Vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup

Springtime in Portland

Spring is in full swing, which means the flowers are blooming and filling the city with bright colors!  It also means the weather is wildly unpredictable and the sun is a huge tease.  Yesterday the weather alternated between sunshine and clear skies to hail.  It’s also still cold enough in the evenings that hail remained on the ground in our yard when I left for work this morning!

I have continued to keep the majority of my workouts indoors because of the continued chill.  I am still loving the 21 Day Fix Extreme program and have been mixing in a little more Brazil Butt Lift since, hey it’s almost summer 🙂  Additionally, I have slowly started to integrate running into my weekly routine again.  After the Portland Marathon, I took a long vacation from running but I have started to miss it!  I am still debating whether I want to race this year and which races I will do, but getting back out there in the early mornings is such a nice way to wake up and prepare for a hectic work day.  However, without a race deadline looming over me, if I wake up and hear rain I am definitely not putting on my running shoes.  It’s fair weather running for now.

Despite the continued wetness of the Northwest, our seasonal produce is evolving and we are getting closer to my favorite season for eating: Summer!  Right now, asparagus is in season and we have been getting plenty in our Organics to You delivery boxes.  Asparagus is a great anti-inflammatory food and also contains a wide variety of antioxidant nutrients, including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Selenium

Asparagus is also great for digestive support because it contains inulin, fiber and protein.  Lastly, asparagus contains B vitamins which are beneficial for blood sugar management.  So, eat up those green spears even if they do make your pee smell weird 😉

The chilly Spring evenings are keeping soup in style, so I whipped up this asparagus soup using potatoes and coconut milk to make it nice and creamy.  Topped with a little hemp oil for an Omega-3 and 6 boost and served with a salad or a fancy grilled cheese, this soup will keep you cozy and healthy 🙂  This recipe makes a large batch of soup.  We had enough for dinner for 2, plus at least three additional lunches to bring to work that week.

Vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup | scottileona.com

Vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • ~2 pounds of asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces with stem ends trimmed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

Method:

  1. In a large pot, cook onion, celery and garlic in coconut oil until onion is translucent
  2. Add the potatoes, asparagus, vegetable stock, thyme, salt and pepper.  Simmer until the potatoes and asparagus are just tender.
  3. Transfer the soup to a blender (you may need to do this in two batches).  Blend until smooth.
  4. Return to the pot and stir in the coconut milk.
  5. Serve with a drizzle of hemp oil and coconut milk.

Enjoy!

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Ground Mushroom Tacos

Nick and I have an interesting and evolving balance of eating preferences in our house.  Nick is allergic to peanuts and other related legumes, such as lentils, garbanzo beans and soy.  (Thankfully, this allergy doesn’t include all nuts or beans!)  He also appears to have an intolerance to gluten so we are cutting that out.  He eats meat and I occasionally eat fish, but prefer to eat vegetarian the majority of the time.  So we have a range of things to balance around meal times, from allergies that could cause death, intolerance that causes discomfort/illness, to preferred eating styles.  Although it sounds really complicated, it doesn’t have to be and we have found ways to make it work.

By default, Nick eats mostly vegetarian and will occasionally buy chicken, ground turkey, and occasionally sausage to have with dinner or lunch throughout the week.  I will also make foods he can’t eat, like lentils or very occasionally tofu, to have for lunch or dinner when he isn’t home.  To save time and money, however, the majority of our meals are comprised of ingredients we can eat.  The meat/no meat thing is easy and I think we have gotten really good at that.  What is proving to be a little more tricky is our new conversion to little-to-no gluten.  It’s only tricky at this point because we have quite a bit to learn, particularly around gluten free baking.  For example, I excitedly purchased a large bag of gluten free all purpose flour and thought, “well that was an easy switch.”  That weekend I made some waffles with it and after one bite Nick asked what type of flours were used (his body reacts quick!).  I looked at the ingredient list and the first one listed was garbanzo bean flour!  Doh!  So begins the process of learning the many different flours and how they work…more to come on that!  Do you have multiple eating styles to balance in your house?  I’d love to hear how you do it 🙂

Mushroom Tacos, scottileona.com

One favorite recipe of ours that is both gluten free and vegan is Ground Mushroom Tacos.  The texture and flavor of the ground mushrooms is similar to ground beef, so these are great for those meat eaters that like their textures!  🙂  Furthermore, mushrooms can act has a faux meat in so many instances (think portobello burgers, mushroom gravy with biscuits, and mushroom marinara sauce) without soy.  They are also quick to prepare and this recipe will have dinner on your plate in 30 minutes or less, making it an ideal mid-week-stressed-to-the-max dinner.  Mushrooms also boost a great number of health benefits, including:

  • Naturally low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol
  • Rich in B Vitamins
  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber
  • Only vegan, non-fortified source of Vitamin D (important for those of us dwelling in the Pacific Northwest!)

We also topped our tacos with healthful veggies, including kale, grated beets and carrots, and avocado.  Serve them with beans you cooked over the weekend to save time and add protein.  YUM!

Ground Mushroom Tacos, scottileona.com

Recipe

By Scotti Leona

Makes 5 tacos (Serves ~2)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 red onion
  • 4 oz mushrooms (any kind will work, I used shiitake because that is what came in my CSA)
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 corn tortillas
  • Kale
  • Carrots and beets, shredded
  • Avocado

Method:

  1. In a pan, saute the onion in coconut oil until softened
  2. Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped
  3. Add the mushrooms to the onion and continue to cook a little
  4. Add the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and if you want a little spice, throw in some paprika or chilli powder
  5. Divide the mushrooms among warmed tortillas and top with carrots, beets, kale and avocado (or whatever you want!) 🙂

Homemade Graham Crackers

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Last month Nick and I attended a birthday bash at Crater Lake for our bestest bud.  Neither of us had ever been there, although it has been on our list since the day we moved to Oregon!  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  It was formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama volcano collapsed and created a large caldera that eventually filled with rain and snow melt.  It is an understatement to call Crater Lake breathtaking.  There are really no words to describe how blue the water is.  I also loved the huge lava rock formations and the trees that surround the lake.

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There is a road that goes around the perimeter of the lake and twice a year the park closes part of that road to cars so cyclists can enjoy it all to themselves!  We enjoyed the 33 mile scenic ride, which included over 3,800′ of climbing, PLUS the 10 mile ride each way from our camp ground that included another 800′ of climbing.  By “enjoyed” I mean our legs and lungs were screaming with each climb.  However, at each break, our minds were BLOWN.  It was awesome in every sense of the word.

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We all took turns preparing the meals for the group and enjoyed a variety of campground gourmet.  The item that really topped my list, though, were homemade graham crackers that my lovely friend Christine brought.  They had a thicker texture than store-bought crackers and were way more flavorful.  An added bonus: we can identify all of the ingredients!  Of course, we took that health train off the tracks by making s’mores with these glorious crackers…but hey, what’s a camping trip without s’mores?

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Christine found her inspiration for these Homemade Graham Crackers from The Post Punk Kitchen, with a few additions and changes.  Below is her recipe.  I can’t wait to make these at home and enjoy as a snack with tea or fruit!

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Homemade Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Graham Flour
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar (this adds some extra texture and crunch, you can also use regular sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the over to 350* F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, molasses and vanilla and cinnamon extracts. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry until well combined and crumbly.
  3. Add the milk and stir to combine.  Use your hands to knead the dough a few times until it holds together.  Christine recommends if the dough is dry and crumbly to roll out, you can try adding a tbsp or so more milk.
  4. Line your work surface with parchment paper.  Place the dough on the parchment paper and work dough into a rectangle.  Sprinkle with flour and use a rolling pin to flatten out the rectangle until it is about 10 x 14 inches.  The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  5. Trim the edges and cut the dough into 8 crackers.  You may be able to get some more crackers from the trimmed edges, so roll it out and cut them up!  No need to waste good dough, right?  Very carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.  Poke each cookie with a fork a few times.
  6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.  12 minutes gives softer cookies, that according to the Post Punk Kitchen, are better for making ice cream sandwiches!  What!  That sounds like something I need to do!  14 minutes gives you crispy cookies.  You decide how you like ’em.
  7. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

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Nom.  Now let’s go camping!  Oh, wait…it’s winter now.  We can still camp in our living rooms, yeah?  😉

 

Orange Black Bean Hummus

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My other half is allergic to peanuts and many of peanut’s relatives, including garbanzo beans.  This means that regular hummus is typically a no-go in our household unless its just for me (which is neither fun nor economical) or Nick wants to endure a stomach ache, itchy throat or other unpleasant side effects (also not fun, healthy or economical).  He likes the taste, texture and many ways to use hummus though, so this often leads to him risking it!  Not too long ago, I found a local brand (King Harvest) that makes a black bean hummus and it is really delicious!  Shortly after that, I was flipping through the book Quick Fix Vegan and came across a recipe for black bean hummus that uses orange juice to add an interesting flavor.  I immediately gave the recipe a shot and it has become a new favorite for snack and meal preps!

Black beans are an excellent source of:

  • Protein (a single one-cup serving of black beans provides almost 15 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the amount of protein in 2 ounces of meat!)
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin B1
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Manganese and Magnesium
  • Phytonutrients
Fun graphic I found on Instagram :-)

Fun graphic I found on Instagram.  Click on the image to see larger version 🙂

Oranges add to the nutrition benefits with:

  • Lots of Vitamin C
  • More fiber and folate
  • Vitamin A and B1
  • Potassium and calcium

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, sesame tahini (sesame seed paste or sesame butter found in most health food stores) provides:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Riboflavin, niacin and thiamin (all of which help convert food to energy, maintain skin and keep your nervous system functioning well)
  • Sesame seeds are one of the best sources of copper, a powerful antioxidant and a necessary mineral for your immune system and for enzymes that produce energy, build connective tissue and metabolize iron
  • Iron and phosphorus
For more information: Nutritional Facts of Roasted Sesame Tahini, The World’s Healthiest Foods: Black Beans,  The World’s Healthiest Foods: Oranges

I purchase my black beans from bulk bins at my local food cooperative and cook about 1 cup (yields about 3 cups cooked) at a time to use to prepare a few meals or snacks throughout the week.  Not only is hummus incredibly easy to make, making it from scratch saves a lot of money!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (about half of a medium sized orange)
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cup of cooked black beans
  • 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Chili powder and cilantro to taste

Place everything in a food processor and blend!

Enjoy as a dip for vegetables, a spread on sandwiches, with pita chips, or any other way you enjoy hummus 🙂

Spring Vacation to Mosier, Oregon

Last weekend, I had to pleasure of spending three days in Mosier, Oregon with 6 of my best gal pals.  This is the third year in a row that this group of friends and I have left Portland for some out of town adventure, relaxation, and quality girl time.  All 7 of us are social workers who went through school together to get our MSW, so we have shared a uniquely stressful and rewarding period of our lives together.  Although 6 of the 7 ladies are now done with school (I’m so close!), this time spent away from the stresses of our jobs to eat food, drink wine, laugh, cry, and be silly remains important for our self care and sanity.

We have gone to different locations each year, and this year’s rental house had the most amazing view of the Columbia River Gorge!Image-1

We had quite a collection of wine, tequila and gin!  These girls were thirsty!

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A few of us headed down the road to Hood River for some shopping and enjoyed cider in the sunshine.  Check out this adorable little shop with cook books, gardening guides, and delightful kitchen collectables.  I was so in love!

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Even the dogs had a fabulous time.  I feel so bad for Reymie when the weather is rainy and I am SO busy with school and work, I felt like she enjoyed the weekend away with her buds as much as I did!

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We each choose a meal to cook for the whole group, and I did dinner the first night.  I came across some healthy adaptations of Mexican food on Pinterest and decided to make Chipotle Citrus Superfood Vegan Tacos from lunchboxbunch.com.  This was the first time I’d seen this blog and it is AMAZING.  So many recipes, helpful tips, nutrition information.  So great.  As for the Chipotle Citrus Tacos, so. freaking. delicious.  I mean, they were just perfect!  This recipe is definitely bookmarked as a favorite to make a million more times.  The girls and I “de-veganized” them with a little cheese and Greek Yogurt, but that was definitely not because these babies lacked flavor!  Here’s what you’ll need for this amazing spread.  For more information on the nutritional benefits of this recipe, more incredible photos, and other really awesome posts, please go to lunchboxbunch.com!!

Lime Cilantro Superfood Quinoa:

Makes 4 servings.  I doubled this recipe for the 7 of us and we had some left overs that made delicious salads for a couple lunches the following week!

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, squeezed and some grated zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional for extra nutrition)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed (optional for extra nutrition)
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds (optional for extra nutrition)

Toss cooked quinoa with all of the above ingredients.  Garnish with lime wedges.

Mango Goji Guacamole

Makes 8 servings.  Mine is photographed without the avocado, we had to keep that separate for a food allergy.

  • 1 1/2 avocados, diced
  • 1 mango, diced (I defrosted some frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons goji berries
  • Spices to taste

Toss everything together!

I prepared the quinoa and guacamole that morning before heading to Mosier, leaving only the tofu to cook up.  That saved a lot of time to chat, drink wine, and gush over our glorious view.  As I learned with the leftovers, the tofu was also good for a few days after as well, so everything can be made ahead for a dinner party or meal prepping for the whole week!

Chipotle Tofu

  • Extra firm tofu (quantity depends on how many mini triangles you need.  I used the Organic Sprouted Extra Firm Tofu from Trader Joe’s and we used about 3 of those little halves they are split into.)
  • Agave Syrup
  • Chipotle powder
  • Spritz of lime juice

After squeezing out the water from the tofu with a paper towel, slice tofu into triangles.  Add chipotle powder to taste, drizzle with a little agave syrup and lime and cook on a skillet for 1-2 minutes per side.

Serve however you’d like!  We put some quinoa, 1-2 tofu triangles, mango and avocado dressing in a whole wheat tortilla and topped with some grated cheddar and Greek Yogurt to make burritos.  With the left overs, I put quinoa, tofu and avocado over spinach for salads on the go.  These ingredients are versatile, so easy to throw together, filling, healthy, and incredibly delicious.  Such a great dish!!  Thank you so much, Kathy at lunchboxbunch.com!

Image-4For the most part, our meals throughout the weekend we pretty healthy but I took the time to focus on catching up with my girlfriends and enjoying time away from my day-to-day so I indulged, didn’t count a single calorie or macronutrient and didn’t even run!  One weekend with my ladies is not going to completely derail my fitness goals.  I am not training for a fitness competition and in the long run, I think the boost in my mental health will show up on my physical body.  So yes, I had that tasty little cinnamon roll, drank a few gin and grapefruit juice cocktails, and didn’t think twice about it.  Fitness and healthy weight loss doesn’t consume my life, and I’d encourage everyone else to let go every once in a while too.  🙂

Is Shakeology Worth the Price?

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You’ve probably seen a whole bunch of excited fitness folks posting pictures of their Shakeology drinks all over the internet and you may be wondering what all the fuss is about and if it is worth the price.  The Shakeology website lists the many healthy ingredients and benefits of adding the supplement to your diet, but what the website doesn’t tell you is how a busy and often broke graduate student can afford a monthly supply.

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One way I have made room for Shakeology in my monthly budget is I have prioritized my health and fitness.  By putting healthy living first, I am spending money wisely on quality foods instead of spending it on garbage foods, alcoholic drinks, and going out.  I used to love to stop at one of Portland’s many coffee shops and grab a latte and possibly a snack just about every day.  Furthermore, on long days that I did not prep meals for, I would grab dinner at a nearby restaurant for around $6.  If I have school, my internship, or work 7 days a week, I could be spending between $10 and $70 per week on store bought meals and snacks.  That is $40 to $280 per month just for lunch and a snack!  Yikes!  Replacing those calorie laden lattes and store bought meals with Shakeology and home-cooked meals has saved me money and time and has given me huge rewards in my fitness goals.  Furthermore, ordering Shakeology Home Direct means I don’t pay shipping costs and a new bag arrives at my doorstep every 30 days without me having to remember to order and wait for another bag!  You can set up Home Direct to alternate flavors so you never get bored either.  Acquiring a Team Beachbody Membership gets you 10% off all orders.  Also, being a Team Beachbody Coach gives you a 25% discount.

photo-4I drink Shakeology everyday at lunch time to give me an afternoon boost of more than 20 different antioxidants and phytonutrients, fiber, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, amino acids and protein all in a delicious smoothie.  Who doesn’t like to feel like they are drinking a decadent chocolate milkshake in the midst of a stressful day?  Because my mornings are usually rushed, making Shakeology is a quick way to make sure I have a filling lunch and I won’t need to grab take out while I am at work, school, or internship.  Since adding Shakeology to my daily diet, I have decreased my caffeine intake and can easily resist the multiple cartons of ice cream you’ll find in my freezer at any given time.  Combined with exercise and a clean diet, I have lost 21 pounds since I started drinking Shakeology.

Shakeology comes in 4 flavors, two of which are vegan!  I blend Shakeology with a wide variety of ingredients depending on my mood and nutritional needs including: coconut milk or almond milk, fruit (fresh or frozen), spinach, almond butter, avocado, slivered almonds, oats or coconut oil.  I also use extracts to create a variety of delicious flavors.  To get an idea of the versatility, some recipes for each flavor can be found at the following:

Order Shakeology Home Direct here and I’ll send you a fun free gift to help you get started (or continue) your fitness journey!

Of course, Shakeology is backed by Beachbody’s 30-day Monday Back Guarantee: “If you don’t start to see and feel the benefits of Shakeology within the first month of using it, or if you’re not 100% satisfied for any reason, just return it within 30 days for a full refund of the purchase price, less s&h – guaranteed.  That’s our promise to you.”  You can keep the gift I send you 🙂

As always, if you have questions feel free to email me at scottileona@gmail.com.

Roasted Beet and Potato Soup

 

I made this roasted beet and potato soup last week to use the potatoes and beets I had left from my Organics to You produce delivery, and it turned out absolutely delicious!  This soup has a fun rose color, the roasty flavor of Winter, and all the nutritional benefits of beets and potatoes.

photo-15A 1/2 cup serving of beets is a low calorie source of:

  •  Folate (17% of recommended daily intake)
  • Vitamins A, C, K, as well as Niacin and Pantothenic Acid (aka Vitamin B5)
  • Minerals including sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, and selenium
  • Manganese (14% recommended daily intake), which helps with bone health, connective tissue health, metabolism, blood sugar regulation, and healthy brain function

Potatoes contain:

  • Vitamin C & Vitamin B 1,3,6
  • Potassium, Iron, Manganese, Folate
  • Fiber
  • Complex Carbohydrates that help to fuel all reactions in the body which you need for movement, thinking, digestion and cellular renewal.

Recipe:

Adapted from allrecipes.com to fit a vegan diet.

  • 2 peeled and diced potatoes
  • 2 peeled and diced beets
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • olive oil
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Place the diced and peeled potatoes and beets on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. Roast the potatoes and beets in the oven until tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Once the veggies are done, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in carrots, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Mix in the potatoes and beets, veggie broth, thyme, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the soup from the heat, and discard the bay leaf.  Puree the mixture with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until blended to your liking.  I left a few beets unblended for a chunkier texture.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice and almond milk.  Serve and enjoy!