Banana chocolate chip muffins (VEGAN!)

I had my first vegan baking fail last month. I tried to make Tracy Shutterbean’s Hippy Banana Bread recipe vegan. Which I think is doable, I just did it wrong. I tried to sub applesauce and an extra banana for three eggs and that did NOT go well. I should have tried flax eggs. Grant kindly told me that it wasn’t a fail… it was just more of a pudding than a bread.

These muffins are the opposite. They’re super simple, super quick, and super vegan! I’ve made these probably a dozen times, and they always come out perfectly. I served them last weekend with a strawberry and grilled chicken salad for a pretty delicious brunch.

I love these muffins for a couple reasons: they’re vegan without a single weird ingredient (a standard pantry could make these pretty easily!), they’re sturdy so they travel well, and they use up the countless frozen bananas taking up space in my freezer.

These would be an awesome, easy Mother’s Day treat, wink!


Banana chocolate chip muffins (VEGAN!)

Makes 10 muffins

¼ c coconut oil, melted

½ c brown sugar

2 super-ripe bananas*

4 oz applesauce (a standard lunch cup)

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ c flour

½ tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ c dairy-free chocolate chips (I like the Costco brand!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the coconut oil and brown sugar together until combined. Add mashed bananas, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix with a spatula until combined.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. Add chocolate chips to the dry mixture, and stir to combine. Adding the chocolate to the dry mixture coats it in flour, which prevents it from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and gently fold together. Stop when there are still a couple of flour streaks. You don’t want to overmix!
  6. Scoop the batter into a greased muffin tin. I use 1.5 loose scoops from this batter scoop in each cavity. You should get ten!
  7. Bake for ten minutes. Rotate the pan (turn the tin around so that the muffins that were in the front of the oven finish baking in the back of the oven), and bake for another 8-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a center muffin comes out with only a few crumbs.
  8. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes and then let cool on cooling rack or enjoy warm. If you eat them warm, you’ve got to add butter!

* I throw ripe bananas in the freezer when they’re turning black, whole and in the peels. When it comes time to make banana bread, thaw them on the counter or in the microwave in a glass bowl. YOU MUST USE THE BOWL OR A PLATE OR SOMETHING because they will ooze like crazy. You’ll end up with basically liquid bananas, perfect for banana bread.

Adapted from this recipe.

Black bean & sweet potato burrito bowls with VEGAN queso Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The last time I celebrated Cinco de Mayo was May 5, 2015. I know this because I went to work May 6th with a massive hangover, and I was laid off May 8th. I also know that these things aren’t related, and I bet I *~celebrated~* so hard because of the looming DOOM at work, but regardless: I’m not sure I’ll ever unlink the association. Cinco de Mayo makes me remember the weird humiliation of being laid off from a job that I didn’t even like that much.

But I had this vegan queso recipe that needed to be shared, and what better time than now? If you, like me, don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, GREAT. This food tastes just as good any day of the week.

It’s very fitting that, when I made the food for this post, I fed it to my dear friend Lindsey to celebrate her birthday. I met her through this old job, she was there the whole weird layoff day (from literally breakfast through drinking that evening), and I’m so thankful for that job if only because I met her.

Me and the birthday girl

Cinco de Mayo is on a Saturday this year, but I don’t think that you should use that as an excuse to go wild. I encourage you to make this meal with friends in the safety of your home, drink one (just one!) too many tequila-La Croixes, and scream/sing along to the live Dixie Chicks album from their recent tour.

The burrito bowls are flavorful and filling, and the queso takes the meal over the top. Vegan queso may sound intimidating (or even gross. I get it 😜), but it’s not! All it takes is nuts, water, and a few seasonings. You get a rich, tasty dip that’s as spicy as you’d like.

This meal is best enjoyed at a crowded table.

VEGAN BURRITO BOWLS

This makes enough for four adults, plus leftovers for lunch the next day

Black beans (4 15-oz cans)

Rotel (1 10-oz can)

Salt and pepper

Sweet potatoes (5 lb bag)

Cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil

Bell peppers (6, various colors)

Onions (one red, one yellow)

Salt, pepper, olive oil

For assembly:

Cooked white rice (toss with cilantro and lime juice if you remember to! I did not!)

Various salsas and hot sauces

Diced avocado (would be amazing, but I didn’t include since Grant is allergic)

These directions are very loose. They’re burrito bowls, not algebra. Do what I say unless you have an idea that sounds better.

  1. Drain and rinse the beans. Add to a pot with the Rotel. Fill the Rotel can with water and add to the pot, as well. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, pop the lid on, and leave it be for ~45 mins. Stir when you remember to.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425. Roughly chop the potatoes (if the pieces are similarly sized, they’ll cook evenly!), spread on a large baking sheet, season with salt, pepper, and a dusting of cumin, drizzle with olive oil, and toss. Roast in the preheated oven for ~25 mins, tossing halfway through.
  3. Slice the peppers into strips. Same with the onions. Throw in a HUGE pot with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let them sear over high heat for a few minutes before you stir. This is what makes the blackened spots like when you order fajitas at a restaurant. Continue until the peppers are cooked to your liking. These will hold over low, low heat for a long time.
  4. Assemble with white rice, lime wedges, hot sauce, salsa, guac, and vegan queso on the side!

VEGAN QUESO

1 ½ C raw cashews, soaked for 6 hours*

½ C water

½ C nutritional yeast**

1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less to taste!)

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

Tortilla chips for serving

* I buy my raw cashews from the bulk bins at Hy-Vee in the Health Food Market. I know that Planter’s also makes them, and those are in the aisle with the snack nuts. “Soaked” means just what it sounds like. Cover the cashews with water and let them sit for at least six hours, up to overnight.

** This is a cheesy-tasting, plant-based powder seasoning. I buy mine from the bulk bins, just like the cashews.

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender*. Blend. Taste for seasoning. The END!

    * I’m sure this would be super-velvety and luxurious with a high-powered blender, but all I’ve got is a Cuisinart, and it works JUST FINE.

Vegan Baked Spaghetti with Red Lentils, Mushrooms, and White Sauce

Pasta is my favorite food. There is nothing better than a long-simmered bolognese over thick spaghetti. Maybe with some ricotta dolloped on top? And you all know I love my mac and cheese.

I love pasta so much that my favorite snack is — no joke — plain, cold pasta straight from the fridge. I don’t eat that very often now, but I cannot tell you how many hours of reality T.V. I watched in college while eating leftover plain pasta (cold bowties are seriously the best).

When Grant stopped eating meat, I had to stop making my favorite meat sauce, and it took a little while to find a good substitute. While nothing really beats meat slow-cooked in wine and tomatoes, I think I’ve found the best substitute: red lentils and mushrooms. Red lentils mimic the texture of ground meat, and sautéed mushrooms bring the meaty flavor.

Since Grant has been allergic to dairy his entire life, he’s really missed out on a lot of joy that an American-style casserole brings. (Seriously, try and find a casserole without cheese or cream of something soup!) That’s where this baked spaghetti comes in. It’s a vegan spin on the Million Dollar Spaghetti that I’ve seen all over Pinterest, with a rich tomato sauce and a creamy white sauce.

If you want to indulge in the comfort of white carbohydrates, but keep the rest of the meal light and plant-based, this baked spaghetti is where it’s at. Red wine is a mandatory side dish.

Vegan Baked Spaghetti

½ large onion

16 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c red lentils, cooked (simmer in water until for 10-15 minutes, then drain once tender)

24 oz favorite marinara sauce (I like this no-sugar-added one from Aldi)

8 oz water

1 lb spaghetti

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp vegan butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 c cashew milk

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Sauté the onion over medium heat in olive oil. Once turning translucent, add mushrooms, and turn heat up to medium-high. Sauté until the mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Turn the heat to low. Add Italian seasoning, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir and let cook until very fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add cooked red lentils, marinara sauce, and water. (Tip I learned from my mom: fill the pasta jar with the amount of water you need and shake it up. Pour that water and the pasta sauce remnants into the pan. Waste not, want not!) Combine with the vegetables, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Towards the end of the simmer time, put water on to boil for the spaghetti and preheat the oven to 375.
  5. Cook the spaghetti until very, very al dente. The pasta is going to bake in the oven, so it will cook further then.
  6. Make the white sauce by adding butter and olive oil to a nonstick pan over medium heat. Once warm, sprinkle in the flour, whisking as you go. The fat and flour should create a paste.
  7. Slowly stream in the milk, whisking the whole time. The sauce should be smooth and will thicken as it simmers over medium-low heat. (If you have floury chunks, no big deal. Transfer the sauce to a glass container and blend with an immersion blender. I wasn’t a good whisk-er and had to do this, and it worked perfectly.)
  8. Assembly time! Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Add the drained, al dente spaghetti. Smooth into an even layer. Top the pasta evenly with about half of the white sauce. Add all of the red sauce (yes, it looks like a lot of sauce. But it’s perfect, trust me). Drizzle the rest of the white sauce evenly over the top of the red sauce.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes, or until bubbling. Allow to cool for 10-15 minute before cutting and serving.
    Serve with green vegetables or a salad. This makes awesome leftovers, and the longer that the pasta cools, the easier it is to cut into squares like lasagna.

Adapted from this non-vegan recipe by Lauren’s Latest.

Two-bean pumpkin chili (vegan!)

Thank god for soup season! I majorly prefer summer to winter, but there is nothing cozier than a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. Preferably by a crackling fireplace (or even the Netflix Fireplace channel, which is what I used for years in an apartment). I’ve even been bringing various soups for lunch instead of my typical salad, which is a welcome change in my freezing office building.

Since we’ve gone semi-vegan, I’ve been missing ground turkey, which was one of our staples, especially when it comes to soups and stews. (We love this, this, this, and this.) I never thought I even liked meat that much, but I had chicken-based soups twice in the last week, and I was literally drooling over them (thanks Mags and B!).

This chili is my favorite, forever and ever. It’s so perfect, and it’s the number one thing I bring to a friend in need when it’s chilly outside. But it needs the meat. Since I’ve eaten it so many times with turkey or beef, it tastes bland and weird if I just amp up the beans.

I hit the kitchen hard to find a good vegetarian chili substitute. There were a few fails (that we ate anyway), but this recipe here is for keeps! Even if we go back to eating meat one day, I think we’ll be making this recipe.

I’m entering this double-bean pumpkin chili in a chili cook-off at work tomorrow. I doubt it can hold a candle to the traditional meat chilis in the lineup, but I know it will make the vegetarians on my team happy. It’s flavorful and rich and a little spicy, but I highly recommend a dash or ten of Cholula before you dig in.

Canned pumpkin is the best trick to add richness to an all-veggie chili. It adds vitamins and fiber and a delicious creaminess. Cornbread would be great, but we honestly eat it most of the time with tortilla chip spoons.

The chili keeps for a week in the fridge and freezes well for a busy night.

The best dessert pairing? This chocolate-chip laden pumpkin banana bread, which can totally bake while the chili simmers.

TWO- BEAN PUMPKIN CHILI

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp sugar (I use coconut sugar, but brown sugar would work well, too)

1 tsp cinnamon (this small amount tastes warm and cozy, not like Pumpkin Spice, promise)

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bell peppers, any color

8 oz. mushrooms, chopped

2 10-oz. cans of Rotel

1 15-oz. fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2 15-oz. cans kidney beans

2 15-oz. cans black beans

1 ½ c pumpkin puree

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions until translucent.
  2. Add mushrooms and bell peppers, and saute until brown. Add salt and pepper to taste once the mushroom release their liquid.
  3. Add all seasonings and garlic, and saute for one minute, until really fragrant.
  4. Add all other ingredients, and stir to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for at least one hour, preferably two.
  6. Serve with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and lots of hot sauce.

Pumpkin banana bread with chocolate chips (plus a vegan life update!)

By my count, Grant and I have been eating semi-vegan for about seven months. For us, this means our meals at home are plant-based (lots of lentils and beans), but G will occasionally order seafood when we’re out. I still eat eggs and yogurt pretty regularly and order whatever the hell I want at a restaurant.

We’re doing this to address Grant’s allergies, but for a few other reasons, as well: high-quality, responsibly sourced meat is expensive. We’re talking now about reintroducing poultry upon occasion (I miss my roasted chicken now that it’s cold outside), but saving money by getting protein from plant sources has been great. It’s also been fun experimenting with new vegan recipes (this creamy pasta, vegan queso, and my daal have all been hits). I’ve had a few fails, but nothing inedible. A slightly crunchy bean can’t make you sick like a slightly raw chicken breast can!

The biggest hurdle has been vegan baking. Grant has been allergic to dairy since babyhood, so I’ve long-since conquered dairy-free baking. But cutting out eggs (a childhood allergy of his that’s reemerged in adulthood) has been so difficult. Eggs are integral in so many baked goods. They add structure, lift, and moisture. At most health food stores, you can find vegan egg substitutes, but I tend stay away from single-use products like that. I don’t mind buying cashew or coconut milk because those alternatives have a bunch of purposes: oatmeal, creamy sauces, Oreo dipping.

After some trial and error, I’ve settled on my go-to vegan egg substitute for baking: flaxseed meal! It’s relatively inexpensive, multipurpose (I often add it to smoothies and oatmeal), and full of nutrition. Win-win.

You can buy whole flax and grind it yourself or buy flaxseed meal. You want to store both in the fridge or freezer.

To make a “flax egg,” you combine one tablespoon of flaxseed meal with two tablespoons water, and let it sit for a few minutes. The water hydrates the meal, and it thickens and gels. Word on the street is that this substitute works best for sturdy baked goods, like quick breads. I wouldn’t try and use this in a delicate cookie.

My greatest vegan baking success to date is this pumpkin banana bread. It’s moist, well-spiced, and totally vegan; it’s delicious warm with (vegan) butter (this is our favorite) and cold out of the fridge. It also froze and defrosted well!


Pumpkin banana bread with chocolate chips

Makes one 9×13 pan (leftovers freeze well!)

3 c all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp Kosher salt

½ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

¾ tsp ginger

½ tsp cloves

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 c granulated sugar

½ c brown sugar

⅔ c vegetable oil

1/2 c applesauce

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp of flaxmeal + 4 tbsp of water, combine and let sit for ~10 mins)

1 c pumpkin puree

1 c mashed banana

1 c vegan chocolate chips (the regular chocolate chips at Trader Joe’s and Costco are vegan)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×13 pan.

  2. Combine flour through spices with a whisk in a medium bowl.

  3. In a large bowl, mix sugars, oil, applesauce, and flax eggs until well-combined. Add pumpkin and banana and mix again.

  4. Add flour mixture to liquids bowl and carefully combine with spatula (do not overmix).

  5. Fold in chocolate chips.

  6. Pour into 9×13 pan, and bake for 25-35 minutes, until only a few crumbs stick during the toothpick test.

    Notes: The applesauce also adds some moisture that an egg would have.

    I chose to bake this in a 9×13, rather than loaf pans, so that it would have less height. Eggs help a baked good to keep structure, and a 9×13 sheet cake needs less height and structure than a loaf.

Photo of the vegan chocolate chips from Costco, in case you need help 😜

Recipe adapted from this great one. I did once make it according to that exact recipe (subbing chocolate chips for pecans), and it was very delicious.