Smokey Veggie Chili w/ Cinnamon and Cocoa


We are well into the deep freeze in Minnesota (Brrrrrr…) so high time to post this gloriously warming recipe. This chili is so comforting and deliciuos it’ll be sure to do the trick on cold, dark winter nights.

It’s taken me years to perfect my what will be my signature chili dish and here she finally is.   Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go get my spoon! Happy wintering.

Smokey Veggie Chili w/ Cinnamon and Cocoa


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion - diced
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can water (use tomato can)
  • 1 red bell pepper - diced
  • 1 orange pepper - diced
  • 1 jalapeno - diced
  • 1 package cremini mushrooms - chopped
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans - drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Saute the onion in olive oil on medium-high heat until translucent (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant (about 1 minute).
  3. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cinnamon, and cloves until combined.
  4. Add the can of tomato paste and incorporate well. You will have a thick spicy paste.
  5. Combine the can of fire roasted tomatoes.
  6. Fill the can with water and add to the mix. You may want to add another half can for a thinner chili.
  7. Dump in all your chopped veggies. (peppers and mushrooms).
  8. Add the salt and bay leaves.
  9. Reduce heat a bit, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  10. Top with cheddar cheese or sour cream or whatever you like.

Cinnamon Apple Butter in the Crock Pot


Your house will never smell better than when a batch of apple butter is cooking in the crock pot. Holy. Man. This is the easiest thing to make and you will be SO happy you did. For this recipe I only used 3 apples but you can easily double it or triple it depending on how much you want to make. Also remember that it’s highly likely you will eat half the batch you make with a spoon straight out of the pot. You have been warned.



Cinnamon Apple Butter in the Crock Pot


  • 2 Honeycrisp apples
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • splash of apple cider (optional) *I used this
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (optional)


  1. Chop apples into 1 in chunks.
  2. Put apples into crock pot.
  3. Squeeze half a lemon and toss.
  4. Add the cinnamon and toss.
  5. Cook on high for 4 hours or until apples are super soft. (low if doing overnight)
  6. Use an emersion blender to make it smooth and creamy.


You can use whatever apples you want for this but I think adding a Granny Smith always helps the flavor be more complex. I like sweeter apples because I like my apple butter on the sweet side.

You can put apple button on toast, in oatmeal, on biscuit, in place of applesauce in baking… etc. So many options. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Every fall, with the first hint of crisp air, I kick off the season by making my very favorite roasted butternut squash soup. This recipe is 10 years in the making. My friend in college in Australia introduced me to this soup as ‘pumpkin’ soup. In the US we call it butternut squash but whatever the name… it’s amazing. I’ve tweaked and adjusted the recipe over the years and eventually arrived at what I consider to be the most comforting fall soup EVER. I hope you all think the same!

photo 1-40


1 butternut squash
2 shallots diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 in piece of ginger minced
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
salt to taste
1/2 can lite coconut milk
1 box (32oz) vegetable broth
pepitas for garnish
Sour cream for topping (I used ‘Better than Sour Cream’)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Peel and chop the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes (approx.)
  • Toss the squash in 1 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a little cinnamon.
  • Roast in a single layer, covered, for 40 minutes.
  • Heat a stock pot to medium heat and sauté the shallots in 1 tbsp of olive oil for roughly 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and stir in for about 1 minute (until fragrant).
  • Add the spices, and stir in for about 1 minute.
  • Add a little vegetable broth to the pot to prevent browning.
  • Mix the roasted squash, apple and salt into the pot and add the coconut milk.
  • Slowly stir in the veggie broth… slllooooowwwly. You may not need to add all of it depending on your desired thickness.
  • Let the soup simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Emmersion blend (or transfer to a blender) until smooth.
  • Toast the pepitas in a dry pan on medium heat for a few minutes. Keep a watchful eye on them. When they look like they are about to pop… they are ready.
  • Top soup with a spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkle of toasted pepitas.

photo 2-41



Easy Peasy – Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice is sort of a Hawaiian take on on a classic Asian dish. There’s something so bright and summery about the pineapple that I always seem to crave it in the hot summer months. Why is this dish so easy? Well you can prepare most of it ahead of time, which makes it perfect for a weeknight meal. (Cook the rice and chop the veggies) 90% of the veggies get thrown in the pot at the same time (the rest sprinkled on top). And you only really need to dirty two pans. Sounds good to me! Here we go:

Easy Peasy – Pineapple Fried Ricepineapplefriedrice_1serves 4 as entree 

2 cup dried brown rice
4 cups water
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp tamari sauce (+ dash for tempeh)
1 tbsp 2 shallots – chopped
2 in piece ginger – minced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 red bell pepper – cut into thin strips
1 zucchini – chopped small
1 bag frozen pineapple
1 block tempeh or tofu
4 green onions – sliced small
4 tbsp dried currants or cranberries
4 tbsp toasted cashews



  • First make the rice. Follow the instructions on the package. The rice will take so much longer to cook than the rest of the food that you should put it on 20 minutes before you even start chopping.
  • Now start choppin’! Just pile up the shallots, garlic, ginger, red pepper,  and zucchini. Keep the green onion separate. You will just sprinkle this on top of the dish once finished.
  • Heat a tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil in the largest pan you have. When good and hot throw in your vegetables. You’ll only sauté them for 2 minutes before adding the tablespoon of tamari sauce.
  • Saute two more minutes in the tamari and then add your pineapple. The pineapple will give off a lot of juice and combine with the tamari to make a lovely broth/sauce. Sprinkle on brown rice vinegar now as well.
  • Cook with the pineapple for 5 minutes. You might want to test after 5 minutes to make sure they are warmed through. During this 5 minutes toast your cashews in a small dry pan. Watch these like a hawk… they will burn easy.
  • If you’ve timed this right the rice should now be done cooking and you can add to your veggies. If it doesn’t all fit then stir in as much as you can. Cook for another few minutes until throughly mixed. Total cooking time for this is under 10 minutes.
  • Plate the fried rice and return pan to heat with the other tablespoon toasted sesame oil for the tempeh.
  • Slice the tempeh and sauté in oil and a splash of tamari for 1-2 minutes on each side.
  • Top the rice dish with tempeh and sprinkle currants/cranberries, toasted cashews and green onions on top.
  • EAT UP!


Help! There’s a vegetarian coming to my BBQ!

bratsBBQ’s are the star of summer. The smell of the grill, eating outside, a cold beer on a hot day… so so good. But the very definition of a BBQ is meat meat meat. So how do you cater to (or be) a vegetarian at a BBQ? Well it’s actually pretty easy these days.

Veggie burgers (and even veggie brats!) can be found at any major grocer now. They either live in the natural foods section or in the freezer department next to other frozen burgers. There are far better brands than others but most vegetarians are going to be
so touched that you thought to buy them a veggie burger that they will not care what
brand it is.

Other tips would be to avoid bacon in the potato salad (maybe have it to sprinkle on top?). Grill up some vegetable kabobs… you can even buy these pre-prepared at the store. Corn on the cob, fruit salad, and potato chips with dip are all a go! Just remember to read the ingredient list of any pre-prepared food you buy and you’ll avoid hidden ingredients.

BUT… if you really want to impress a vegetarian at your BBQ… this is how you do it:

First, a word about veggie ‘meat’
There are a million different brands these days that copy the flavor, textures and uses for traditionally meat products. Deli slices, bratwurst, burgers, bacon, hot dogs… even ground beef. They’ve got it all! In my everyday diet I tend to avoid these products simply because they are highly processed and full of sodium. But some of them are also super delicious and will allow you to fulfill a summer joy that you may have thought you’d never have again after swearing off meat.

I’ve tried them all and my votes for best of are as follows:
Field Roast – This is pretty new I think but it’s now my favorite. Their flavors are outstanding and they make a large variety of products. So far I’ve had the deli slices, veggie burgers and the bratwurst. I plan on trying the actual ‘roast’ on thanksgiving this year.

Tofurkey – This WAS my favorite before Field Roast came along. Their brats will leave you pretty thirsty (sodium) but their deli slices are really thin and make wonderful sandwiches.

Gardein – This is the most realistic of all the brands. I’ll admit I haven’t had much of this because honestly it kinda freaks me out. If you are craving really realistic chicken strips for your cobb salad… this is your winner.

Second, the salads…
If you’re looking to impress, look no further. These salads are refreshing, healthy, and scream summer BBQ. I would of course add chips and salsa for snacking… but these will everyone’s hearts and minds over.

Watermelon, Blueberry, Feta & Fresh Mint Salad
serves 6 as a side

This salad is so easy it will make you mad. Cube your watermelon, toss in a pint of blueberries, a pre-crumbled container of feta and a handful of chopped fresh mint. GORGEOUS!

Kale Salad w/ Tart Cherries & Parmesan in a Lemon Garlic Dressing
kalesalad1serves 6 as a side

1 head green leaf kale – chopped small
1 red bell pepper – minced
1 green bell pepper – minced
1 cup+ dried tart cherries
1 cup+ grated parmesan
3 green onions – chopped small
1 small bunch cilantro – chopped
1 small bunch mint – chopped
Dressing: 1 or 2 garlic cloves minced and muddled in salt and then combined with the juice of one lemon and olive oil to taste.



Go ahead… take a bow. You’ve blown the mind of your vegetarian friend who wandered into your BBQ. Have fun and happy summer to all!

The Vegasaurus Sandwich

vegesaurus1Is there anything better than a really good sandwich? Okay maybe a few things, but sandwiches are one of the most satisfying foods to me and I’ve been making this one over and over since I discovered it on a lunch trip to the Whole Foods deli recently. My version isn’t exactly the same as theirs (I don’t have a panini press), but it’s pretty damn
tasty anyhow.

This sandwich IS vegan but you’d never ever guess it. Really hardy, comforting and made with soy deli slices, mushrooms, and Vegenaise (which is way better than traditional mayo in my opinion). It’s the perfect lunch or light dinner in the summer. Enjoy!

The Vegasaurus Sandwich
vegesaurus2makes one sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread
2 slices Field Roast Tomato Cutlet
1 large or 2 small cremini mushrooms (portobello will also work wonderfully)
2 slices of tomato
1/2 avocado mashed
handful of baby spinach
1 tbsp Vegenaise
olive oil and balsamic vinegar (for frying)
vegan butter (for frying)


  • Spread mayo on one slice of bread and mashed avocado on the other
  • Lay tomato slices on avocado side and spinach on mayo side
  • Lay the Field Roast cutlets over the tomato slices.
  • Heat the olive oil in a small fan and sauté the mushroom in oil and vinegar
    for a few minutes. Most of the oil will absorb into the mushrooms. Leave the pan
    hot as you will use again in a minute.
  • Lay the cooked mushrooms on the spinach and close the sandwich.
  • Butter the top of your sandwich and place the butter side down in the pan.
    (Basically you are making this just like a grilled cheese)
  • While the first side is cooking… butter the other side and flip. Both sides should
    be golden brown when cooked.
  • Serve with something crispy. Chips and salsa or kale chips if you are being
    super healthy.


This is what I eat… at work.

I am a snacker and a stress eater. If I get too hungry or my blood sugar drops too low I get shaky and cannot focus at all. If I get really hungry and cannot find vegetarian food… I’ve been known to tell off restaurant owners. It’s not pretty. On the contrary I also prefer not to snack my way onto ‘My 600lb Life’ or whatever that show is.

So I’ve been dedicated to finding a system of eating that satisfies all of my high maintenance eating requirements. I base my diet off a 2,000 calorie limit. This will allow me to maintain my current weight and any exercise will help me lose. (note: this goes out the window during the holiday cookie season) Basically I’m allowing myself 1,000 calories during the day and 1,000 after 5pm. 1,000 is enough  for me to still go out for happy hour and not ruin my day.

My daily snacks & lunch have been adapted from foods and a style of eating I discovered while traveling in Bulgaria & Turkey. The star being something I saw but never tried in Bulgaria… the Shopska Salad. Shopska features tomatoes, cucumbers & feta, but I’ve just been making it with whatever I find at the farmer’s market that’s hardy enough to hang out in the fridge for a couple of days. The secret is to cut everything really really small. I can’t believe I never thought of this… tiny veggies allows them to mix on your fork and the flavor combos are AWESOME. I sprinkle cheese on top and dress with just lemon for a killer fresh, healthy and low cal lunch salad.

My Own Shopska Salad

1 cucumber
1 bunch italian parsley
1 red pepper
handful of radishes
1 shallot
3 green onions (green parts only)
tomato slices for the top of each salad
feta/goat/parmesan cheese

Chop everything super small and put in large bowl. Sprinkle cheese on individual servings and top with sliced tomatoes.



If this was an entree salad I would likely add beans or walnut crumbles to it. But it’s not..
So here’s my daily work spread:


Instead of eating everything at lunch… I graze on tiny servings throughout the day. I had chips this day but I sometimes have a hard-boiled egg or some plain greek yogurt with frozen fruit. (from left to right: Sun Chips, fresh baked bread, olives from the olive bar, turkish apricots & raw almonds, lemon half, apple, shopska salad & grape tomatoes)

Not pictured here is my banana, peanut butter, date, & spinach morning smoothie with hemp protein & fiber powder. Also my morning coffee.



So this is how I go to work. I pile everything in a giant tote and out the door I go! Since I’ve started this method of eating I’ve been feeling SO MUCH BETTER! I have more energy at work and never have the after lunch food coma. At lunchtime I eat the salad and fresh bread and then take a 15 minute walk.

Since this has solved my snacking issue so well I felt the need to share it. Just in case there are more of me out there. Happy snacking!


Veggie Summer Staples: Homemade Popsicles

SUMMER IS HERE!!! Winter was long and brutal in Minnesota and while we may have skipped spring (per usual) I am not gonna complain about 80 degrees and sunny. To celebrate I decided to blend up and freeze the first popsicles of the season. If you’re still buying the frozen sugar water at the store… it’s time to stop. Get yourself some molds and go hog wild. Pretty much anything that is good as a smoothie is gonna be good as a popsicle. Here’s a few of my favorite recipes. popcicles_1

Creamy Chocolate Mint
Greek Yogurt (or a banana)  // Unsweetened cocoa powder // dates for sweetness // fresh mint leaves // dash of milk of choice to make blending easier
Note: I used greek yogurt for this popsicle but I think I’d use a banana next time. The banana adds natural sugar and creaminess. I also want this flavor to be sweeter.


Kiwi Lime Watermelon Cooler
Seedless watermelon // fresh squeezed lime juice // kiwi slices
Note: Try not to just drink this… it’s good frozen too. You could also add mint leaves!


Berries & Cream
Greek Yogurt // Frozen Mixed Berries // Banana // Date for added sweetness
Note: To get the swirl I filled the mold half way up with blended smoothie and then added yogurt. Topped with more smoothie and then swirled with a knife.

I didn’t put quantities of each ingredient because it’s really up to you how much you make. Just throw some stuff in the blender and taste it as you go. The possibilities are endless and popsicles and quick and fun to make. You can even use ice cube trays and toothpicks if you want. Great for parties!

Note: Go get some frozen fruit from the store. It’s so much easier, still really good for you, and is pretty economical.


Bulgarian Bean Soup (Soupa Bob)


Nothing tasted better to us than a piping hot bowl of ‘soupa bob’ after finishing our marathon hike up Mount Vitosha outside Sofia, Bulgaria. (photo credit to my friend Sarah)
It was a rainy & chilly day but we were determined. Honestly there were times where I thought maybe I would just roll back down the mountain vs. continuing our steady climb. (There were times I actually did on the way down!) But nevertheless… muddy, sweaty and soaked, we stumbled into the lodge and probably a little too gleefully ordered our lunch.


The giant white beans are the star of this soup. Everything else sorta takes a backseat. For my version I included far more veggies than I remember eating but I really like my veggies and most of the recipes I found called for them. I also only had cannellini beans on hand and while quite tasty… were far too small. You really want the beans to DOMINATE the soup. My photo doesn’t really show them (they sink!) so I thought I should mention it.

Bob Chorba (Soupa Bob)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small carrot
1/4 yellow onion
1 celery stalk
3 cloves garlc
1 tomato
2 cans great northern beans
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp savory
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp salt (or salt to taste)
4 cups of water (at least)
1/2 cup italian parsley
crushed red pepper flakes to garnish
olive oil drizzle for garnish


  • Chop the carrot, onion, celery & garlic tiny and sauté on medium heat in
    a soup pot for roughly 5 minutes.
  • Add the savory, mint & paprika and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomato paste and then chopped tomato (also tiny) and stir in
    for another minute.
  • Slowly add the water stirring while adding. You can add or subtract water
    as you see fit.
  • Stir in the beans and salt.
  • Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Serve with crushed red pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil

Bulgarian Green Salad

This week I’ll be attempting to recreate some recipes I discovered while visiting friends in Bulgaria. As with Turkey, there were a couple recipes that will definitely be incorporated into my everyday cuisine. None more so than the Bulgarian Green Salad… or as I also call it ‘My new weekly salad’. So easy to whip up and really a complete meal in itself if you want it to be. I saw several slight variations of this salad while in Bulgaria but this is my favorite. Of course in Bulgaria we got the ingredients straight from the garden and eggs straight from the chicken out back. Not to mention the water we got from a stream coming down the mountain…. things are definitely more organic in Bulgaria. Sadly I live in an apartment in the city and gardening is impossible for me… but at least the farmers markets opened this month! The growing season in Minnesota is gearing up and I’m more than ready for it.

The Bulgarian Green Salad serves 4greensalad_4


  • 1 head green leaf lettuce (or romaine)
  • 1/2 english cucumber
  • 3 large radishes (or 4 small)
  • large handful of fresh dill
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs (each salad gets one egg)
  • 3 green onions (green parts only)
  • a few kalamata olives per serving
  • olive oil for dressing
  • lemon wedges for dressing
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • serve with fresh bread and feta cheese slices



  • Leave the lettuce intact and slice into strips chopping parallel to the root. I always stop about 3 inches from the root since the leaves seem to get woody around there. Rinse and run through a salad spinner after. (I hope this makes sense… should’ve photographed this)
  • Thinly chop your radishes, cucumber, green onion & dill. Toss into the lettuce and serve up into bowls/plates.
  • Quarter slice the egg(s) and add an egg to each salad
  • Top with a couple of olives
  • Everyone dresses their salad individually with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Most often this salad was served with bread & cheese and a little bowl of olives.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go eat some more of this salad because typing this post has made me hungry. Enjoy!