pacific nw-inspired, wholesome, plant-based recipes (*simple & sweet*)

Avocado, Heirloom Tomato, and Prawn Tostadas

Avocado, Heirloom Tomato, and Prawn Tostadas - www.cloudthyme.comThe celebrity in this post is really the heirloom tomato. I only just recently discovered how much more delicious those giant multi-colored tomatoes you find at the farmers’ market and Whole Foods are than the conventional kind. I also only recently learned that the reason they are called “heirloom” is due to the fact that they are a variety that has been passed down through generations, and are non-hybrid. But it’s not their history that has drawn me in; rather, it’s their incredible sweetness and juiciness, not to mention their beauty! It has been a summer of heirloom addiction for me. Sliced and eaten raw with basil, topped on salads, added to pizzas and frittatas, and here: generously sprinkled on tostadas.

Tostadas are also a new recipe for me. I am a huge fan of tacos – so many fresh ingredients and options for vegans, pescetarians, and meat-eaters alike. Plus gluten-free friendly! Tostadas provide the same base for all those wonderful ingredients, but even more of the filling – and with an added crunch. It seemed like a perfect way to get even more avocado-wonderfulness in each bite. And it is! Be generous with those toppings – they are worth it.

Avocado, Heirloom Tomato, and Prawn Tostadas - www.cloudthyme.comThe weather in Seattle just keeps impressing me, and these tostadas taste best enjoyed in the setting sun. Refreshing, wholesome, and with a little zing. The prawns are a lovely and light addition to the veggies, but could easily be substituted with beans or chicken. You could also use regular lettuce instead of cabbage, but I did just learn that 1 cup of cabbage provides 50% of your daily vitamin C! I had no idea. With all these wonderful veggies, including the famous heirloom tomatoes, each serving of these tostadas add up to about 85% of your vit C and 35% of vit A! Not too bad, especially when combined with the balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats provided (see nutrition chart below for deets). In conclusion, I think this all means…yes- treat yourself to the margarita! ;)

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Mint-Choco-Avo-Nana Mousse with Berries

Mint Choco-Avo-Nana Mousse - www.cloudthyme.comOne of my favorite memories of childhood summers is Popsicle Joe. My friends and I would be swimming in the lake, and the moment we heard the jingle of the ice cream truck, away we swam and ran down the dock. We would stand in the quickly forming line in our tankinis and bare feet, hopping on the burning hot cement of the parking lot with our quarters, internally debating which ice cream treat we’d have today. Back then, I could eat as much as a teenage boy, and I would have survived solely on ice cream and candy if my parents had allowed it (now I suppose I can appreciate that they fortunately instilled healthy habits at a very early age).

Needless to say, I no longer gorge myself on dairy-rich “choco-tacos” but I do still crave those sweet frozen treats, particularly in this heat wave summer in Seattle. I have tried just about every ice cream alternative at Whole Foods, and although I’m impressed with the variety of coconut, almond, and soy based alternatives, there’s really nothing nutritious about them, and they’re often still loaded with extra sugar and random ingredients (bean gum?). So I set out on a mission to make my own ice-cream alternative, that could rival Popsicle Joe’s goodies. Crazy, I know.

Mint Choco-Avo-Nana Mousse - www.cloudthyme.comPinterest is always my starting place, and there I discovered a couple of trends: 1. “nice” cream, which is a banana-based ice cream, and 2. avocado pudding. Based on these inspirations, I combined the avocado and banana to make something extra creamy, with just enough sweetness and chocolate-goodness to make it a real treat. But that seemed a little too plain, and when I remembered I used to love mint chocolate chip ice cream, I decided to add fresh mint to the mix, and top the whole thing with fresh strawberries. I was skeptical that simply using veggies, herbs, and fruit to make this frozen treat would rival the real-thing, but I was gleefully surprised at the outcome. If you don’t believe me, here is a quote from my Ben&Jerry’s-addicted boyfriend after eating my creation: “It makes you feel like the dairy companies have been lying to you”. Ha! Big victory for my inner-ice-cream-loving-child.

Bonus: with the wholesome combo of ingredients, this frozen parfait is packed with nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and even protein! Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you to try this, so enjoy!

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Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant

Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant - www.cloudthyme.comThis is definitely the longest break I’ve had between blog posts, mostly due to travel. Lucky me got to go to a psychology conference in Berlin and then a family reunion in the Outer Banks. Both trips were beyond wonderful, and involved some very delicious food, but I definitely missed cooking for myself. I realized how much I value the freedom of having my own kitchen and all the variety that comes with living a few blocks from Whole Foods and a fully stocked pantry. I also missed the experimentation in trying new recipes for myself (and my boyfriend, who fortunately devours both my wins and losses). Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking of a multitude of recipe ideas, but the stuffed eggplant dish was at the top of my list. I’ve already made it twice, and so far it has been given the seal of approval!

Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant - www.cloudthyme.comIt has been gorgeous in Seattle since being back, and although I often just eat raw veggies and cold foods in the summertime, sometimes I still crave something more comforting and hearty for dinner. As a “flexitarian”, I am often thinking of vegetarian dishes that can be served alone or with meat. Eggplant is a great option for vegetarians due to its meaty texture and smoky flavor (not to mention it’s high protein and fiber content). I hardly ever cook it, but it seemed like the perfect base for a variety of Mediterranean flavors. It combines the summery fresh flavors of tomato and basil, with the crunch from the almonds and the saltiness of feta and kalamata olives. Each bite packs a ton of flavor, and nutrition. This dish is great on its own as a light meal (add garbanzo beans for more protein), or as I served it, with roasted chicken and a simple green salad. If the “stuffing” part seems difficult, you could also just dice and roast the eggplant, combine the other ingredients, and just mix together as a salad! In any form, it’s a perfect meal for entertaining, or for a simple night in for two!

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Maple Granola with Nuts, Seeds, Coconut, and Berries

Maple Granola with Nuts, Seeds, Coconut, and Berries - www.cloudthyme.comThere are some things in my life that I just like to be consistent and routine – maybe comfortable is the right word. When my life feels go-go-go, it’s nice to have some constants to rely on. Breakfast is one of those for me. As creative as I get with my lunches and dinners, I pretty much eat the same thing every morning, and in the same routine. My typical breakfast consists of either oatmeal or yogurt with walnuts and fresh berries, and hot jasmine green tea. I am one of those strange people who wakes up hungry, so I either have to eat right away or right after my barre class or jog. I truly look forward to my usual little breakfast, which I eat at my desk as I read over emails or the latest health & science news in the NYtimes. It’s just so comforting.

But lately I decided that maybe it’s time to mix it up a little. I didn’t want to stray too far from my go-to breakfast, but agreed maybe I could replace my oatmeal, nut, fruit combo with something a little more exciting and hearty. So I thought of everything I’d ideally eat with breakfast, and came up with the recipe below: a blend of my favorite nuts, seeds, fruits, and spices in one simple cereal. And I can even eat it with my yogurt! It has now become my favorite breakfast, but also dessert. It’s equally delicious with ice cream, yogurt, milk, or simply by itself. If you prefer a more chunky granola, it’s easy enough to do by forming larger pieces on the baking pans, and not stirring so much. I’ve also heard adding egg whites to the mixture helps it clump together. But I prefer my granola like this, so that I can taste every flavor individually, and so that sprinkles nicely over my little bowl of yogurt.

Maple Granola with Nuts, Seeds, Coconut, and Berries - www.cloudthyme.comThis granola combines so many powerfoods into one: oats, pepitas, almonds, flax seeds, goji berries, coconut, and cranberries. You are welcome to substitute out different nuts/seeds/dried fruit that you have on hand, but I highly encourage you to keep a wide variety because the textures and flavors balance each other out very well. This combination also provides an excellent serving of protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s, healthy fats, amino acids, and various other vitamins and nutrients. If you haven’t tried goji berries yet, you should – they are spendy but worth it! They have more antioxidants and vitamin C than any other fruit, and they are said not only to be a superfood for your health but also your brain power and energy. Interestingly, they are in the same family as tomatoes and eggplant! But don’t worry – they taste more like a cross between a dried cranberry and strawberry – so yummy. All in all, this granola mix has a nice balance of salty and sweet, with just enough crunchiness and chewiness in every bite!

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Kale, Sun-dried Tomato, and Olive Pesto

Kale, Sun-dried Tomato, & Olive Pesto - www.cloudthyme.comWhen I received a food processor a few Christmases ago, I never realized just how much I’d use it. I have far too many appliances for my tiny kitchen, and a few too many collecting dust, but my food processor may as well live on my countertop. There just seem to be endless uses for it – homemade nut butters, hummus, raw cookie dough bites, and pesto- so much pesto. Just like my food processor, there are so many ways to use pesto, and countless versions. Although I still frequently go back to my avocado pesto, this is definitely a new favorite- somewhat a blend of tapenade, bruschetta, and pesto. Instead of using this as a pasta sauce, I like it best spread on crackers or cucumber, with fresh tomato, basil, or arugula.

This pesto is hearty and flavorful, but without the cheese. I used a combination of kale, basil, sunflower seeds, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, and olive oil to create a tangy but earthy taste and texture. This was first inspired by a spread I saw on an a burger from the Oh She Glows cookbook, but I made my variation with a bit more substance and flavor, so it can stand on its own as an appetizer or light meal. A perfect classy but healthy addition to your next dinner party or just a lovely snack to enjoy in the afternoon sun!

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Superfood Quinoa Salad (vegan)

Superfood Quinoa Salad - www.cloudthyme.comSo I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a quinoa addict. It does tend to be a common theme on this blog, but it is just so delicious and versatile! I am especially inspired to whip up some quinoa in the summertime, when I’m craving a fresh but wholesome meal that can be enjoyed outdoors. The past couple of weeks have been gorgeous in Seattle, and my weekends have been filled with BBQs and potlucks, which makes me oh-so-happy. Life doesn’t get much better than enjoying good company, soaking in the last couple of hours of sun with the aromas of the grill going, and chowing down on refreshing salads, fruits, and beverages. Quinoa salads are my go-to for potlucks and picnics, and this recipe is my new favorite. I can (almost) promise you that if you bring this to your next outdoor party, you will make friends.

Superfood Quinoa Salad - www.cloudthyme.comThis salad packs an incredible number of superfoods into one delicious, flavorful punch. Although completely vegan and gluten-free, an impressive amount of protein (17g!) is provided via the quinoa, almonds, and edamame, along with a generous helping of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and nutrients from the combination of veggies, fruit, grains, nuts, and herbs. I have made several versions of this salad, but this one is my favorite, because it has the sweet, savory, spicy, salty, crunchy, and smooth all in one bite. That being said, one of the great things about this salad is how easy it is to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand. For example, you could omit the spicy ginger or replace it with dried apricot or mango. You could use any type of nut, including walnuts or peanuts. There are endless variations of this salad, so feel free to mix it up, depending on your pantry stock and cravings! To conclude, if you don’t have a BBQ or potluck already on your calendar, it’s obviously time to host one (or find new friends!), and serve this superfood quinoa salad, of course. ;)

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Spiced and Salted Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

Spiced and Salted Chocolate Walnut Cookies - www.cloudthyme.comI don’t really like those games where people ask  you “What is one thing you could never do without?” or “What are the 5 things you would take to a desert island?” I am a terrible decision maker and these just make me confused and cause me to over-think (which I do enough of anyway). But there is usually one thing that always comes to mind, whether or not it’s actually true. CHOCOLATE. How could I possibly live without chocolate? Whether it’s cocoa powder in my oatmeal or a Lindt dark chocolate truffle after dinner, I can’t seem to go a day without it. I try to eat chocolate in its purest form, which is why I decided I needed to make a cookie that was entirely centered around it. Hi my name is Theresa and I’m a chocoholic…

Although I love to experiment with different types of flours and gluten-free alternatives, I also like to keep my recipes simple. These cookies don’t have flour at all- again, giving it the super rich chocolate taste. They also don’t have any butter or oil, and only contain the whites of eggs. Instead, the heartiness is provided from the healthy fats of the walnuts, or whatever nut you choose to use. Not only do these have the savory touch of salt, but also the aromatic spices of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg, which actually only add a subtle flavor over the rich chocolate/walnut taste. The end product: a gooey, brownie-like, crunchy, decadent chocolate cookie. Hope all you chocolate addicts get as much joy from these as I do!

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Salmon Quinoa Cakes

Salmon Quinoa Cakes - www.cloudthyme.com

As a true Seattleite should, I truly love seafood, and in particular, salmon. Whether it’s raw in sushi, smoked and tossed in an omelet, or simply grilled, I am obsessed all the same. Despite this passion for salmon, and the ridiculous number of times I’ve ordered it out at restaurants, I hardly ever cook it myself. So this was my latest challenge- to find a new and creative way to make a delicious salmon dish in my own little kitchen.

With the sun peeking out lately, and the smell of dinners on the grill as I walk through my neighborhood, I have been feeling more than ready for summer.  I’m looking forward to BBQs, picnics, and dinners out on my parents’ deck, enjoying a a simple summer meal. My mom and I have a favorite when it’s just us- crabcakes from Metropolitan Market, sweet potato, a simple green salad, and a crisp glass of white wine.  But why wait til summer? And who needs premade crabcakes when you could have fancy homemade salmon cakes?

Salmon Quinoa Cakes - www.cloudthyme.comSince most seafood “cakes” contain quite a bit of gluten, I also wanted to try making one gluten-free, and with the added texture and protein that quinoa adds. I still used breadcrumbs, but these ones are made from corn, which is a great GF alternative. The salmon itself adds the majority of the flavor, but a combination of fresh dill, lemon, green onion, and bell pepper adds an extra zing and crunch. These salmon cakes are perfect on their own, but even better with a small dallop of herbed aoili and served atop a bed of mixed greens or simple salad. You could even serve these as a burger, and throw on a bun with some avocado and tomato! Let the summer food festivities begin! :)

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Veggie Chips with Herb Cucumber Dip

Baked Veggie Chips - www.cloudthyme.comI am a firm believer in the 5-6 smaller meals a day, mostly because it allows me to eat snacks- my favorite food group.  Well, I suppose my typical dinner isn’t really a “small” meal, so maybe I just divide my breakfast and lunch into 2 small meals each.  Whichever way it is, I like to eat, and I like to eat frequently, and thankfully I also like to workout to compensate…but anyway, back to snacks.  I am constantly looking for savory snacks that aren’t just my usual handful of nuts or crackers and hummus.  Whole Foods has some great snack options in the bulk aisle, including one of my favorites- veggie chips.  But they are so expensive and often broken into tiny pieces which is quite irritating!

So I decided to try to make my own veggie chips, without any of the tools I had once deemed necessary, namely a mandolin slicer and a dehydrator.  Instead, I just used my new fancy knife and my good old tiny apartment-sized oven.  These chips took a few tries to get the right crisp, and still, I can’t say they are like the veggie chips you buy at the store.  They are still a bit chewy, and don’t stay crispy once cooled or stored away, but they are delicious fresh out of the oven and also more flavorful and reminiscent of the true vegetable you are consuming(which I consider a bonus).  When reading my instructions, keep in mind that your results may differ based on the thinness and evenness of your slices, as well as your oven’s personality (They all have one).  Ideally I will soon purchase a mandolin and dehydrator, but for now, I am pretty happy with this version!

Baked Veggie Chips - www.cloudthyme.comI decided to go with a Greek theme, and make eggplant and zucchini chips with a tzatziki-type of dip.  But then I also had to add in sweet potato, because if you follow my blog, you know how in love with them I am.   I baked each of the vegetables separately, since they all have a pretty different consistency and texture.  I encourage you to try out other veggies as well- carrots, potatoes, parsnips, other squashes- the possibilities are endless.  The only seasoning used here is salt, because of the accompanying dip, but you could experiment with a savory garlic/herb combo, or a sweet cinnamon sprinkling.  However, in my opinion, simple is good, and with the strong flavors of the veggies, the tangy and refreshing chives, cucumber, lemon, and yogurt blend is a perfect balance.

Happy Snacking!

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Raw Lemon Coconut Bites

Raw Lemon Coconut Bites - www.cloudthyme.comIt’s that time of year in Seattle when we all get excited because it is “Spring!”, but the weather is as Wintery as ever. The past week has been sporadic breaks of sun amidst long-lasting, cold rainfall. This may be great for the spring flowers, but really not helped the cold I’ve been fighting for the past couple of weeks. Although my short weekend in the sunny SW improved my symptoms, they automatically returned back in the PNW rain. But luckily, food is the best medicine, and with some special Yogi tea and a few of these superpower lemon bites, I’m feeling almost as healthy as I would laying by the pool in 80 degree weather…almost.

These little cookie bites have a ton of nutrients for their size, as well as immune-boosting properties! Both lemon and honey soothe cold and sore throat symptoms, and along with coconut, are beneficial for the tummy too. I used lemon zest instead of lemon juice in this recipe, both for the added flavor and the added nutrients- turns out lemon zest has several times more vitamins than the juice. The cashews give this treat a bit more substance and protein, and the vanilla adds the extra hint of sweetness. The result of it all- a refreshingly rich, tart, and naturally sweet burst of flavor.

Raw Lemon Coconut Bites - www.cloudthyme.comWhether or not you’re feeling under the weather, or are currently experiencing downpours, these are awesome snacks.. They’re the perfect bite when you need a little pick-me-up in the middle of the day, or a bit of something sweet after a meal. I can’t say they are completely guiltless, but each ball packs less than 70 calories and only 3 grams of sugar! As most raw cookies, they are best stored in the refrigerator or freezer to keep the firmness and texture just right. And rolling them in the extra coconut just gives it an even nicer texture, and wonderful coconut taste. So enjoy!

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Collard Green Wraps with Chickpea Cashew Curry

Collard Green Wraps with Cashew Chickpea Curry - www.cloudthyme.comWraps have always been one of my favorite lunches- so many varieties of fillings, and easy to roll up and pack for school/work. However, I’ve never really gotten too creative with the actual wrap, besides maybe the flavor or “wheatiness” of my tortilla. Thanks to Instagram, my new food browsing addiction, I came up with the idea of making a collard greens wrap! Since I created my Instagram account for this blog (username: cloudthyme), I’ve been not only posting my own recipe photos, but also random food experiments in the kitchen, or delicious meals when I eat out. Furthermore, I’ve been able to get a lot of great inspiration from fellow instagrammers and bloggers who post ridiculously gorgeous and creative food pictures and recipes. But Pinterest, I still love you too!

Anyway, once I decided I was going to try a wrap using collard greens, I had to think of some kind of flavorful filling to balance out the fresh but slightly bitter taste of the greens. Since I have really never experimented with curries, I decided to give a vegan curry salad a try. I am a big fan of the chicken curry at Whole Foods, because it is only spicy in the sweet kind of way, and that is what I went for here. The chickpea, cashew, and tahini base gives the curry its hearty, creamy consistency and the veggies give the wrap the crunch and freshness. I added currants to make this curry even sweeter, and it goes so well with the curry and ginger spices. Lately I have been trying to add more spices and fresh herbs instead of salt, and this is a perfect example of a dish that hardly needs any salt added. There is enough flavor and spice in itself, especially with the tahini and fresh ginger. If you like your curry even spicier, feel free to amp it up with cayenne or hot peppers.

Collard Green Wraps with Cashew Chickpea Curry - www.cloudthyme.com

Once I learned a couple of tips, I was surprised at how easy it turned out to be to wrap this curry up into a collard green. First, you want to make sure your curry is thick, so if it is too runny, add more chickpeas and mix together well. As you will see in the recipe, I blended most of the chickpeas and cashews first, but then kept some whole to make the curry more chunky and textured. The other big tip is to trim down the stem of the collard green. This blog has a great photo-by-photo instructions for how to do this (although I didn’t even soak the leaves). Basically, you just cut off the end of the stem and then carefully shave down the stem along the center of the leaf until it is flush (or close to) with the leaf. This prevents the leaf from splitting as your roll it up like a burrito around your curry filling.

Now, onto the actual recipe, which as you may notice, is appropriately green in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day!! I am part Irish at least. :)

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Cranberry, Chocolate, and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies (vegan, GF)

Cranberry, Chocolate, and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies - www.cloudthyme.comBaking definitely involves quite a bit of experimenting and chemistry.  When creating new recipes, I can often post my savory dishes after one try, but with baking, it takes me at least a couple before it’s a dessert that I want to eat over and over again (and thus share online). Although let’s be honest- I tend to demolish my “fails” pretty quickly too. :) So as per usual, this was my 2nd take on this cookie, but I’m so glad I found the right scientific combo because this may be my new favorite go-to cookie!

These are kind of like trail mix on crack- all the deliciousness of Gorp rolled into a delectable cookie. (Side note: Is my family the only one to call trail mix “Gorp”? Or is this a Seattle thing or a Girl Scout thing? 2nd side note: I didn’t know until my adult life that it stood for “good old raisins and peanuts”. So maybe this isn’t Gorp…) Anyway- I was also very excited to make a vegan/gluten-free/soy-free cookie that tastes so delicious and “normal”- the texture is just like my favorite childhood oatmeal cookies- chewy and sweet with the added crunchiness of the CCW (my replacement for Gorp here).

Cranberry, Chocolate, and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies - www.cloudthyme.comAs you will see in the recipe directions, I highly encourage eating the dough as you go along. There are no eggs, so those of you who are typically cookie-dough-phobic, here is your chance! I based the number of cookies made (30) on my first batch (in which I shockingly abstained from eating the dough) and also this time based on subtracting the spoonfuls I ate during the process. ;) You could definitely substitute other dried fruit and nuts here if you have certain preferences or ones on hand. Also feel free to make these cookies larger, I just make them small so I feel slightly less guilty when I eat 3 at a time. Also easier to share this way! That’s all for now…Enjoy your new science experiment!

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Arugula Salad with Tangelo, Edamame, Fennel, and Avocado

Arugula Salad with Tangelo, Edamame, Fennel, and Avocado - www.cloudthyme.comMost of my meals in the winter are cooked- I crave the warm, comforting foods like roasted veggies and soups. But sometimes these cold, rainy days call for something bright and fresh, to contrast the dreary weather. And other times, there just isn’t enough time to wait for the oven or stove. Last weekend was a crazy busy one (and a rainy one, of course), so both the weather and time constraint inspired me to make something wintery fresh. I also find that when my life (typically school) is especially stressful, a delicious meal is just the right thing to take the edge off. When I walked into Whole Foods, and knew I only had a few minutes, I did what I always do: look for whatever’s on sale in the produce section. This weekend, I saw avocados (yay!) and tangelos (new!). I have only eaten tangelos a few times before, but for some reason they just taste so much better than the good old fashioned orange. So I bought a few of those, avocados galore, and then racked my brain for what else to add to my “wintery fresh” salad. Fennel seemed like the perfect winter vegetable for that extra crunch, and a combo of arugula and mixed greens for the base. For a protein source, I already had edamame at home, so voila!, my quick meal was created in 3 minutes.

Arugula Salad with Tangelo, Edamame, Fennel, and Avocado - www.cloudthyme.comThis salad completely hit the spot, and was ready in 5 minutes. I tossed the greens with a homemade sesame-soy-vinegar dressing to add a savory note to the citrusy salad. You could also use a store-bought sesame salad dressing, but this was only 4 ingredients so I suggest you try it. I always make a fair amount of dressing, and then save it in small jars in my fridge to use for other salads and stir-fries. In this dressing, I combined sesame oil, rice vinegar, Bragg’s soy seasoning, and agave. You could definitely substitute normal soy sauce and honey or maple syrup too. If you haven’t tried Bragg’s though, I highly recommend- it has a distinct flavor that I actually prefer to soy sauce, it’s gluten-free, and has a whole slew of amino acids that your body needs.

The whole salad is amazingly nutritious. All of the vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamins and fiber, and the edamame has plenty of protein to keep you full for longer. (For detailed nutrition info, see nutrition fact chart at end of post). If you’re extra hungry, I would suggest doubling the edamame or adding another protein source such as chicken or tofu. As I’ve mentioned before, fennel is excellent for digestion, but also for your breath. So maybe save a piece of raw fennel to eat at the end of your meal too? :) Anyway, here is the recipe, hope you enjoy!

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Chicken Quinoa Stew with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Crispy Chickpeas

Chicken Quinoa Stew with Butternut Squash and Kale - www.cloudthyme.comSome days (both healthy and sick) you just need chicken soup. Those days are pretty frequent for me in the winter, and I find myself lazily pulling a “healthy” pre-packaged box (why is all the organic/natural soup sold in boxes now?) from the shelf at WF more than I would like to admit. So recently I decided I needed to kick the habit and make something much more delicious, hearty, and wholesome than the store-bought, preservative-filled kind. This creation completely converted me to homemade soup and was way easier than I had anticipated- even without a dutch oven!

The best part about making soup or stews is that you can pretty much ad-lib in any way you please. It was actually hard for me to think about measurements while making this for the blog, because the first couple of times I made it I just threw in however much of each ingredient I wanted (aka super heavy on the squash and herbs). But if you like to follow directions to a tee, what you see listed below should work out excellently. Also, if you’re like me, and have little meat-cooking experience, it is pretty much impossible to go wrong cooking this chicken. Due to the fact that it cooks in broth and with so many flavors, it can’t dry out or taste bland. Win-win!

Chicken Quinoa Stew with Butternut Squash and Kale - www.cloudthyme.comNot only is this stew super easy and comforting for the winter, it is also full of superfood ingredients that will keep your body happy too. As you can see from my new nifty nutrition fact box, there is an abundance of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vitamins in one bowl.  I added one extra health boost by topping the stew with roasted chickpeas (every soup needs that extra crunch), but you could also make homemade croutons or throw on some crispy bacon if you’re feeling indulgent. Feel free to play around with vegetables, such as different root vegetables, or spices- thyme, bay leaves, or oregano could be delicious as well. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the making and consuming of this soup so much that you’ll also be a homemade soup convert (or at least 85% of the time, like me)! :)

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Pink Lemonade Cookies

Pink Lemonade Cookies - www.cloudthyme.com

There are always mixed feelings in regards to Valentine’s Day, so much so that February 14th is also known as “Single’s Awareness Day” or just a Hallmark Holiday. Whatever your sentiments about this Friday, we can all agree that it is an excellent excuse to gorge yourself on sweets. Personally, I am more than happy to accept chocolates in any form, including giant hearts or artificial roses ;)

So for this Valentine’s Day, or any day really, here is a sugary treat for you all to enjoy (equally delicious alone or with your valentine)! I knew that I wanted to with a pink theme, but in the dead of winter, was especially inspired to do something completely out of season- pink lemonade! I added just enough fresh lemon juice and zest to give this cookie a bit of a zing, but not enough to overpower the sweetness of the cane sugar and vanilla. To get the pink color, I used good-old-fashioned red food coloring, but if you are more granola than me, I highly recommend trying making your own from beets! Here are instructions for that.

Pink Lemonade Cookies - www.cloudthyme.comThese pink lemonade cookies were some of the easiest baked goods I’ve ever made, and oh-so chewy and buttery. But there’s actually no butter in this cookie! There is actually no dairy, egg, or gluten at all, and you would never know it. These are made with soy butter and the extra indulgent addition of soy cream cheese. I used Bob’s Red Mill GF all-purpose flour (made from garbanzo beans), but you could use any type of general flour here, as well as dairy products in equal proportions to what I used in these vegan/GF version.

Whatever your dietary preference, be sure to top with rainbow sprinkles! Side note: I was recently at Starbucks and overheard the best order: “I would like a grande salted caramel mocha with extra fun please” aka she wanted more sprinkles…amazing! A girl after my own heart. So I hope these cookies provide the extra fun you need to get through this wonderful (or awful) sugar-high holiday!

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Vegan Caribbean Bowl

Vegan Caribbean bowl - www.cloudthyme.comI have been wanting to try out a new kind of flavor, that I’m not as familiar with in my own cooking or even going out to restaurants. There is no shortage of amazing places to eat and try new foods in Seattle, particularly when it comes to New American, Asian, and even many European cuisines. However, one deficit in the area, at least in my exploration (which is quite vast in my foodie life) is in the Caribbean/Jamaican genre…thus resulting in this adventure of creating a giant and flavor-blasted Caribbean Jerk Bowl!

*Note: the psychologist in me wonders if in my subconscious, I was inspired to make this dish based on the movie Cool Runnings. After all, it is the Winter Olympics right now and my favorite relevant movie is about the Jamaican bobsled team…I’m just saying, may have been a factor here. Anyway!

Vegan Caribbean bowl - www.cloudthyme.comThis bowl may be vegan, but it is packed full of hearty ingredients like coconut rice, black beans, avocado, and cashews. Yet the freshness and tang of the pineapple, bell pepper, scallions, and cilantro make it taste light and comforting at the same time. You can choose to keep the presentation as so, or mix it all together, but either way every bite is a little bit different, with a mix of crunchy and creamy; spicy and sweet.

Now when I say spicy, I don’t mean spicy hot, but rather an earthy, Caribbean spicy made from a combination of allspice, thyme, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger. The first time I made these bowls, I kept the spices dry, but then realized the flavors would spread better with a sauce. So I combined those spices with a mixture inspired by a jerk-style marinade. The result: a burst of spice without the fire-in-your-mouth. If that’s your thing though, just go crazy with some cayenne or chili pepper.

Although this looks like a lot of ingredients and preparation, there’s hardly any cooking- just a bit of chopping and tossing together. Only takes about 30 minutes! This is also a perfect opportunity to make this recipe your own – mix it up with kidney beans, mango, plantains…or just keep it simple and omit a couple of ingredients if this is just too crazy of a mix for you! But I encourage this taste explosion…enjoy :)

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Ginger-Lime Edamame Dip

Ginger-Lime Edamame Dip - www.cloudthyme.com

This weekend is a pretty big deal. As in HUGE in Seattle. Even if you’re not a football or Seahawks fan, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the Seahawks/12th man fever. Summary: GO HAWKS!!! So, along this theme, I’m obviously focused on the best Super Bowl viewing snacks. Obviously this snack had to be green or blue, and green is a bit more my style, so I decided I’d just have to go with the blue background. :)

My first green thought was my favorite hummus from Oh She Glows. I used her recipe as an inspiration and adapted it into a ginger-lime edamame dip. This “hummus” has no actual chickpeas or beans except for edamame/soybeans. What it does have is tahini and an abundance of spices and herbs that leave you with a zingy, summery taste that is refreshingly light compared to the usual this time of year. The fresh ginger and lime juice is key, as well as fresh garlic. For spices I added cumin and coriander (powdered) but since it’s all processed you could use whole seeds as well.  Although these are strong spices, due to the ginger and lime, they don’t overpower. And most importantly, the dip remains a beautiful bright green color!

Ginger-Lime Edamame Dip - www.cloudthyme.com

As you will see below, I have added a new “nutrition fact” box for this recipe. I am planning to include this in all my recipes now. Although I don’t believe in calorie counting, it is useful to see the protein/fiber/vitamins/carbs/sugar if you are trying to add or control for those types of things. As you can see in this recipe for instance, just 1/4 cup serving is almost 9 grams of protein- pretty impressive for a green dip! Edamame is definitely a powerhouse when it comes to protein, fiber, and folic acid. I’m not a big tofu fan, but pure soy in this form is a great protein and nutrient source for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Now good luck only eating 1/4 cup!

This dip is best served with fresh vegetables, such as cucumber, carrots, celery, or bell peppers. Due to its tanginess, it would also pair well with tortilla chips (maybe blue!) or pita chips. When I finally splurge and get a dehydrator, I’m going to eat these with homemade vege chips too… However you choose to eat this dip (spoon is totally acceptable), enjoy each flavor-bursting bite and GO SEAHAWKS!!!

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Nutella Brownies with Hazelnuts

IMG_6469This recipe enabled me to finally use (almost) all my new Christmas kitchen toys! A new shiny green hand mixer, fancy knife, and napkins handmade by my mom and sister were all much appreciated today. Not that I need extra motivation to cook, but my new toys definitely gave me an extra pep boost while baking. So this is just a shout-out to the wonderful members of my family who have all contributed immensely to my cooking career! I am a lucky girl.

Now onto the recipe of the day…homemade nutella turned into dairy-free, gluten-free nutella brownies! These are incredibly indulgent tasting without the actual indulgent guilt. The first half of this recipe is dedicated to the making of the dairy-free nutella. Even Whole Foods doesn’t carry this, and I was just craving that rich chocolate-hazelnut taste. Turns out it’s super easy to make! Throw some hazelnuts, cocoa powder, agave, and a couple other little ingredients in a food processor and voila- delicious nutella. My nutella recipe was inspired by one of my favorite “healthy sugar high” blogs, Chocolate-Covered Katie.

Nutella Brownies - www.cloudthyme.com

The nutella is amazing on its own, on toast, fruit, or whatever else your heart desires. However, I wanted more, aka gooey rich brownies. These are dairy-free and gluten-free. In fact there’s only a half cup of flour in the whole batch, and it’s oat flour. This was my first experience using oat flour, and I really liked how nice of a match it was to normal flour- not as complicated as figuring out the ratios for almond or coconut flour. Much of my “dry” mixture came from cocoa powder though- my personal favorite superfood. Not only is cocoa a decadent treat, but it is low in calories and high in fiber, iron, and magnesium. More importantly it is packed with antioxidants and most importantly it contains a chemical called phenethylamine, which causes your brain to release endorphins to make you feel happy! Yes, there is a neurological reason for the rush of happiness when biting into chocolate, and especially these brownies. :)

If you aren’t convinced yet, maybe the addition of hazelnuts will do the trick. Although there’s already hazelnuts in the nutella, I wanted the extra crunch in the brownies so added a whole cup of crushed hazelnuts to the mixture at the very end. These little nuts (and all other kinds) have been big talk in the health news as of late. The New York Times just published two articles last month to endorse snacking on nuts. Here’s one example. So here you go- this is your opportunity to have your cake and eat it too! Each brownie is only 130 calories. Healthy indulgences are the best.

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Dragon’s Loyalty Award

A big thank you to DeliciouslyNell of I Need a Feed for nominating me for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award! I am fairly new to the blogging world and appreciate this wonderful new network of fellow food- and health-lovers. Definitely check out the I Need a Feed blog for lots of delicious recipes!

dragon's loyalty awardThere are several rules for this award…

  • Display award certificate.
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Share 7 things other bloggers may not know about you.
  • Nominate others!

As promised, here are my 7 random “fun facts”:

  1. I am a huge puzzle nerd- I love crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, etc. I once won a crossword competition in college. :)
  2. There is never a time when I don’t have dark chocolate in my house. I need it to survive!
  3. Although I am pretty obsessed with my Barre workouts, and actually pretty good at it, I am an extremely uncoordinated person and frequently hit doorways when walking.
  4. I don’t own a car so I get a ton of exercise just from walking. My Jawbone UP tells me I walk an average of 5 miles a day!
  5. Before deciding on my Psychology Phd Career, when I was 8 I wanted to be a fashion designer and singer. (Note: I am a terrible singer and not extremely fashionable).
  6. I am obsessed with sushi. I am also obsessed with soy sauce and see nothing wrong with soaking each sushi piece in it before eating. ;)
  7. I was once stuck on the Eiffel Tower elevator for over an hour. I was 12 and the only American! Now I have a fear of all elevators and am willing to walk up a ridiculous number of stairs.

Now for my nominations…

The Love of Food
Honk if You’re Vegan
The Jolly Beetroot

Not only have these bloggers been awesome supporters of my blog, but I am a huge fan of theirs! Happy Blogging Day!

Thyme Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Grapes, and Pistachios

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and GrapesI only discovered my love of brussels sprouts a couple of years ago, and apparently right when they also became one of the “trendy” vegetables.  Brussels sprouts are all the rage right now on pinterest, right next to cauliflower…who would have guessed? Not only are brussels sprouts full of healthy fiber and nutrients, but they are relatively high in protein for a vegetable, and contain those powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants. Although a popular way to cook them is with butter and bacon, my lighter vegan method is just as delicious!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and GrapesI have been wanting to try roasting grapes since I saw this grilled bread recipe, and decided that the grapes would be a nice sweet pairing with the cruciferous vegetables. When roasted, grapes develop an even sweeter and softer taste but maintain their texture well. The earthy, winter flavor of fresh thyme compliments the sweet roasted grapes and savory brussels sprouts, but dried could be used as well. With the added crunchy, salty pistachios and the light but hearty quinoa, this is a satisfying but fresh dinner for these wintery and stormy nights!

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Raw Energy Bars

Raw Energy BarsMy primary form of exercise for the last year has been Barre- it’s an amazing full body workout and actually makes working out fun. For the first time in my life I have arm muscles and real abs! I am not just saying this to try to force my friends to do Barre with me, this is relevant to my energy bar recipe! Sometimes I need a little pre-Barre fuel, or a well-deserved post-workout treat (or both…) but I have struggled in finding an energy bar that a) tastes good, b) doesn’t cost >$2 a bar, and c) doesn’t have a bunch of crap/unrecognizable ingredients.  Although my cookie dough bites sometimes fit the bill, I wanted something higher in protein and a bit less sweet.

For all those who care: these energy bars are raw, vegan, and grain-free. They are packed with healthy omega-3s, protein, fiber, and antioxidants- perfect to get me through a workout or satiate me after until my next meal. These take just 10 minutes to make and consist of only a few ingredients- such a simple little energy-filled snack!

Note: The bars I made are very thin, but if you want a more typical bar shape, just double the recipe but use the same size pan.

Enjoy! Hopefully this recipe not only inspires you to try these super-easy bars but also to get up and move (preferably Barre)! :)

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Kale Salad with Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Fennel, and Sunflower Seeds

Pomegranate Kale Salad - Cloud Thyme

I have been on a serious pomegranate kick for the past few weeks. Although I’ve always liked pomegranates, it was only recently that I learned an “easy” way to de-seed a pomegranate, which is obviously super exciting. So now I will share my newfound knowledge with you: first cut off the top and bottom of the pomegranate, then use knife to lightly cut lines from the top to bottom, creating wedges on the surface. When you use your hands to peel away each wedge, there will be clusters of seeds exposed and easy to pick them off or brush into a bowl. Yay! You can see video describing this better than me too. It’s just so rewarding when you finally get them all!

Although pomegranate seeds are delicious on their own, they are also the perfect addition to a superfood salad. I was about to go into all the nutritional advantages of pomegranates, but honestly all the ingredients in this salad are ridiculously good for you, so the list of total health benefits would be far too long! Even beyond nutrition, the combination of citrusy kale, sweet pomegrantes, crunchy sunflower seeds, buttery squash, and savory fennel is a refreshing dish in the winter. It doesn’t hurt that it looks a little Christmasy!

I tend to use cooked kale in my dishes, whether it be soups or sautés, but I decided to give the raw kale “massage” technique a try.  It is actually kind of fun to use your hands to massage the kale, and see the drastic difference it makes. The crispy bitter pieces quickly begin to wilt, soften, shrink, and mellow in flavor. The lemon, salt, and olive oil also help aid this process, which works out well with the dressing for this salad. With the ingredients already so flavorful, a simple citrusy olive oil vinaigrette balances it all out nicely.

Pomegranate Kale Salad - Cloud Thyme

For those of you who are meat eaters, I served this salad with pomegranate chicken, inspired by this recipe that I saw on Pinterest. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, but overall the chicken and salad was a delicious and festive combination that I highly recommend!

Hopefully you will enjoy your de-seeding, massaging, and snacking along the way as much as I did while making this recipe. Share and enjoy!

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Vegan Chocolate Truffles

vegan chocolate truffles - Cloud Thyme

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I LOVE the holiday season. When the days are short and the cold is biting, Christmas makes it all so much better. I am a huge stickler for the traditions: stockings, cookies for Santa, reading the Night Before Christmas with my sisters, and even letters to Santa. But what I love even more is the holiday atmosphere in December: the bright lights, decorations, music, parties, treats, and sense of wanting to give back. For the sentimental like me, it’s the time of year I can relentlessly shower those I love with affection and, of course, sugar.

Gift-giving is a major hobby of mine and I always try to get as crafty as possible this time of year, mostly because it’s much more fun giving things that are homemade (and obviously in part due to my grad school stipend limits!)  This year I decided to combine my two favorites: homemade gifts and “healthy” baking. And voila, so began the mass production of vegan truffles! They take a bit of time from start to finish with the heating and cooling and rolling, but overall such a easy recipe with very few ingredients.

The base of the truffle is simple: dairy-free chocolate, coconut milk, and oil or butter. From there, it is just a matter of what type of flavor you want for the truffle. I made three batches with a few of my favorites: ginger, coconut, and almond. Adding just a touch of extract or even liqueur to the truffle base gives it a distinct and rich taste. Then rolling the truffles in various toppings gives it texture, flavor, and a unique presentation. Other truffle varieties I have yet to try but encourage: peppermint, toffee, bourbon, orange…the list goes on! Without further ado, here are my three varieties of vegan chocolate truffles and I can almost guarantee that you and your friends will be in guiltless bliss! :)

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Miso Ginger Noodles with Eggplant, Shiitakes, and Bok Choy

Miso Noodle Bowl

After Thanksgiving week gluttony, it is back to the grind! Which for me, also means a (short) break from baking sugary treats and transitioning back to healthy meals. Although eating pie for breakfast and dessert is wonderful, I needed to do something more positive for my nutritional well-being. After copious amounts of hearty food, I was craving something completely different, yet still comforting- and immediately though of miso and ginger…and eggplant!  Yes, random, but that is what I do best.

I’ve never experimented with miso before and am only familiar with it from the many bowls of miso soup I’ve had with sushi. There are valid nutritional reasons to cook with miso though. For those who are also new to the miso boat, it is a fermented paste made out of soybeans, rice or other grains, and koji, the “starter” for the fermenting process. Therefore it is full of good-for-you probiotics! There are also various types/colors of miso. The white miso has a mellower, sweeter flavor because it has a higher percentage of rice, whereas the red has a higher soybean content and is made with barley or other grains, giving it a more intense flavor.

I used the white miso for this recipe, because I combined the miso with other Asian flavors such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil to create a sweet but tangy sauce.  To keep this noodle dish light but also substantial enough for a meal, I threw in vegetables with a variety of colors and textures. The eggplant is especially great for vegetarian dishes because of it’s meaty texture and earthy flavor. It also soaks up flavors like a sponge. The bok choy and shiitakes are also a welcome change from the fall/winter rut of squashes and kale. So enjoy this new, healthy meal to start off your December and your tastebuds and tummy will thank you!

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Chai-Spiced Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Banana Chai Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Bananas are easily my least favorite fruit. I just don’t understand the appeal of the chalky, mushy, inevitably brown-spotted snack. Yet sometimes I still buy them because I hear they’re good for you and when still slightly green, they’re edible. As per usual though, the slightly green bananas on my counter quickly turned to spotted brown before I mustered up the interest to eat them. And the only thing I could think of to do with them besides throw them away was to bake. I’m also still soaking up all the flavors of fall and keeping warm with my chai tea, so the chai seemed like a perfect autumn addition to this classic muffin. And I’ve yet to add chocolate to a recipe which is shocking given my addiction, so I gave in to my natural impulses.

I’ve been on a coconut kick lately, and love the use of coconut flour in muffins (remember the lemon rosemary? nostalgic moment for my first post ever…) so I came up with something using both coconut flour and oil, that still doesn’t actually give off the flavor of coconut.  I also replaced egg with flax seed meal and water, not only to cater to vegans, but also for that nutty flavor and texture.

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Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Kale, Chickpeas, Rosemary Onions, and Balsamic Glaze

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - www.cloudthyme.com

There are many things I love about living alone, but cooking for one is not always one of them. Most of the time my recipes result in way too much for me to eat, unless I  have the same thing every night of the week. And let’s be honest- leftovers are super good the first day and then increasingly monotonous. Especially when you are a foodie like me. Sometimes I just want a roommate to eat the rest of what’s in the fridge- even without asking! First World Problems, I know. Luckily, I have 2 solutions to this serious overflowing-tupperware-in-fridge dilemma. #1: friends and coworkers to bring the leftovers to. #2: creating recipes that can easily be prepared for one (or of course more!)

In this stuffed sweet potato recipe, for instance, you can easily roast just one potato and sauté only the amount of greens/onions you’d like for one. Or what I often do is make a whole bunch of the filling and save that, but only bake one potato at a time. Not only are the portions flexible in this recipe, but so are the fillings and accompaniments. I have made this sweet potato endless ways, and served it as an entire meal, as well as a side for roast chicken (see picture below). You can use any kind of leafy green, replace the onions with shallots, use a different type of bean, add goat cheese or feta, try different herbs, and even stuff a winter squash instead of potato.

This is my favorite version, as well as the healthiest of those I’ve created so far. I call it Cozy Superfoods Unite. The rosemary pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the potato, the roasted chickpeas add a nice crunch, and the balsamic glaze adds a sweet tang that brings it all together with a bite. Not to mention it’s a lovely and ambitiously-nutritious meal to impress your friends with! Bon appétit!

Stuffed Sweet Potato - www.cloudthyme.com

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Winter Squash, Mushroom, and Sage Risotto

Squash, Mushroom, & Sage Risotto

When I think of my go-to comfort foods, risotto is definitely in my top 5 list. Unfortunately it’s not the quickest recipe to make, but it’s always well-worth the wait. One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that it can be prepared in such a variety of ways and it’s so difficult to mess it up (as long as you just keep stirring).  WIth all the wonderful winter squashes in the front of the stores right now, I have stocked up my kitchen and am having no trouble finding ways to use them. This will be the first of many!

I try my best to avoid dairy, and although risotto is typically made with cheese, it’s definitely not necessary. The cheese/milk is not what gives risotto its creaminess; it’s everything else that does. That being said, if you are a cheese-lover, parmesan is an excellent addition. Even without the cheese, this risotto is rich, comforting, and creamy but extremely healthy. The combination of sage and thyme gives it a unique flavor with a little bite, and the leeks in place of onion add a more complex flavor that goes perfectly with the squash and mushrooms. I’ve made this twice and used both delicata and butternut squash- both are delicious, and acorn or pumpkin would be as well. However, delicata and butternut are easier to use just because the skin is softer and easier to peel.

Since you’ve already opened a bottle of white to be used in this recipe, pour yourself a glass as you cook and relax by the stove. Cheers!

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Apple and Crystallized Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

apple & ginger oatmeal cookies

More cookies…I couldn’t resist! They are my favorite food group. I also am constantly volunteering to bring cookies to various parties or meetings so that’s my legitimate excuse. I had no choice but to bake this week! I have also realized it is helpful to bake on cold days in my little apartment because the oven heats the whole thing right up. So nice! There’s nothing better than a warm, cookie aroma-filled home.

In thinking about various fall-flavored cookies, I knew I wanted to use fresh apple so I was originally planning on a caramel apple theme. But that just couldn’t excite me- everyone has had that combo before. I also wanted to make something completely vegan- and caramel does not fit in that category (although I could make it from scratch…future post?) As I was drinking my ginger tea it hit me…sugared ginger! I sometimes eat Trader Joe’s crystallized ginger as a snack but had never considered it as a baking ingredient. Immediately it seemed like the perfect accompaniment to my apple and oatmeal cookie. And low and behold, Whole Foods sells crystallized ginger in bite sized pieces that are perfect for adding to any baking recipe! Win.

If you aren’t already sold on ginger, here is why you should be. (A) it is delicious in a multitude of forms: raw, pickled, crystallized, powdered, brewed. (B) it is great for digestion and can even help with motion-sickness and pretty much any other stomach ailment. (C) it is a natural anti-inflammatory so it helps relieve pain and even migraines. (D) it boosts your metabolism and improves blood circulation. That definitely makes it a super food!

Now onto the deliciously chewy, buttery, sweet, and simultaneously spicy vegan cookie recipe…

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Rosemary Fig Jam, Turkey, Apple, and Arugula Sandwich

Rosemary Fig Jam, Turkey, Apple, Arugula Sandwich

As a kid, I didn’t know what a fig was besides the filling of a fig newton. And I only had negative feelings toward fig newtons- how could they be put in the dessert aisle? They were far too healthy looking and tasting. Now that I’ve reached the ripe old age of 25, I have a much deeper appreciation and fondness for figs. These little gems are delicious in many forms- roasted with balsamic, sliced and served with crackers and cheese, wrapped in bacon, and best of all, made into jam. This was my first “jamming” experience, but it will most certainly not be my last!

My initial inspiration for the combination of rosemary and fig came from a recipe on Pinterest I came across a couple of months ago. However, I also wanted to incorporate some other ideas I had including the addition of the sweet brandy flavor as well as whole rosemary leaves and lemon zest in the jam. Many recipes I’ve seen use dried figs, and this does speed up the process but I can assure you fresh figs make this extra delicious. Due to the cost of figs and my lack of interest in the whole canning process, this recipe only makes one small jar of jam, but a little bit goes a long way. The lemon’s acidity keeps the jam fresh for longer too, so you could definitely make more and save it to use with crackers and cheese or on your Sunday morning french toast!

The possibilities for using this jam are obviously endless, but I decided it’s first appearance would be as the “gourmet” in my favorite lunchtime classic- the sandwich. Sandwiches have been a staple in my family since the beginning of time (well my time at least). I can’t remember ever going on a family outing or vacation without  the sandwich production line in the morning and then someone asking in the car, “Who has the sandwiches??” My love for sandwiches has only grown stronger, not that I’ve outgrown PB&J and grown into using condiments such as caramelized onions, tapenade, or FIG JAM. And now that I’m back in school, I need delicious lunchbox treats like this to get me through the day!

I based the rest of the ingredients in this sandwich on the fig jam and what would compliment it best – tart green apple, roasted turkey, and bitter arugula. This sandwich combines sweet, salty, tart, and spicy all in one. The optional mayo and/or cheese also adds a bit of creaminess, which is always a nice addition but not necessary and definitely a bit less healthy- so I’ll leave that one up to you. Any kind of bread works here- I made one with ciabatta and one with an oat nut sandwich bread- and I think I actually preferred the old-fashioned sliced bread because the tastes of the fillings were more pronounced. Choose your own adventure and happy lunching!

Rosemary Fig Jam

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Pumpkin Almond Pecan Cookies

Pumpkin Almond Pecan Cookies

The first day of fall passed and now it is winter! I’m honestly not sure what happened but one day it was sunny and then next I’m wearing my down coat. On the bright side, it is now perfectly acceptable to eat and drink pumpkin is mass quantities. (It is also now acceptable to wear my favorite smartwool socks and put my spaceheater fire-hazardly close to me wherever I happen to be in my apartment). It’s that time of year when the line at Starbucks is even longer and the customers are even more crazy – all for the pumpkin spice latte fix (I have fallen victim too…). Hence the recipe of the week- pumpkin cookies!

If I hadn’t been making these cookies for the blog, I most likely would have added chocolate chips, but I wanted to do something a little more original and “fall-y” so I used toasted pecan pieces to give the cookies that same crunch. Since these cookies are gluten/grain-free and made with almond meal as the flour, nuts are a central theme and taste here. I also traded in coconut oil for the butter, my new favorite dairy-free substitute. These are sweet enough for dessert but healthy enough for a morning or afternoon snack. Note: they do have quite a different consistency than normal cookies- they’re more like pumpkin pie, both in taste and texture. The pumpkin puree gives them a moistness (I honestly tried so hard to avoid that word but you should thesaurus it and see the other suggestions- eek!) that lets it melt in your mouth. Happy fall and cheers to pumpkins!

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Sweet Potato, Beet, Avocado, and Farro Salad

Sweet Potato, Beet, Avocado, and Farro Salad - www.cloudthyme.com

One of my biggest food pet peeves is the mislabeling of sweet potatoes in pretty much every grocery store and recipe. Fact: those orange fleshed taters are not yams. Neither are the pale yellow/white ones. Yams are actually a completely different species and have a gray bark-like skin. Check it out here. Not only do they look different, but sweet potatoes have more protein, fiber and vitamin A than yams. Maybe this isn’t news to some of you, or maybe you just don’t care as much as me, but I thought you should know. :) This recipe calls for sweet potatoes (the orange/brown ones) which I have missed so much this summer. Warning: sweet potato recipes on this site may grow exponentially between now and February.

I also wanted to experiment a bit with using a grain other than quinoa, and farro won. My sister cooks with farro pretty often and I always love those recipes of hers, so I decided to give it a go too. Similar to brown rice, farro has a nutty flavor and gives this salad a nice little crunch. Unlike rice or quinoa, farro retains the slight chewiness even if overcooked! I hadn’t realized how many types of farro there are either: pearl, semi-pearl, whole-grain…and I learned that whole-grain has the most nutrients (ha big surprise), but pearl is the fastest to cook. It’s up to you which you use in this recipe- they all taste good to me and they are all healthy, low-gluten options.

This salad is best prepped ahead of time to allow the roasted beets, sweet potatoes, and farro to cool in the refrigerator before assembling. Like most of my salads, I like to individually plate each one (presentation is half the fun!). That being said, I have also packed this salad in tupperware (dressing separate until lunchtime) and it’s been an excellent to-go meal. Feel free to experiment with different roasted vegetables, depending on what’s in season. Also for a little more protein and crunch, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds are a nice addition to sprinkle on top. Enjoy!

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Lemon Goat Cheese Vege Pasta

Lemon Goat Cheese Vege Pasta - www.cloudthyme.com

These past couple of weeks, Seattle is having some identity issues deciding whether it’s summer or fall. One day (or minute) it’s pouring and the next it’s 80 degrees and the sun is blazing. This has obviously also affected my cooking- do I want cold or hot? Is it time to break out the comfort foods of fall or grasp the last of the farmer’s market goods? Although I still have 3 more glorious weeks of summer before statistics class #3 and the rest of the UW academic world starts back up, I’m surrounded by 5-year-olds at work telling me about their kindergarten orientation (guess what- even before they’ve started elementary school they say that recess will be the best part- smart!) and their moms pretending that their “babies” are the ones who are nervous about leaving home all day. Clearly this is a time of transition, so I decided to mimic the Seattle identity crisis and just combine fall and summer into one dish.

You could almost call it glorified mac and cheese- it’s at least got the warm, creamy comfort food feel. Once again, I’m back to the goat because it’s oh-so-delicious-and-tummy-friendly. Kale is wonderful because it works for every season. Typically I cook with curly kale but I wanted to give lacinato (dino) kale a fair chance too- and I was just as impressed. Mushrooms are another great year-round ingredient and especially in vegetarian dishes- they give it that “meaty” substance without the heaviness. And then the lemon, basil, and bell pepper are just tart and refreshing, holding on to that summer sun. Mix all that together and voila- tangy, cheesy, fresh dinner is served!

Lemon Goat Cheese Pasta - www.cloudthyme.com

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Raw Vegan Cookie Dough Bites

Raw Cookie Dough Bites from www.cloudthyme.com

There are many reasons why I love baking.  One is purely hedonistic- I love sweet things- the end. Another is that it’s therapeutic. Maybe it’s the aroma or maybe it’s the process but either way I feel just as refreshed from cookie-making (minus the eating too much dough) as I do after a great workout. Lastly, it’s always been an extremely useful social skill. It’s a pretty simple fact that people like you a little better when you bake for them. In fact, it’s my go-to way to make friends, keep friends, and fix friendships (well one of my ways at least). Maybe that’s cheating but it’s definitely a win-win for everyone.

Lately though, it’s been more difficult to make everyone happy with sugar because people are actually wanting healthier things! As more and more friends and coworkers have special dietary restrictions and just want overall wholesome foods, I have had to adjust my skill set accordingly. This is actually still a win-win because most of the time (minus those cupcakes I made last week…), I like to eat healthy too. So here is my good-for-you sweet recipe, that is so easy it only includes the pre-baking process. Most importantly, I’m still making friends happy.

Various versions of these have popped up all over Pinterest, and I’ve tried many of them over the past year but I’m pretty confident in my own recipe here. They truly taste like cookie dough, sticky goodness and all. Plus they are protein-packed and nutritious- perfect to eat as a snack and as dessert. You don’t even have to share them- no guilt! But as usual, I will share with all.

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Avocado, Basil, and Cilantro Pesto Pasta

Avocado/Basil/Cilantro Pesto Pasta from www.cloudthyme.com

In the summer, I can’t help but find a way to eat avocado with everything, or just by itself. Sometimes if I’m having an especially intense craving I just buy one, cut it in half, and eat it with a spoon for a snack. Yum. That delicious creamy goodness works on everything from salads to tacos to pasta, apparently. I first saw the avocado pasta idea on one of my favorite blogs, Oh She Glows. I made her version and it was really good, but I wanted something with a little more kick and protein. When avocados were only $1 at WF yesterday, I decided I had to make my own version of the avocado pesto. This time I added cilantro, basil, lime, and walnuts over a hearty bowl of pasta, chicken, and roasted baby tomatoes.  It’s definitely a comfort food but has the fresh, zingy taste of summer in every bite.

This pesto is not just for the pasta either. If you follow my recipe exactly, there should be leftover pesto that can be spread on a sandwich or used as a dip for veges. Even better is toasting slices of french bread, spreading some pesto on it, and topping it with some fresh chopped tomatoes or roasted pepper – voila, bruschetta. This pesto doesn’t have any cheese and is light on the oil, which isn’t missed with the added avocado and walnuts, and makes it even more healthy and flavorful! Although this pesto and pasta dish is best served day-of to maintain the bright green color, it still tastes just as delicious eaten the next day too.

Avocado/Basil/Cilantro Pesto from www.cloudthyme.com

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Smoked Salmon Niçoise Salad (with pickled onions and capers)

Smoked Salmon Niçoise Salad with pickled onions and capers from www.cloudthyme.com

My mom introduced me to the traditional Niçoise salad when she visited me in college and we went to Saint Honore Bakery – I fell in love immediately. It’s the perfect entree salad: fresh, flavorful, hearty, and beautiful. I’ve had dozens of Niçoise salads over the years, and many of them with my mom. Just last week she made an amazing version with crab cakes on top and we savored them over the “impassioned” season finale of the Bachelorette. Yum. (and go Team Chris/Seattle!) Although I’m still intimidated to cook for my mom (she’s literally the best cook I know and I’m not just saying that- ask anyone), I might just work up the courage to make my own version for her on our next French-inspired girls night.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the traditional Niçoise salad, these are the typical ingredients: tuna, potatoes, anchovies, egg, green beans, olives, and tomatoes with a lemony dressing. The traditional version of this salad was the first time I tried something with tuna and liked it, probably because it’s not typically tuna from the can. But still, I much prefer any kind of fish besides tuna and anchovies. Being a Seattle native I am obviously pretty passionate about salmon (and especially eating it). I’m pretty sure I eat some form of salmon (cooked, smoked, sushi) way more than is healthy but you can’t win them all. So as you can guess, I wanted to make a Niçoise salad that included salmon. When I decided on this I immediately thought of one of my favorite brunch foods- bagels with cream cheese, lox, red onions, and lox. So why not combine two of my favorite meals into one?

I combined my favorite ingredients of the Nicoise with my favorite smoked salmon combo, and then added in a couple of extra twists with homemade pickled red onions and herbed vinaigrette over a bed of mixed greens. This salad is designed as an entire meal and should serve 4 people for lunch or dinner. The most important part is to plate each one individually to keep the lovely French presentation! Red wine not included here but entirely endorsed.

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Almond, Goat Cheese, and Blueberry Tarts

Almond, Goat Cheese, and Blueberry Tarts from www.cloudthyme.com

Since I started this whole blogging thing, I’ve been waking up in the morning with new recipes on my mind. Afraid that I’ll forget, like I often do in my sleep-deprived state, I jot down my ideas on post-its which are now covering my desk, thankfully in a colorful assortment. Anyway, I decided this was my best wake-up recipe idea of the week and at least worth a try. Luckily they turned out just the way I hoped- creamy, with a little tart and a little sweet. Not bad for gluten and (cow)dairy-free!

Originally I was going to make this a very-gluten recipe, with traditional pie crust and filling. But I like challenges (probably too much) and so my own GF creation was manifested. I think I was feeling especially gung-ho today when I began this recipe because I had spent the entire rest of the day building (and  re-building) IKEA  furniture and hammering things in the wall. If I could get through 3 ikea manuals in 2 hours I could do anything! Plus my fingers just needed a rest from turning 100 screws in with their “tool” they call the allen key. But I am digressing…

The best thing about making this recipe GF is that almond meal gives this little tart an extra boost of protein and that nutty flavor which goes so well with fruit and cheese. I have never used coconut oil in my baking life so this inspired me to try it in the almond crust today. Not only is it good for you but it’s so delicious and a great replacement for butter. Although this recipe does have dairy in the form of goat cheese, most other people like me who avoid dairy (but are not vegans) can tolerate goat milk/cheese. Plus, I’m bored of standard cream cheese/fruit recipes so this was something more interesting. All in all, this “challenging” version didn’t turn out to be very difficult at all so don’t be daunted- enjoy!

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Summer Quinoa Salad with Thai Peanut Sauce

Summer Quinoa Salad with Thai Peanut Sauce from www.cloudthyme.com

Takeout from Whole Foods is so good and yet so ridiculously expensive. It’s a constant battle for me- the proximity, ease, and tastiness of WF versus money in the bank. Although the pros outweigh the cons, I am starting to feel a guilty knot in my stomach knowing each scoop at the salad bar is probably $2 more. It’s actually a stats puzzle to figure out how to best get my money’s worth at salad bars charged by the pound. Obviously others have thought about this too- see article. Anyway…One of my favorite ready-made salads at WF is their California Quinoa salad. The last time I bought a container of it I thought, why don’t I just make it at home? Well, I looked at the ingredients list and realized it would be more expensive to make with the comical number of little ingredients included in there. So instead I took my favorite parts of that salad (mango!) and made my own.

This is the perfect summer salad to enjoy on a hot day (which we’ve luckily had way more than usual of this summer) and it’s also super easy to make ahead and pack for lunches for the work week. It’s full of nutrients and the peanuts and quinoa provide protein so you won’t even miss the meat. One of my favorite parts about this salad is just how vibrant it is! I’m pretty sure I heard that more color = more healthy but maybe I just made that up…

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Lemon Rosemary Muffins

 Lemon Rosemary Muffins from www.cloudthyme.com

Somewhere between my childhood years of my dad having to grab my feet and hang me upside down to wake me up in the morning, and my current life as a PhD student waking up on high alert before my alarm goes off, I became a morning person. I love waking up before others do and working out, doing a crossword over coffee, and making my walnut blueberry oatmeal over the stove (not that I do all of those things every day). I like when I can take my time and relish those moments before the rush of the day. One very major issue with my early rising is that I’m hungry again way before lunchtime. So this recipe came from my constant need for a mid-morning snack between my light, early breakfast and seemingly distant lunch.

I’m not a vegan and I eat plenty of gluten, but I do like to experiment with different ingredients that are maybe a bit more healthy than the standard butter and white flour. I started this venture out by using a lemon rosemary muffin recipe from Elana’s Pantry, but it wasn’t quite bready enough and didn’t have any rise. So I tweaked it a bit and came up with this- I think they’re pretty darn tasty and most importantly satiates the mid-morning hunger, energy drop, and eager tastebuds. Plus, there are all those health benefits: high protein and fiber from the coconut flour, oats, and eggs, as well as soothing and brain-boosting effects from the rosemary! Don’t forget your tea or coffee.

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