This recipe might sound and look too good to be true, but it is in fact vegan (and raw!).  We had a family dinner party tonight before everyone heads off to school and I was in charge of dessert.  I found this recipe on one of my favorite vegan blogs called This Rawsome Vegan Life.  It features some seriously delectable desserts, many of them raw and filled with healthy ingredients like fruit, nuts, and superfoods- it's almost always my go-to place to find dessert recipes.  After having tried the vegan coconut cream pie from Jimbos (so delicious!) I was inspired to head in that direction.
Here is the adapted recipe I used:


1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 peeled, frozen bananas (save one to slice)
1/4 cup almond butter
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil 
1/4 cup agave/maple syrup
1/4 cup nut milk (use as little as possible)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cacao powder

Coconut whipped cream:
1 can coconut milk, put in the fridge overnight
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1/8 teaspoon raw sugar

In a food processor, combine the walnuts and pecans until you reach a crumb-like consistency.  Add in the raisins and dates, then the vanilla.  Once all is combined, pour into a pie pan and press the mixture until it forms a firm crust.  Place in the freezer.  (Side note:  You can make the crust ahead of time and freeze it for as long as you need.  I made mine a few days early because I was going out of town, and left it in the freezer covered in plastic wrap.)

For the filling you will need a blender.  Blend 2 frozen (or semi-frozen) bananas with the rest of the ingredients for the filling until smooth.  Pour the mixture into your pie pan and lick your blender clean because that stuff is delicious!!  Slice the remaining banana and layer them over the chocolate mixture.  Refrigerate for an hour.
If you have ever made homemade whipped cream, this coconut cream will seem very familiar to you.  Leaving the can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight allows it to separate.  You only want to use the thick creamy stuff on top, not the watery milk beneath it.  So scoop out the white layer and whip with a hand mixer until it looks like whipped cream!  Add in the raw sugar and mix a little more.  I forgot to add in the vanilla seeds when I made this so now would probably be the correct time to do that as well.  It tasted delicious but I'm sure it would have been even better with a little vanilla!  Spread all over your delicious vegan pie and again lick your bowl clean if you haven't yet.  Refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to go to town.

OH! Also I added cacao nibs and some sliced raw almonds on top.  Feel free to get crazy with fruit (blueberries would be yummy) or other goodies like goji berries or even more bananas!
You can leave the pie out for 15 minutes or so before serving so it will soften up a bit.  It's a little hard to get the pieces out but this should help!
RIP you beautiful pie.
Ever since my birthday lunch in Del Mar I've been wanting to make a watermelon-herb salad (that I could actually eat!).  After a long day of traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego, Spencer and I were happy to find a delicious looking watermelon and fresh herbs in the fridge.  We stopped at Trader Joes and picked up a bag of their Organic Herb Spring Mix.  This is one of my favorite salad mixes, and is filled with baby lettuce, cilantro, parsley, and dill.  It adds a little something extra to any salad, and is naturally high in Vitamin A and C! 
Watermelon Mint Salad

1 bag Trader Joe's Organic Herb Salad Mix
1/2 small watermelon
1 bunch of mint
1/3c raw sliced almonds
Balsamic vinegar

Optional Add-ins
Goat Cheese

Cut up the watermelon into little pieces and mix in with lettuce and mint leaves.  Top with sliced raw almonds and balsamic vinegar (or any dressing of your choice).  You really don't need a heavy dressing for this salad because the watermelon is naturally so juicy, but I'm sure any vinagrete would work well too.  Also, currants would be a delicious addition, as well as goat cheese if you want a creamier texture.
This salad literally takes 5 minutes to put together yet looks so pretty and colorful.  Summer in a bowl!
My dad came to me last night looking very concerned and told me that he just finished all the granola.  If you know my dad, I'm sure you are aware of how much he cherishes his nightly bowl of yogurt, fruit, and homemade granola- he rarely skips a day!  And if you know me, I'm sure you are aware of how much I enjoy making granola.  We work well together.  I assured him that I would make a fresh batch this morning.

I am very simple when it comes to my granola.  I usually just put it on top of my smoothies or acai bowls, so I am not really concerned so much about the sweetness or fruity add-ins.  My dad on the other hand can be a little specific.  He likes his granola sweet and full of treats- dried blueberries, nuts, peanut butter- and most importantly it must be very crunchy.  So I decided to post both recipes because my dads granola is basically a continuation of mine and definitely much more flavorful!  Not to mention it will leave your kitchen reeking of delicious peanut butter.
PB Crunch Granola

4c gluten-free, organic oats
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4c raw organic agave nectar (or maple syrup, honey, etc.)
1.5 tsp pure vanilla
1/4c peanut butter (or any nut butter of your choice)
1c chopped nuts
1/2c dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl mix the oats and cinnamon, then the agave and vanilla.  This is where I stop for my granola.  I pour the mix onto a silpat baking sheet (or a baking sheet sprayed with coconut oil) and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, rotating the mix with a spatula about halfway through until the oats are slightly golden.  If you want to keep this healthy but still want to add in some flavor, try dried blueberries or sliced raw almonds.  Also you can try using maple syrup for a more distinct flavor.  You really can use anything- I'm interested in adding some cocoa powder next time (cocoa-peanut butter?!)

To continue with my dads beloved recipe, add in the peanut butter and stir.  This can be a little tricky but it helps the granola form chunks- just try to incorporate it all together.  Throw in the nuts and blueberries.  I used a mix of cashews and glazed walnuts this time but pecans and almonds also work great.  I let this bake for about 20 minutes, but if you want yours a little less crispy, try for 15-18 minutes.  Remember the granola does get more crunchy as it cools so don't over cook them- try for a golden color instead.  Again, stir the granola about halfway through or maybe even three times- the oats on the edges cook much faster than the oats in the middle of the tray.  You don't want little burnt bites of oats!  Once your granola is ready, remove from the oven and let cool.  Store in a mason jar (surprise) or any other air-tight container.  It tends to stay fresh for quite a while although it usually doesn't last long enough in my house to really know.
Spencer and I have been on a real grilling binge lately.  It all started off on the 4th of July (could you have guessed?) when we put together a small meal for a few of his friends in Los Angeles.  Apart from some beef patties that I handled like a champ, we grilled up an assortment of banana peppers, fresh pineapple, and Organic Veggie Burgers from Trader Joes.  I think I devoured the majority of the grilled pineapple which were so sweet and delicious, but the veggie burgers were also a success!  They are packed with veggies and sprouted soy beans and are really high in protein-- you definitely won't be cut short choosing TJs veggie burgers over beef.  And don't forget to put a grilled pineapple slice on top!

 Our grilling addiction continued the following week where there was plenty more pineapple and veggies to be eaten.  We saved some pineapple and made a fresh salad with sliced almonds and avocado (make this!), and returned to Trader Joes to try out their vegetable skewers and portobello mushrooms.  Both were easy enough and great with a little hummus and Sriracha!

Last night I decided it was finally time to select a recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook.  My mom and I had purchased giant portobello mushrooms a few days earlier so I figured this was a good time to put two together!  Portobello Floretine sounded good to me-- grilled portobello mushrooms beneath wilted spinach and topped with a cauliflower based hollandaise.  Being the complicated person I am, I decided to adjust this a little and leave the hollandaise out, replacing it with a sweet potato puree.
Portobello Florentine with Sweet Potato Puree
(adapted from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook)

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1.5 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1.5 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
2 portobello mushrooms, stemmed
3c spinach
1/2 can organic pureed sweet potato
3/4c unsweetened almond milk
1tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4c sliced, raw almonds
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first 4 ingredients together and mix.  Pour over the portobello mushrooms (stem side up) and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.  Grill to your desired softness, adding any extra of the marinade to the mushrooms throughout the process.

The spinach and sweet potato puree should be heated at the same time while the mushrooms are grilling so everything is ready at once.  Put the spinach in a pot and add some water (you really can't go wrong), salt and pepper and place over a low flame.  I don't even think I let the water come to a boil when I made this.. I don't like my spinach to be super soggy so in order to keep a little texture I kept the temperatures low (don't trust me on this logic.. cook your spinach how you want!).  Anyways, in a different pot add half a can of sweet potato puree, almond milk, and nutmeg.  Make sure the canned sweet potato is organic and unsweetened (actually look at the ingredients) or else your dinner might end up tasting like a thanksgiving day dessert.  I really should have made my own puree since I bailed the cauliflower earlier but I was craving sweet potato and decided to make due with what I had!  You can add any spices to the sweet potato, maybe red pepper flakes if you're feeling spicy?  It does end up being a sweet topping but I think it worked well with the saltiness of the mushroom.  Once your mushrooms are juicy and tender, your spinach is softened to your liking, and the sweet potato puree is warm, stack everything together and top with sliced almonds
That's it!  I think I defeated the point of making a "florentine" by changing the hollandaise sauce into a sweet puree, but it was yummy nonetheless and definitely something worth trying if you are a mushroom lover like me!
I first tried raw cacao "nibs" for the same reason most people probably do- how can you pass up a raw superfood that tastes (slightly) like chocolate?  It's obviously not quite as delicious as what most people consider "real" chocolate, but it is definitely much more real than any Hershey's bar could ever be!

Cacao ("ka-cow") seeds are basically chocolate in its raw, purest form.   Rich in magnesium, antioxidants (as long as they have not been roasted), and blood-sugar-regulating fiber, cacao can actually increase the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, leaving you with a more positive and balanced outlook.  When chocolate is made, the cacao seeds are roasted and stripped of most these nutrients, and then mixed with sugars and fats to make a sweet and addicting treat.  So in a way cacao is a healthy chocolate, although it isn't quite as sweet.  There isn't any sugar in cacao, so eating it on its own is more like eating a coffee bean then biting into a delicious bar of dark chocolate, but you can definitely taste the cocoa flavor.  When you add cacao to a naturally sweetened substance like fruit, the bitterness is gone and you are left with a chocolatey flavor and a little crunch.  It's definitely worth a try!
My favorite way to eat cacao is on frozen bananas, or on top of a smoothie.  It is also great with fruit and yogurt if you eat dairy (that used to be my go-to snack after the gym!)  You can buy cacao beans at health stores either whole, powdered, or in "nib" form (nibs are just broken up pieces of the seed).  I have only tried the nibs, but am interested in trying out the powder to add to smoothies as well.  I'll let you know how that goes if I ever get around to it.  Also as a tip, if you are going to buy raw cacao nibs try finding them in bulk (or prepackaged bulk) in Sprouts or Jimbos, it is a lot cheaper than buying a package off of the shelf which can cost up to ten dollars for a very small bag.

Like I said I love using cacao as a crunchy topping on my smoothies.  Lately I've been adding a little cacao and a little homemade granola along with some frozen fruit on top of my favorite green breakfast smoothie and it is so yummy!!
Tell me that doesn't look delicious.

Here's what I use in my Green Breakfast Smoothie:

1 handful of kale
1 handful of spinach
5-6 stems of fresh parsley
1 slice of fresh ginger
1/2 frozen banana
5-6 frozen grapes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2c- 1c water or almond milk

Blend that up, adding more water or almond milk if you need it, and you'll have yourself a delicious and energizing breakfast!
I always use parsley in my juices and smoothies.  It may seem weird because you've probably only seen it used for decoration on a dish but it's actually full of benefits!  Parsley helps clean your kidneys and rid the body of harmful toxins, not to mention that it is full of fatty-acids, chlorophyll, vitamin B12, K, and C.

The best thing about smoothies is the fact that the possibilities are seriously endless.  Leave out the ginger if you don't like the taste, or maybe try chocolate soy milk instead of water!  You can mix in nearly anything (my boyfriends favorite is peanut butter- its amazing) to make your drink more sweet or savory.  For this smoothie, if you are not used to green drinks I would recommend using a whole frozen banana until you are used to the taste.  I personally think a half is fine, however I also do love the taste of vegetable juice and eat carrots when I have a sweet tooth so clearly I'm not one to take advice from.  But bananas really do help mask some of the stronger flavors so just keep adding fruit and liquids until you get the taste and consistency you want.  I tend to torture my blender to make the thickest smoothie possible, its like healthy ice cream that you get to eat for breakfast! 
This morning I added frozen organic raspberries, homemade granola, and raw cacao nibs.  Always use frozen fruit on top of your smoothies- I learned this from a local cafe that makes amazing acai bowls- the frozen fruit helps keep your smoothie cold, and for someone like me who is all about thick smoothies, this is essential!  Frozen berries are really just sweet little yummy ice cubes.  How cute.

This weekend's birthday celebrations were small and simple, yet managed to included quite a bit of yummy food and baking.  I figured it was a good way to kick off my blog- not to mention that I was gifted with a shiny new laptop to help me out (woo!).

First off, my boyfriend's mom has been insisting on us making a food blog for months now, ever since we started experimenting with juicing and vegan baking at the end of last year.  I am and avid food blog reader and I know how much work must go into it, but I figured I'd give it a shot!  Both of us have really enjoyed trying out new recipes and embracing a more (if not entirely) green and animal-friendly way of life, and this is simply a place to share the experience.

So back to my birthday- we started off with a nice little lunch at Sbicca's in Del Mar and then walked through the Farmer's Market in Solana Beach on Cedros.
Spencer with my little bouquet of flowers!

After enjoying fresh coconut water and sampling some delicious fruit, we headed back to my house to start baking macrons and vegan matcha cupcakes for a last minute tea party I decided to throw.  Spencer's mom gave me a macron, cupcake and cake-pop cookbook (if you can't tell, she is very supportive of my love for baking) and we chose a recipe with raspberry ganache for our first attempt.  I have always wanted to try making macrons because they're so pretty and delicate but I never got around to it, so Sunday was finally my day!
I didn't have one myself because of the egg whites, but everyone said they were great despite the obvious fact that the smooth appearance of the was cookie a little off.  I was afraid of over mixing the batter and un-fluffing the egg whites but it needed to be a little runnier and the cookies would have appeared more uniform on the outside.  But it ended up not as difficult a process as I expected and hey, at least they tasted good!  The recipe I used was "Raspberry Macarons" from Mia Orhn's cookbook Macarons, Cupcakes, and Cakepops.

Next were the Vegan Green Tea Cupcakes from a blog called Je Suies Alimentageuse.  I made a few substitutions and left out the cute straws, but in the end they were delicious!! I used chia seeds instead of the flax meal, soy milk for almond (although I prefer almond I was all out), unsalted original Earth Balance for the vegetable shortening in the buttercream frosting, and soymilk again for the coconut milk in the frosting.  I probably would stick with the coconut milk next time because I noticed the soy began to separate inside the frosting a little after it sat for a minute in my piping bag.  Everything was fine once it was on the cupcake though!
Yum! I could live on matcha.  As you can see they didn't last on that plate too long.

Taylor also contributed to our sweets-overload with a pretty chocolate covered berry bouquet.
So that was my birthday! I promise I don't usually eat so many sweets.. so expect some healthier recipes soon! My mom surprised me with the Forks over Knives cookbook which is entirely plant based and I cannot wait to try some recipes out (Portobello mushroom tacos?! Mmmmm).  I need some serious plants in me after that tea party!