All of your Autumn dreams come true: butternut squash and sugar pumpkin soup [vegan, GF]

Oh it is feeling like fall in California and I am HERE FOR IT. I’ve been making 1-2 cozy soups a week, which might be one of the few perks of covid: extra time to make homemade meals. So far we’ve ranged from grain soups (1 with quinoa and 1 with farro), to a coconut lentil soup (similar to this one), to the real autumnal winner: a butternut squash and sugar pumpkin soup.

Peeling and cubing the butternut squash and sugar pumpkin does add some upfront prep work, but it’s worth it. And with only 5 ingredients and 2 spices – after the initial effort – you’ll breeze through making this nom.


Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, deseeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 sugar pumpkin, deseeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • ^ combined should be about 3 cups
  • 3 1/2 cups of veg broth
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • A dash of coriander
  • A dash of nutmeg

Directions:

  • Roast butternut squash and pumpkin coated in OO at 375 for 40 minutes or until tender
  • Sautee onion until fragrant / translucent
  • Add squash and pumpkin to onion for a quick stir
  • Sprinkle in a dash of coriander and nutmeg to taste (…the true veg vibes way! I rarely give exact measurements because I rarely use exact measurements; although here I will caution less is more – unless you like your soup tasting like a PSL)
  • Add mixture to a high speed blender with veg broth and blend until creamy dreamy smooth
  • Transfer back to pot to heat again and serve

Chia seed pudding [breakfast]

I was in Australia the first time I tried chia seed pudding. I needed something portable and nutritious before a day of sailing. At the grocery store the night before I spotted a little pot of pudding that enticed me so I read the ingredients. Not bad, I thought – always a sucker for clean ingredients – and scooped it up. I savored it the next morning on our sailboat before heading to the Whitsunday Islands.

The next time this powerhouse breakfast came into my life was camping in Yosemite one summer. One of our friends set up a chia seed buffet and I loved all of the combinations you could make with the pudding as your base.

In my former life (before COVID!) when I would take the train to San Fransisco for work, I would make chia seed pudding to eat during my commute. It is easy to make ahead of time and keeps me full for a long time. A win for the workday.

From adventures down under, to camping, to hours of meetings and emails, this is one of my favorite breakfasts. Although lately it’s been fueling endless days at home because of COIVD and shelter-in-place…

Every other week or so, I’ve been batch-making chia seed pudding to enjoy for a few days. I like to think of it as the oatmeal of summer, since it served cold, making it a perfect way to start a warm day.

I defrost mangos in the refrigerator the night before to give a bit of fruit juice to mix in with the pudding. I’ve also added cocoa powder for a more decadent breakfast. The options are limitless!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup plant based milk

Optional toppings:

  • yogurt
  • berries or any fruit
  • nuts
  • coconut flakes

Directions:

  • whisk chia seeds into plant based milk and let sit for at least 3 hours or in the fridge overnight (easy peasy!)
  • scoop out and top with your favorite pairings

Before going in the fridge
The next morning, after the chia seeds have expanded and gelled together
Spot the chia seed pudding

ILY Banana Bread

Note: I typed up this post way back in October but it’s been living in my Drafts since I didn’t have pictures to go with it. Now we’re sheltering-in-place because of COVID and I’ve managed to carve out a few minutes – in between breastfeeding and diaper changes – to make my favorite banana bread, snapshots included.

What a crazy time we are living through… I imagine many people are baking more since we’re all bored, restless, and probably have varying degrees of anxiety because of the current affairs and how unknown things are. We’re consuming news hourly – and, if similar to me – looking for any glimpse that reads this will be over soon. We’re rapid-fire reading headlines and digesting them after with our friends and family on video chat. Any retrieve or coping we can muster is welcome.

We’ve all seen and laughed at the same memes. We’ve cried. We’re taking more walks; getting outside and noticing things we didn’t before. But we’ve also started to avoid eye-contact when we pass others – is it okay to say hello? Now most of the time I look down at my feet when I would have offered a friendly greeting or at least a smile just weeks ago.

We’re trying to remember that Earth is getting a break during this and pollution is down. We’re calling people we haven’t talked to in years. Things we used to shrug off – or even dislike entirely – we suddenly crave… what I would give for a family game night (my former self was selective about the games I played and the time I spent playing them). Never again will time with others be taken for granted; or a shared bottle of wine, a welcome embrace, an unexpected visitor. We’re missing our “old” lives and realizing we really didn’t have much to complain about, did we?

We’re cleaning out closets and drawers and garages; and maybe some buried feelings we haven’t had time to sit with before. We’re going deep, turning inward for guidance. Or, we’re not. We’re worried about using too much toilet paper. We’re eating at home a lot more. We’re thankful. We’re scared…

It’s a lot.

I can’t wait to be on the other side of this. I can’t wait to write something light-hearted and jolly again. Reading the words below, I think, what a simple time. But I also think, oh, how we will grow from this and… at least we still have banana bread.


Mike and I love banana bread. Who doesn’t?! I am all about splurging with a white flour and refined sugary piece of it occasionally but for the normal day-to-day, I prefer something healthier. Which is why I am so happy I found / fine tuned this recipe!

It’s made with real, simple ingredients and no added sugar. I love having it for breakfast because the protein from the eggs and almond butter keeps me full. Plus, it’s a pretty good pairing with morning espressos.

I had a crazy busy few days at work and some bananas that were ripe and ready to rumble, so I asked Mike to make the bread while I was away at a work dinner. I scribbled down the directions for him, which coined the recipe “ILY Banana Bread.” Whenever I write Mike a note, I always include ILY at the end for I Love You. It’s nothing original – I’m sure a millions of other couple use ILY too – but we’ve been doing it since we first started dating so it’s special to us. ❤


ILY Banana Bread

Gluten and added sugar free

Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 30 minutes: Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tbs baking soda
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  • Vegetable oil for pan
  • Optional: walnuts and flaxseeds

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Add bananas to a bowl and mash with a fork
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to bowl and mix together
  • Grease your pan with vegetable oil (I used grape-seed because it has a high smoke point)
  • Put batter in pan and bake for 30 minutes


Chili Mac

We finally have a kitchen again! After about 2 months of renovating the downstairs of our house, the floors are placed, the new appliances connected, and the (GORGEOUS) counters are safely secured in place. All in good timing because we’re only a week or so out from our baby making his grand debut into the world.

To test out all of the new goods, I made a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while last night for dinner. It’s vegan and, the version I made, gluten-free. It’s easy and filling. It’s … chili mac!

A mash up – a love child – of 2 major comfort foods; chili and mac n’ cheese. I suggest you make yourself a batch ASAP.


Chili Mac

Ingredients:

  • 1 -2 TBS vegetable oil like avo or grape-seed (something with a high smoke-point)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper (I used red but use your fave or what you have on hand)
  • 2-ish carrots
  • 2 cans kidney beans, rinsed
  • 28 oz of canned tomatoes (I buy the fire roasted ones)
  • 3 – 4 cups of spinach
  • Spices (added to taste and preference): Cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, salt
  • 10 oz of macaroni (I used brown rice and quinoa but similar to a lot of gluten free products, it didn’t hold it’s structural integrity when mixed with the other ingredients – something to consider if you are concerned about presentation)

Directions:

  • Make your pasta according to the package, drain, and set aside
  • Chop and sauté your onion until translucent
  • Chop bell pepper and carrots to add to onion mixture
  • Add kidney beans, canned tomatoes, and spices, mix and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes
  • Bring to a boil and stir in spinach until it is wilted
  • Add to chili to macaroni
  • Serve and enjoy (optional to top with guac, green onions, and/or cheese)

Before and After pictures of the house and a post about renovation tips are in the works – stay tuned!

***Pick Up Limes inspired this post***

Chilly weather chili

I’ve heard from multiple men (read my husband and grandpa) that their biggest gripe with finding recipes on blogs is the long stories that come before the actual ingredients / directions. I personally love the extra context but to appease the divos of the world 😉 I’m bringing you this recipe with barely any background about the cold day I whipped this chili up on.

All I will say is that, the hack in this recipe is a chili game changer. TRY IT!


Chilly weather chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 large can or 2 cans of fired roasted tomatoes
  • zucchini to chop
  • corn (as much as you like)
  • spices: cumin, garlic powder, and oregano
  • optional: avocado and green onion for garnish
  • optional: sweet potato as a base

Directions:

  • *HACK* Blend pinto beans and 1/2 of the fire roasted tomatoes (this will make your chili the perfect consistency)
  • Add your blended mixture with the rest of the fire roasted tomatoes (if you have some tomatoes around the house like I did, you can chop these up and add them too) in a large pot
  • Add strained and rinsed black beans and kidney beans + chopped zucchini and corn
  • Add spices (as much or as little as you like, I personally love cumin and garlic but went easier on the oregano), stir, and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes

Mike doesn’t LOVE chili like I do, so I steam and mash sweet potatoes to use as a base. This makes it less of a “soup” consistency and more of a hearty meal.

I also serve with chopped green onion and some avocado on top to round it out. Enjoy!


Lightened up chicken salad

I think this may be my first ever meat recipe I’ve posted… Most of the time Mike and I don’t eat meat at home but do make exceptions when people come over for a meal. Long story short for this creation: I had leftover chicken from a dinner party and I wanted to create a simple to make, weeknight recipe for two.

With only 5 ingredients, there isn’t a ton of prep work required. I loved the kick from the hot sauce, that the boiled chicken didn’t add unneeded oil or butter, the crunch from the carrots & celery, and the tang + light taste the Greek yogurt adds vs. mayo.

This chicken salad was flavorful enough to stand on it’s own, and can be easily eaten over some greens for a filling lunch or dinner salad. It also wasn’t runny at all which GROSSES ME OUT about some other chicken salads.

Note that it is messyyy so I actually suggest wrapping it up in a tortillas vs. putting it on bread like I did. (Although how good is a freshly toasted piece of sourdough bread!?)


Lightened up chicken salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breast, boiled and shredded
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • Greek yogurt (varying amounts based on how you like it – I used about 2 large spoonfuls)
  • Hot sauce (as much as you like it spicy – omit if you prefer)

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix
  • Scoop out onto a wrap, toasted bread, or on top of a salad

Party Pasta

This recipe came to life after our housewarming party (all the way back in March… that’s how far behind I am in posting recent recipes).

For as much as I love to be in the kitchen, I am a lazy host. I almost never throw an elaborate dinner party. I prefer to host brunches, BBQs, or get togethers with nothing but finger food.

Things that are on the simpler side are my jam; like toasting bagels and throwing some berries in a bowl for a simple brunch, or grilling chicken and zucchini pairing with a crusty baguette and a good olive oil for dinner.

For our housewarming party, we went the heavy appetizer route and Trader Joe’s was our third host. I bought salsa, guac, hummus, and veggies; we did a simple cheese and salami plate; some focaccia and balsamic + olive oil; baked some taquitos and called it a day. (Aside from the homemade meatballs and tortillas chips that my arguably better-at-hosting husband made.)

After everyone came and ate, drank, and toured the house, we had a few leftovers. Namely a jar of corn salsa that I had never bought before… what to do, what to do with you? I thought as I crammed it into the fridge with our other leftovers.

Later that week I was eyeing a bag of spinach we had and thought, maybe… maybe some leafy greens, corn salsa, and black bean pasta will go well together?

And oh how well they do go together! The combo was such a hit I’ve picked up a few jars of that TJs corn salsa since and have made many more dinners of Party Pasta. This recipe is gluten free and can be vegan if you omit the parmesan cheese. It is the real MVP in our house and so simple that is just might make it into the lazy-host rotation for our next shabang.


Party Pasta

Prep time: 2 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes | Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of black bean pasta
  • 1 jar of Trader Joe’s corn salsa
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach or 1/2 bag frozen
  • optional: parmesan cheese as garnish

Directions:

  • Cook black bean pasta according to the package and then drain cooking water
  • Add pasta back into the pot with spinach (the heat will wilt the spinach if fresh or defrost it if frozen) and corn salsa (we really like the flavor of the salsa so I am generous with the amount I use)
  • Dish and garnish with parm and freshly cracked black pepper

Sunday onion soup

This past week has been freezing in the Bay Area. Like, we got snow in some areas cold. Not used to it and not really about it.

My Canadian fiance, of course, jokes that I don’t know what cold is and to this I ask, is it possible that coldness is relative? I’m not used to the frigid weather – where he is experienced in frosty temps – so it must be actually colder for me, right? RIGHT??

Anyway, the (only) good thing about chilly nights (past Christmas when it’s festive, not cold) is soup. Comforting, yummy soup. So, to warm up tonight we made a vegan French onion soup.

Actually, decidedly it was just onion soup since we didn’t add the bread or cheese. We are getting married in almost 3 months after all…… (Shred before the wed)

This soup is good but I’m not going to lie to you, the cheese and bread are the best parts of French onion soup.

With my favorite meal in Chicago as my muse, we paired our soup with a mezze platter of sorts. The hummus, fluffy pita bread, Greek salad, and turkey meatballs really rounded out the meal this time. However, if I make this soup again I will definitely be adding some gooey cheese and carby bread.

All in all this recipe is worth the work. It’s a nice way to end the weekend and warm up. Give it a try!


Onion Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large white onions
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or another oil with a high smoke point
  • Dried thyme*
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  • Slice 3 onions and add to heated soup pot with 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Add dried thyme and the other tbsp of oil on top of the onions, stirring occasionally for the next 45 minutes to 1 hour until the onions are caramelized (a nice golden brown color) *note: I didn’t realize my thyme didn’t have a cap with holes on it and accidentally put too much of in the pot. I’m actually unsure how much you should put in but I would guess about one teaspoon…
  • After after onions are caramelized, add the balsamic vinegar to continue caramelizing for about 15 minutes and to add a greater depth of golden brown to the onions
  • Add veggie broth and water and bring to a boil
  • Lower heat to simmer and cover for a half an hour

Home owners! [+ spicy vegan cheese recipe]

It’s been a busy few weeks for us because, as the title of this post suggests, WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!

We’ve been searching for about a year, putting in offers here and there, but sadly always got outbid; upwards of $100K! Bay Area real estate, man!!

I’ve heard time and time again that moving in winter is the cheapest time since most people don’t want to move in the cold, or they have kids and don’t want to uproot them in the middle of the school year. Well, based on our experience, I’m saying this is true. We finally had an offer expected in late December!

We were over the moon at the prospect of owning our first home, and even better, in the city and location we’ve been pinning for. A lot of the initial paperwork we had to do was when we were in Canada visiting Mike’s family for the holidays. I’m sure all of the forms would have been relatively stressful even if we were home, but having to deal with it all while traveling was a lot (for Mike! I really didn’t do much when it came to securing the loan, getting home insurance, etc).

We knew there was the possibility of everything falling through but, brimming with excitement, we basically told everyone we were in the stages of buying a house over the holidays. What a blow it would have been if it didn’t work out!

Luckily everything went through (THANK YOU MIKE!) and we closed on January 9th, not even a month after we found out our offer was accepted. Suffice to say with the general madness of the holidays and the added To Dos of buying a house, it’s been hectic. (Hectic in the most exciting way, of course.)

The day we got the keys!

We are officially out of our condo now and mostly unpacked. We’re getting used to living in a place with 2 floors (“damn, I left my cellphone upstairs again“) and having 2 bathrooms (so much storage space!). We’re constantly talking about renovations and all of the things we have to do. We’ve already had to deal with 2 leaking pipes but we’ve also had a lovely evening having a glass of wine with a neighbor. This weekend we hosted our first overnight guests and spent a cozy Saturday curled up by the fire (we have a gas fireplace, win!) and watching YouTube videos (we also have pretty poor WiFi for some reason and have to use Chromecast vs. our regular smart TV in the living room). We went for a bike ride this morning on a nearby trail and will be hitting up the Farmer’s Market next week. Our carpets are shaggier that I would like (can’t wait for that reno!) and the garage needs a rescue mission but I’m delighted that we own a home.

The living room was the first space to be unpacked

To celebrate our first night in the new house, I pulled inspiration from my trip to Spain and made us a meal of potatoes with spicy vegan cheese*, melon and prosciutto, and Spanish cheese. It was easy to prep this ahead, which was important mid-move, and a nice splurge with seemingly hundreds of boxes surrounding us. Of course we also toasted with a nice bottle of champagne and really just basked in our purchase.

All of the unpacking mess behind Mike

We’re looking forward to having our friends over for a house warming / “before” party to showcase the new digs / show what it looks like before we tear up everything and bring our house into the current era. 😉

I’m particularly looking forward to a costume closet and a cozy little library-inspired nook in our bedroom. Stay tuned for Before and After pics. 🙂


*I followed Oh She Glows All-Purpose Vegan Cheese Sauce basically step by step but added paprika to give it some kick. This was the last thing I made in our condo the Friday before we moved, so I can vet that is stores and reheats well.

Better-than-you’ll-believe creamy squash pasta sauce

The new year. January first. So many aspirations and goals tied to one day.

It seems like people are generally moving away from setting up huge year-long goals of drastic change and personal renovation. Instead, we’re doing things like intention setting and focusing on more realistic, small self improvements.

In the era of Wellness Warriors – where self love, understanding, and forgiveness are the new ways of life; along with mediation and warm morning lemon water – we are still constantly striving to be better but also allowing for large doses of grace and acceptance when we inevitably slip up.

Gone are the days of swearing off sugar for 365 days and setting alarm clocks to sound before the sun for a workout. We want consistency and manageability now. At least I do.

Today is just like tomorrow will be. There isn’t the same novelty to the first day of the new year anymore. Each day is simply another chance at being better. Of course there will be some days when a second glass of wine will be poured or a savasana will be missed. More often than we’d like, living in the moment will fall under the shadow of impatience. Judgment and negativity will sneak into our lives when we are tired and feeling scattered.

There will be back-stepping but hopefully mostly forward moving. Hopefully, with strategic and achievable goals in mind, your progress will be better than you’ll believe. (…Literally like this pasta sauce recipe. I thought it would be too thick with little flavor but it turned out to be a dream!)


Better-than-you’ll-believe creamy squash pasta sauce

prep time: 30 minutes | cook time: 30 minutes | serves: 4

This sauce is vegan, diary and gluten free.  The coconut milk and roasted  delicate squash blended together make it creamy-dreamy. The roasted garlic adds a comforting savoriness. Serve over your pasta of choice with an added green for a complete meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium delicate squash
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water (or as needed for consistency)
  • 4 -5 garlic gloves (still in bulb to roast)
  • 2 – 3 Tbs of avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nutmeg (optional)

Directions:

  • Cut delicate squash into 1/2 inch pieces (not you don’t need to peel the skin off of delicate squash) and coat with avocado oil, salt + pepper, and nutmeg to taste
  • Spread squash out on a baking sheet and add your garlic bulb in tinfoil with a small amount to avocado oil drizzled on the top to the same sheet
  • Roast both at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Once roasted, transfer into your blender with 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup water (adding more if needed)
  • Blend and scrape down the sides as needed until creamy (remember to vent your blender for the steam to escape)
  • Pour out over pasta