Vegan Banana “Cheesecake”

Yield: 20 servings
Prep: 20 minutes
Freezer time: 3-5 hours

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Highlights:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • High in fiber
  • Packed with protein
  • Totally raw & doesn’t require baking
  • Made almost entirely from various fruits & nuts and is very adaptable

Ingredients

For the crust:
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
¾ cup medjool dates
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup raw, dried coconut (optional)

For the “cheesecake” layer:
3 cups cashews
1 cup macadamia nuts
¾ cup lemon juice
½ cup coconut oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¼ cup agave

For the banana layer:
6 bananas, peeled and frozen
1/3 cup dates

Directions:
Soak cashews & macadamia nuts for 2-4 hours (or overnight), then drain.

Soak dates for 5-10 minutes and remove pits from center.

Add walnuts, almonds, dates, and salt to food processor and pulse until well combined. Nut pieces should be well chopped and still crumbly, but easily able to form a malleable ball.

Prepare the bottom of a springform pan (or cake pan, or glass dish, it doesn’t really matter) by sprinkling coconut on the bottom or greasing with coconut oil. Press nut and date mixture into prepared pan to form the “crust” layer.

Next, add drained cashews and all other “cheesecake” layer ingredients into the food processor or high-powered blender and blend until smooth and creamy

Pour creamy “cheesecake” layer into the pan evenly over the crust and smooth. Place the pan into the freezer for ~30-60 minutes to allow the layers to firm up.

Prepare banana layer by adding all ingredients into the blender or food processor and blending until creamy and smooth. Add banana layer on top of the firmed and frozen cheesecake layer. (Note: Any frozen fruit could be used instead of bananas, you’ll need around 2 cups of fruit regardless)

Decorate the top as you please with fresh fruit, nuts, shredded coconut, whipped coconut cream, etc…whatever you want, really.

Place in the freezer for 2-5 hours, and remove 10-20 minutes before ready to serve (or don’t wait and eat it frozen, it’s really good too). Leftovers can easily be stored in the freezer and make for an awesome snack.

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All-Veggie-Everythang Kale “Tacos”

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I am not a huge fan of heavy lunches when it’s the middle of the hundred plus degree summers, so this is one of my favorite light meals on super hot days here in AZ.

I’m going to call this recipe kale “tacos”. Okay, so they’re basically salad boats made of vegetables and filled with vegetables…but I promise you they’re addictive. And who doesn’t like food that serves as an edible container?

Serve whole, washed Lacinato kale leaves (this is also sometimes called dinosaur kale) topped with chopped broccoli, green, yellow, and red bell peppers, cucumber, strawberries, & cilantro.

Drizzle with tahini lime dressing (1/2 tbsp of tahini/sesame paste mixed with juice of 1/2 lime & a little water).

Homemade Granola

In my opinion, there is absolutely no better breakfast than homemade granola sprinkled on top of some coconut yogurt and topped with berries. It’s easy, satisfying, and (best of all in the morning)….quick.

As it turns out, granola is pretty easy to make for yourself, and the secret isn’t what you put in it as much as it is the process. Making you own breakfast cereal can be a much healthier (and cost friendly) alternative to store-bought cereals and granolas that are packed with additional sugar and food additives.

Who needs that junk anyway?

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So here’s my basic, go-to recipe and process for making the perfect homemade granola.

Dry Ingredients:
5 cups whole oats (check for gluten free if necessary)
1 cups chopped almonds
1 cup pepitas (I use Trader Joe’s roasted and salted)
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tbsp cinnamon

Mix all above ingredients in a large bowl. Preheat oven to 350. Cover 2 cookie sheets in parchment paper or spray them down with oil and set aside

Mix these ingredients together in a saucepan until they’re warm:
1/2 cup honey (use agave syrup for vegan)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup coconut oil

Once the liquids are warm, toss them together with the dry ingredients & mix well.

After mixing, divide the granola in even layers between the two sheets. Put it in the oven.

You’re going to want to set a timer for 10 minutes. At this point, take both trays out of the oven and stir the granola around, mixing completely before putting it back in and setting another 10 minute timer.

You’ll repeat this process roughly 3-5 times (totally dependent on your oven) for a cooking time of roughly 30-45 minutes or until nicely browned.

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After removing the granola from the oven, toss in 1 cup of dried fruit (I like to use dried orange-infused cranberries, but anything goes here)

Allow the granola to cool and place into a container to store in the fridge where it’ll keep for several months.

Pro tip #1: even when it’s done, it won’t actually be crispy until it cools down. It can be really easy to overcook or burn by feel, because it stays pretty soft the entire time. A good indication is the color; when it looks golden and toasty.

Pro tip #2: It’s soo easy to burn the crap out of soo quickly (as I discovered), so the secret is constantly watching it, especially on the 3rd or 4th round in the oven. It can be a bit persnickety, but it gets significantly better each time you make it.

Pro tip #3: You can control the size of the granola clusters by stirring more or less when you take it out of the oven. For larger clusters, be mindful not to stir as vigorously and let the granola rest until cooled after removing from the oven when finished.

This recipe can be diversified by adding whatever nuts, spices, or dried fruits you prefer.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Serves: 2-4

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Highlights:

  • Gluten free
  • Low carb.
  • High in fiber
  • Super Easy!
  • Could easily be made vegan with the substitution of Daiya (or other brand) vegan cheese and replacing the egg with a flax or chia egg.

Pizza is definitely an all time favorite comfort food, but the kind you have delivered to your door has a reputation for being notoriously greasy, and full of carbs and fat. This cauliflower pizza crust is a fantastic way to replace the greasy bread with a mellow flavored, nutrient-packed vegetable instead.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that is naturally low in fat and carbohydrates and an excellent source of vitamin C,  fiber, and folate. It is also a good source of choline, vitamin B6, vitamin K, potassium, manganese, vitamin B5, protein and iron. It possesses a high nutrient density, meaning that it contains a very high number of nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and a very low amount of energy (calories and fat).  Nutrient dense foods, such a fruits and veggies, pack the highest levels of nutrients for the least amount of calories, making them the opposite of “empty calorie” or energy-dense foods, such as processed or sugary snacks, which carry relatively low amounts of nutrients with an excessive amount of calories or fat.

I’ve spent some time perfecting this recipe before posting, as I initially was having some trouble with my cauliflower crust sticking to the pan. The secret I discovered through trial and error: the lightly coated parchment paper is a must! The crust stuck horribly to a coated pizza pan, stone, or tin foil, but slid effortlessly off the parchment paper. The result was a pizza crust that was crispy and golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside, and easy to slice, pick up, and eat with your hands.

Oh, and an added bonus…it’s naturally gluten free!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • ¼ cup homemade or store bought tomato sauce
  • ½ cup fresh mozzarella
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

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Directions:
1) Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees and line a pizza pan or baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly coat parchment paper in olive oil.  (I highly recommend the use of parchment paper; I had a lot of trouble with the crust sticking to the pizza pan or aluminum foil the first couple of times I made this.)

2) Either grate the cauliflower using an old-fashioned cheese grater or place in the food processor until it’s a fine, grated consistency; A rice-like consistency will work just fine, but I’ve found that the finer the cauliflower is, the closer the texture in your mouth feels to real pizza crust.

3) Optional: Place the grated cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3-5 minutes, until softened. Remove from the microwave and let cool for a few minutes. (For an even crispier crust, skip this microwaving step entirely and move on to Step #4.)

4) Add eggs (or flax egg), Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and minced garlic to the warm cauliflower and mix well. Form into a 12-inch circle on the prepared pizza pan. Lightly brush olive oil over the surface of the crust and bake for 12-18 minutes, or until nice and golden brown.

5) Remove pizza crust from oven and top pizza with sauce, mozzarella, and basil. Add sundried tomatoes, onion and crushed red pepper flakes, or choose whatever toppings you prefer. Place the pizza back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and melted. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing up; the pizza should easily slide off the parchment paper and onto a serving plate.

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad

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This southwestern quinoa salad is packed with red quinoa mixed with chopped greens, topped with black beans, corn, avocado, diced tomatoes & an avocado lime dressing.

For the dressing:
Combine 1 avocado, the juice from 1 small lime, and a tbsp of greek or coconut yogurt or a splash of nut milk in a blender and mix until smooth.

Garlic and Chive Cashew “Cheese” Dip

Garlic and Chive Cashew “Cheese” Dip

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I will start by saying I am a huge lover of cashew cheese and this recipe did not disappoint. It is free of  dairy, is totally vegan, and full of protein, healthy fat, and flavor.

This “cheese” dip gets it’s flavor from nutritional yeast, which can be purchased at health food stores or many places online (I’ve bought it on Amazon before). Nutritional yeast, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a deactivated yeast that has an almost cheesy flavor. It is an awesome addition to soups, rice, as a topping for popcorn, or anything that needs that extra little bit of “cheese”. Nutritional yeast is a favorite among people on a plant-based or vegan diet because it can serve not only as a replacement to cheese, but also as a dietary supplement. It is actually a complete protein, full of B-complex vitamins (crucial for cell metabolism and energy, and a group of vitamins that can sometimes be a challenge to get enough of for non meat-eaters), and free of gluten, dairy, and sugar.

Ingredients
(Makes about 8 servings)

-2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
-1 cup raw cashews
-1/2 tbsp olive oil
-1 clove garlic
-2 tsp chopped chives

Directions
-Soak raw cashews overnight
-Drain water from cashews
-Combine all ingredients in a food processor until creamy and dip is smooth without any pieces of cashews left

Yeah…SUPER EASY!

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Enjoy as a dip with either veggies or crackers. 🙂

Here’s the nutrition facts, for anyone who was wondering:

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Clean & Green: All-Natural DIY Cleaning Solutions

I couldn’t resist sharing my favorite cleaning tips because…you can actually eat almost all of the things I clean my house with (if you were for some reason inclined). Nearly all are food grade or literal grocery items and most all of the ingredients are incredibly inexpensive, nontoxic, and easy to obtain.

After taking a few chemistry and food science classes, I started to get really suspicious about the chemicals I was putting into my body and the environment on a daily basis.  I started taking a closer look at the foods I was eating, the products I was using on my body, and finally, the things I was cleaning my house with. They all just seemed so…volatile. And for what? Did these chemicals actually work better for me, the consumer, or were they just cheaper and easier for huge companies to produce?

To top it all off, I am a college student on a limited budget. Do I really need to spend my money on hundreds of different products that each only serve one function? No…probably not.

Many nutritionists and health experts will advise people to limit eating foods that have labels with chemicals and ingredients that we cannot pronounce, and I see no reason not to apply this to things we use on our bodies and in our homes as well. We buy all of these products with the hopes that they will leave our spaces sparkling clean and smelling fresh, but too many of these products are toxic if we touch or inhale them, and they are poisonous if ingested. I’m really just not about that, so I spent the next couple of years finding ways I could clean myself and my house in healthier way.

Ready…

Here’s what’s in my cleaning cabinet:
Baking Soda
White Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar
•Lemons

Essential Oils
Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
Scrubby sponge
•Microfiber towels

Pretty simple list, right?

I discovered that it’s not what you use as much as it is how you use it. For starters, baking soda and vinegar are extremely versatile and can be used to clean nearly anything. (Bonus: if you mix them together for some applications, it is also a lot like making those fizzing volcanos as a kid, which is really cool. An acid-base reaction at it’s finest)

To go into a little more detail:

bsBaking soda has the perfect amount of abrasion for scrubbing tough stains off of surfaces like counters, sinks, showers, toilets, etc.  and has incredible odor fighting capabilities. It is also dirt cheap, usually at less than $1 per box. Baking soda is completely nontoxic, has no odor, and can be used for several homemade health and beauty products as well (which I will cover in another post). I like to keep my baking soda in a grated cheese/red pepper glass shaker for easy use, that way it can just be shaken out of the jar onto whatever surface I’m cleaning.

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White distilled vinegar is another cleaning essential, as it is effective at killing mold, mildew, and bacteria due to it’s high acidity. Though it is not officially registered as a disinfectant with the EPA, it has been proven effective to kill both Salmonella and E. coli. It is also effective at dissolving lime, soap scum, and kitchen grease, and is even gentle enough to use on wood floors. It can be used to clean floors, toilets, mirrors, glass, and basically every other hard surface. Again with the cheap, I think I pay less than $1 for a 2 gallon bottle at most grocery stores.

Essential Oils are perfect for bringing fresh, clean, and healthy scents to your home and body products. When I first began my journey into natural cleaning, my biggest complaint was that the house just didn’t smell clean the same way it used to. Though this doesn’t bother me anymore and I’ve actually grown to love the simplicity, essential oils bring back the fragrance I was missing.  A few drops of whatever scent (or scent combo) you like can be added to any of these recipes. Additionally, many of the oils have their own unique benefits and medicinal properties. Tea tree oil  is one of my favorites for it’s antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties, and I use it in almost all of my homemade cleaning products.  Some other favorites are peppermint, lavender, grapefruit, lemongrass, eucalyptus, clove, and lemon. Though these are safe on the skin, I wouldn’t advise eating them unless the bottle explicitly states that it’s safe for internal use.

Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap is amazing, if you aren’t already hooked. Dr. Bronner’s is all-natural, organic, fair trade certified, and is all plant-based. I originally found this soap after years of struggling with horribly sensitive skin; still to this day this is the only soap sensitive enough for my skin. Both the bottle and liquid form are now readily available now at most supermarkets and health food stores and also online. It does not contain any harsh chemicals, detergents, or sulfates and can be used for literally everything from the body to cleaning (you can apparently even brush your teeth with the stuff). It’s also biodegradable and safe for the environment, making it the perfect soap to take camping. They come in tons of awesome scents, my favorite being peppermint, tea tree, lavender, citrus, and almond.

Here are a few recipes and ideas to get you started:

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray
Mix together 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1 liter of water and add to a clean, empty spray bottle. Add 10-20 drops of essential oil if you prefer a scented cleaning spray. This can be used in the bathroom to clean showers, sinks, and chrome fixtures as well as in the kitchen on countertops. It is safe to use on eating surfaces as well. A microfiber cloth or towel will also aid in the cleaning power, helping to trap and remove more dirt and grime.

Carpet Powder
Add 15-20 drops of essential oil of choice to 1 cup baking soda and mix well. Sprinkle powder on carpets and let sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming well. The baking soda will help neutralize odors (including pet odors) and the essential oil leaves behind a nice, clean scent. I usually use grapefruit or lavender oil, but the essential oil can be omitted entirely if you prefer no scent.

Tubs, Sinks, Showers, Ceramic Tiles
Create a “soft scrub”  type cleaner with 1 tablespoon liquid Castile soap and 1/3 cup baking soda. Scrub until clean and rinse with water.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Add 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar to the basin of the toilet boil and let sit for a few minutes. Scrub with a toilet brush and flush.

Mold and Mildew
Put full strength vinegar or lemon juice in an empty spray bottle. Spray onto affected area and use a scrubby sponge to remove and kill mold and mildew.

Mopping Floors
You can mop almost any type of floor by adding 1/4 cup of  liquid Castile soap with 2 gallons of warm water. Add vinegar for extra cleaning power.

Window and Mirror Cleaner
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with  2 cups water (or black tea for extra grease fighting power) in a spray bottle. Spritz windows and wipe with a sheet of newspaper or microfiber cloth until dry and shiny.

Cleaning Clogged Drains
Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down drain. Next, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and cover the drain. After 5 minutes, pour a kettle of boiling water down drain. The reaction between the vinegar and baking soda breaks down fatty acids which should help flush the clog down the drain.

Cleaning a Dirty Microwave
Place 1/2 cup white vinegar (or 1 lemon sliced in half) with 1/2 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat to a rolling boil, or roughly 3-5 minutes (depending on your microwave’s power). Remove the bowl and wipe the inside clean with a sponge or towel; caked on food and debris should now wipe off easily. You have essentially steam cleaned your microwave.

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes

Banana Pancakes

(recipe yield about 4 small pancakes)
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: <5 minutes

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Pancakes have always been a favorite of mine, and I’m not just talking breakfast; I could seriously eat pancakes for every single meal. That’s why I was so excited to find a version that was not only lighter and healthier, but so much easier & quicker  to make.

Today’s recipe is just too easy not to share. Not only are these pancakes gluten free (totally grain free, actually), but they only require two ingredients, and contain no added oil or sugar! Oh, and they take WAY less time than the regular variety.

Ingredients:
-2 eggs (or egg whites, or flax egg for vegan)
-1 medium banana (ripe or even a little overripe is perfect)

Directions:
-In a small mixing bowl, mash together 1 medium banana and 2 eggs until mixed (I just use a fork, no fancy equipment here)
-Add mixture to a griddle or pan on medium heat and flip once lightly browned.
-Serve with banana slices, fresh berries, or whatever you like.

Though these only require 2 ingredients to make, I also love to experiment by adding other things to the batter or on top. Some favorites have been almond butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, fresh or frozen berries, cinnamon, or whatever else is on hand. The possibilities are endless. 🙂