the outside edges of the grocery store and skip the middle), and everything in moderation.  That’s about it.  If you’re a meat eater, that’s totally fine!  Just eat way more veg than beef.  And treat yourself.  I strongly believe in a non-elimination diet!  Recently I watched Michael Pollan’s film In Defense of Food while on vacation and loved it.  It hit the nail on the head when it comes to trendy nutrition and dietitian buzz words that are driving the food industry.  I really have to read the book.  Anyway, in the past few months I’ve transitioned to this very simple and holistic approach to how and what I eat and I’ve never felt better!

Enter these brownies.  They are made of whole foods, no refined sugars, oils, or grains.  Nothing but nature in these bad boys!  My logic behind making these was I wanted a eat brownies for breakfast and thought it might be wise if I include ingredients that did more than just give me a sugar rush.  The protein, fiber, fruit, not to mention vitamins and minerals in these make them not only a good option but a great one!  I made them a few times to get it right, but this recipe is even dessert worthy.  My two favorite ways to eat these are warmed with chocolate nice-cream and extra cacao nibs or slathered in my cacao butter frosting (recipe to come).  This recipe is not joking around and makes 12 giant brownies!  Size matters and a giant brownie is always better than a tiny one.  So go ahead, wake up and have a brownie.  No judgement here 😉


 

Giant Lentil Brownies

vegan, gluten free, oil free, refined sugar free

1 1/2 cups GF oats

1/2 cup teff (or more oats)

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups cooked lentils

16 oz dates, pitted*

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk + more as needed

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter**

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips, walnuts, or a combo (optional)

cacao nibs for sprinkling (optional)

 

*If your dates are not soft, soak them in hot water for 5-10 minutes before using them.

**Sub a seed butter here if necessary. I have not actually tried it myself, however I bet sunflower seed butter would taste amazing!

Directions:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 baking pan.
  2. Blend the oats and teff in a high-speed blender or food processor until a flour consistency is achieved.  Pulse in the cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Empty into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Blend the dates, peanut butter, vanilla, and 1 cup of the milk until smooth.  Add to a large bowl.
  4. Blend the lentils, applesauce, and 1/4 cup milk until smooth.  Add to the large bowl.  Stir everything together until combined.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and gently mix until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips or walnuts if desired.
  6. Spread the batter evenly over the greased 9×13 pan and sprinkle with cacao nibs if desired.  Bake for about 30 minutes for more fudgy brownies, closer to 35 for fully cooked texture.  Let cool completely, cut into 12 pieces and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Farmer’s Market Zoodle Pie





My garden is in full production mode and I’ve been harvesting enough produce to feed a small army.  As the greens build up, I’m forced to come up with new recipes to use them up.  It’s a terrible burden, but I’ve been doing my best to get through all the veggie sampling, cooking, and visits from friends and family as they help me try out my new creations.  I really hope by now you realize I’m super sarcastic because I’ve been in my element the past few months cooking up a storm with home grown produce!  Now using up the kale from my garden has been easy; a solid 25% of me is kale.  Salads, soups, sauces, sandwiches; basically I put kale in every “s” culinary item that’s not a smoothie.  I know green smoothies are all the rage, but personally I detest having veggies in my drinks.  I prefer to eat my greens with some garlic and olive oil thank you very much.  To each their own. (I do have this green smoothie recipe that is pretty delicious).

While I’m a walking encyclopedia for kale recipes, zucchini is a rather foreign veggie to be used in my kitchen.  I blame my minimal zucchini use on the fact that the past three years my zucchini plants have been dismal at best.  In fact, last year I had eight zucchini mounds and they all died within the first two months! During the summer I tend to only eat what comes from my garden (considering I’m always up to my eyeballs in fresh veg and never get the urge to buy any more).  You can imagine the shock I was in when all six mounds of 3+ plants took off this year and I’m currently picking over 10 zucchini a week!  It was time to figure out how to use up such a plethora of zucchini after giving away as much as my friends and family would take.

I started simple.  Zucchini bread.  Zucchini carrot apple muffins.  Sliced zucchini as a substitute for lasagna noodles. After exhausting my slim knowledge of zucchini recipes I had to get creative.  I wanted to do something fun therefore I started playing with my mandoline to make zucchini chips.  One of the big downfalls of zucchini it they are really watery and tend to be soggy in most sautés and pastas I’ve had them in.  Zucchini chips are a great option because they crisp up nice and are a super healthy alternative to regular chips.  The problem is they are a pain in the you-know-what to make, super time consuming, and I quickly realized why my mandoline has collected so much dust.  I ALWAYS slice my finger on it!  For someone who cooks so much I really should not be handling sharp knives and hot pots and pans.  If I had a dollar for every time a knife almost landed on my toes…

But I digress.  Basically I love zucchini chips and hate to make them.  So I took my bandaged finger and got out another fun (slightly safer) kitchen gadget, my spiralizer.  I had leftover caramelized onion collard greens from dinner I wanted to use up, so I decided to make a spaghetti pie of sorts with a collard crust and a zucchini noodle filling. Bam.  Farmer’s market pie. I kept the seasonings simple to let the vegetables shine through.  Salt, pepper, and garlic powder is all the zucchini needed, plus a hit of nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavor while keeping it on the lighter side.  I love cheese, but sometimes a lighter option is nice.  Especially when it’s 90 degrees outside!  Omitting cheese keeps this pie vegan as well, so everyone can enjoy!  As a finishing touch I served it with a dollop of spicy cashew cream.  AH-mazing.  I highly recommend serving this with the cashew cream.  It’s rich, slightly spicy, slightly sweet, and really adds to the deliciousness factor of this recipe.

Is this dish going to come out in nice clean pieces?  No.  It’s not your typical wheat and cheese bound pie.  It is light, refreshing, and one of the most delicious messes to grace your dinner plate.  Or lunch plate.  Heck, serve it up with eggs and call it breakfast!  I might have to eat this for the next 32 meals straight to use up all the zucchini I have growing.  If you, like myself, have an obsession for all things green (or are trying to make get on my level), pick up some zucchini at the farmers market and try this beautiful mess of what I’m calling farmer’s market zoodle pie!

 

Farmer’s Market Zoodle Pie

1 bunch collard greens; deveined, washed, and chopped

1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin

1 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

 

2-3 zucchini, spiraled or peeled into thin strips (about 4 heaping cups worth)

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/8 tsp pepper

spicy cashew cream (optional – for serving)

Directions:

  1.  Saute the sliced onions in 1 Tbsp olive oil for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown*.  Add the collard greens and cook until tender (about 5-10 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F.  Spread the cooked collards out evenly over the bottom of a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pie pan.
  3.  In a bowl, toss the zucchini noodles with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast.  Place over the collards and spread into one even layer.  Sprinkle with the remaining nutritional yeast.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes.  Broil for the last 2-3 minutes (optional but gives it a nice golden crust!).
  5. Serve warm with a dollop of spicy cashew cream!

Date Caramel

Two ingredients.  All-natural.  Delicious.  Nutritious.  BADASS.

Update your sweet tooth with this rich, decadent, creamy,  mouth-watering caramel.

 



 

ps.  I strongly suggest making this asap because there’s a recipe headed your way that uses this…

 

Date Caramel

1 lb dates, pitted*

1 1/2 c-2 cups water

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Place the dates and 1 1/2 c water in a pot.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Place in a high speed blender with the vanilla and blend until a thick and smooth. Add more water to thin out as desired.  Store in a air-tight container in the fridge.

*It doesn’t matter the type of dates you use.  I’ve used both medjol dates and deglet noor dates with great results.

Classic Tempeh Burger


Sooooo…I planned to share this recipe last week, as in Tuesday of last week, then life happened.  Oh well, better late than never!  And believe me, with this hot weather and grilling season in full swing you are going to want to whip up a batch of these burgers.

The idea for there burgers came from a pop up vegan event I went to with a friend in February.  I had the most amazing burger (and waited in line for almost an hour – totally worth it!).  The next day I got to work on recreating it and I got pretty lucky the first time.  What I love most about these burgers is the heartiness the tempeh adds to the patty.  While I adore veggie burgers made out of beans, vegetables, and grains, they are often very light and the consistency doesn’t provide the satisfying chew that I crave when eating a burger.  These bad boys deliver in both texture and flavor while also holding up well to grilling and many toppings! My favorite toppings are spicy cashew mayo and sweet relish + hot sauce, but feel free to try just about anything.  The burgers in these photos are on a homemade sprouted sourdough bun with tahini dressing and kale.  Still delicious.  There are no wrong answers when it comes to decking out your burger!

Did you notice the super cute cutting board I photographed these on?  It was an engagement gift from one of nick’s aunt’s and I’m obsessed!  I’m actually thinking it will be a great way to plate some of the appetizers at our wedding.  See, not only am I making my own wedding cake but I’m not leaning towards making most of the food as well.  I sure hope my mom isn’t reading this…:)

 

Classic Tempeh Burgers

1 8oz block tempeh, cubed

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans

1/2 cup oat flour*

1/3 cup hemp seeds (or sunflower seeds)

2 chia eggs (2 Tbsp chia seeds + 1/3 c warm water mixed and set aside to gel)

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

*You can make your own oat flour by adding oats to a food processor or blender (1/2 heaping cup of oats = 1/2c flour).  Simply blend until a flour consistency is achieved.

Directions:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2.  Put the tempeh in a food processor or blender and pulse until a crumbly consistency is achieved then empty into a large bowl.  Repeat with the garbanzo beans.
  3.  Put the hemp seeds in a food processor or blender and pulse until a flour consistency is achieved.  Add to the bowl.
  4.  Add the salt, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, and cayenne to the bowl.  Mix everything together.
  5.  Mix in the chia eggs.  As you mix, a dough should start to form.  You know it is ready when you can press it into a ball and it holds together.  If the dough is still crumbly, slowly add more water one Tbsp at a time.
  6.  Form 8 even balls and gently press them into a patty, about 1 inch thick.  Place on the parchment lined pan.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake another 15-20 minutes.

My Trip West

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Here I am, on top of the Grand Canyon.  It was extremely windy and my sunglasses blew off while trying to get this shot.   Luckily they landed in front of me!  I was slightly cursing Nick to hurry up and get the shot, therefore my feet got cut off.  Worth it!

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Experience a sunset on the Grand Canyon.  Breathtaking. 

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Valley of Fire State Park.  aka alien park.  aka rock climbers playground.   

Hi friends! I’m back from one of the coolest and most inspiring vacations I’ve ever been on. It also happened to be decided and organized on a whim, and turned out better than I can have imagined. The past few months I have been extremely stressed. Work has been crazy busy with me putting in 7 day weeks, dealing with some interesting (aka insane) individuals, and having no time for myself. Not to mention I got engaged (yay!!!) in February, and instead of wedding planning being a fun, creative, and let’s be real…an all about the bride experience; it’s been adding more stress to my life and catering to what everyone else wants, leaving my voice unheard! Enter how getting to watch the sunrise on the grand canyon and climb above the clouds on the Angel’s landing trail at Zion have helped me overcome these problems + so much more. (I’ll be doing a separate post on wedding planning and why I’m going to make my own cake soon!)

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Although I was less than thrilled waking up at 4:30am to catch the sunrise over the grand canyon, boy oh boy am I glad I did!!  Truly remarkable.

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We’ve all been there. Overworked. Exhausted. Stuck in the same routine. Feel as if you’re working so hard towards a goal you don’t even want. I needed a change.  I needed to turn my mindset around and figure out what’s important in my life.  I needed an escape from the daily grind to get some mental clarity.  With that in mind I hopped on a plane to Las Vegas with Nick, my parents, my sister and her fiance, plus my brother and his girlfriend.  Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  Not quite the relaxing and restorative vacation I was describing.  And believe me I thought the same thing at the beginning.  But I was so wrong.

Not for nothing, but it was COLD at night and in the early morning.  I think I had three layers on when we watched the sun rise but it didn’t stop me from doing some casual yoga on the rim of the grand canyon.  You bet I did sun salutations!!

I even got my mom to join me!  

I ate like a veggie goddess!  Seriously enjoyed having a kitchen everywhere I went with our RV.  Everyone thought I was crazy, until they asked for seconds of my cheesy lentils…

Ok, Antelope canyon was mind blowing!  Confusing when you pull up and it looks like a seriously mediocre desert.  And then you have to wait in the hot sun for over an hour in order to descend into the actual canyon.  But this was one of the coolest things I have even seen; put it on your bucket list people!!

After landing in Vegas, we stayed the night in the hotel Paris before really getting the adventure started.  (Let me just say I am totally baffled by how popular Vegas is.  Call me crazy but being surrounded by a haze of smoke and alcohol, plus more people than comfortable for a desert, not to mention an almost one to one ratio of slot machines to humans is not my idea of a good time.  It did serve it’s purpose as an airport so I can’t be all that mad.  End rant.)  The next day we picked up our RV’s that we would call home for the next week.  I was highly skeptical of this RV lifestyle, but now I can honestly say it’s the way to go!  If any of you followed my instagram and instastories during the trip, you know just how accommodating to my foodie lifestyle RVing is! I was able to cook up a storm and enjoy my usual “cheesy” lentils, warm salads, roasted chickpeas, figgy teff porridge, and so much more.  And yes, I did pack a container of sautéed broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, and chickpeas with a fork for my on-the-go trail lunch as we hiked through the national parks.  I don’t mess around when I say I’m a plant based foodie!

On the left: Me, on top Angel’s landing trail in Zion National Park, eating my casual trail lunch.  Top right: my lunch before hiking 3 miles down the grand canyon then 3 miles back up (a change of over 2,000ft elevation both ways!).  Same lunch (although in a super unsophisticated plastic bag) + the addition of green juice.  Last two photos are the results of the insane trek!  We were both covered in dust and amazed at what we had just accomplished!!

Yea, we hiked down and up that…

Always cool when faced with adversity.  We just had to get back to the top of the rocks behind me, no big deal!  I’d also like to point out that although it was cold in the dessert at night, it was hot during the day!  I’m simply terrified of the sun and stick to long sleeves, pants, and hats whenever outside for more than 30min.  Call me crazy, but in 30 years when I look 20 we’ll see who gets the last laugh!

Throughout the trip I saw some truly remarkable natural wonders.  There is something therapeutic about looking out over the vastness grand canyon and calming climbing to the top of a mountain in Zion park and eating a simple lunch feeling on top of the world.  It sounds cliche, but I needed the wake up call.  Over the course of the trip I was able to shut down my stress and open my mind.  And while it’s never a bad idea to take a trip to national park and view some breath-taking natural wonders, remember nature is all around us and there are ways to relieve our daily stresses no matter where you live.  My biggest take-away from the trip is inner peace is not a destination but a journey.  We drove over 4 hours at times, across three states and a time zone to fit everything we wanted to see.  At first I thought the drives would simply be a means to an end, but the open and constantly changing mountainous landscape and vegetation was breathtaking! We all have the ability to figure out what we want and change our current path to live a happier and more fulfilling life.

I took about 1000 pictures of the ever changing landscape on my phone.  I have never had so much fun driving!!

Extension of Angel’s landing at Zion National Park; Nick and I got about 1/4 way out and decided not for us!  It is treacherous terrain with only a metal chain to hold on to!  And if that wasn’t bad enough, there were a ton of people on it causing traffic jams in places that clearly lead to death if you so much as move an inch to either side.   I was happy with our decision.  Shout out to my bold a** sister and her fiance for actually getting to the top!  Nick and I had the most delicious cold-brewed iced coffee at the bottom while we waited 😛 

Although we did climb up this mountain before turing around (and this was only the halfway point!)

We stopped at a truck stop for lunch on our way to Valley of Fire state park (gotta love the RV life!), and this guy joined us!  

Valley of Fire was our last stop, and we were all exhausted by the time we got there.  The temperature was also reading 102F so that didn’t help.  Good thing we had quite a view! 

Remember I said how tired and drained I was?  Kidding.  As soon as we started down a trail I was ALL over the rocks!  They were super fun to climb!!

The whole trip I rocked comfy clothes, no make-up, and 0% cares on how I looked.  Oh wait, that’s how I usually am!  

Shut down stress and open up your mind.  Be open to new possibilities.  Do things that make you happy.  Find joy everyday.  Live a little!!

Spicy Cashew Mayo (vegan!)

 

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Get excited, because today I’m sharing my dairy-free, egg-free, oil-free recipe for mayo!  It took me long enough to try using cashews to make a savory sauce and ever since it’s been making many appearances at meals.  The idea to make this sauce came from a vegan pop-up event in Morristown that my friend invited me to.  I was blown away by a burger I had, dripping in a drool-worthy (vegan) sauce!  I immediately thought ‘I can make that!’ and got to work in the kitchen.  With some seriously luck, I hit the nail on the head the first try and everything else is history.

The real beauty of this creamy spread is it has so many uses!  I’ve used it as a mayo, sour cream, pasta sauce, and dip. Feel free to leave the hot sauce out and add some dill, onion, and parsley to make this a ranch mayo.  Or add a cumin, turmeric, and curry to make a curried mayo. The possibilities are endless!  Over the past few weeks, my instagram has been filled with this mayo.  Whip up a batch, then tell me how you’re enjoying it!

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Spicy Cashew Mayo

1 cup raw cashews*

2 large medjol dates, pitted

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp hot sauce**

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

*I use raw cashew pieces from Trader Joe’s because they are cheaper than raw whole cashews.

**Feel free to use your favorite sauce here (japaleno, siracha, etc.)

Directions:

Soak the cashews and dates overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Add everything to the base of a high speed blender and blend, starting on the lowest speed and gradually increasing, until you have a smooth, uniform, thick texture.  Store in the fridge for up to a week.

 

 

Lemon Chia Seed Cookies

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I LOVEEE chia seed baked goods. Seriously, I find myself sneaking them into most of my sweet treats. They add a wonderful crunch not to mention a healthy dose of omega3’s, protein, and a bunch of other vitamins and minerals. Currently I’ve been craving anything and everything citrus so I whipped up these lemon cookies using protein-rich teff flour and topped them off with an orange coconut glaze. Take a moment to take all that goodness in!

Teff is a grain that is not used often, however I’m trying to change that (one cookie at a time) because it has so much to offer! First, it is naturally gluten-free and adds a rich, nutty flavor to anything you are baking/cooking. Where I really think this grain shines is it’s high protein content, as well as containing a significant amount of calcium and iron. I’m all about plants packing a power punch 😉

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I kept these cookies breakfast-approved by sweetening them with pureed dates, but couldn’t resist topping them with a sublime coconut citrus frosting. These are a crowd pleasure for your next weekend brunch, or on-the-go snack to answer your mid-afternoon hunger. I do have to disclose that you will want to eat all of the dough before baking these bad boys – you have been warned! Now get baking…

 

Lemon Chia Seed Cookies

2 cups teff flour*
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

15 medjol dates, pitted
1/2 cup almond milk**
3 meyer lemons, juiced
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp coconut butter 

coconut citrus frosting (recipe follows)

*I add two cups of teff grain to my vitamix and blend it into a flour.  You can also buy teff flour at most stores.

** Any plant-based milk will work here

Directions:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the teff flour, chia seeds, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a high-speed blender, add the dates, almond milk, lemon juice, and coconut butter.  Blend until a thick, smooth paste forms.  Add more milk as needed to blend smooth.
  4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones.  Add the lemon zest.  Mix until a dough forms.
  5. Using a melon scooper (or about 2 Tbsp of batter per ball), gently press each ball flat on the prepared baking sheet.  You can keep them close together because they won’t spread out as they cook.
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before frosting.
  7. To frost, add a small dollop of the coconut citrus frosting on the top of each cookie and gently spread out.  Once frosted, place in the fridge to solidify.  Store in the fridge in an air-tight container.

 

Coconut Citrus Frosting

1/3 cup coconut butter, warmed

juice of 1 blood orange

juice of 1 meyer lemon

2-3 Tbsp raw honey or agave

*any type of lemon or orange will work, I just prefer these varieties

Directions:

Whisk everything together.

Citrus Cherry Chia Jam

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This jam contains three ingredients, a pot and wooden spoon, and a few stirs.  It’s subtly sweet with notes of citrus and deep cherry flavor.  Totally awesome.  And when slathered on anything with nut butter it’s down right heavenly!

I posted this recipe awhile ago for blueberry fig jam which is super delicious, however I can’t always find dried figs (or afford them let’s be honest!).  I’m also extremely lazy and the thought of having to blend everything together then wash my vitamix is enough to tempt me to reach for the jarred jam at the grocery store. But in all honestly most store-bought jam is too sweet for me and if you know me, you know I basically have to make everything myself.  First I don’t like to eat any form of processed sugar and I also avoid most thickener agents used to give jams and jellies their signature texture.

For this jam, I simply simmered whole frozen pitted cherries with fresh squeezed orange juice then added chia seeds towards the end to gel everything together. The concentrated cherry and citrus flavor together is super tasty while the chia seeds add nutritional benefits as well as a texture element.  I like making a big batch of this and jarring some so I have plenty in the pantry for those times when the craving strikes!  I have found that I’ve been eating this just about every day for the past few weeks, therefore making the jarring process unnecessary.  Apparently I’m still in the honeymoon phase with this jam.  Seriously, am I the only one who latches onto a delicious food for weeks (eating it almost every day) before getting sick of it?!

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I’ve been toasting up my homemade sourdough bread and slathering it with cacao almond butter before topping it off with a healthy scoop of this jam.  Every. Damn. Day.  I’ll be posting the recipe for my cacao almond butter soon and I’m working on a large post about sourdough.  So stay calm and spread this tangy jam!!

ps. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a super annoying ‘engagement ring on hand’ post.  Yes I am engaged (EKKKK<3<3<3), yes I have an emerald engagement ring (bad-ass), and yes you can be assured I am making my own wedding cake.  But let’s focus on the immediate future…sharing the recipe for the grown-up cacao almond butter and citrus cherry jam sprouted sourdough sandwich that I gave you a teaser for.  Baby steps 🙂

 

Citrus Cherry Chia Jam

4 cups frozen pitted cherries (fresh work as well)

4 oranges, juiced

1/4 cup chia seeds

Directions:

Bring the cherries and orange juice to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until the fruit has thickened.  Add the chia seeds and stir until jam consistency is achieved*.  Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, or can to keep the jam for up to a year.

 

*remember the jam will thicken as it cools