Chocolatey Banana and Oats – Chocoholics Welcome

January 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

oatmeal with chocolate, peanut butter, bananas, and chia seeds

Ok, first things first, the fact that we can even call this breakfast – and a healthy one at that – is crazy. But I kid you not. What you’re looking at is a scrumptious, chocolatey, nutty, and yes, healthy, bowl of oats that will start your day off right.

We all know the health benefits of oatmeal but I had never really cared for it. I spent my whole life thinking I didn’t like oatmeal but now I realize that I just never had it prepared properly. Now I literally can’t wait to get up and have my morning oatmeal.

In general, I mix it up and make what I have on hand. A few staples include vanilla flavored almond milk and chia seeds (If you’ve never had chia seeds, they are loaded with omega 3 and essentially tasteless). Other than that, it’s free game. I throw in fresh cut apples, bananas, pear, berries, nuts, and my secret ingredient: peanut or almond butter.

oatmeal with raw cacao, bananas, chia seeds

One day I decided to try and add in some raw cacao and that’s how this concotion came to be. It is my absolute favorite combo yet and provides a super powerful, nutrient dense breakfast. The raw cacao creates not only a dense chocolatey delight, but provides powerful antioxidants and minerals.

(Bonus for the ladies: if it’s that time of the month, make this for breakfast! The minerals in the raw cacao are essential for your body and help reduce cramping.)

Caution: eating such a delicious, nutritious breakfast may make you abnormally sweet for the day 🙂

delicious sweet oatmeal, fruit, banana, chocolate, chia seeds

Chocolatey Banana and Oats
Serves 1

A note on this recipe: this creates a velvety rich chocolate bowl of oats. If you aren’t as big a fan of the chocolate, just use less. Try a few times and find what amount you like. The below isn’t hard fast measurements. Just throw in what works for you. If you want your oatmeal drier – add more oats, for a wetter oatmeal, add more milk.


  • 1/2 cup vanilla flavored almond milk
  • several dashes cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • nuts of your choice – I like raw walnuts and almonds


  1. Heat the milk on high with several dashes of cinnamon in a small saucepan several minutes until steaming. Once steaming, turn the heat off and stir in the nut butter.
  2. In your breakfast bowl, pour in the oats, chia seeds, and cacao. Top with the milk mixture and stir. Add banana and nuts and serve.

Vegan “Arroz con Pollo”

January 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

vegetarian, yellow rice, arroz

I think this might have been the first time I’ve ever made a version of arroz con pollo which is surprising given that it is one of my all time favorites. Even before going vegan I was never a huge meat eater. Chicken was about it for me when it came to meat. So whenever we would go to a cuban restaurant, I always opted for arroz con pollo. My mom would often make it at home too.

rice, peas, onion, green pepper, red pepper

In simple terms it is basically rice with chicken – but it was so much more than that. Tender moist chicken, creamy yellow rice, and sweet peas cooked together to create a comforting bowl of yumminess. Since becoming vegan I never thought about eating this again. I figured surely without the chicken and chicken stock it would be no good. No way could it have as much flavor.

But I was wrong! I poured myself a glass of sangria (amazing by the way) and sought out to try and make a vegetarian version. It proved to be just as satisfying as a meat version, maybe even more!

This is an easy one pot meal. Always good for a busy night’s cleanup 🙂 And, if you prep your veggies over the weekend, this actually cooks in about 35 minutes total, making it an easy weeknight dinner.

yellow rice, vegan rice recipe, vegetarian

I opted to keep this traditional and stuck with onions, red and green peppers, and sweet green peas. I don’t know what it is about the smell of onions and peppers cooking but it has got to be one of the best combos out there. You can definitely get creative with what you have on hand, adding other veggies to the mix – mushrooms and asparagus would make delicious additions.

Also, I used Vigo yellow rice which already has the saffron and some spices mixed in meaning you don’t have to worry with buying saffron separately which can be expensive and hard to find.

I’m calling it Vegan Arroz con Pollo because let’s face it, Arroz con Vegetales just doesn’t have the same ring to it 🙂 Pour yourself some red wine or sangria and get to cooking! Enjoy!

vegan vegetarian arroz con pollo

Update: Sadly, I must report this is not a fully vegan dish upon discovering that Vigo rice uses chicken. You can continue with the recipe as is for a meat free dinner. If you want to ensure it is full vegan, use 2 cups long grain white rice instead of the Vigo rice and add 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads to the vegetable stock while heating up.

Vegan “Arroz con Pollo”

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s “Essentials of Latin Cooking”
Makes about 6 bowls


  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups Vigo yellow rice (note update above)
  • 1 cup frozen sweet green peas
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
  • lime or lemon wedge (optional)


  1. Mix minced garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes together and set aside. Note: if you like spicy, you can add up to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper. If you like salt, go ahead and add it in. If not, wait until the end and add salt to taste.
  2. Heat stock in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling then reduce to simmer. (If you’d rather not wash another pan, you can definitely just add the cold stock to the rice later).
  3. Heat oil in a large heavy deep saute pan that allows for lots of stirring (I use my all-clad 6 quart). Add chopped onions, red and green peppers for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  4. Add in rice and stir until rice absorbs all the liquid from the veggie mixture – several minutes. Add in the vinegar garlic mix.
  5. Add in heated stock, mix, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and cover. Let sit for about 25-30 minutes until rice absorbs all liquid. You’ll need to stir several times as the rice will begin to stick to the bottom. If it does, just aggressively scrape the bottom with a steel spoon to remove.
  6. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen peas and cover. I like my rice on the wet side. If you prefer your rice dry, keep the lid off here and stir until rice reaches consistency you’re looking for.
  7. Serve with a lime or lemon wedge and diced jalapeno if desired.

Zucchini with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Olive-Portobello Relish

January 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

candle79, vegan zucchini recipe, vegan mushroom recipe, fresh tomato sauce

I have been thinking of re-creating this dish ever since visiting Candle 79 last October. The dish was a live zucchini manicotti stuffed with a mushroom olive mixture and topped with a raw tomato sauce and parsley pine nut salad. At the time, I still was not liking mushrooms very much. Boy has that changed. Mushrooms have been the star of many meals since including my Christmas Eve dinner with vegan mushroom bourguignon.

At Candle79, I thought the mushroom olive combination was delicious. I’m a big olive fan and love their briny, salty bite which masked the mushroom flavor I didn’t like at the time. Instead, what remained was just a chewy almost meaty texture which I welcomed. I thought the dish would be great to make at home with store-bought olive tapenade. So that’s what I did.

how to make fresh tomato sauce

Since Luis wasn’t a fan of the “live” part of this dish, I decided to roast the zucchini.  What I didn’t realize though is that then you can’t roll them into a manicotti. They become way too flimsy cooked. So I just laid them flat but it still worked. I wanted to make this elegant dish as easy as possible to make so I made a point of making it with one baking sheet. I was looking for easy cleanup here and it worked.

The resulting dish was elegant and tasty – but it was on the small side. It did feel like a little gourmet meal though 🙂 I’d suggest doubling this recipe or serving with a side or salad. I also want to try it one day with pasta. I think it would be great.

Zucchini with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Olive-Portobello Relish

Makes 4 small servings


  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced (about 6 slices per zucchini)
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, roasted or raw
  • 3 tbsp. pre-made olive tapenade
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • dried rosemary (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. If roasting the garlic, you can put it in now. Just slice the end of it off so you have a flat top, place in a small oven safe dish, cover with olive oil and foil.
  2. Slice zucchini using a knife or mandolin. Slice tomatoes. Chop portobellos. Arrange all vegetables on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat all veggies. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary (optional).
  3. Place veggies in oven to roast about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the mushrooms and zucchini as the cook quickly. You may need to pull them out early. The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid so don’t be alarmed. You can finish the tomatoes and give them a little char by turning the oven up to broil – just watch very closely.
  4. Once you’ve pulled out the mushrooms, mix with the olive tapenade. Use as much as you like. Add in a few chopped garlic cloves to the mix if you like and set aside.
  5. Remove tomatoes and place into a food processor with a few garlic cloves. Do not add in liquid from the pan unless you need to thin out the sauce. If you have fresh herbs on hand you can add basil or parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. To assemble place some sauce on the plate. Top with a few zucchini slices and the olive-portobello relish.


Hello 2012! – My Five New Year Health Challenges

January 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Good morning! 2012 is upon us. My how things have changed since last New Year’s. I accomplished a lot both personally and professionally and I want to make sure I keep that momentum going. The biggest change came in the summer when I took on a 30 day vegan challenge. That challenge stuck and now I eat a predominantly vegan diet.

I want to keep that momentum going in 2012 which is why I’ve set the following 5 challenges for myself. And I’ll be blogging about them here as that’s what kept me on track when I tried going vegan. If I didn’t make myself accountable to sticking with my vegan challenge in a public manner, I know I would have thrown in the towel.

Now, my goal is to get through these five challenges. I don’t anticipate sticking with them all long-term. I just want to do it and see how I feel. I’m not sure when I’m going to do them all yet, certainly not all at the same time, but I know by the end of 2012 I want to have done them all. So, here they are.

My Five Health Challenges for 2012

1. 30 Day Yoga Challenge

I used to be big into yoga – before I got married, I was at yoga usually 5 times a week and I was in the best shape of my life. My power vinyasa flow class usually consisted of an hour and a half hard core workout including intense physical and mental challenges. I miss the way I used to leave those classes – open, vibrant, alive. Due to a cyst in my wrist I had to cut back on yoga, and eventually cut it out completely. But I’m determined to find a way to make it work. I want to at some point this year do 30 days straight of yoga. It can be in my home, at a studio, or the gym. I want to challenge myself and see if maybe all these years, I can return to it.

2. Complete a 15 Minute Run Without Stopping

I hate to run but I love the idea of it. I’m super envious of people that go running for fun and do marathons. I myself, can’t run more than a minute. Yup that’s right, about a minute. OK, maybe two – maybe. So I want to be able to complete a 15 minute run at some point this year without stopping. Runners delight: here I come (hopefully).

3. Two Weeks Caffeine-Free 

This is going to be a tough one. I read Crazy, Sexy, Diet in September and tried to do the recommended 21 day detox in October. I found a group to do it with and everything. The detox was rough – no caffeine, no alcohol, no sugar. After 3 days with a pounding migraine I called the quits. I think the triple whammy is what did me in. It was too much at once. So I’m trying all three, but at different times. And I chose two weeks as this is going to be really tough! As I’ve already mostly cut out sodas from my life, this will mostly be coffee (note my lovely coffee in the picture above) – but that will be hard enough.

4. Two Weeks Without Sugar 

It is said that sugar is one of the most addictive substances out there which is why I chose to go with a two week detox challenge. To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect with this one. I think it will be hard, but I’m not sure it will be impossible. We will see. For me the challenge will be in the form of breads and chips. I’ll also cut out any alcohol during this time as it basically turns right into sugar.

5. 30 Day Whole Foods Challenge

I think this one may be the hardest challenge of them all – maybe not so much because of cravings but because of convenience – although the cravings will be hard too. I may do the sugar challenge with this one but not sure yet. The goal here is to go 30 days eating only whole foods – nothing with an ingredient list. As I write this, I’m starting to think I may be insane to think I can go a whole month like this. We’ll see.

So that’s it. Those are my five health challenges for the year. What are yours? If you’re thinking of making a change and maybe even trying out veganism for a change, check out my 10 tips for completing a 30 day vegan challenge.

Happy New Year!

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