Our church has been hosting some international business students the past couple of weeks, and some of the congregation have been helping in providing meals for them. I signed up to provide them with lunch after church on Sunday. And of course, given my passion to please everyone’s tummy, I couldn’t just bring them sandwiches. Nope. And I also wanted to show them that American food doesn’t have to be fried, salty and processed. So I put my thinking cap on and thru this bad boy salad together. And in the process, I created another recipe for my recipe vault….that can be viewed by anyone on the World Wide Web. Huh, I may need to think about changing the name….
Any who, everyone knows that BBQ pairs well with all types of meat, but what about beans? And quinoa? You bet it does!! Paired with cilantro, avocado and scallions, you have a wonderful, fiber and protein packed salad that’s sure to keep you full, and of course make your tummy happy! Mmmhmmmm! I love this recipe: it’s simple, clean (especially if you want make your own BBQ sauce!) This salad works great as a potluck addition, or as a nice Sunday afternoon lunch. I hope you enjoy it!
First, toss quinoa, corn, black beans, chickpeas, chopped cilantro, and scallions in a large bowl and toss well to combine. If you’re making this salad ahead of time (day before), and if you’re like me and you worry about ingredients spoiling too soon, hold off on adding your scallions until you serve the salad.
When ready to serve the salad, mix BBQ sauce into the entire salad or per serving, it’s up to you. I add it per serving if I’m eating it at home, but obviously at a potluck it may be a good idea to toss the salad with the BBQ sauce, unless you want to stand there while everyone goes thru the line and give instructions. That may be fun 😉. Top the salad with scallions (if made ahead of time), avocado and dairy free white cheddar cheese.
BBQ Chickpea Quinoa Salad
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup fresh corn
1-2 cups cooked chickpeas (amount to taste)
Your Fave BBQ sauce
1 bunch cilantro
Optional: dairy free shredded white cheddar cheese for topping
In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients except BBQ sauce and avocado
When ready to serve salad, toss with BBQ or add sauce per serving. Top with avocado and dairy free cheese, if using. Eat up!
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.
I came across a recipe from Happy Motheringabout 4 years ago for no bake cookie balls. My life hasn’t been the same since! They are that good. I have come across other versions of cookie balls, disguised as energy bites, or no bake cookie heavens. But, I always come back to these. Whenever I need a quick, nutrient dense snack, dessert or potluck dish, I make these little bites of nutty, chocolatey goodness. I have used the idea from the recipe above to create my own. I hope you like it!
You will need almond butter, peanut butter, honey, ground flax seed, gluten free quick oats, and chocolate chips. Mix ingredients and any optional add-ins in a large bowl. Mix well, and make sure all oats are mixed. If dough is crumbling, add more honey or nut butter. Cover and chill in refrigerator for one hour.
Remove from fridge and roll tablespoon sized portions into balls. Store cookies in an air tight m container in the fridge. And try not to eat them all at once!! Enjoy!
No Bake Healthy Cookie Balls Makes 16-20 balls
2 cups gluten free quick oats
1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy
1/2 cup almond butter, creamy
1 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup raw honey (maple syrup will work if need it to be vegan)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (not optional!)
2/3 cup Optional Add-ins: raisins, shredded unsweetened coconut
Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl, make sure all of the oats are mixed in. If using maple syrup, you may need to adjust amount because of the difference in consistency. If mixture seems dry and crumbly, add more nut butter. Mixture should stick together. Cover and chill in the fridge for up to 1 hour.
Roll TBS sized portions of mix into balls. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.
Ok, so it’s the end of July. It’s hot, kids are starting to get bored, and moms are getting, well, anxious for school start. Which for us, is about 3 weeks away….so why not think about how to reorganize life when the little “monsters” go back to school?? Yes, we mom’s long for the days when the house is quiet again, and we have the “me time” we seem to have less of during those warm, summer days. But, with those quiet days, come the hectic evening schedules…sports, after school activities, youth group, band practices; all the coming and going from “thing to thing”. And the craziness leaves a lot of moms feeling unorganized around meal time, asking the age old question: “what’s for dinner?” I find that if I don’t plan ahead, have my meals planned out and ingredients bought, we are hitting Chipotle or Panera Bread for dinner, or even ordering pizza. And as yummy as those places are, it shouldn’t be our go to meal during our busy season.
I am a list maker. I make lists for everything. I feel a huge accomplishment in my days when I can cross something off of a list. Lately, I have been making a to do list at the beginning of the week, listing all of my chores, food prep and meals I need to make for the week. I keep it on the counter right next to the coffee pot (the fuel to power my madness). And each day, I cross off a few items, and by the end of the week, my house is clean (well mostly, I’m not superwoman), my meals are made, food is prepped and a relaxing weekend awaits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life worked out so wonderfully? At the mercy of lists?
Meal planning has been one of the legs I stand on in life. It’s helped me learn to just buy only the ingredients I need for those meals and not over spend….okay sometimes (most of the time) I indulge in some kind of chocolate, but that’s neither here nor there. One thing I have found is that, for me, the more simple my meals are, the more likely I am to make them on a regular basis. Rice and beans, for example, is a very simple thing to make, and have in my pantry on a regular basis. Something else that works well for my family, is making meals that I know my kids will eat. Why add the stress of making something for dinner you know your kids will push away and not eat? Now I’m not saying to make a week of chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and pizza for dinner, no sir! But if your kids like, oh spaghetti for example, make a point to keep a back stock of noodles and sauce in your arsenal of food, for those busy nights you need a 10 minute miracle dinner. Make life easy on you, while you are still keeping your kiddos fed with healthy, home cooked meals.
When planning out my meals for the week, I again, make a list! Also, I find what works for me is to plan out meals for the whole month. What?!! I bet you’re thinking I’m crazy, how can I plan out 30 meals ahead of time?? I mean, how much time do I have??? Well, not much, I promise you. But what if I told you I only plan out meals for one week, 7 days, and repeated those meals for the month?? It doesn’t sound so hard now, right? It almost sounds doable… Well, that is how I plan my meals, I figure out a week’s worth of easy, healthy and sometimes fun meals for dinner, and stick to it on a weekly basis for about a month or so, which is usually when we are all sick of them and we are forced to move on!
Now, the only way that this type of meal planning works, is if you pick meals that are easy to make, and most importantly, meals that you enjoy. Dinner becomes very stressful real quick when you have hungry young, kids who refuse to eat what is on their plates. Too many nights have been spent in my house teaching kids to eat what’s on their plates. So I try and cook what I know they will eat, and go from there. Busy ,week night dinners are also not the time to make a 50 step, 20 Ingredient dinner. You will make it once, and cry because you had to cook it while juggling homework, kids arguing, bottom wiping and diaper changing. No way. Save those meals for when your husband is home and he can man the battle station while you cook with ease…and a glass of wine 😝. Busy weeknight meals should consist of 1-2 crockpot OR pressure cooker meals, you know that new contraption that can cook any meal in 3.5 seconds?? Teehee SIDE NOTE: about presssure cookers, who doesn’t think of the scene from Back to the Future II, when the future McFlys “hydrate” a pizza in their super machine in like 10 seconds… while cooking with their pressure cooker? I know I do, and chuckle. Bah! Ok, back to work… Next, your weekly meal plan should also include at least one maximum of 5 Ingredients meal, something simple, healthy and yummy. This is where rice and beans come in for us. Rice, beans, salsa, avocado and done! Next, utilize your leftovers! Intentionally make more food so the hubby can have lunch the next day or two at work, or plan a leftover night to devour what you’ve made throughout the week. That’s less cooking for you! Lastly, plan for one night a week eating out. Trust me, if you don’t plan to eat out, odds are that that’s all you’ll do because you’ll need that break. But if it’s planned, you have something to look forward to, and you know that break is coming. Ok, lets meal plan!
One Month of Meals:
Breakfast and lunch are usually some variation of the same meals, everyday, 7 days a week. That way, I know exactly what to buy at the store, and know every morning what my kids are having for breakfast, and what I’m packing for school lunch. No frantic pantry search, just an easy morning (hopefully). Every now and then, I’ll pack something special in their school lunch, or buy muffins for breakfast (gasp!), but those times don’t happen often.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit and honey, and bowl of fresh fruit
*weekends only: cereal with almond milk OR homemade pancakes. My kiddos like the pumpkin seed, flax and granola cereal from Nature Valley at Costco. And I buy Coaches Oats from Costco as well. I buy 2 bags at a time to keep my pantry stocked for a while.
Lunch: Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly/or honey, OR veggie sandwiches), veggies and fruit
I start my meal plan on Saturdays for a couple of reasons: I do my shopping on Fridays, and we get paid on Friday, so my grocery budget resets. It’s just easier for me to have meals start when the budget starts.
Saturday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal *
Sunday: Pecan “Meatballs” with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Monday: Rice and Beans
Tuesday : New Recipe Night!**
Wednesday: Rice and Beans
Thursday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal
Friday: Eat out!
*Freezer Meals, along with crockpot meals, should be a staple in any busy mom’s meal plan. They help relieve the stress of cooking, and are always a good option when you need that quick, go to healthy meal. I utilize frozen meals on nights I have to work. They work perfect for me when I’m tired or if the hubby is in charge of dinner. If you can, try and find meals that freeze and cook in your crockpot when you’re ready to use them. Here’s a good freezer meal resource. A lot of the meals that you already make on a regular basis; soups, pancakes, burgers, casseroles, even vegan “meatballs” can be made in advance and frozen for later use. I usually pick a meal or two I like to make, triple the recipe and make it for dinner one night, while freezing the other two portions. Or pick a weekend day and spend an hour or two prepping freezer meals. Whatever works best for you! Sure does help this busy mom to have freezer inventory!
**Tuesday night is the one night of the week that we don’t have anything going on; no sports, church, work, school activities and such. It’s the perfect night for me to try out a new recipe! And who knows, I may find a new family staple to add to the meal plan 😉 I don’t do this type of thing with every meal plan, but some days I need a change and to try something new.
I stick my meal plan on the fridge, right next to my chores list and under my grocery list. 😝🤗 they should all really be together, don’t you think??
I hope this helps all of the busy moms out there, or at least gives you an idea of how to start meal planning. It is so worth it to have meals planned out for those busy times in life!
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.
Ok, I’ve got to spill the beans about a company here in Denver, CO: Plant Based Kitchen. Founded by Chef Kelley Williamson, back in 2013, this gem has been offering cooking demonstrations all over the Denver Metro area. I have attended a few of them, at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and local companies in my town of Parker. I have tasted her yummy nummy foods, made from recipes that she’s created, and I usually can’t wait to get home and make them myself (note to reader: her tofu ricotta is outta this world good!). She also offers cooking classes, open to the public for a very low cost. Offered in a very intimate setting, in the kitchen of a local church, only 12 people can participate in a class at a time. These classes offer the chance to cook with Chef Kelley, and make her recipes, while eating, conversing and just enjoying the company of other food enthusiasts. Did I mention you get to eat yummy food while in these classes?? Teehee 😝 Chef Kelley specializes in plant based recipes, and partners with Jerry Casados, a plant based nutritionist that offers advice and education at her demos and classes.
This past weekend, I attended my first cooking class of Chef Kelley’s. The theme: Freezer Friendly Meals. Having never been to one of her classes, I didn’t know what to expect. I walked into the kitchen of the church, and I immediately had butterflies; the kitchen and set up were a dream!
12 of us were all gathered around the kitchen’s center chop block, met with our own knives and recipes.
And in the middle of the table, was a large bowl of berries and Chef Kelley’s coffee cake. It was gorgeous! And yes, we did get to eat it. Devour it, I mean 😋
With 5 recipes to make and only 2 1/2 hours to make them, the 12 of us divided into 5 groups of 2-3 people and each group made one recipe. My group made Good Morning Muffins, which were loaded with fresh cut apples and carrots, dates and chopped nuts…oh yum!
We had to make enough food for everyone to taste it in the class, as well as enough to take home with us. So we quadrupled the recipes. Every recipe was vegan, plant based, salt and oil free. We all had a lot of fun navigating a kitchen we’ve never been in before, and making recipes that we had never made. We joked, asked a lot of questions about food, health and wellness with Jerry, and got to know one another a little bit. It was a really good time!
With a 1/2 an hour left, we all sat down and enjoyed the food we created. We discussed our experiences making them, as well as complimenting one another on a job well done. We all had our faves of what was made of course (mine was the cowboy lasagne: layers of beans, fresh veggies and cashew cream with a fresh garlic bite….drooolllll), but all in all every recipe was a hit. We all got to take leftovers home to share, or save for a midnight snack. 😝 I gave my muffins to my kiddos for an afternoon snack. They didn’t last long.
I had never been to something like this before and was really glad that I went! If you’re ever in the mood to eat some good food, learn a few new recipes or try your cooking skills out with Chef Kelley, look up Plant Based Kitchen and attend a class. Chef Kelley does not disappoint!
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.
I adapted this recipe from one I found online by Gluten Free Vegan Pantry. It’s amaaazzziing. Though it doesn’t have that true carnival, heavily processed nacho cheese flavor, it gets the job done. We dip anything and everything in it, and cover almost everything you can think to cover cheese with, with it. And the best thing? It’s simple to make. And it’s actually healthy for you! Packed with veggies, nuts and nutritional yeast, this is your next go to recipe for a potluck, or party. Or a Tuesday. 😝
First start with boiling your carrots, onions, shallots and potatoes until soft.
While your veggies are cooking, add the rest of your ingredients to your blender.
When your veggies are cooked and soft, add them WITH the remaining broth to the blender. Blend until smooth.
The sauce will be hot, so serve right away! You can also make this sauce ahead of time, just give it a quick blend in your blender and reheat on the stove. Top potatoes, broccoli, rice, nachos, burritos and bowls with the sauce. Or dip your veggies or chips in it. Eat it with a spoon! The options are endless! I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Creamy Vegan Nacho Cheese
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup onion of choice, chopped
2 cups potato, chopped (Yukon gold or creamers work best, but any will be fine)
1/4 cup shallot
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed
8 TBS nutritional yeast
2 cups of vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2-4 TBS whole grain Dijon mustard
1/3 cup vegan margarine
Black pepper to taste
Optional Spices/Variations: add pickled jalapeños (1/4-1/2 cup), chipotle seasoning, chipotle peppers in adobo (1-2 peppers is usually enough) or smoked paprika to taste for a little spice. All is measured to taste based on desired spice level. Of course add more if you like your sauce spicy!
Add your carrots, onion, shallot, potatoes and broth to a pot and bring to a boil.
While your veggies are cooking, add remaining ingredients to your blender.
When veggies are cooked all the way through, add them with remaining broth to the bel dear and blend until smooth.
Add any desired add ins for spice. Enjoy!
NOTE: if you aren’t using a high powered blender like a Vitamix, soak your cashews for at least 30 mins to 1 hour before blending to soften. Also, you will most likely need to blend ingredients for up to 5 minutes for the sauce to come out smooth like nacho cheese.
Until next time….
12 years ago, almost to the day, my husband and I made our first ever home purchase. We bought a one bedroom condo off Colorado Blvd and 11th Ave in Congress Park, a neighborhood just 10 minutes east of downtown Denver, CO. We couldn’t have been more excited about owning our own place, and Levi, at the time, was walking distance from work. A few milestones happened during our 6 years of living there: 2 college degrees, the birth of our first child, Levi making his way up the Plant Ops ladder. And handfuls of memories that we will keep with us always. Memories like biking to work and school downtown, walking to restaurants on date night, renting movies on Friday nights at the Corner Spotlight, which is now home to Trader Joe’s. Or riding the #10 bus home from whatever we were doing downtown.
Or walking our dog through the neighborhood, dreaming of someday owning a Denver bungalow. Walking to Annie’s Cafe on 8th and Colorado Blvd., to have breakfast for dinner, before it moved to its location on Colfax Ave.
Sitting at Marco’s Pizza, still in awe that we lived down there! And of course, eating the best margarita pizza we’ve ever had in our lives. 😋 And who can forget the irresistible Pad Thai from Swing Thai? I still can’t find Pad Thai that is as good as theirs. 😩😩 Well, we still own that condo…for about 6 more days. We have been renting it out for the past 6 years, losing money on it every month. But I haven’t been able to let go of it, because I feared those memories would disappear and that that part of my life would officially be over. The “before kids” life, the time when life seemed a little simpler, even though we definitely had our struggles. I’m a very emotional and sentimental person, and I hang on tight to feelings.
Cities like Denver are notorious for having many restaurant gems tucked away in the neighborhoods. Washington Park (Wash Park) is a great example, as well as Capital Hill, The Highlands, and of course, Congress Park, to name a few. So, for date night, the hubby and I decided to have one last night out in our old neighborhood, and try to hold onto those feelings just a little bit longer. I wanted to try the places that we always walked or drove by, and talked about, but never actually went to. There are 2 neighborhood area shops that are located along the street of 12th Ave in Congress Park. The first cluster is located just a few blocks west of Colorado Blvd., where shops occupy all four corners of the intersection at 12th and Madison. There used to be an ice cream shop called The Daily Scoop, that was famous for the “12th Avenue Twister”, their version of a Dairy Queen blizzard, but is now occupied by another ice cream shop called Sweet Cooie’s Ice Cream Shop.
There is also a great local coffee shop called Under the Umbrella Cafe and Bakery, and they have a really good chai latte; a Dominoes Pizza and a gardening shop, called Wildflowers.
And lastly, a children’s music school sits right in between Pudge Brother’s pizza and Sienna Wine Bar. A lot sure has changed since we have lived down there.
The second cluster of shops in the neighborhood, where we chose to go, is a little east of Josephine on 12th. This cluster hasn’t changed much. It is still home to Peter’s Chinese food (really, really good Chinese food😊), a laundry mat, 12th Avenue Market and an Ace Hardware. I always thought that location was odd to have an Ace Harware, but it’s been in business for a long time!
And of course, Chef Zorba’s, rated number one for Greek food in Denver. Their baklava is amazing! We always chuckled about how run down it looked from the outside, but it was always packed with people for lunch and dinner.
At the end of the row of shops and restaurants, is a restaurant space that changed a couple of times during our time in Congress Park. The restaurant that is currently in that space, seems to be doing pretty well. Shells and Sauce has become a very popular Italian spot in the neighborhood. With a spectacular roof top view, I couldn’t wait to share a meal with my man at this cozy, romantic neighborhood venue.
As you walk in to the restaurant you notice their semi-open kitchen right away, tucked behind their comfy first floor dining room and the bar to the right. The hostess greets you within seconds and everyone is super friendly. I was in heaven immediately. How could I not be? Eating in a place serving my favorite food (spaghetti and salad) with my favorite person in the world, in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world. It felt like the perfect night already, and we hadn’t even sat down yet!
The hostess sat us upstairs, in their enclosed roof top seating. The view over looking the neighborhood was amazing, and added a perfect back drop to our night.
Now…on to the food. This is a food blog after all 😝🤗
We started with salads. Aside from their traditional Italian Caesar salad (which my hubby got) and a tossed mixed green salad, there were a few hidden gems on the menu, one of which was their porteblla mushroom salad. It was so tasty! Peppery arugula lay a top grilled portobello mushrooms, with baby tomatoes, onions and crispy capers all combined for a perfect, crunchy, zesty bite! And I can’t forget to mention the tangy, lemon vinaigrette that gently coated the salad. Yum yum 👅
Accompanied by their herb bread dipped in a balsamic herb reduction, and my glass of Malbec, it was a perfect start to our meal.
Can I just say that I looooovvvvveeee balsamic vinegar?? Especially with herbs and bread!! Teehee 😋😋
Italian restaurants can be a little tough to find a good plant based meal. Yes, spaghetti can be vegan but it’s also not very nutritious on its own. Throw veggies into the sauce, make it with a plant based noodle like edamame or brown rice, you have just enhanced the nutrition of your spaghetti. But, more traditional Italian restaurants don’t carry edamame or brown rice noodles. So what is a plant based friendly alternative? Well, this gal went for the butternut squash, sweet potato and goat cheese stuffed shells, with a pesto sauce. Goat cheese? Goat cheese is vegan? Ummmm well, no. But if you want to know why I eat goat cheese once in a while, read this. No, goat cheese is not vegan, but it has more vitamins in it than cow milk and is considered a clean food to eat. Also, most goat farms are humane and treat the goats kindly. Lastly, some cultures would use goat milk as infant formula, because of it’s vitamins and easiness to digest. So yes, I will indulge in goat cheese every now and then. Plus, it’s yum and gives me my cheese fix!
The stuffed shells were very creamy, and sweet because of the sweet potato. The sweet flavor paired really well with the pesto sauce. And the whole bite was finished with the after taste of tangy goat cheese. Bam!
The conversation between my husband and I that night was the best it’s been in a long time. Me sipping my wine, him his whiskey, we talked about where we’ve been, where we are now in our busy life. And of course, where we hope to be going. Actually having the time to sit and talk, uninterrupted, was a gift to us that night, as I am sure it is to most parents. Most days, we talk while taking care of 3 crazy kids, barely finishing a sentence before our attention is averted. We talked for a while that night, and shared an amazing dessert. Flourless chocolate cake is one of my faves. They are typically made with dark chocolate, and are so rich you can only have a few bites before going into a chocolate coma. 😍but the creaminess of a cake made without flour, cannot be beat.
There was an article written in the Westword back in 2009, that takes the readers down memory lane on Colorado Blvd. I related so much to it! The last line was “I will always return to Colorado Blvd”. I really hope I do too.
For the duration of the summer, every Friday our babysitter comes over and watches my kiddos for me, so the hubby and I can go out, or so I can go grocery shopping. Being a mom of three kids, trying to do all my grocery shopping with my kids, it’s well, hard. I feel rushed, and therefore buy more unnecessary items. Then there’s the “mom can we buy this? Or, “don’t touch that!” And of course, the needing to potty whilst mid shopping or needing to change a diaper. During the school year, I did my shopping while two of my kids were in school. So nice. So, having 4 hours to myself, every other Friday, to get my grocery shopping done (I’m actually buying what we need for two weeks, making only having to go to the store once every two weeks amazing!), makes me feel almost functional.
During my latest grocery outing, I snuck in lunch as well. Every time I drive to work, I drive by a little taco place that’s located in the neighborhood right by the hospital. Remodeled out of an old gas station, and known for its eclectic mix of Mexican street food, Cochino Taco has become a real go to place for lunch and dinner, and are now open for brunch on the weekends. Every time I drive by, I think to myself “man, I need try that place out”, while looking at a packed house. Founded by 3 guys who know and love food and have roots to Mexico City, as well as Denver CO, Cochino Taco has definitely become a must try taco place.
Walking into the establishment, I was surprised to see it was an actual restaurant. I thought, because of its size, that it would be more like a Chipotle, order your food at the counter then sit and eat or take it with you.
They have a generous size dining room, with a smaller open kitchen off to the right of the dining area, an outside patio, and a bar, which is where I sat as it was just me. And of course, I had to try one of their house margaritas. What’s a taco without a margarita? 🍹😀
I tried one of their orange and cucumber margaritas, with triplesec, tequila, agave nectar and freshly squeezed orange and cucumber juice. No one ingredient over powered the other, which can be the case when you use really strong flavors in a drink. Oh man….it was refreshingly outstanding! And it may have been a little strong…😋
Their menu is pretty simple: starters, a couple salads and a whole page devoted to….Tacos! Under witty titles, their tacos are divided into categories on the menu, based on what meat is in them. I of course, chose to eat from the “ain’t no meat tacos” category.
I was told that if I was super hungry to order three tacos, as the tacos come one to an order. Well, I was super hungry, so I ordered two tacos and an avocado tostada. I indulged in tacos called the “fungus among us” hahaha! And filled with grilled shiitaki and cremini mushrooms, crispy onions, corn, tomato salsa and cilantro, I gotta tell ya, these tacos were so delicious and flavorful! There was a little crunch from the onions and corn, but the bite was creamy and smoky from the grilled mushrooms. The tacos came out by themselves on a small plate, and each taco had 2 mini corn tortillas to it, which I learned is how traditional soft corn tacos come in Mexico. It allows for extra “structure” to the taco as corn tortillas can be soft. I just used the extra shell for the stuff that fell out of my taco as I ate it to make another one! I know we’ve all wished to have an extra shell for the leftovers that fall out of our taco….I know I’m not alone in that, because who wants to eat taco filling with a fork? 😝😝
Now, when I order a tostada or make one at home, there’s not much crunch to it and it actually can be a little one dimensional with the re fried beans or guacamole making the tostada shell soft as it sits. Well, this avocado tostada was anything but your typical soggy tostada. Let’s first start with the shell…it was again, made from the mini corn tortillas, and dusted with a spice mixture made in house. And nope, they wouldn’t let me know what was in it. This dust turned my fingers red but I didn’t care! It also added a nice spice to my tostada. On top of the shell was a heaping amount of guacamole, lime, and 3 ingredients that added that extra crunch to my bite: jicama, radish and seasoned quico crunch, which tasted just like corn nuts to me. This was far from a soggy tostada! Every bite had crunch and flavor, a little spice thanks to that little bit of red dust you lick off your fingers at the end. So good.
The bartender set a bottle of Mexican hot sauce right in front of me when my food came, and I topped my tacos and tostada with it. Normally I prefer a more traditional salsa on my Mexican food, but I could not get enough of this stuff, it was sooooo good! And not too spicy. However, the food by itself didn’t really need help in the flavor department. 😜
While I was devouring my meal, I couldn’t help but notice that the wall behind the bar was lined with different kinds of pigs…a lot of pigs. I inquired, of course, and the bartender told me that Cochino means “pig” in Spanish. But not a traditional pig, more like a naughty word you call someone during a brawl, a “filthy pig”. I thought to myself “ok, you named your restaurant after a filthy word”…awesome. But the food still rocks tho! I learned after doing more research on this awesome place, that the pig actually holds special meaning to the restaurant’s founders, who have been dubbed “the 3 pig heads” on social media. 😆
Sitting by myself at the bar, not needing to rush through my meal, was such a recharging experience. Which brings me to dessert. Dessert was a must for me, as who could pass up what was on their dessert menu: caramel filled churros and Mexican spiced chocolate ice cream.
I asked the bartender if he could make me a half order, as I couldn’t eat a full one. He totally hooked me up! The churro was filled with a delicate, creamy caramel, and paired with the crunchy, cinnamon sugar outside, it was the perfect sweet bite my mouth needed.
Then, there was the ice cream. Telling my husband about this ice cream, my mouth began to salivate. 🤤 Spiced with ancho-chili and cinnamon, the ice cream was so creamy with a subtle spice that left a burn in the back of my throat. The dairy that was in the ice cream was just enough to tame the heat factor of the spices, but kept you wanting more and more with the rich chocolate. It was literally a spicy, rich, chocolatey ice cream. And I was told that the company who makes the ice cream, makes it just for Cochino Taco. Such a perfect end to my lunch!
If you’re ever in the neighborhood by Swedish Medical Center in Engelwood, CO take the time to stop and try a taco or two at Cochino Taco, your tummy will be very happy you did!
There’s a restaurant in Denver, CO called True Food Kitchen. It’s exactly what the name suggests, they serve real food, from sustainable ingredients. They are a non- GMO facility and their food is mostly local and based on season. Needless to say, it’s a real gem in the Cherry Creek community!
They have a salad on their menu, a shredded kale salad, that is really, really, tasty. It is mostly ordered as a side salad, or before the entree salad, but I believe you can order a meal portion as well. The salad is made with shredded kale, and is tossed with parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. Seriously, amazing. One of the best kale salads I’ve had in a restaurant hands down. The zest from the lemon hits your tongue almost instantly and the crunch of the kale and saltiness from the cheese leave you wanting more and more. Yum. I’ve seen copycat versions of this salad on the internet and they actually come pretty close to the real deal. But I have my own I’d like to share with you. It’s not exactly like the masterpiece at True Food Kitchen, but let’s just say it’s inspired by it!
First, we need our kale. I say this because there’s so many kinds of kale out there, that picking which one to use for a shredded kale salad is important. Lacinato Kale aka dinosaur kale is my fave for this salad. It gives you the perfect shred. Depending on the size of salad you’re making, you will need anywhere from 2 to 4 bunches of kale. The nice thing about this salad is that your cuts don’t have t be perfect. Shredding your kale can be messy, neat, long ways or short ways, whatever suits you. No one will know!
For contrast, I usually will had some chopped romaine lettuce or baby spinach, to help create a fuller salad, and of course get more greens into it!
After you shred your kale, make your dressing. I use about a tablespoon of olive oil to balance out my balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of agave nectar and juice from 1-2 oranges. Don’t you just love my exact measurements!!?? The amount of dressing you make will depend on the size of salad you have, so the amount is really up to you.
I know True Food Kitchen uses a lemon vinaigrette for their salad, and yes it is yummy, but I find that orange goes better with balsamic vinegar and lemon goes better with rice or apple cider vinegar. Just my taste.
Toss the kale with the dressing and massage it for a good 2 minutes. The acidity from the balsamic vinegar will actually help break down the kale and make it softer to chew.
After massaging the kale, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours, but no longer. You want soft kale, not soggy kale!
Now here comes the exciting part to the salad, the cheese/nut crumble. The salad at True Food Kitchen uses parmesean cheese; we are going to make a vegan nut crumble that will mimic the taste of cheese. And we will do that with 3 lovely ingredients: nuts (pecans work best, but walnuts would work well too), nutritional yeast and a touch of olive oil to help bind the two.
Blend them up in your food processor until fine. I got the idea from this kale salad recipe. It’s really simple and adds amazing flavor to the salad.
We are almost done! When ready to serve the salad, top the kale with the cheese/nut crumble and dried craisins, or raisins work really well too. I almost like them better than the craisins myself.
This salad is a good option for a potluck, dinner parties or Tuesday salad night. Hope you like it!
Shredded Kale Salad with Citrus Vinigarette
2-4 bunches of lacinato kale
1/2 cup craisins or raisins
Cheese Nut Crumble:
1 cup of pecans
1 TBS olive oil
2-3 TBS nutritional yeast
1 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice from 2 oranges
Squeeze of agaves nectar, or other liquid sweetener
Shred your kale
Make your dressing and toss kale, massaging the kale for 2 minutes to soften it up. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.
Make your nut crumble by placing all ingredients into a food processor and grind 15 to 30 seconds. You want the nuts somewhat fine, but still have some texture.
When ready to serve the salad, top kale with nut crumble and craisins. Enjoy!
NOTE: add dimension that your salad by adding a couple heads of romaine or baby spinach. Do not, however, add the extra greens until ready to serve the salad, as they will get too soggy sitting in the dressing for 3 hours.
I first learned about cashew cream from Chocolate Covered Katie, when trying to make a plant based sour cream. I gotta tell you, savory cashew cream is not my favorite thing. But sweet cashew cream, that’s another story! It’s creamy, almost like yogurt, and has a subtle sweetness to it. It’s loaded with plant based protien, healthy fats and fiber. And it pairs wonderful with fresh fruit, or as a topping for your oatmeal. Heck, some even put it on steamed kale! Hey, don’t knock it til you try it. Any moms out there who want their kiddos to eat kale, try steaming it and topping it with this sauce. You’d be surprised how many kids like to eat kale this way.
This sauce is super easy to make and only has 3 ingredients. Did I mention that it’s also sugar free?? Oh and I also may have (definitely) borrowed this idea from Chocolate Covered Katie and Dr. Furhman. Hey, I’m giving credit where credit is due, I don’t want to be in the business of stealing recipes and pretending they’re mine. Just not cool in the blogging world :>)
Making cashew cream is very simple. 1 cup of cashews blended with 1/2 cup of water (can vary depending on desired thickness), until very smooth. Blend in dates until desired sweetness is reached, I like to use 8-10 dates. Once blended thoroughly, top it on your fave fruit (strawberries are my go to) and go nuts! (Pun intended).
NOTE: If you don’t have a high powered blender, like a vitamix, you will need to soak your cashews in water for at least 3-4 hours, as well as your dates, for about 10-15 minutes. The cashew cream will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Sweet Cashew Cream Sauce
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup of water (more or less depending on desired consistency)
5-10 dates, make to your desired sweetness
Blend cashews and water together until silky smooth (if not using a high powered blender, make sure you soak your cashews for 3-4 hours)
Add your dates to get your desired sweetness (again, if not using a high powered blender, you’ll need to soak your dates for about 10 minutes)
Store cashew cream in a mason jar in your fridge. Refrigerate until cool, then top on your fave fruit or breakfast! This would make an amazing pancake topping in lieu of pancake syrup. Cashew cream will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Chocolate, in a word, is the closest thing we have to heaven on earth. Ok, that may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s darn good! This pie recipe, is my go to recipe for meal blessings and dinner parties. It’s super simple, and gets rave reviews every time I make it. However, it is not vegan. This recipe calls for heavy whipping cream, which most ganache’s do. I would spend the extra money and buy organic heavy whipping cream. I have, however, been working on a vegan version of this pie using tofu or avocados, but the ratios’ just aren’t quite right when trying to make enough chocolate ganache for a whole pie. What I like about this recipe is that I don’t need to add any sugar. Where as if I used tofu or even avocado, I would need to add something sweet to the ganache to balance out the flavors. But when I get there, I’ll let you know!
At minimum, I use semi sweet chocolate (you could go as high as a 70% cocoa chocolate) and I don’t add any sweetener, so the pie is very, very rich….and did I mention that it’s melt in your mouth creamy? Paired with my plant based, gluten and sugar free pie crust, you can’t go wrong with this dessert. It is a home run all the way.
Start by making your pie crust using this recipe, following the chocolate pie crust recipe version. As your crust is setting, make your ganache.
Place a 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips into a medium bowl and set aside.
Using a small sauce pan, heat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream just to a boil. This step is important as it heats up really fast and you could burn it very easily.
Once heated, pour whipping cream over the chocolate chips and let it sit for 5 minutes. Do not touch it while it sits. Leave it alone and let it work it’s chocolatey magic!
After 5 minutes, start whisking the chocolate. It will take a few minutes for it to mix all of the way so be patient! And it will be thick.
Once mixed, pour ganache onto your pie crust, spread evenly, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours to set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Enjoy!