Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Seriously people, where is spring? I’ve been happy to see the sun shining a little bit later than normal, but now my body is expecting warmer temperatures, and they’re not happening yet. If you’re in a warm climate, just know that I’m jealous of you.

Until spring finally shows it’s beautiful face, I’m going to keep making dinner in my slow cooker. Nothing warms me up quite like a bowl of soup! I highly recommend you consume this soup with some friends or family memebers, because it’s a pretty big batch, and food is best enjoyed with loved ones. That’s just a fact.

Many of you asked for the recipe after I teased you with the photo on this post, so I thought I’d be nice and share it without making you wait too long. This recipe began with me literally just throwing things into a crockpot, and then I stirred in a little love and care, and this is what came out. You could probably make it on the stove, if you don’t have a slow cooker or don’t want to wait all day. Either way, I don’t think you can mess this up.

vegetable minestrone soup

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

(Vegan)

Makes about 8 servings

  • 6 cups vegetable broth (or beef or chicken broth)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (I used peas, corn, carrots, and green beans)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup dried barley
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Paremsan cheese or Nutritional yeast (for garnish)

I added everything except for the macaroni noodles and parmesan cheese into my slow cooker and left it on high for about 5 hours. Tip: If you don’t have plain tomato sauce, you can use a jar of pasta sauce, and then skip the added spices.  Depending on how long you let it sit in your slow cooker, you may need to add an extra cup or two of water, just ot be safe. Mine became so thick, it was more like a stew. If you want it to be a little less like a stew and more like a soup, just add in more broth or water.  Just before I was ready to serve it, I boiled the macaroni noodles in a separate pot, drained them, and then stirred them right into the slow cooker. I served it shortly after. Alex and I topped most of our bowls with nutritional yeast, but I used parmesan cheese for the photo, because it’s a little more photogenic. Both are tasty.  I made this on Sunday and just polished off the leftovers for lunch yesterday!

Who’s ready for spring?

What I Ate [to stay warm] Wednesday

On Sunday evening, Richmond got quite a few inches of snow, so Monday I decided to work from home and avoid the roads. It’s nice working from home, because I have a real camera to take pictures with ;) So here a quick look at what I ate on Monday:

Breakfast

My roommate was sleeping a little later, and I didn’t want to wake her up with my blender, so I decided to have a bowl of yogurt. I topped my 0% plain Chobani with some frozen blueberries and some Hudson Henry Baking Co.’s “Good News” granola. I’d been meaning to review this stuff for a while. It might actually be the best granola I’ve ever had. (I know, I know, I love a lot of granola, but seriously, this stuff is delicious!) It’s not as clumpy as Love Grown (which I like, if I’m in the mood to eat granola straight out of the bag) but it’s perfect on a bowl of yogurt.

good news granola

I tried both flavors (Cashew & Coconut and Maple, Pecan, and Coconut) and I loved them both. They do taste pretty similar, but I liked them. They’re pretty sweet, so they’re perfect on tart Greek yogurt. They’re also locally made in Charlottesville, which is awesome! You should all follow them on Facebook here. Moving on to lunch!

Lunch

I made a soup, which turned into more of a stew, on Sunday night. It was perfect for the weather, and I had plenty of leftovers on Monday. I guess this was sort of a minestrone soup?

vegetable minestrone soup

This was so filling, and so easy to make! I used my slow cooker for this one. If you want the recipe, let me know and I’ll post it!

In the afternoon, I snacked on some garlic roasted chickpeas. These are so delicious, and a super filling snack.

garlic-roasted-chickpeas

I posted the recipe for these here, if you want to make them. They take all of 2 minutes to prepare, and another 15 minutes-ish in the oven. I love eating them while they’re still warm. Totally worth the burnt fingertips.

open faced quesadillas

Lindsay (aka my new roommate) is doing a gluten-free experiment, to see if gluten is causing some allergic reactions, so I whipped up this gluten-free dinner for me, her, and Alex. This was super easy to make, so it’s a perfect week night dinner. We called them open-faced quesadillas, but I’ll be the first to admit that eating them was a bit tricky. Still, they came out pretty well.

Open Faced Quesadillas

Serves 3

  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper (we used 1/2 red 1/2 green)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used a “Mexican” blend)
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/3 cup salsa

Heat the oven to 350. Brush the tortillas with a bit of olive oil and pop them in the oven. While those are toasting, saute the peppers and onions over medium heat until they begin to soften. Take the tortillas out of the oven once they start to get crisp on the edges (about 5 minutes). Top the tortillas with cheese, beans, bell peppers, and onions. Put them back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

We ate these topped with a little salsa, and some multigrain chips on the side. Not a bad gluten-free, vegetarian dinner. Yum!

After dinner, I sipped on some red wine and enjoyed a few handfuls of Peanut Butter Puffins. I can’t normally keep these in the house, because I want to dive face first in the box and eat them all at once… but I’m practicing self-control. Let’s see how this works out.

Do you have any gluten recipes I should try to make for Lindsay?

Workout (in Style)

Is it just me, or do you work out a little harder when you feel good about how you look? I know sometimes those gym lights can be harsh. And I’m well aware that my hair can look a little crazy during a run, but that’s no reason to settle for ratty t-shirts and baggy sweats.

However, I also understand not wanting to spend $100 on a pair of yoga pants…

(Yes I have a few pairs of Lululemon. And yes I just bought an adorable Lululemon jacket on Friday. And yes I got it at a thrift store for less than $30 bucks. Score.)

The point is, you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money for good workout clothes.

cheap but good workout clothes

Some of my favorites:

1. These Lululemon running capris are amazing, but I know Lulu can be pricy. Just look for wicking material. As an added bonus, these have a zipper pocket in the back for a key, which I love. It makes it easy to safely tuck away my house key when I leave for a run.

2. This half zip hoodie from target was definitely less than $25 but it keeps me warm when the temperatures are chilly. I wore this during my half marathon, and it kept me not too hot, not too cold.

3. Ladies, lets not underestimate the importance of a good sports bra. I got this one for about $12 at TJ Maxx and it’s one of my favorites.

4. Shoes! I got these last fall and I absolutely love them. Brooks makes amazing shoes, but as long as you have a pair that is comfortable and provides the support and cushion you need, that’s what matters!

5. I snagged this little headband at Target for just a couple of bucks. I can wear it with a ponytail, and it keeps my ears warm. It also helps keep my ear buds in!

6. My BodyMedia band is awesome for tracking my calories burned. It’s pretty cool. (You can see my video review here.) I haven’t been wearing it much recently, but it is pretty cool to see such an accurate calorie count during a workout!

I’m all for cheap deals, and I highly recommend places like TJMaxx and Marshall’s for low priced workout clothes. The only thing I wouldn’t skip on in running shoes. Those can run $100 or more, but a good pair of shoes can prevent injuries. Yoga pants just make your butt look good ;)

Besides, you don’t need expensive clothes for a fun workout…

gymnastics

All you really need is to enjoy what you’re doing!

What are some of your workout essentials?

Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese

Monday night I was feeling a little under the weather, and I started worrying that I was going to get sick again. I’m generally a pretty high energy person, so the fact that I was feeling a little sluggish had me worried. I started popping Zicam, (and I’m happy to report it didn’t get worse) but by Monday night, all I wanted was some comfort food.

I had the Smoked Gouda Panini from Ipanema Cafe on my mind, and I figured I could recreate it at home. I’m convinced that the only difference between a panini and a grilled cheese is the name. And I wasn’t trying to get too fancy here.

I stopped by the store to pick up a few ingredients:

smoked gouda grilled cheese

I actually used some of the Ezekiel bread that I had in my freezer. Frozen bread works just fine for grilled cheese, if not better. (It doesn’t burn as quickly.) I will say, the next time I make this, I’ll be sure to shred my cheese instead of just slicing it, because I was having a little trouble getting it to melt. Either way, this grilled cheese tasted amazing.

grilled cheese

Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced sweet onion
  • 4 oz smoked gouda
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes

If your bread is frozen, set it aside to begin to unthaw. In a large frying pan, saute the onions in the olive oil. Cook over low to medium heat until the onions begin to caramelize. Set the onions aside. In that same pan, lay two pieces of bread in the leftover olive oil. Top each slice with 2oz of shredded cheese. I sliced mine, but I think it would melt a little better if it was shredded. Allow the cheese to begin melting, then top with the onion, tomato, and final slice of bread. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, until toasted and the cheese is melted.

I served mine with some homemade tomato soup, and it was the perfect comfort food. If you’d like the tomato soup recipe, I can share that as well. It was super simple, creamy, and vegan. This was the perfect weeknight meal. I have a little bit of gouda left, so I’ll probably try to think of something to do with that…

I’m loving these simple dinners. I’m also loving the time I’ve been spending away from the computer. I’ve been waking up a little bit earlier getting ready a little faster in the morning, so I can do most of my blog-reading and writing in the morning. It means I don’t have to spend as much time on my computer in the evening, and I love it. I spend all day on my computer, so limiting the glow of my laptop at night has really helped me disconnect a little bit. (Granted, Instagram is still a reflex, but at least I can do that on the go!) Baby steps, people.

What’s your favorite type of comfort food?

Meal Planning: What I Ate Wednesday

I’ve really been working on meal planning. This is helpful for a few reasons:

  1. I spend less money at the grocery store
  2. I take less trips to the grocery store
  3. I eat something more interesting than yogurt every night

Since Alex hasn’t moved into his new place yet, we’ve been eating dinner together pretty much every night. No complaints here. It gives me an excuse to try new recipes, and since he’s taken to the whole vegetarian thing, it works out pretty well. But it also means that I can’t count yogurt and a sweet potato as dinner. Look how far I’ve come. The other benefit of planning out my meals is that I can cook a little extra at dinner, and then have leftovers for lunch! Winning all around. (And saving more money.)

Anyways, this is what I ate Wednesday Monday:

Breakfast

peanut butter shake

I’m still loving smoothies, but I tried a new kind of protein powder. Even though I reviewed a bunch of different protein powders here I hadn’t tried Sun Warrior yet. I’d heard great things, and I was interested in a plant based protein powder, rather than whey, so I had to give it a try. This stuff is a little pricy, but it tastes awesome. I’d highly recommend it.

Lunch

leftover tvp

I had leftovers from Sunday’s TVP Tacos, so I brought the filling in for lunch on Monday. I think I liked it even better without the wrap. The avocado makes this so creamy, and the TVP really fills you up. So much protein!

Dinner

grilled cheese

I wasn’t feeling great on Monday night and I was craving some comfort food. I ended up making an epic grilled cheese and it was quite delicious. Served with a side of homemade tomato soup… it totally hit the spot. I’ll post the full recipe for this on Friday. I think this might make it into the regular rotation.

Do you plan out your meals?

Vegan TVP Tacos

The weekend flew by, but I can’t complain, because I managed to fit in quite a few fun things.

Ledbury

Friday night, Alex and I went to the Ledbury Retail Relaunch party with some friends, and enjoyed a few drinks. I even got to catch up with some of my favorite RVA Fashion Bloggers.

Saturday night, we went to see Louis C.K. the comedian, but I left my phone and camera at home, so I have no photographic evidence of these events. We also grabbed dinner at Cous Cous on our way, which was delicious.

Sunday night, we ate a late dinner, and I decided to finally try making TVP tacos. After loving the TVP tacos from Don’t Look Back, I knew I wanted to try to make these at home

First, what is TVP? TVP = Textured Vegetable Protein. It’s a “defatted soy flour product” which I know sounds kind of gross… but trust me on this, it tastes good in tacos. The texture reminded me of a soft rice, but Alex said it reminded him of really finely ground beef. (I can’t remember what ground beef tastes like.) It doesn’t really have any flavor on it’s own (think tofu) but it takes on other flavors really well.

For these tvp tacos, I kept it pretty simple, and totally healthy. I’m really happy with how these turned out, and I think they’ll make it into the regular dinner rotation.

  tvp tacos

Vegan TVP Tacos

  • 1 cup TVP
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas

Bring one cup of water to a boil, and then add in the TVP. Remove from heat, stir in the chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin, and let stand. Rinse and drain the black beans, and cook over medium heat until warm. Slice the onion, and saute over medium heat, in a little olive oil, until translucent. Slice up the avocado and top with some salsa. You just have to put all the pieces together and then wrap it all up in a whole wheat tortilla. Dinner, served.

This makes about 4 large tacos. It was plenty for 2, and I had some leftovers for lunch the next day. This was super easy to make, and also pretty cost effective. TVP is a lot cheaper than meat. Plus, it has 12g of protein per 1/4 cup, and only 80 calories. That makes this stuff pretty awesome, and with the right seasonings, it tastes awesome as well!

Have you ever had TVP?

Food Review: No Bull!

The past few days have been a bit of a whirlwind. I got back from SXSW on Wednesday, and I’ve been getting catching up on work e-mails, unpacking, and helping Alex look for apartments. (His apartment burned down on Friday, while I was in Austin. Crazy, right?)

I’ve also been trying to get my meals back on track, but I haven’t had too much time to spend in the kitchen. It’s times like these when frozen foods often come to the rescue, so I figured this would be a great time to finally review the NoBull Veggie Burgers from Relay Foods!

I had the pleasure of trying the NoBull Veggie Burgers from Relay Foods. (Click here for my Relay Foods review!) These veggie burgers are made with 100% natural/real ingredients, including mushrooms and lentils. I cooked mine in the toaster oven and had it with a baked potato. It was pretty tasty, and definitely healthy. I gave Alex one too, and he enjoyed it as well. It said to defrost them ahead of time, but since I didn’t plan ahead, the toaster oven seemed to do the trick.

No bull burger

I just topped mine with ketchup, but they’re also good with a little hot sauce.

Even if you don’t live in the Virginia/DC Area, you can actually order them online! Or, if you’re looking for a veggie burger recipe to make at home, I’ve got a few for you to try.

burgers

Kidney Bean Burgers & Black Bean Oat Burgers 

Again, it’s something great to have on hand in the freezer, when you just don’t feel like cooking, or you need a simple protein packed dinner. (Plus, these are made locally, which I love!)

For more food reviews, check out my product review page!

What’s your favorite frozen veggie burger?

A Day of Eats in Austin

Ironically, as I was snapping a photo of my morning coffee, I was sitting in a SXSW interactive session called “Eating to Live Online: Virtual Food & Real Life” which was a panel session about, well, this. They started with the question “Does anyone really care what you’re eating?” And where it landed was, well, yes. Companies care. Your friends care. Politicians care. Brands care. People care. And Jenn’s WIAW party cares. But more about the session is at the bottom of this post. For now, let’s get to yesterday’s eats.

Breakfast

I had a banana topped with a lot of PB2 and a little bit of KIND granola. I munched on this while catching up on e-mails, then I squeezed in a quick 20 minute circuit workout. I’ve been doing so much walking around Austin, I’ve kept my workouts pretty short.

IMG_9820

This kept me surprisingly full. Normally my stomach starts growling by 10:30, but this really kept me satisfied. Must be the PB2!

Lunch

Brittany recommended the Blue Dahlia Bistro, and it certainly did not disappoint. My friend Erica and I split this hummus platter, and then I devoured most of this towering salad.

Blue Dahlia Bistro

That lunch kept me super full through the rest of the sessions in the afternoon, although I did munch on a clementine.

For dinner, Kate and Erica and I met up with my blogger-friend Brittany at Hopdoddy. (Yes I went to this place twice.) It’s that good. They use a lot of local, organic ingredients, and they had one of the most fantastic veggie burgers I’ve ever had. It could compete with Northstar Cafe. And they have kombucha (made locally in Austin), so that’s an automatic win. My burger was enjoyed with fries and half of a salted caramel milkshake. Oh, and a Sangarita. (A sangria margarita!)

hopdoddy in Austin

Overall, I was able to enjoy a lot of relatively healthy food (although I ate wayyy too much!) and it was fun trying so many vegetarian friendly places! I really did love Austin, although I have to admit I was ready to get back to RVA.

This didn’t feel like this was the right place to write about the sessions, but if you’re curious about some of what I learned, I’ll be posting some recaps on Tumblr. Here’s my recap on the Eating to Live Online: Virtual Food & Real Life panel discussion, which was all about food blogging, and our cultural relationship with food.

What have you been eating?

Scenes from Austin

I won’t ramble on forever about how much I’m loving Austin and SXSW, because I think these pictures speak for themselves. I feel so lucky, to get to come to such an amazing city, and learn about social media and digital marketing.

It was rainy and gray on Friday and Saturday, but the Austin skyline was still beautiful.

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When I spotted the Kefir yogurt truck, I think I screamed for joy, and immediately ran for it. Apparently, they now make frozen yogurt. And it’s only 80 calories a cup. Kate and I determined that it was super creamy, and would totally satisfy a late night fro-yo craving. I need to keep an eye out for this stuff.

Kefir yogurt

I also had the pleasure of meeting a few blogger friends for lunch. RachelEricka and  Shalama are all amazing women you should follow!

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We had some delicious Mexican food at the Iron Cactus. I’ll never get sick of Mexican food.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a post a little more focused on food, but for now, I’m going to keep enjoying this amazing city, because there is sunny weather ahead…

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Is it sunny where you are?

Quinoa Pizza Crust

For some reason, this post didn’t seem to publish yesterday, but I got lots of requests on the blog and instagram for this quinoa pizza crust recipe. Lucky for you, I had some extra time on my hands while I was at the airport yesterday, so I typed things up quickly. That’s right. I’m a people pleaser. So while I’m running around at SXSW, I’ll leave you with this new recipe…

This recipe is the perfect example of what happens when I “make do” with what I have on hand. I was still trying to follow the Tone It Up plan and was looking for an alternative type of pizza crust that would be meal-plan-approved. I thought maybe a socca pizza crust, made with chickpea flour (like this one) would be a good idea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any chickpea flour at the grocery store, so I started brainstorming other ideas. I decided if it worked with chickpea flour, why not quinoa flour? And thus, a quinoa pizza crust was born.

What I love about this crust is that you can make it thin and crispy. Oh, and you can top it with anything your heart desires.

I apologize in advance for the less than stellar photography, but I was so excited to eat it, I didn’t set up my light box. You’ll forgive me, once you try this pizza crust. Keep in mind, you need quinoa flour, not just quinoa. I bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill, and it was a little on the pricy side, but worth it, in my opinion. Plus, this recipe is vegan and gluten free.

quinoa pizza crust

Quinoa Pizza Crust

Serves 2

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa flour*
  • 1/4 cup of oatmeal flour* (gluten-free oats, if that matters to you)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp italian spices (I use a blend of oregano, garlic, and crushed red pepper)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

*Note: I didn’t have oat flour, per say, but I tossed about 1/3 cup rolled oats into my food processor until they turned to flour. I read that you can do the same thing with quinoa. But I haven’t actually tried it so I can’t say for sure.

Combine the quinoa flour and oat flour, then add in salt and spices. Add warm water and olive oil. Your mixture will be a little lumpy, and you may need to use your hands to mix it all. Spray a baking sheet or pizza stone with olive oil (or just coat it with a paper towel dipped in olive oil) and bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.

After that, you can top with your remaining ingredients. I used tomato sauce, peppers, onions, and nutritional yeast. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, depending on your toppings.

The crust itself didn’t have a super strong flavor (so I’d definitely add in those spices) but it was a great base for the rest of the ingredients. There are definitely lots of options for customizing here.

For other pizza crust options check these out:

What would you put on top of this quinoa crust?